Do our habits make us who we are and determine whether we’re successful, healthy, and happy? Perhaps that’s partially true—maybe even mostly true. But it does not mean you’re forever doomed to live the life you’re currently living. You are not a victim of your habits and you can control them.
It is absolutely possible to change your habits for the better so you can be happier, healthier, and more successful.
But, the reality of habit change is that it’s usually hard work—especially if you don’t have time-tested strategies at your disposal. If it were generally easy to change one’s habits, the billions of dollars that get poured into the self-help market wouldn't be necessary. Everyone would live blissful lives with perfect habits that they could change and adjust on a whim. Everyone would end up doing exactly what they need and want to do. Sounds great, right?
We all know that it just doesn't work that way—habit change is tough. We all know that we fall short in some very important ways even if we’ve tried to change a million and one times before. If it were easy to change our habits, our lives would be so much easier, better, and happier.
Yes, that's true, but we also wouldn't be as well rounded. Embrace the life you’ve lived to this point—warts and all. I’ll argue that the challenges we have in life help shape us and make us who we are.
At the same time, you’re over the challenges you have—you’ve already lived that life and learned those lessons. You’re ready to experience true habit change and I'm going to give you some easy ways to make it happen throughout my habits series on IMIT.
I’ve developed some strategies I believe are going to make it easier for you to change your habits. These strategies are going to be different (and I think better) from what you’ve seen before. You don’t want to learn the same old stuff you’ve learned before related to habit change by reading other books and articles. You don’t want to be told that it’s “too hard” to change deep-seated habits.
Yes, it requires work and commitment, but it’s not too hard—you can successfully improve your life in every area. There are undoubtedly things that are holding you back in life that you really want to change. Whether it has to do with your life, business, health, family, finances, or anything else, there are things you could be doing better. There are things you could improve on, starting today, to live better, feel better, and be better.
What Are Habits?
First, let’s talk about what habits are. Habits are those things we do every day, whether we’re conscious of them or not, that make up our actions, thoughts, and results. Habits make up the experiences we have with everything we do. I don't mean for that to sound overwhelming. You already know what habits are, in general, or you wouldn’t be here right now trying to change them. But now we're going to break them down so you have a deeper understanding. I believe that when you have a deeper understanding, you can more easily tackle habit change.
Sometimes, your habits are things you're not conscious of. You can have certain physical ticks or thoughts that come without your awareness, yet still shape who you are, how you act, and how you’re perceived…even your level of success.
These may have initially been a choice but turned habits you don’t think about anymore. Maybe you tend not to eat breakfast in the morning, hoping so save on calories so you can slim down. You don’t think about that choice anymore. You just don’t eat breakfast, out of habit (and not eating breakfast is a poor habit, for the record).
Habits can develop out of poor decision-making or false information and lead to negative consequences. For example, when you don’t eat breakfast you get so hungry during dinnertime and late at night that you eat everything in sight and gain weight and have lower energy. In the end, your habit in this breakfast-skipping scenario is doing you more harm than good, even though you set out for it to be a good thing.
Part of habit change will be investigating the maladaptive habits you used to be conscious of but aren’t any longer, along with those you were never really aware of but developed anyway. The goal will be to eliminate harmful habits, adopt new strategies for other habits, and adopt new habits that will help you achieve your goals.
Going back to the example, skipping breakfast and lunch was a habit you got into because you wanted to lose weight. What if you could develop the habit to eat a healthy, filling breakfast and go for a light morning jog instead?
You'd be able to regulate your system and feel better with a lot more energy throughout the day. That would be a better habit for sure. It will be different and strange at first (all habit change is) but soon enough, it would just become part of your everyday routine.
What if you’re in the bad habit of opening up your computer and wasting hours at a time on blogs and social media instead of working right away? This isn’t a conscious choice you’re making anymore—it’s a bad habit that you’re unaware of while it’s happening.
Those hours float away as if they were mere seconds. You don’t know how or why you developed this habit of wasting time online, except to avoid work. All you know is that it’s cutting into your bottom line and/or making your boss upset.
You could become aware of this poor habit and change it to a new one that would be more productive. You could get into the habit of defining the six most important tasks you could complete every day, the night before a workday. When you open your computer screen, you’ll turn right to your tasks and get things done like a machine of productivity-- out of habit-- instead of wasting hours online.
That sounds amazing, right? You can already see how much more productive and successful this can make you.
There are many different scenarios and examples I could give. If you knew these tasks would further your life or your business or your health in some way, and you did them as a habit every single day, your life would change for the better in very dramatic ways. That would be incredible, and I hope you’re ready for it.
The fact is that habits are strange and tricky. Most of us know what we want to be doing and what we really should be doing. But, so many of us (most of us) have a hard time developing great new habits. They just don’t seem to stick.
You've probably had the experience that you start off really excited about a new habit. You just know that this year, you're going to work out on the treadmill every day. You know that this year, you're going to eat healthy meals every day. You know that you’re going to start a successful business and just crush all your financial goals.
Why doesn't it happen? You make these resolutions and have these dreams year after year. Yet, you feel like your life is at a standstill.
You feel like you're in the same old place you were always in and that there's no way to improve your situation... not really. After all, you've already resolved to take steps to change your life. You’ve already tried and failed and it’s frustrating. Maybe you bought a new treadmill or invested in a new business idea. You went at it solidly for a few days, weeks, or months but then other things got in the way.
You eat a donut in the morning because you always have. You go home after work and eat dinner, filling up on as much as your plate will hold, and then some, because you always have. You watch television because you always have, and because of your full stomach you don’t have the energy to get on the treadmill.
