If you’re reading this, you probably want to live an awesome life. I do too. I want to be in amazing shape. I want to always feel sharp, happy, energized, and ready to take life by the horns. I want to accomplish more with my life than most people could accomplish in ten lifetimes.
I’m not quite there yet, but over the past couple years I’ve discovered many habits that have helped me get closer to those goals. Here are a few of my favorites.
Note: This article was originally published in my free newsletter
Every evening, set your schedule for the next day
Every evening, after you’ve finished your work for the day and have a clear idea of what needs to be done the next day, write up your schedule for the next day. That doesn’t just mean write a to-do list; it means write a schedule, with specific times blocked off for specific tasks.
When you start doing this, you’ll notice two major benefits. Of course, you’ll be more productive during the day when you know exactly what you need to do at any given time. But there’s a less obvious benefit to keeping a schedule.
Having your next day planned out makes it much, much easier to enjoy your evenings. Once the schedule is set, you’re done for the night. You can relax. You can enjoy yourself. You can fall asleep instead of laying in bed stressing over how you’ll get everything done tomorrow.
Work out first thing every morning
Every morning, first thing after you wake up, perform five minutes of bodyweight exercises in circuit fashion. You can find a few example workouts in this article.
This has a few benefits. First and foremost, it helps you wake up every morning, both by giving you an immediate reason to get out of bed, and by priming your nervous system. As such, it also helps to set your circadian rhythm for the day, so you’ll be ready to sleep 16 hours later.
It also does a little bit to build muscle and burn fat. Five minutes a day isn’t much, but it still adds up to the equivalent of an extra workout every week.
Most importantly though, it gets you in the habit of working out and makes you internalise the belief that your health is important, and taking care of your body is a priority. Once you’re doing this every morning, it becomes a lot easier to make your regular workouts as well.
Moreover, this habit is flexible. If you want to burn more fat, you can lengthen those morning workouts. If you’re traveling, or want to skip going to the gym and get your exercise done before you start your day, make your morning workout at least a half hour long, with a greater variety of exercises. Once you have this habit in place, you’ll always be able to stay in shape no matter how crazy life gets, and your mind will stay sharper as a result.
Think before you eat
Before you eat anything, or drink anything that has calories, stop and think for a moment. Is this good for you? Do you really want to consume this, or should you opt for something else?
There are two habits you can adopt to force yourself to become more considerate about what you put in your mouth, and they both involve your phone. First, you can take a photo of everything you eat. Studies show that keeping a photo journal of your food is several times more effective than keeping a written journal.
For diet accountability, you can publish those photos to a Facebook folder or Instagram account. As an added bonus, this apparently makes your food taste better.
Second, you can take a selfie before every meal- or look in a mirror, if there’s one around. Looking at yourself invites self-reflection, which causes you to really think about the impact that the decision you’re about to make will have on your health.
Either way, the principle is the same: you can substantially improve the quality of the little decisions you make every day, just by stopping to consider them for a moment.
If you hate someone, ask yourself if you feel inferior to them
Hatred is often secretly motivated by a sense of inferiority, particularly when the object of your hatred has something you want- money, fame, popularity, some kind of success.
Do you wish you had more money- but hate rich people?
Do you hate attractive and/or promiscuous people, but secretly wish you had more of a love life?
Do you wish you were “cool,” but also resent popular people?
You will never become that which you hate. You won’t become successful if that would mean becoming one of “the bad guys.” Examine the motives behind your hatred and resentment- if there’s even a shred of envy there, let go of your hate and work on building your own success.
Whenever you envy someone, force yourself to envy everything about them
If you’re envious of someone- of their success, or something they have- you have to be envious of everything that goes with it. (Full credit to Dan O’brien of cracked.com for teaching me this one)
Envious of somebody’s wealth? Then you’d better envy their hard work as well, along with all the stuff they passed up in order to work so hard.
Wish you had someone’s amazing physique? Then you also need to wish you spent 5 hours a week in the gym, and never drank alcohol.
When you force yourself to expand the scope of your envy, to treat it as a package deal, one of two things will happen. Usually, you’ll stop envying the other person once you realize the trade-offs that go into their success.
Sometimes though, you’ll realize that yes, that totally sounds worth it. And then the toxic emotion of envy will transform into something positive and constructive- you’ll have found yourself a new role model.
Nitpicky English Nazi side note: stop saying jealous when you mean envious. Learn the difference people!
Any time someone makes you angry, delay your response
Of all the habits in this article, this is the one I’ve started most recently, and so far it’s my favorite.
Whenever someone pisses you off, don’t respond immediately. If you’re interacting in person, this just means pausing a few seconds before you reply. But if you’re on the internet, that’s where things really get good.
Someone sent you a mean email? Called you an idiot on Twitter? Instead of replying right now, plan on doing so a few hours later. Whenever someone writes something to me that I find upsetting, I add an item in my schedule to respond to them either at the end of my workday, or the next morning.
Now, at the time, I allow myself the illusion that I’m totally going to lay into them when the appointed time comes. Oh, this asshole’s gonna get it. I’m going to smear his ass all over Twitter.
But by the time “Respond to asshole on the internet” pops up in my calendar, my anger has disappeared. 10% of the time, I’ll write out a calm, reasoned reply. 90% of the time I’ll realize I don’t even give enough of a fuck to do that, and instead I’ll get some work done and pat myself on the back for being so productive.
Best of all, over time you learn that that’s what always happens, and you stop even expecting your anger to last. At this point, when people insult me, my usual reaction is a short flash of anger, followed by amusement with myself because I know my anger was an overreaction and won’t last. With more practice, I expect even that initial burst of anger will stop happening.
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