Be Productive, Have Job Satisfaction, and Get Along With Your Boss and Coworkers
Good work habits are essential for anyone who wants to succeed in his or her job, whether it is an after school or summer job or one that is a step on the career ladder. They increase your productivity and job satisfaction and help you have better relationships with your boss and coworkers. We asked experienced professionals and parents what good work habits they would tell young adults they must have. Here is their advice:
1. Take Criticism Well
Your boss’s feedback is valuable. He isn’t necessarily criticizing your performance because he dislikes you. He may be trying to help you succeed.
2. Don’t Gossip
Don’t contribute to the gossip mill and remain neutral if your coworker tries to pull you into it or talks behind another colleague’s back.
3. Be a Problem Solver, Not a Complainer
If you have a complaint about something, always have ideas about how to make it better. When you turn negativity into positive action, you will sound professional instead of whiny.
4. Be Dependable
Always go to work when you are scheduled to be there. Only call out if you are truly sick.
5. Be Willing to Go Into Work If Your Boss Asks
If your boss asks you to come into work when you are not scheduled, be willing to make every effort to go. You should also be cheerful about it (or pretend to be).
6. Allow Extra Time for Everything
Always build a buffer into commuting time, as well as your timeline for working on a project.
7. Be Prepared to Not Know Everything
You certainly won’t know everything when you first start out, and you will still have more to learn even as you move up in your career.
8. Put Your Phone Away While at Work
Texts and notifications that pop up on your cell phone can be a big distraction while you are working. Check your phone only during breaks.
9. Dress for a Better Job
Dressing for the position you want lets your employer visualize you in that job.
10. Ask for Help and Offer It as Well
No one, no matter how talented, can do it all alone. If you need assistance, don’t be afraid to ask for it. Realize others may require it too but may hesitate to ask, so offer a hand when you can.
11. Always Do Your Best
When your boss assigns a task, perform it to the best of your ability.
12. Be Kind
There is nothing to be gained by not being nice to others. When you are kind, it will make others happy, and they will have goodwill toward you. Be especially kind to those who seem the most miserable. They may really need it and it could have a positive effect on them.
13. Do More Than Is Required and Do It With a Smile and a Positive Attitude
While doing more than your boss or customers expect may get you recognition, more importantly, it will give you experience and personal satisfaction.
14. Never Say “It’s Not My Job”
Be ready to pitch in when you are needed. It may involve doing something that isn’t in your job description, but you will demonstrate that you are flexible.
15. Look at Problems as Opportunities, Not Challenges
When problems arise, solving them gives you the chance to showcase your strengths and sharpen your skills.
16. Keep Personal Problems Out of the Workplace
Beware of extensively talking about your personal problems. What you tell your coworkers could influence their perception—and your boss’s—about your ability to do your job and it could make you the subject of workplace gossip.
17. Ask Questions
If you don’t understand how to do something, or how something works, get clarification. You may feel foolish asking what you consider a silly question, but that is much better than making an avoidable mistake.
18. Always Proofread Your Work
It may take a little longer to look over your work, but it is much better to catch your errors before someone else does.
19. Don’t Forget That Work Is Work
While it is important to like what you do, you will be terribly disappointed if you expect your job to be fun and games all the time. There are things you will need to do that won’t be glamorous, but as they say, “that’s why they’re paying you the big bucks.”
20. Make Sure You Understand Company Policies
If you don’t know what they are, get the facts from someone whose job it is to know them, for example, the human resources department. If you ask a coworker instead, he or she may give you the wrong answer, and you will bear the consequences.
21. Don’t Be Afraid to Say “I Don’t Know”
If someone asks you a question and you truly don’t know the answer, rather than giving out misinformation, be honest. Say you aren’t sure, but you will find out. Then do it.
22. Be Organized
It is impossible to do good work if you are disorganized.
23. Prepare for Your Day
Arrive at work early and get ready for the day by anticipating what you will have to do while you are there. Do not get flustered by last minute changes. You may have to modify your plans.
24. Never Ask a Subordinate or Colleague to Do Something You Would Not Do
Delegate tasks if you have the authority to do so but don’t expect anyone to do your dirty work for you.
25. Smile, and When Things Are at Their Worst, Smile More
Smiling makes you feel better and it makes others feel better. Of course, don’t smile when it is inappropriate to do so, for example when something tragic happens.