Maybe you tell yourself that instead of working out on the treadmill after dinner you’d do better by waking up earlier in the morning and doing it then… but the alarm goes off and you hit the snooze alarm again and again and when you finally drag yourself out of bed, it’s too late to start today… but tomorrow, for sure.
And so it goes.
What happened? You fell back into old patterns and habits. You're definitely not alone in this, so please forgive yourself no matter how many times you’ve tried and failed. It's so easy to fall back into the habits that have been ingrained in us-- often since childhood. You’re going against the current when you try to change a habit. That’s why you need a whole new approach—an approach you’ve never seen before.
Part of the problem is that you hold certain beliefs about yourself that you’re likely not even aware of. You believe that you will always be overweight, deep down. You believe that you will always struggle financially—you might even believe that you deserve to struggle financially. Be honest with yourself and you might see that this is true, even if you’ve never realized it before.
You believe that you're destined to be miserable and have low energy and be stuck in the daily grind. You don’t mean to believe these things about yourself, but you do. You have dreams that things will change, someday. You even sometimes take steps to correct the problem and make things better. You try to develop new habits-- you really do.
But something always pulls you back. It feels as if there's an invisible magnet that's always pulling you back and it's less than fair. You're here now, reading this, because you're sick of it. You're really ready to change this time. You've decided that in this moment you're going to make the choice to change your life.
It's my goal to help get you to that point. I want you to be able to change and succeed and do whatever you want to do with your life. Believe me, I want that for myself as well. There are lots of things I'd like to change about myself today, even though I consider myself to be an expert in goal setting and positive habit formation.
The truth is that no one is perfect and everyone struggles. The truth is that there are no real secrets—but there are methods and strategies that will get you so much closer to your ideal. You’re going to have to put the work in. You're going to have to decide that really and truly, this is the moment when everything is going to change.
Throughout my series on habit change in IMIT, I’m going to give you the tools and understanding you need to develop better habits in your life. It doesn't matter whether you're new to the idea of changing your habits or this is the first time you're attempting this change. This can and will happen for you if you let it. But you need to know how to do it. I've made it my goal to study habit formation and how successful people really change. I'm proud to say that I've been able to work with many people over the years and have been able to help many change their habits and their lives for good. It's this interaction with others and helping others see real results that keeps me going.
Maybe it's because I've been so desperate to change my own life, especially in the past. There were certainly times when I was down in the dumps and didn’t think I’d ever escape. There were times when I didn't feel healthy or happy. There have been times when I've been really hurting financially. There have been times when I've had to turn to others for help because I didn't think I could drag myself out of the hole I'd put myself in. That's a tough place to be in.
And it’s not just me… I’ve watched friends and family members dig themselves into a hole that’s tough to get out of through bad habits as well. I know that creating a habit comes easy, tearing one down is tough, and replacing a bad habit with a good one is tougher still… but it certainly can be done if you approach it the right way.
Today, I'm so much happier. I've achieved financial freedom. I work daily on maintaining my health and happiness. I live a life that many people dream of living. This is a great position to be in. I sometimes have to pinch myself to realize that it’s real, even though I’ve worked very hard for it. You have to know that it didn't come easy. I’ve struggled with this many times-- I'm sure you want to know how I was able to succeed. It started with changing my habits.
One of my proudest achievements is my online small business strategy book, called "5 Bucks a Day." I'm an entrepreneur, and this book detailed what I did to go from being deep in debt to being financially secure by building an online business. This book has changed many lives in countries all over the world, far beyond my own. The foundation of the 5 Bucks a Day business method is about breaking projects down, focusing, changing habits, and layering success upon success (what I call “lather, rinse, repeat”).
Instead of tackling huge business projects and ideas at once, the 5 Bucks a Day method has you break them down. I love this saying—“How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time!” By focusing on improving business in bite-sized chunks, many entrepreneurs have been able to find their success. In the book, I have people layer $5 a day in passive earnings every week, until they are earning a full time, passive income.
I believe in a similar approach when it comes to changing your habits. You need to break your goals down into their smaller parts. You need to examine your habits and break them down to truly understand them. You then have to tackle your problems one by one. You’ll focus on identifying habits you have and habits you'd like to have and work to change and improve them little by little, week by week.
Eventually, you'll have changed not just one major habit but also another one by layering improved habit upon improved habit. You keep on going until you've changed the habits that are most important to you. Your life becomes better. Anything you want to improve on becomes better, little by little. You eat that elephant little by little until he’s gone. You’ll never eat him all at once—it’s not possible. It’s all about incremental success. I strongly believe that, whether we’re talking about business success, habit change, or anything else.
I’m hoping to help you gain a deeper understanding of what habits are and which habits are holding you back. I want you to be able to define, very clearly, which habits you’d rather develop and which would contribute the most to a happier and more successful life. This is, as you can imagine, a very individual thing. You're going to learn how to overcome bad habits and develop new habits. You're going to do this over time.
You don't want to overwhelm yourself by tackling too much at once. By focusing on changing habits one bite at a time, you can and will succeed.
I want you to realize that this isn’t something you'll ever really be done with. This is a lifelong process. We are all always learning, changing, and growing. The things that are important to you right now might not be anywhere near as important to you 20 years from now. That’s okay-- that's a good thing.
I urge you to start this process of self-discovery and improvement today. This truly could be the decision that helps you change your life. I don't say that because it's me who's going to change your life—I say that because it's you who is going to change your life and I’m extremely happy about that fact. Again, I'm helping to give you the tools and knowledge so you can do it. It doesn't matter how many times you've tried and failed in the past, these strategies can help you succeed.