“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”
Our never-ending quest towards self-improvement is a long journey of small steps. Small habits we repeat day after day, week after week, year after year. Small habits that have turned us into who we are today can also determine who we will become in the future. Below are 7 Power Habits of some of the greatest human beings to ever live.
Power Habit 1: Monitor Your Beliefs
Who did it? Mahatma Gandhi
Mohandas “Mahatma” Gandhi was the ideological and spiritual leader of the Indian independence movement in British-ruled India. Gandhi practiced Satyagraha, which can be described as resistance to tyranny through mass civil disobedience—a philosophy that is based on the abandoning of all forms of violence. Gandhi’s leadership helped India to gain its independence in 1947. He always believed in opposing tyranny with non-violence, and lead the Indian independence movement through his words and actions which were dictated by his beliefs.
“Your beliefs become your thoughts. Your thoughts become your words. Your words become your actions. Your actions become your habits. Your habits become your values. Your values become your destiny.”
Why you should do it!
Your beliefs will create your very own destiny. Every word, every action, every habit, and each one of your values has its roots in what you think and how you think. What do you believe in? What do you believe about yourself and your future? It is easy to forget about these simple questions in our everyday lives. It is very easy to be very inconsistent in what you think on an ordinary day compared to how you view your future self and your goals in life. Try to honestly reflect on how your daily actions are influenced by your beliefs and if your daily actions are aligned with your goals in life.
Power Habit 2: Sit and Think
Who does it? Warren BuffetAdvertising
Being emotionally steamed up is rarely a good premise for making sound decisions.
“What’s needed is a sound intellectual framework for making decisions and the ability to keep emotions from corroding that framework.”
So how does one of the greatest investors ever go about not letting emotions affect his ability to make wise and powerful moves?
“I insist on a lot of time being spent, almost every day, to just sit and think. That is very uncommon in American business. I read and think. So I do more reading and thinking and make less impulse decisions than most people in business. I do it because I like this kind of life.”
Why you should do it!
Facing a tough decision can be overwhelming, even when your name is Warren Buffet. The pressure felt in these situations can quickly turn into fear, while the ability to focus on facts fades. Even the smartest executives make poor decisions and a lot of the time the inability to blend out emotions is to blame. At the end of the day, CEOs are human beings too. Whether you sit and think as Buffet does or do something else, it is important to establish a strict decision-making routine. It’s a set of rules that allows you to get rid of emotional attachments. Even when “Coke or Pepsi” is going to be your only decision for today, just sitting and thinking can be a nice alternative as opposed to constantly seeking attractions online or wasting your time in other ways. Now sit and think about that!
Power Habit 3: Establish a Daily Routine
Who did it? Sir Winston Churchill
Sir Winston Churchill is widely regarded as one of the greatest political leaders of the 20th century. He led the United Kingdom as their prime minister through the terrible times of the Second World War. Born into an aristocratic family and spending his early years of adulthood in the military, Churchill was accustomed to discipline. According to artofmanliness.com, he kept a strict daily schedule even after leaving the military at age 26.
“He was totally organized, almost like a clock. His routine was absolutely dictatorial. He set himself a ruthless timetable every day and would get very agitated, even cross, if it was broken.”
He got up at 8 am every morning and started his day with a hot bath, speech practice, or singing. Sir Churchill spent the following hours in bed reading the newspaper, chewing on a cigar, and sipping scotch and soda. The rest of his day was organized by the clock as well, answering mails, working on speeches, enjoying lunch in good company. After a period of walking and reflecting, the statesman proceeded with an afternoon nap. The evening hours were spent playing cards with his family, taking another bath, and having dinner. Churchill’s second work shift of the day started at 11 pm and usually ended at 2 am, sometimes running as late as 4 am before he would call it a day.
Why you should do it!
Outside of the common grind of the 9-to-5, only a select few of us have managed to establish a successful daily routine. Those who do are usually the ones we consider the leading elite of our society. Self-organizing morning and evening routines will leave you more productive. You will simply get more stuff done in your life and be more successful in return. Just pick a handful of Power Habits, and start integrating them into your daily schedules.
Power Habit 4: Don’t Wait for Inspiration
Who did it? Pablo Picasso
Even if you don’t fancy art, you most likely have heard of Pablo Picasso or have seen some of his paintings. The Spanish painter, sculptor, printmaker, ceramicist, stage designer and poet is considered to be one of the most influential and greatest artists of the 20th century. Despite having such a creative mind, Picasso didn’t spend his time waiting for inspiration to hit him magically out of the blue. Rather, he started working, waiting to find inspiration in the process.