26. Listen to Understand, Not React
When someone is talking, listen carefully. Don’t think about how you are going to respond, but instead, try to absorb what the person is telling you. You can ask questions later.
27. Stop Procrastinating
Putting off doing your work, even a project you dread, won’t make it go away. You might as well get it over with.
Aside from the random element of luck, much of what makes some people successful involves the cultivating of certain habits. Learning what these habits are and how to employ them in your own life is worthwhile.
To that end, here are 10 of the most often-cited habits of successful people.
One of the most frequently mentioned habits of those who are successful in life is organization. Such organization includes planning as well as setting priorities and goals.
Joel Brown, the founder of Addicted2Success.com, calls for a prioritized “To-Do List” every evening before going to bed to prepare for the next day.
According to Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey, Sunday is an important day for organization “getting ready for the rest of the week.”
It’s interesting to note that relaxing – by meditating or simply avoiding distractions – is another of the most-often mentioned habits of successful people.
Of course, relaxation comes more easily to those who are organized, so perhaps for some, it is more of a natural byproduct than a conscious decision.
It may also be that the act of “taking a breath” is the successful person’s way of preparing for the effort yet to come. In fact, one of the first steps toward achieving a meditative or relaxed state is to concentrate on your own breathing for three to five minutes.
3. Taking Action
Third on the list of habits of successful people is the inevitable “action” habit. It is important to organize, to plan, and to set priorities, but without action, a plan is nothing more than potential.
Successful people act – quickly and often. In addition, although it may sound counterintuitive, according to James Clear, they act (start, anyway) before they feel ready. While others come up with reasons not to act, successful people take that all-important first step – even if it seems outlandish.
4. Personal Care
Personal care with regard to diet, exercise, and hygiene comes next on the list of habits of those who are successful.
For some, personal care involves a complex regimen and a highly disciplined lifestyle. For others, not so much. Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla Motors, put it succinctly when asked what daily habit has had the largest positive impact on his life. Musk said simply, “Showering.”
5. Positive Attitude
According to many successful people, having a positive attitude is not just a result of being successful – it’s one of the root causes of success.
Joel Brown refers to gratitude and positive self-talk as priorities in the lives of the ultra-successful. Moreover, Brown says, it’s not enough to express gratitude and a positive attitude. You must also remind yourself why you are grateful in order to achieve a deeper effect.
Successful people know the value of exchanging ideas with others through networking. They also know the value of collaboration and teamwork – all of which are likely when you network.
Successful people know the importance of surrounding themselves with other successful people, according to author Thomas Corley. Corley says 79% of wealthy people spend at least five hours a month networking.
Frugal is not the same as stingy. Frugality is a habit of being thrifty, with money and resources. It is also a habit of being economical. Learning to be economical comes through avoiding waste, which automatically results in efficiency.
Successful people avoid overspending. Instead, they comparison-shop and negotiate. The result is financial success through the simple act of saving more money than they spend.
8. Rising Early
The more time one can devote to being successful, the more likely success will result. Successful people are accustomed to rising early, and that habit appears repeatedly among those who do well in life.
While the “Early Riser’s Club” has a huge membership among successful people, a few notable members include Sir Richard Branson of Virgin Group, Disney CEO Robert Iger and former Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer.
Whether through donating to charity or the sharing of ideas, successful people have a habit of giving. They know the value of sharing and most believe their success should result in something more than the accumulation of wealth for themselves.
Some of the most well-known successful philanthropists include Bill and Melinda Gates, Oprah Winfrey and Mark Zuckerberg.
Lack of wealth does not need to be a factor when it comes to sharing. Volunteering in your community or at a local school does not cost anything but could provide help where it is needed most.
It’s important to note that successful people read. While they also read for pleasure, most use their reading habit as a means to gain knowledge or insight.
For anyone who needs inspiration about the value and importance of reading, look no further than the example of billionaire author, J.K. Rowling, who says she read “anything” as a child. She advises, “Read as much as you possibly can. Nothing will help you as much as reading.”
The Bottom Line
Most people have habits – some are positive, some are not. Successful people tend to have more of the kinds of habits that contribute to their success.
