An Experiment with Small, Good Habits

The road to failure is paved with good intentions.

Pretty sure I’m not the only one with a mile-long project list that, should all the associated tasks be completed, would result in some serious success, yet the list remains.

It seems that while I win in one area, I lose the energy to focus on another. Life becomes an intricate pattern of effort, neglect, effort, neglect. It’s a boondoggle challenge to balance consistent effort that will lead to consistent outcomes.

Mr. Money Mustache, a financial guru blogger, recently wrote an excellent post on how small efforts lead to pretty incredible results over time. Done by Forty, another insightful blogger, commented on the topic, emphasizing the power of one small, good habit on our entire lifestyle.

This has irritated me for days.

Fresh back from a monumental excursion, it turns out I just developed a whole bunch of not so helpful habits…for 28 days. Don’t they say you need just 30 days of repetition to create a habit?

My new habits consist of enjoying the day, shooting the breeze, and spotting wildlife. Not so bad if I was retired, but a bit of a barrier to producing income. So much for waking up early, focusing, and finishing tasks.

It’s time to rewire. So, if we are going to go about developing a few small, good habits that will hopefully multiply into other positive efforts, why not experiment?

What are the universal small, good habits that one should foster?

After some debate, I propose a quadfecta:

1. Exercise everyday. 

2. Take one step toward your specific goals FIRST THING everyday.

3. Invest in positive relationships everyday. 

4. Read non-fiction everyday. 

Exercise is first on the list for me because it is the easiest and most rewarding…for me. I would argue it can be for anyone, but I wouldn’t have always said that. One needs structure if one hates exercise. After about 6 months of going to classes at the gym with a committed friend, I now have a love affair going with yoga and my high school wardrobe. For your own sake, don’t try to start an exercise habit with a treadmill.

The second habit is based on the ripple effect. If you start out on the right foot and feel progress, you generally go on to do two, three or ten other tasks that move you closer to your goals that day. On the other hand, if you start the day with an episode of Breaking Bad, expect some productivity guilt which also has a ripple effect. Just one task tied to a specific goal FIRST THING.

While we all have a fire burning inside, relationships are like gasoline. Your results are directly multiplied by your connections. Friends, family, mentors, connectors, critics, fans, and the a*holes that you learn from can all play a role in you reaching your goals sooner than you thought and in grander fashion. Plus, investing in others in order to create these connections usually results in some pretty fulfilling interactions and new skills.

Reading inspirational and business-oriented books is the single most motivating activity I have found. However, this is last on the list because reading is one of my escape mechanisms. I can spend an entire day consuming The Millionaire Next Door and not feel so guilty, even if I could have instead made significant progress toward my goals. It’s much more helpful to read AT THE END OF THE DAY, so that my thoughts as I float off to dream land are success-oriented and filled with ideas.

Each and every day for the next 30 days I aim to simply engage in the four small, good habits and hope that by September 24th I have accomplished something worthwhile and perhaps put forward a daydreaming conversion model.

Let the experiment begin.

What would you propose are the core, universal habits for success? Help me round out the concept.

  1. Emily, thank you so much for the kind words and the link. That really made my day.

    I think the habits you are aiming for are pretty well rounded; you have physical health, goal fulfillment, relationship building, and personal development. That’s a holistic approach. I also like the idea of starting the day well, which is something I personally struggle with. Still, I admire those who have established the habit of working out in the morning, or start each day working on their most important goal.

    I personally am working on my emotional health (though that stuff does not typically make its way into my blog). I think there’s a lot of overlap with your goal of improving relationships. But even when I am outwardly doing well with family and friends, I still often have a need to work on being more at peace with myself, overcoming anxiety & guilt, etc. So at least for me, improving emotional health might be in the mix as a core habit along with your four.

    Thanks again and have a good week!

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