“Inspiration exists, but it has to find us working.”
Why you should do it!
At times, inspiring thoughts and impulses come out of the blue. However, simply waiting for them and relying on inspiration to magically come to you won’t always work. You will spend most of your time waiting for inspiration and not working at all. Follow Picasso’s advice instead and simply start. Even if you don’t get past staring at a blank page for a while, eventually inspiration and creativity will catch up with you, and you will get into a high-quality flow of productivity.
Power Habit 5: Don’t Be Afraid to Fail
Who does it? Michael JordanAdvertising
Michael Jordan is the greatest basketball player of all time. Period. He may even be the greatest athlete of all time. However, MJ is no stranger to failure. Early on in his career, he was even cut from his high school varsity team. But Jordan turned his frustration into motivation, making failure the reason for his later success:
“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” For Jordan, failure is not the end of the road, the most important thing is to be not afraid of trying. “I can accept failure. Everyone fails at something. But I can’t accept not trying.”
Why you should do it!
Most people despise the word failure. Why? Everyone wants to be like Mike, so why not learn from his outlook on failure as well? Failing is not the end of the world. If you have high goals, do whatever it takes to get there. Your determination to succeed in life should push you past your fear of failure. Setbacks don’t mean that you have failed, they are just another lesson that you have learned along the way to the top. A lesson that will help you to adjust your future behavior, and keep you from making the same mistake twice. A real failure is when you lose sight of your dreams and decide not to even try.
Power Habit 6: Forgive
Who did it? Nelson Mandela
“As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.”
Spending nearly three decades in prison, Mandela would have had more than enough reason to be bitter and hateful. Instead, Madiba, as he was called by his people, became a Nobel Peace Prize winner. Leading his country through their struggle against apartheid and all forms of racism, Mandela is the icon and hero of the African liberation movement. After his long years in prison, he became South Africa’s first democratically elected president.
Why you should do it!
Forgiveness is the act of compassionately releasing the urge to punch someone right in the face. This might not be the textbook definition of forgiveness but we can all agree that forgiving is tough. It is incredibly hard and takes a tremendous amount of discipline. Here is one reason why you should do it nonetheless: at the end of the day, forgiveness is not something we only do for others, we should also do it for ourselves. We should do it to try and get out of our own jail cell of bitterness and hatred and leave the pain behind. Forgiveness is an attribute of a strong character.Advertising
Power Habit 7: Simplify
Who did it? Bruce Lee
Born in the United States and raised in Hong Kong, Bruce Lee is perhaps the most popular martial artist in history. Lee has always been more than just an awesome fighter and actor. His philosophical approach to life has turned him into a source of inspiration for many. Bruce Lee was a known minimalist, keeping his focus on the most important tasks in life.
“It’s not the daily increase but daily decrease. Hack away at the unessential.”
Why you should do it!
If you are looking to improve your life, it is very tempting to always add more. More exercises to your routine, more habits to your daily schedule, more superfoods to eat to optimize your diet. You may discover that you don’t really have the necessary time and energy to actually do more.
Adding more and more to our lives can be enticing, but it can also be very overwhelming and lead to more stress. Sizing down on thoughts, activities, and clutter can be very liberating. It frees up time and energy to focus on the tasks that are actually most important to you. Overthinking things will also keep you from reaching your goals in the most efficient manner.
“If you spend too much time thinking about a thing, you’ll never get it done.”
Featured photo credit: Being Mehul via 3.bp.blogspot.com
Last Updated on July 17, 2019
The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)
What happens in our heads when we set goals?
Apparently a lot more than you’d think.
Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.
According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.
Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.
Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.
Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams
The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.
Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.
So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.
Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.
One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.
Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.
Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.
The Neurology of Ownership
Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.
In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs!
But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.
This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).
Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.
The Upshot for Goal-Setters
So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?
On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.
It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.
On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!
But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!
More About Goals Setting
- How to Set Goals and Achieve Them Successfully
- How to Set SMART Goal to Make Lasting Changes in Life
- How Setting Personal Goals Makes You a Greater Achiever
Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com
|||^||I Done This Blog: Your Brain on Dopamine: The Science of Motivation|
|||^||Journal of Political Economy: Experimental Tests of the Endowment Effect and the Coase Theorem|