The good news, for those who wish to be successful, is that cultivating positive habits takes no more effort than developing bad ones.
Some of the best habits of successful people involve only conscious effort, like getting up early every day. Others, such as becoming organized, may take a little more skill and practice but ultimately result in the most desired outcome of all – success.
In business, there are times when you need to be mentally acute to make tough decisions.
In leadership, there are times when you need to be mentally tough to navigate through complex information.
In life, there are times when you need to be mentally sharp, to make good decisions fast.
In those times you need to be mentally strong. That means managing your emotions, adjusting your thinking, and choosing to take positive action whatever your circumstances.
But like any physical strength, mental strength doesn’t just happen. It has to be developed.
Here are 15 effective ways to become more mentally strong:
1. Focus on the moment. The challenges that come along from time to time are a test of our willingness to stretch and change. The worst thing you can do is to ignore the situation or procrastinate in developing solutions. The challenge is here and the difficulty is now. Focus your energy on the present moment; don’t lose what is right before you. When you focus on the moment you come to realize where you have the most power to make things right.
2. Embrace adversity. Mental strength gives us the ability to see the obstacles in our path as stepping stones. When we encounter struggle, and we all do, we can be inspired by the knowledge that it’s not a dead end but a path to deeper knowledge and understanding.
3. Exercise your mind. Just like your muscles, your mind needs to be exercised to gain strength. Growth and development take consistent work, and if you have not pushed yourself recently, you might not be growing as much as you can. Mental strength is built through lots of small wins, maintained through the choices we make every day. To gain stamina, take on a daily task that stretches your mental endurance.
4. Challenge yourself. Albert Einstein once said, “One should not pursue goals that are easily achieved. One must develop an instinct for what one can just barely achieve through one’s greatest efforts.” Underestimating yourself and playing it safe hold you back from success. When you believe in yourself and your abilities, you often can go beyond the imaginable.
5. Respond positively. You cannot control everything that comes your way, but you are in absolute control of how you react to everything that comes your way. What happens to you is important–but not as important as your response. Incredible progress can happen in your life and leadership when you take control of your reactions.
6. Be mindful. Mindfulness means taking control of your focus and being intentional about what you give your attention to. Whether it’s an emotion, a thought, a belief, an impulse, or something in the environment, mindfulness calls us to approaching everything with a curious, nonjudgmental, open, and accepting attitude. To be the most resilient and mentally strong, make the time to be mindful so you can focus on what you truly want.
7. Don’t be defeated by fear. To be resilient and mentally strong means knowing how to deal with fear. When you enter frightening situations with the awareness that it’s an opportunity for you to grow, trust outweighs fear.
8. Be aware of self-talk. We’re often so busy worrying about how we talk to others that we sometimes lose track of the way we talk to ourselves. Make a point of being as positive and supportive of yourself as you are of others, because when times get tough you have to be able to believe you can make it through. Replace self-doubt with positivity.
9. Rid yourself of can’t. When you feel like you can’t do something, keep your focus positive. You just have to do it. The mentally strong weed out the words like can’t, never, and should–replacing them with can, could, and when.
10. Stumble toward success. Winston Churchill once said, “Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.” Perseverance gives you the ability to face any difficulty, any challenge, any setback without being defeated. It’s better to have a lifetime full of small failures that you learned from rather than one filled with the regret of never having tried.
11. Find solutions. There will be always problems– every business has complications and any endeavor has hurdles, but if you can learn to focus 90 percent of your time on solutions and only 10 percent on problems, you’ll be able to respond effectively instead of spinning your wheels.
12. Be grateful. In the business of our busy lives we neglect many of the basic concept of recognition but gratitude gives us fortitude. Gratitude can transform any common day into a thanks giving day and turn routine jobs onto joy and change ordinary opportunities into something we get grateful about.
13. Brace yourself for the storms. Adversity is inevitable. Be as well-prepared as you can so you can fight them with strength and push through to blue skies.
14. Define your moments. When you find yourself doubting how far you can go, remember how far you have come. Give yourself credit for everything you have faced, for the battles you have won, for the fears you’ve overcome.
15. Make it an everyday pursuit. Most mental strength is built and demonstrated not in exceptional circumstances but in the day-to-day of life and leadership.
