Ever heard of the phrase “live a life of intention?”  One of the most important times of my life was a few years ago when I realized the success I desired, personally and professionally, would only come once I instituted the habits necessary to reach my goals.

Up until that time I had motivation, but lacked the long-term focus to achieve my goals.  Once I understood keystone habits, I was able to pinpoint the exact skill set needed to reach my goals which allowed me to direct my life in the direction of goal achievement.  According to Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit, understanding keystone habits is essential to making changes that last.  Here is what Duhigg has to say concerning keystone habits:

Keystone habits say that success doesn’t depend on getting every single thing right, but instead relies on identifying a few priorities and fashioning them into powerful levers. This book’s (The Power of Habit) first section explained how habits work, how they can be created and changed.  However, where should a would-be habit master start? Understanding keystone habits holds the answer to that question: The habits that matter most are the ones that, when they start to shift, dislodge and remake other patterns.

I call these habits the Pillars of Successful Living and from my experience here are the 4 habits you need to know that will change your life forever:

Live a Healthy Lifestyle


I do not know of a habit change that will have more of a positive impact on your life than exercise and healthy eating!  Two years ago my waistline had expanded greatly and I realized I had to get my eating under control.  I made the decision to begin eating healthier meals and walking 2-3 times each day for exercise.  I cleared out my cupboards, began logging everything I ate and closely watched my calories.

Once I had made the decision to live a healthy lifestyle many other parts of my life began to change.  My mind was more focused.  My confidence grew.  I began to dress and carry myself better.  And most importantly, my body began to feel better. During this transition I learned that I was capable of more which catapulted me toward greater heights.  There is mental power in seeing your pants fitting differently. The confidence one gains from losing weight exceeds any other that I have experienced!

Live a Goal-Oriented Life


I don’t know any successful people that live their life void of goals.  I do, however, know tons of people that are floundering that have no goals or no life purpose.  Dave Ramsey produced a list several years ago highlighting the key differences between successful and unsuccessful people.  At the top of that list was having written goals and focusing on one single life goal; 67% of the wealthy have written goals and 80% focus on one single goal.  What I learned from this list was invaluable.  I had never been a fan of written goals and I had also always felt like an underachiever.

I determined that I would choose one life goal, write down my goals and then work diligently until I reached my goal of becoming a full-time writer. I developed the habit of using a 4-item daily To Do list which supported my long-term goals.  Once I wrote down my 6 month and long-term goals, I posted them on my refrigerator so that I would be forced to face them every day. It was a constant reminder to remain focused.  Having a singular life focus and written goals to gauge my success have been one of the most important habit changes of my entire life!

Live Debt-Free


I do not know of a bigger dream killer than debt.  I was on a camping trip several years ago and a friend of mine was complaining about his job and life in general.  Basically, he felt trapped in a job he hated and believed his dreams were only dreams and not intended for “grown ups.”  It was sad to hear him express how defeated he had become.  I asked him why he didn’t quit his job and find something that contributed to his happiness instead of demoralizing his spirit.  That conversation revealed that he had managed his money irresponsibly, accruing nearly $25,000 in credit card debt, a mortgage he and his wife could barely afford, multiple car payments, a boat payment and many other bills that stretched their bank account to the max.

The problem wasn’t that he couldn’t find a job that made him happier, the truth was he couldn’t take a job making less money due to his irresponsible spending.  And of the thousands of people that I speak with each year, this topic comes up the most.  What many don’t realize is that paying off debt can be easier than we think, but it will take great sacrifice in lifestyle; sacrifices that most are unwilling to make. But, think of the things you pay for that eat up your money: pay television, coffee shops, multiple car payments, eating out, huge mortgage payments, etc.  If you want to live your dreams then maybe it is time to sacrifice for a few years, pay off the credit card debt and free yourself up to experience work that also brings you joy.

Live a Life of Charity


When I speak to groups about this topic the most common response relates to donating money, but when I refer to living a life of charity I mean giving of one’s time.  There is no greater perspective changer than to volunteer one’s time working at a local food bank, men’s or women’s shelter, nursing home or orphanage.  In our world, people are becoming more and more suspicious of strangers, fearing that criminals await around every corner.  This is resulting in a society that is becoming more and more selfish and self-focused.  If you want to begin opening up your world and change your life forever, apply to work at a local charity.  It is my belief that until you put the self-focused You in its place and begin focusing part of your life on adding value to the world around you, you will not experience any type of true joy, happiness or fulfillment.

Living the life you dream of does not happen by chance.  You must determine what it is that you want, develop a plan and then live a life of intention.  It took me many years to understand this concept, but once I bought in to this fact my life began to turn around.

I believe it is time for you to stop allowing life to happen to you and begin to design your life in order to aim you in the direction of more personal and professional success. Once you adopt this mindset and focus on these keystone habits you will notice your life slowly begin to change.  And before you know it you will find yourself dreaming while wide awake.

Featured photo credit: Yoga/TakeBackYourHealthConference via flickr.com

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