How to Form New Habits That Matter
‘We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.’
Nobody is fundamentally excellent or mediocre. Where you are in your life is a result of your habits. The historian and philosopher Will Durant said it best:
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”
That’s also true for the opposite of excellence. Mediocrity is a result of mediocre habits. The good news is that we can go from mediocrity to excellence — by changing our habits.
But how do you do that? Before we get into that, I want to clarify my statement: Habits change your life, but they do not guarantee success. That’s what “the habits of millionaires” type of articles and books tell us. We get it, Elon Musk sleeps two hours a day and eats Cheerios for dinner — or something like that.
But what those articles don’t mention is that correlation isn’t causation. Waking up early, working hard, and taking cold showers do not cause success. Those habits can often be found in successful people.
Only you can decide what a good habit is — for you.
So when I talk about habits, I don’t talk about outcomes. I talk about changing our actual behavior so that it improves the quality of our lives. Now that we’ve got that out of the way, here’s my four-step process for making life-changing habits stick.
Step 1: Decide which habits are worth it for you
Look, I can talk to you about the habits that have changed my life all day long, but that’s not helpful. Only you can decide what a good habit is — for you.
Too often we hear about something, and we think: “I should do that!” Really? Should I wake up an hour earlier? Should I take cold showers? Should I eat like a cave person? Should I run every day?
Maybe waking up early is actually helpful to you. I don’t know. When I wake up early, I behave like a grumpy old man who hates people — that reduces the quality of my life (and that of those around me). So, I don’t wake up very early, no matter how many people tell me it will make me successful.