Positivity, preparation, willingness, discipline, focus, and a long view will all serve you well. Practice mental toughness and you’ll soon be amazed at how strong you’ve become.
There’s no shortage of self-help gurus who swear that repeating positive phrases to yourself can change your life, encouraging that if you simply tell yourself “I am strong and successful”, your fears will simply disappear.
If you’ve tried using positive affirmations, you know that it can be a difficult habit to maintain. You may spend five, 10 or even 20 minutes reciting your affirmation, but the other 23 hours of the day? Chances are that your mind drifts back to old, repetitive thoughts that have burned deep grooves in your brain.
The problem with positive affirmations is that they operate at the surface level of conscious thinking and do nothing to contend with the subconscious mind where limiting beliefs really live.
It goes without saying that if you command yourself to think “I am abundant and attract wealth”, yet your deeply held core belief is that you are never enough or unworthy of your success, your brain will be quick to incite an inner war. If you are trying to tell yourself “I am successful”, but you struggle with insecurity regarding your skills and accomplishments, your subconscious may likely remind you of the many times you’ve embarrassed yourself in front of your boss or made a mistake at work (trust me, we’ve all been there!).
Gallery: 8 Ways To Turn Negative Feedback Into Something Positive
The truth is that it’s natural and healthy to experience a range of feelings, including less pleasant ones like disappointment, sadness or guilt. While there’s no question that ruminating in negative emotions can turn toxic, whitewashing your insecurities with positive thinking is merely a temporary fix.
Unreasonably optimistic thinking can trigger a self-defeating spiral, particularly for those prone to anxiety and depression. Research shows that while repeating positive self-statements may benefit people with high self-regard, it can backfire for those lacking confidence.
If positive affirmations can be ineffective–even detrimental–how are we to take control and mentally empower ourselves to change?
While wishing ourselves into a success mindset won’t work for most, here’s a few strategies to try to make your self-talk work for you instead of against you.
Dig Yourself Out From “Debbie Downer” Thoughts.
Start with articulating and acknowledging thoughts weighing you down–ones that don’t serve any useful purpose beyond keeping you stuck. Releasing statements, such as, “I forgive myself for procrastinating” or “It’s okay for me to be angry” shortcut self-bashing and free up emotional resources.
If you spend less time beating yourself up for procrastinating, you can redirect that energy into breaking down a project into manageable tasks and actually tackling your to-do list instead.
Give Interrogative Self-Talk A Try.
Research shows that asking ourselves questions rather than issuing commands is a much more effective way to create change. It’s as simple as tweaking the way you speak to yourself. When you catch your inner critic flinging accusations, think: how can I turn this statement into a question? (see what I did there?). Asking questions opens up exploration and possibility.
Here’s some examples:
- Am I willing to do what it takes?
- When have I done this before?
- What if [insert worse case scenario] happens?
- How can I…?
This type of self-inquiry powers up problem-solving areas of the brain helping you tap into your innate creativity. You’re able to greet negative thoughts with curiosity instead of fear.
Focus on Progress, Not Perfection.
Using a positive affirmation like “I am wonderful and powerful” may backfire if you don’t truly, deeply believe it at both a cognitive and emotional level. To effectively re-frame your thinking, consider who you are becoming, focusing on your progress–the current track or path you’re on.
You might re-work your self-talk to sound more like “I am a work in progress, and that’s OK.” It’s pointing you in the direction of positive growth and is both realistic and achievable. Another example: telling yourself “Every moment I’m making an effort to be more conscious about how I spend my money” acknowledges the fact that you are evolving and that you have choice in creating a better financial future for yourself.
When it comes to eating, we have strong habits. Some are good (“I always eat breakfast”), and some are not so good (“I always clean my plate”). Although many of our eating habits were established during childhood, it doesn’t mean it’s too late to change them.
Making sudden, radical changes to eating habits such as eating nothing but cabbage soup, can lead to short term weight loss. However, such radical changes are neither healthy nor a good idea, and won’t be successful in the long run. Permanently improving your eating habits requires a thoughtful approach in which you Reflect, Replace, and Reinforce.
- REFLECTon all of your specific eating habits, both bad and good; and, your common triggers for unhealthy eating.
- REPLACE your unhealthy eating habits with healthier ones.
- REINFORCE your new, healthier eating habits.
