There’s a lot of stuff you’re supposed to do each day. Not just work and family and a million other obligations, but all the intangibles we hear are important, from meditation and practicing gratitude and being healthy. The problem is that it’s easy to get overwhelmed with all of it…and end up doing basically nothing. Except feel bad and negligent of course.
There’s a better way. It starts by starting simply. Everyone should start with just three positive habits that they can easily practice each and every day (for instance, I squeezed them in on my wedding day). They’re what are called foundational habits. Each one is doable, demonstrably beneficial and best of all, allows you to build other positive habits around them. If you can check these three boxes off each and every day, you’ll not only be more successful, but you’ll be healthy, happy and wise too. It’s not everything you ought to do, but it’s a good place to start.
Read A Book
Pick up a book every day. Even for just a few pages. In books we have some 5,000 years of recorded knowledge. As Emerson says, every book is a quotation–of other books, of experience, of the humans and civilizations that came before it. How could you not expose yourself to this? People have been doing [whatever it is that you doing] for ages. They’ve moved to new cities, been down to their last dollar, gotten dumped, starting exciting new businesses, had awful co-workers, and been fighting, dying and fucking for thousands of years. This is all written down, and you can benefit from it! And yes you do have time! Meals, before bed, on the train, in the waiting room, even on your phone or desktop. Read a few pages, read a whole book, but make a real and unending commitment to reading. Because there is so much out there that you can benefit from: Biographies. Little-known gems. Life-changers. Philosophy. The classics. Self-improvement. Books about war. Fiction. Even marketing and business books. All of these will widen your perspective, help you with problems, give you inspiration and let you benefit from the accumulated wisdom and knowledge of the centuries. Science even shows that books help cultivate empathy. So be a rigorous reader–you owe it yourself and to the world. If a book isn’t good, put it down and pick up another. If a book looks interesting, pick it up. Make time, make an effort and do it everyday.
A lot of people like meditation, but done properly, exercise is meditation. And it is healthy. There is no best way to exercise–except the form you happen to most enjoy. Maybe you like running, or swimming, or crossfit or yoga or fighting or lifting heavy things. But do something. Every day get your heart rate up and your muscles working. For how long? At least an hour–but honestly, whatever daily amount will get you started, that’s what you should begin with. It’s also important to have goals with your exercise. Why? So that no matter what happens that day–at work, at home, in the economy–you can have something that went well. You improved your mile time, you swam three more laps than usual, you squatted a new weight. More importantly, when you really get into the zone while working out, everything else falls away. No thoughts, no stress, no anger or frustration–you’re not thinking of your cellphone or you deadlines, it’s just you and your body in a state of excellence and naturalness. You are doing what you were put here on this earth to do as an animal. It is why scientists consider exercise to be the ‘single thing that comes close to a magic bullet, in terms of its strong and universal benefits.’ It’s why Richard Branson’s #1 piece of advice to entrepreneurs is: Exercise. We need that–far more than you think. Don’t put it off. Do it. Be in shape and be healthy.
Go For A Walk
Isn’t this the same as exercise? Absolutely not. Exercise is designed to stimulate the body, walking to stimulate the mind. It’s getting away from your desk or the sales floor and out into nature (or at least the outdoors). Some days you’ll only have time for 10 minutes, other days you might be able to walk an hour. The studies are clear: walking helps us think. It makes us more creative. Personally, I like to walk and just listen to music, but not everyone has the ability to just go for a stroll. For a justification, I just suggest taking a walk during any and all phone calls. It turns a chore into a positive habit. Then you can tack on a couple minutes for yourself too. Have a couple routes you like, near the office, near your home–wherever you find yourself. Enjoy the scenery, enjoy being away from your work. Have a few minutes to yourself. Return with a stimulated mind that’s ready to learn. You think that it’s taking a “break” but really you end up smarter and clearer than you were when you left.
There’s a lot of other positive habits of course. Making your bed is good. Journaling makes a difference. Telling people you love them. Cooking at least one meal a day. Anyone could make a list for you. But I wanted to pick three steady, dependable habits that if done–by themselves–would constitute a successful, purpose-driven day.
There is room in your life for all three of these things no matter your schedule. Not only because they are important, but making time for them creates time and energy for the other things you need to do. These things refresh and recharge you.
Best of all, they are easy. And they feel like wins.
Get started. Get better.