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15 High Performance Habits for Health, Wealth, and Joy

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High Performance Habits

What do nail-biting, joint-cracking, and twirling hair have in common? 

Besides being awkward, and kind of annoying, they’re everyday habits that most of us are totally unaware of. In fact, about 40% of what you do each day is unconscious behavior. 

Here’s how it works: you get a stimulus (anxiety or boredom) -> you respond (biting nails or twirling hair) -> you get some comfort or relief.

Neuroscientists have found that habits form in a part of the brain called the basal ganglia. Repeated behaviors strengthen the neural pathways; these associations get physically wired into your brain. 

It’s why when your phone vibrates, or the notification bell lights up, you feel an urge to check it immediately. Companies know this when they design their products  –  addiction is a feature, not a bug

Many of these patterns are harmless. I learned all too well that other habits are much worse: 

When I was a kid, my dad would come home from work and drink three shots of tequila before saying a word to us. His stimulus was stress, an all-consuming job mixed with the pressure of fatherhood. Liquor was the response; the dopamine release of being drunk was the reward. It wasn’t a problem… until he couldn’t stop it. Alcohol-abuse caused him to lose his marriage, custody of his sons, and his freedom.

For better or worse, my dad taught me essential life lessons you too can use along your road to success. Most importantly – can turn bad habits into high performance ones that creates positive change and improve your life.  

 “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”  – Aristotle

The Best Way to Rid of a Vice Is To Replace It

That’s how I went from pack-a-day smoker to marathoner and triathlete. From near-dropout to graduating from a top MBA program. Almost being fired to leading my company in sales. Unemployed and broke to six-figures in the bank in under a year. A blank piece of paper to over thirty articles written on my blog.

You too can use these exact same principles to do thing you never thought possible.

Principles of High-Performance Habits

Enough build-up,  let’s review the key characteristics of powerful habits, and then we’ll get into some examples:

  • Start with small, specific actions  – the more complex the behavior, the more difficult for the brain to ingrain
  • Make the action easy to do  – or at least more straightforward than the alternative. Lay your workout clothes and shoes by the bed. Put your floss on your pillow. Prep your healthy meals.
  • Attach it to an existing behavior  – habits start with cues in the brain. Once you pour a cup of coffee, meditate. When your alarm goes off, drink a glass of lemon water, etc.
  • Associate a physical action  – some habits are physical, like stretching. Others are non-physical, like visualizing your day. Add a physical activity, like pulling out a visualization board, to strengthen the bond.
  • Choose when and where you will do the action  – time and place also reinforce the habit. It helps to repeat the pattern at a similar time of day and location
  • Set up a habit streak  – keep yourself motivated by tracking how many days in a row you keep the habit. Apps like Streaks, Habitshare, Tally, Strides or Habiticamake this easy. But don’t get discouraged if you miss a day or two.

High Performance Habits that Will Change your Life

Best High Performance Habits

Some articles suggest hundreds of habits, which is more exhausting than it is useful. Where do you even start? Instead, here are a handful of the most impactful practices for each significant facet of your life:

For Your Health

1. Do 30 minutes of exercise per day  – anything; jogging, biking, swimming, yoga, lifting. Do this simultaneously each day, get a workout buddy if possible, and have your clothes ready to go. If you have a pre-workout shake, drink that as another cue.

2. Replace one meal a day with a salad, smoothie, or soup – this will help you get more fruits and veggies and reduce calories. I recommend doing this at breakfast as part of a morning routine and meal prep, so you’re not strapped for time.

3. Commit to a sleep routine – so that you get more rest. Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day. Limit alcohol and caffeine late in the day. Turn off electronics at least 30 minutes before bed. Use natural supplements like melatonin as needed.

4. Cut your sugar intake  –  not only does sugar increase your risk of heart disease (#1 cause of death), eating less of it causes weight loss. How? Don’t keep any foods in your house with added sugar, like soda and sweets. If you have a sweet tooth as I do, use low sugar substitutes, preferably those with natural sweeteners like stevia. 

5. Drink more water  – hydration improves your brain performance and metabolism. About 3.7 liters of fluids a day for men or 11.5 cups for women is recommended. Start by drinking two glasses immediately when you wake up. Another popular trick is to carry a large bottle with hash marks. Water reminder apps can also help.

For Your Wealth (and Career)

6. Do one small thing each day to save money  –  In the morning, write it down. “Today, I will brew coffee at home instead of going to Starbucks.” Cook one meal at home. Set a budget before the shopping trip. Look at your recent purchases and find one thing to return or cancel. 

7. Read about money and investing for 10 minutes a day  – self-explanatory. Start with Intelligent Investor or MONEY Master the Game. If you prefer audio, Dave Ramsay has a great podcast.  

8. Block your ONE thing on your calendar  – what is the most important thing you must do every day to get closer to your dreams? For me, it’s writing. Block time on your calendar each day for this. 

9. Use a prioritization technique    your responsibilities seem endless, and your to-do lists flow off the page. Sound familiar? Know that it’s not about getting everything done; it’s about getting done what counts. A prioritization technique can ensure you tackle the tasks that matter. 

10. Schedule breaks throughout the day (and actually take them)  – breaks will reduce your stress, boost your creativity and mental performance. Don’t use break time to check your phone or do some other task. Unplug your phone, shut down your brain, and relax. The Pomodoro technique is one popular schedule for breaks.

For Your Happiness

11. Have a daily spiritual practice  – feeling like your connected to something greater is calming. Having faith is empowering. If you’re religious, read scripture each day. Pray to whatever you believe. It needn’t be a god. Read a spiritual or inspirational text.

12. Do something kind each day – kindness is the most potent yet undervalued trait. Small gestures like opening the door for someone or letting them in traffic make the world a bit better. Send a thank you message or donate your time or money. Everything counts.

13. Have nightly family dinners  – your busy life can make it challenging to spend time with loved ones. But it’s important to communicate with those you care about every day. Even in a job as hectic as President, Barack Obama credited nightly family dinners for strengthening his marriage and family bond. If dinners won’t work, take a short walk, or have coffee together and connect. 

14. Go outside for at least 10 minutes  – plants need sun to thrive, and so do you. Sunlight gives you life and energy. It enables your body to produce Vitamin D, strengthening your bones, blood cells, and immune system. 

15. Meditate for at least 10 minutes – the most important part of my morning routine is meditation  – silence paired with focusing on deep breathing. This mindfulness practice has made me calmer and better equipped to handle stress. It can be challenging to quiet the mind at first, don’t judge yourself, and start your sessions in just 10 minutes. 

Final Thoughts

There you have it, 15 solid suggestions on the high performance habits that will help you create more health, wealth, and joy in your life.

With that being said, which habits will you be putting to work in 2021? Are there keystone habits that we missed? Contact us or let me know in the comments below.

Till next time,

STRIVE

Chris is committed to teaching optimistic realists how to live their best life. You can learn more about him and how he can help you live your best life at KnowYourBest.com.

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