- Create a list of your eating habits. Keep a food diary for a few days. Write down everything you eat and the time of day you eat it. This will help you uncover your habits. For example, you might discover that you always seek a sweet snack to get you through the mid-afternoon energy slump. Use this diary pdf icon [PDF-36KB] to help. It’s good to note how you were feeling when you decided to eat, especially if you were eating when not hungry. Were you tired? Stressed out?
- Highlight the habits on your list that may be leading you to overeat. Common eating habits that can lead to weight gain are:
- Eating too fast
- Always cleaning your plate
- Eating when not hungry
- Eating while standing up (may lead to eating mindlessly or too quickly)
- Always eating dessert
- Skipping meals (or maybe just breakfast)
- Look at the unhealthy eating habits you’ve highlighted. Be sure you’ve identified all the triggers that cause you to engage in those habits. Identify a few you’d like to work on improving first. Don’t forget to pat yourself on the back for the things you’re doing right. Maybe you usually eat fruit for dessert, or you drink low-fat or fat-free milk. These are good habits! Recognizing your successes will help encourage you to make more changes.
- Create a list of “cues” by reviewing your food diary to become more aware of when and where you’re “triggered” to eat for reasons other than hunger. Note how you are typically feeling at those times. Often an environmental “cue”, or a particular emotional state, is what encourages eating for non-hunger reasons.
- Common triggers for eating when not hungry are:
- Opening up the cabinet and seeing your favorite snack food.
- Sitting at home watching television.
- Before or after a stressful meeting or situation at work.
- Coming home after work and having no idea what’s for dinner.
- Having someone offer you a dish they made “just for you!”
- Walking past a candy dish on the counter.
- Sitting in the break room beside the vending machine.
- Seeing a plate of doughnuts at the morning staff meeting.
- Swinging through your favorite drive-through every morning.
- Feeling bored or tired and thinking food might offer a pick-me-up.
- Circle the “cues” on your list that you face on a daily or weekly basis. While the Thanksgiving holiday may be a trigger to overeat, for now focus on cues you face more often. Eventually you want a plan for as many eating cues as you can.
- Ask yourself these questions for each “cue” you’ve circled:
- Is there anything I can do to avoid the cue or situation? This option works best for cues that don’t involve others. For example, could you choose a different route to work to avoid stopping at a fast food restaurant on the way? Is there another place in the break room where you can sit so you’re not next to the vending machine?
- For things I can’t avoid, can I do something differently that would be healthier? Obviously, you can’t avoid all situations that trigger your unhealthy eating habits, like staff meetings at work. In these situations, evaluate your options. Could you suggest or bring healthier snacks or beverages? Could you offer to take notes to distract your attention? Could you sit farther away from the food so it won’t be as easy to grab something? Could you plan ahead and eat a healthy snack before the meeting?
- Replace unhealthy habits with new, healthy ones. For example, in reflecting upon your eating habits, you may realize that you eat too fast when you eat alone. So, make a commitment to share a lunch each week with a colleague, or have a neighbor over for dinner one night a week. Another strategy is to put your fork down between bites. Also, minimize distractions, such as watching the news while you eat. Such distractions keep you from paying attention to how quickly and how much you’re eating.
- Eat more slowly. If you eat too quickly, you may “clean your plate” instead of paying attention to whether your hunger is satisfied.
- Eat only when you’re truly hungry instead of when you are tired, anxious, or feeling an emotion besides hunger. If you find yourself eating when you are experiencing an emotion besides hunger, such as boredom or anxiety, try to find a non-eating activity to do instead. You may find a quick walk or phone call with a friend helps you feel better.
- Plan meals ahead of time to ensure that you eat a healthy well-balanced meal.
Reinforce your new, healthy habits and be patient with yourself. Habits take time to develop. It doesn’t happen overnight. When you do find yourself engaging in an unhealthy habit, stop as quickly as possible and ask yourself: Why do I do this? When did I start doing this? What changes do I need to make? Be careful not to berate yourself or think that one mistake “blows” a whole day’s worth of healthy habits. You can do it! It just takes one day at a time!
Positive thinking is essential to self-confidence and overall health. According to the Mayo Clinic, positive thinking is scientifically linked to longer lives, lower rates of depression, increased immunity, and reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. We have been conditioned to think negatively, compare ourselves to others, and get stuck in self-deprecating cycles of worry. It’s all around us, in the news, on your Facebook feed, even in your home.
So how do you make the shift to feeling more positive and confident? Start small, with positive and intentional actions every day. The more you practice positive thoughts and behaviors, the more confident and self-assured you will feel. Here are ten ways you can feel more positive and confident every day.
10 Ways to Feel Positive and Confident
- Make a decision. Don’t consult with a friend about what to order at dinner or call your spouse when shopping for groceries. Make a decision based on what your gut is telling you. It will make you feel stronger and allows you to practice trusting your inner voice.
- Try something new. Confidence doesn’t come from perfection, it comes from effort.
- Gently exercise. Exercise is the most important non-medicine treatment for anxiety, depression, and insomnia. Just moving your body will break up negative thoughts and boost serotonin. Move your body every day, just be mindful of your energy and never overdo it. A seven minute workout or yoga in your living room will all work.
- Clean up your news feed. Social media that is full of triggers, images, and updates can push you into a bad mood. Start following inspirational or “happy” accounts. HealthyPlace on Facebook or my Guidance Girl page always inspires. The more positive images you view the better you will feel.
- Think back over the past week and write down every nice thing others said to you. Review the complements or comments when you’re feeling insecure.
- Make a happy playlist. Music can physiologically changes your brain and body. It can make you breathe faster, increase your pulse, and make you smile. Songs with a quick tempo and uplifting lyrics have been shown to be more effective at bringing out happy emotions. One of my favorites is ‘Happy’ by Pharrell. What are a few on your playlist?
- Say no. Don’t say yes when you want to say no. You’re letting yourself down if you do favors you don’t want to do. Next time someone asks for something that will make you feel funky, and you feel the urge to say “yes,” remind yourself they are asking, not ordering. You will respect yourself more later on.
- Practice posture. Hunching over at your desk can make you less confident and more insecure according to research from Ohio State University. Pull your belly button in towards your spine and pull your shoulders back when sitting or standing.
- Give yourself credit for small, daily accomplishments, even if you are not done. Did you work on cleaning up your closet but still have stacks of clothes to fold? Great, take a moment to focus on what you have done, don’t just wait until a project is finished.
- Get grateful. Write a thank-you note, or call someone to say thanks for meeting with you for lunch last week. People who are mindful of the positives in their life, create more positive energy. Comment on a post you like, email a friend, or even write down what you are grateful for in the moment (try and think of 5 new ones each time).
Remember, small shifts can produce remarkable results. The intention of building more positive thoughts and experiences will undoubtedly increase your self-confidence and self-esteem. One of my favorite affirmations that may help is:
“I am perfectly imperfect. I strive for better while loving all that I am today. In loving myself today, I am better equipped to improve myself tomorrow.”
Share your tips below and take good care.
Roberts, E. (2014, March 5). 10 Habits That Make You Feel Positive and Confident, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2021, April 15 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/buildingselfesteem/2014/03/10-ways-to-feel-positive-confident
Author: Emily Roberts MA, LPC
Emily is a psychotherapist, she is intensively trained in DBT, she the author of Express Yourself: A Teen Girls Guide to Speaking Up and Being Who You Are. You can visit Emily’s Guidance Girl website. You can also find her on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter.
- Personal Success
- Sales Success
- Business Success
- Leadership Success
How long does it take to develop a new habit?
The time period can be any length from a single second to several years. The speed of new habit pattern development is largely determined by the intensity of the emotion that accompanies the decision to begin acting in a particular way.
Many people think, talk about, and resolve to lose weight and become physically fit. This may go on for years. Then one day, the doctor says that, “If you don’t get your weight down and improve your physical condition, you’re in danger of dying at an early age.”
Suddenly, the thought of dying can be so intense or frightening that the individual immediately changes his diet, begins exercising, stops smoking, and becomes a healthy and fit person. Psychologists refer to this as a “significant emotional experience.” Any experience of intense joy or pain, combined with a behavior, can create a habitual behavior pattern that may endure for the rest of a person’s life.
For example, putting your hand on a hot stove or touching a live electrical wire will give you an intense and immediate pain or shock. The experience may only take a split second. But for the rest of your life, you will have developed the habit of not putting your hand on hot stoves, or touching live electrical wires. The habit will have been formed instantly, and endure permanently.
How Long Does it Take to Form a Habit?
According to the experts, it takes about 21 days to break or form a habit pattern of medium complexity. Habits which are more complex or difficult to incorporate with your lifestyle may take longer.
21 Days to Break a Habit or Make a Habit
Three weeks may not sound like a very long time, but you can create powerful habits within 21 days.
By this, we mean simple habits such as getting up earlier at a specific hour, exercising each morning before you start out, listening to podcasts in your car, going to bed at a certain hour, being punctual for appointments, planning every day in advance, starting with your most important tasks each day, or completing your tasks before you start something else.
These are habits of medium complexity that can be quite easily developed in 14-21 days through practice and repetition.
How To Develop a Habit
Over the years, a simple, powerful, proven methodology has been determined for new habit development. It is very much like a recipe for preparing a dish in the kitchen. You can use it to develop any habit that you desire. Over time, you will find it easier and easier to develop the habits that you want to incorporate into your personality.
1) Make a Decision
First, make a decision. Decide clearly that you are going to begin acting in a specific way 100% of the time, whenever that behavior is required. For example, if you decide to arise early and exercise each morning, set your clock for a specific time, and when the alarm goes off, immediately get up, put on your exercise clothes and begin your exercise session.
2) Never Allow an Exception to Your New Habit
Second, never allow an exception to your new habit pattern during the formative stages. Don’t make excuses or rationalizations. Don’t let yourself off the hook. If you resolve to get up at 6:00 AM each morning, discipline yourself to get up at 6:00 AM, every single morning until this becomes automatic.
3) Tell Others You Are Practicing a New Behavior
Third, tell others that you are going to begin practicing a particular behavior. It is amazing how much more disciplined and determined you will become when you know that others are watching you to see if you have the willpower to follow through on your resolution.
4) Visualize Your New Habit
Fourth, visualize yourself performing or behaving in a particular way in a particular situation. The more often you visualize and imagine yourself acting as if you already had the new habit, the more rapidly this new behavior will be accepted by your subconscious mind and become automatic.
5) Create an Affirmation
Fifth, create an affirmation that you repeat over and over to yourself. This repetition dramatically increases the speed at which you develop the new habit. For example, you can say something like, “I get up and get going immediately at 6:00 AM each morning!” Repeat these words the last thing before you fall asleep. In most cases, you will automatically wake up minutes before the alarm clock goes off, and soon you will need no alarm clock at all.
6) Resolve to Persist
Sixth, resolve to persist in the new behavior until it is so automatic and easy that you actually feel uncomfortable when you do not do what you have decided to do.
7) Reward Yourself
Seventh, and most important, give yourself a reward of some kind for practicing in the new behavior. Each time you reward yourself, you reaffirm and reinforce the behavior. Soon you begin to associate, at an unconscious level, the pleasure of the reward with the behavior. You set up your own force field of positive consequences that you unconsciously look forward to as the result of engaging in the behavior or habit that you have decided upon.
I hope you enjoyed this post. Please feel free to share with your friends and leave a comment. If you want to learn how to accomplish 10-20 times as much as the average person, click the link below to get my brand new, free e-book, The Power of Habit.
To learn how to form great habits that will lead you to success, check out my recent post 7 Goal Oriented Habits Of Successful People.
About Brian Tracy — Brian is recognized as the top sales training and personal success authority in the world today. He has authored more than 60 books and has produced more than 500 audio and video learning programs on sales, management, business success and personal development, including worldwide bestseller The Psychology of Achievement. Brian’s goal is to help you achieve your personal and business goals faster and easier than you ever imagined. You can follow him on Google+, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Linkedin and Youtube.
The day-to-day choices you make influence whether you maintain vitality as you age or develop life-shortening illnesses and disabling conditions like heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and stroke. You may understand exactly what you need to do to enjoy a healthier, happier life: carve out time to exercise, perhaps, or find a way to ratchet down stress. There’s just one hitch. You haven’t done it yet.
Often, the biggest hurdle is inertia. It’s true that it isn’t easy to change ingrained habits like driving to nearby locations instead of walking, let’s say, or reaching for a donut instead of an apple. However, gradually working toward change improves your odds of success. Here are some strategies that can help you enact healthy change in your life, no matter what change (or changes) you’d like to make.
Seven steps to shape your personal plan
Shaping your personal plan starts with setting your first goal. Break down choices that feel overwhelming into tiny steps that can help you succeed.
- Select a goal. Choose a goal that is the best fit for you. It may not be the first goal you feel you should choose. But you’re much more likely to succeed if you set priorities that are compelling to you and feel attainable at present.
- Ask a big question. Do I have a big dream that pairs with my goal? A big dream might be running a marathon or climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, wiggling back into a closet full of clothes you love, cutting back on blood pressure medication, or playing games and sports energetically with your children. One word to the wise: if you can’t articulate a big dream, don’t get hung up on this step. You can still succeed in moving toward your goal through these other approaches.
- Pick your choice for change. Select a choice that feels like a sure bet. Do you want to eat healthier, stick to exercise, diet more effectively, ease stress? It’s best to concentrate on just one choice at a time. When a certain change fits into your life comfortably, you can then focus on the next change.
- Commit yourself. Make a written or verbal promise to yourself and one or two supporters you don’t want to let down: your partner or child, a teacher, doctor, boss, or friends. That will encourage you to slog through tough spots. Be explicit about the change you’ve chosen and why it matters to you. If it’s a step toward a bigger goal, include that, too. I’m making a commitment to my health by planning to take a mindful walk, two days a week. This is my first step to a bigger goal: doing a stress-reducing activity every day (and it helps me meet another goal: getting a half-hour of exercise every day). I want to do this because I sleep better, my mood improves, and I’m more patient with family and friends when I ease the stress in my life.
- Scout out easy obstacles. Maybe you’d love to try meditating, but can’t imagine having the time to do it. Or perhaps your hopes for eating healthier run aground if you’re hungry when you walk through the door at night, or your kitchen cabinets and refrigerator aren’t well-stocked with healthy foods.
- Brainstorm ways to leap over obstacles. Now think about ways to overcome those roadblocks. Not enough time? I’ll get up 20 minutes early for exercises and fit in a 10-minute walk before lunch. Cupboard bare of healthy choices? I’ll think about five to 10 healthy foods I enjoy and will put them on my grocery list.
- Plan a simple reward. Is there a reward you might enjoy for a job well done? For example, if you hit most or all of your marks on planned activities for one week, you’ll treat yourself to a splurge with money you saved by quitting smoking, a luxurious bath, or just a double helping of trhe iTunes application “Attaboy.” Try to steer clear of food rewards, since this approach can be counterproductive.
Breaking it down
Taking a 10-minute walk as part of a larger plan to exercise, or deciding to drink more water and less soda, certainly seem like easy choices. Even so, breaking them down further can help you succeed.
Here are a few examples of how you can break a goal into smaller bites.
Take a 10-minute walk
- Find my comfortable walking shoes or buy a pair.
- Choose days and times to walk, and then pencil this in on the calendar.
- Think about a route.
- Think about possible obstacles and solutions. If it’s raining hard, what’s Plan B? (I’ll do 10 minutes of mixed marching, stair climbing, and jumping rope before dinner.) Maybe I dislike getting my work clothes sweaty. If I’m planning to hop off the bus a few stops early and walk the rest of the way home, what could I do? (I’ll need T-shirts to change into at work. If I bring in five every Monday, I’m covered. I’ll put my walking shoes in my work bag at night.)
Drink more water, less soda
- Find my water bottle (or buy one).
- Wash out the bottle, fill it up, and put it in the refrigerator at night.
- Put a sticky note on the front door, or on my bag, to remind me to take the water bottle with me.
- At work, take a break in the morning and one in the afternoon to freshen up my water bottle. This is a good time to notice how much (or little) I’m drinking.
- When I get home from work, scrub out my water bottle for the following day and repeat.
Track my budget for a month
- Every night, put all receipts and paid bills in an envelope placed in a visible spot.
- Choose one: a) buy budget-tracking computer software, such as Quicken or QuickBooks; b) buy a similar application for my phone; c) use a debit card for every purchase; d) tuck a notepad into my purse or pocket to record all purchases.
- Follow instructions to load software on computer, or application on phone, if I’ve chosen to use it.
- