Almost every habit compounds. You are either compounding a negative habit or a positive one. Highly productive people control the process.
They want to see better results, so they accelerate positive compounding.
What starts as a small improvement or a minor setback accumulates into something so much more. The effects of habits multiply as you repeat them.
“Here’s how the math works out: if you can get 1 percent better each day for one year, you’ll end up thirty-seven times better by the time you’re done. Conversely, if you get 1 percent worse each day for one year, you’ll decline nearly down to zero. What starts as a small win or a minor setback accumulates into something much more,” explains James Clear in his book, Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones
The value of good habits and the cost of bad ones become apparent only when you look back two, five or perhaps 10 years later.
Most people fail to achieve their goals because they don’t see immediate results. They aim for short-term gains instead of committing to long-term results. People who achieve long-term success in any endeavour commit to the process because they know the value of persistence. They also believe that better results tend to only show up late in the game.
The goods news is, you have control over the outcome of your habits. You can choose to focus on better habits with massive returns. These are a few of the highest compounding life habits you can adopt to improve your life. Starting them now will yield exponentially valuable results in the future.
Compounding habit #1: Morning ritual — a good day starts with a great morning ritual
What’s the first thing you did this morning?
Effective rituals put our brains on autopilot so that we can use our brainpower to focus on what’s important in our lives. Morning rituals are productive actions you take on a repeated basis with little or no required effort but guaranteed maximum returns.
In his book Daily Rituals: How Artists Work, Mason Currey writes about the habits, routines, and rituals of hundreds of artists. Even though their routines varied wildly, every one of them had actional daily rituals they followed to put them in an optimal state of mind.
Peak performers and successful people swear by rituals and routines. And many of them are early risers.
What is the one most important thing you have to do every that makes everything fall into place? Or better still, what’s the one habit that helps you start your day right? Plan that into your morning schedule.
For many people, it might be waking up by 6 a.m. and exercising. Many of the most successful leaders including Tim Cook and Richard Branson exercise early to jump-start their day. Even a short burst of cardio in the morning (think 10 to 15 minutes) can be an effective leverage point if you can’t commit to long exercise sessions.
Your leverage point doesn’t have to be waking up at 5 am, exercise, meditation, or journaling. It can be anything you want that gets the ball rolling. Crafting a morning routine is a personal thing.
Effective morning triggers act as quick wins. Starting your day with a better mood anchor builds up momentum, which can carry you throughout the day to work on other tasks.
Compounding habit #2: Life learning —to thrive in a rapidly changing world, make learning a lifelong habit
Lifelong learning is the “ongoing, voluntary, and self-motivated” pursuit of knowledge for either personal or professional reasons. It’s about learning to know, learning to do and learning to be. Cultivating the mind is essential for personal growth.
The most successful people in history were dedicated to self-learning. They recognise the need to grow and deepen their understanding of themselves and interesting subjects. We would be wise to follow in their footsteps.
Theodore Roosevelt was rumoured to read a book a day. Learning for him was the path to professional success. He wrote his first book at 23.
“Roosevelt was what we might call a “lifetime learner.” Learning became, for him, a mode of personal enjoyment and a path to professional success,” writes John Coleman.
Paul Tudor Jones, self-made billionaire entrepreneur, investor, and philanthropist agrees. He once said, “Intellectual capital will always trump financial capital.”
An active literary life can make you effective, productive, and healthy. Successful people don’t stop learning about career and life growth. They continually expand their knowledge in order to get out in front of the pack and stay there.
“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn,” argues Alvin Toffler, a writer, futurist, and businessman known for his works discussing modern technologies.
To embrace life-long learning, think of it as work in progress. I’ve completely embraced life-long learning. I’m still learning and improving what works, paths to take, those to avoid, emotions to tame, when to speak up, relationships to nurture, what makes me come alive and how to be a better person.
You can develop intellectual curiosity and a better life-long learning habit by articulate the outcomes you’d like to achieve. Would you like to upgrade your knowledge about new topics? Are you looking to master a specific subject?
Would you like to stay up-to-date on one or two topics outside your domain? Do you want to upgrade your knowledge about your industry? What’s your bigger picture? Use that as a guide to choosing what to focus on daily to build a life-learning habit.
In my own life, I like to maintain a reading schedule that exposes me to a variety of subjects and genres with the goal of general intellectual exploration, while also digging more deeply into a few areas of my career. Picking one or two outcomes will allow you to set achievable goals to make the habit stick.
Compounding habit #3: Reading — the more you read, and learn, the more you earn
Here’s an awesome truth: no matter our circumstances, we all have equal access to the favourite learning medium of Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, Elon Musk, and some of the richest people today: books.
Top performers in all areas take advantage of reading — a high-powered, low-cost way to learn from experts, influencers, successful people and all those who have made it in life.
“In my whole life, I have known no wise people (over a broad subject matter area) who didn’t read all the time — none. Zero,” says Charlie Munger, Self-made billionaire & Warren Buffett’s longtime business partner.
Reading habits of billionaire entrepreneurs worth mentioning: Mark Cuban reads three-plus hours a day, Arthur Blank reads two-plus hours a day, David Rubenstein read six books a week, Dan Gilbert reads one to two hours a day. Oprah Winfrey credits reading for much of her success. And Elon Musk read two books a day when he was younger.
Reading great books not only makes you a better person, but it can also improve your memory, de-stress you, all of which can help you achieve your goals. “Books compress a lifetime’s worth of someone’s most impactful knowledge into a format that demands just a few hours of our time. They provide the ultimate ROI,” writes Michael Simmons.
Compounding habit #4: Exercise — it’s not about intensity, its about frequency
The impact of movement — even leisurely movement — can be profound for your health. What you do with your body has a direct impact on your brain.
When you sit for long stretches, good cholesterol drops, and your body becomes inflamed, which increases the risk of a heart attack. Moving your muscles helps your body digest the fats and sugars better. If you want your brain to deliver better results every day, start a new exercise or movement habit you can sustain.
“We have about 30 years of solid research that demonstrates — there’s no debate — that aerobic exercise is good for brain function,” says Karen Postal, Ph.D., ABPP-CN, clinical instructor of neuropsychology at Harvard Medical School. “The key is getting your heart rate up, which triggers a few different things that have been proven to help your brain work better.”
A 5-minute walk beats 30 minutes exercise at the gym if you can’t sustain your daily or weekly commute to the gym. The trick to make a new exercise habit stick is to make it insanely easy to start.
Exercise doesn’t have to be anything big but it has to be consistent. You can squeeze in daily choices like taking the stairs, parking farther away, going for a quick walk, etc. to keep your body active. Start small and develop the habit into your daily schedule and then ramp it up when you can.
Physical activity establishes better blood flow to your brain. And it also triggers a surge of proteins that can help stimulate the growth of neural connections in the brain.
People struggle to develop and maintain new exercise habits because they make their efforts unsustainable. They work out like crazy for a few days (usually at the beginning of the year), and never go back to the gym. Don’t make that mistake. When it comes to developing and maintaining a new habit, frequency matters more than intensity.
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