Your daily habits and rituals make you.
If you say you are working towards becoming a professional athlete or an entrepreneur, which rituals can make that happen? Which practices will bring you closer to your goal every single day?
Some rituals, like turning on the television or surfing Facebook, may be unhelpful for your mental and physical function. They definitely aren’t going to help you achieve your goals.
Forming Your Daily Rituals
There are a wide variety of habits and rituals to perform daily. These practices may seem like a waste of time in the modern world, but they can be far more enlightening, pleasurable, and useful for your long-term goals.
Free Writing / Stream of Consciousness – Every morning I wake up, use the restroom, drink a bit of water and get started writing whatever comes to my head for 10 minutes. I write as quickly as I can think and often my hand starts to hurt, but the point is to encourage your subconscious mind to “come out and play”.
Your subconscious is responsible for answering most of your questions and thinking creatively. By encouraging every thought to spill from the recesses of your brain onto the paper, you can learn quite a lot about yourself.
While there are plenty of emotional and trauma related benefits, I find that answers to many of my questions can be found hidden among the dense paragraphs. They address nagging concerns, offer business ideas and new perspectives, and the more I write without judging the words, the more it will help.
Talk it Up – one of my newest and most exciting daily rituals is just talking to myself out loud. It sounds silly, but spending a few minutes each day talking about anything that comes to your mind can be an incredibly effective tool for verbalizing your thoughts and removing mental filters. As Napoleon Hill emphasized, your subconscious brain is the most powerful tool that you have. By learning to speak without a filter for a few minutes each day, you can allow more of your subconscious to come through.
This is included as part of my morning routine block and can help me remove the filter when talking to women, friends, and other great business contacts.
Meditation – as I have previously discussed, meditation is one of the best daily rituals that I practice. It is difficult to remain still and focused for 25 minutes, but that is exactly the point. Of course, you can choose to perform daily meditation however you want – five minutes in the morning and five minutes at night is definitely a great place to start.
Studies at Stanford University determined that meditation can increase the likelihood of choosing long-term goals over short term gratification.
Harvard neuroscientist Sara Lazar concluded that there are real physiological changes in the brain after meditation practices. Aside from the placebo effect, regions of your brain dedicated to memory are made more efficient, the empathy / compassion centers are expanded, and resiliency under stress is greatly improved. These are studies I remember off the top of my head. There is ample evidence supporting meditation as a great mental practice.
Viewing meditation from the perspective of impacts on the autonomic nervous system, it is the perfect parasympathetic balance for our over stimulated (sympathetic nervous system) lives.
Ideas, Ideas, Ideas – ever put every distraction away and focus solely on producing ideas? You will be amazed by how many great things you can come up with when you dedicate a certain section of the day to creating ideas only. As James Altucher stresses frequently, the creative center of your brain dedicated to idea creation is like any other muscle. When you don’t use it, that creative center will atrophy (realistically, it just becomes overrun with neurons from other sections of your brain that you stimulate more often).
It doesn’t matter whether the ideas are good or bad. You create the ideas for as long as you can without any distractions and there will be plenty of good things to choose from. There will be plenty of terrible things to avoid as well, but you rarely have the good without the bad. Just like the free writing and talking, don’t judge the ideas, just keep them coming.
I choose to do this for 10 minutes a day as part of my morning ritual. Typically, I like to find a topic to focus on. Sometimes I will choose to create a number of ideas for other peoples’ business, their problems, or anything else. Believe me, it will help no matter what your goals in life.
Reading – with so much information available on the internet and television, reading is becoming less popular. Still, the physical act of reading a book is incredibly important for proper brain function. Our brains have evolved for more linear processing and this strong, focused feature is being pushed aside by short, disjointed, and overlapping bursts.
By reading books, it’s possible to avoid disjointed thought processes. Furthermore, reading books is more neurobiologically demanding than processing images or speech. The impact of reading books is unmatched by any of our modern forms of media.
Walking – walking is one of the easiest practices you can incorporate into your daily routine. Try to walk around 10,000 steps per day if possible. If you are active during the day you may not need to add any extra time, but once you get used to it, walking is quite enjoyable.
Neuroimaging studies of rats indicated that walking on a treadmill versus remaining stationary resulted in more cerebral blood flow activity in many parts of the brain, including the primary motor cortex and others. The rats literally thought better while walking than sedentary.
In humans, studies have shown that walking can improve production of a neurotransmitter called GABA, which removes anxiety and stress. It can also improve cognitive function in the elderly and prevent mental decline. Finally, from a health perspective you will find that walking is as beneficial as running (if not more so).
If walking seems like a waste of your time, consider a few methods to make it more enjoyable/productive. Rather than watching television, get an audio book on your phone or MP3 player so that you can listen while you walk. You will derive pleasure from the book, you may learn a thing or two, and it’s much better for your brain and body.
Yoga – I used to partake in Ashtanga yoga, but unassociated injuries have kept me out for a while. Nonetheless, it is a daily practice that has significant health benefits for your brain. Like walking, yoga can improve GABA production, but at an even greater scale. Furthermore, beginner yoga practitioners noted a 41% higher interleukin-6 count than experts. The interleukin-6 indicates elevated inflammation, which indicates yoga has an anti-inflammatory effect on the body.
Considered to be a meditative practice in itself, yoga is associated with increased memory efficiency and greater empathy / compassion. Like meditation, you do not have to spend hours on this every day. A 30 – 45 minute session will give you many of the mental and physical benefits.
Skill Training – this is going to be different for everyone, but you need to be developing skills every day. If you are an athlete, find a specific skill to develop repeatedly (this might be juggling for soccer players, free-throws for basketball players – whatever). As a marketing-driven entrepreneur, I practice my copywriting skills every day.
The maxim “practice makes perfect” has its flaws, but daily skill practices have a significant role in working towards your goals.
How to Find Habits Right for You
These are the habits that I have found most important for my goals and aspirations.
There are so many other practices or variations of mine that you can do on a daily basis. You may decide that going to lift weights every day is a habit that fits your goals. Perhaps taking a walk is not conducive to your lifestyle.
Either way, reflect on the daily rituals that you need in order to attain your goal.
So this is my very simplistic method of finding my daily habits. As you can see, my goal is to create a successful entrepreneurial venture. Then I identify discipline, focus, marketing skills, and creativity as a few of the required skills for me to have success. Finally, I determine which daily practices can help me improve every day towards my goal. This may change, but these practices are applicable for now.
I urge you to create your own diagram in order to find out which habits are best for you. Invest some time in determining what your true goals are, the skills you will need to achieve those goals, and the daily rituals you can maintain to generate the proper skills. Even sink your teeth into the literature and scientific evidence to have very specific reasons for everything you do.
What are some of YOUR daily rituals? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!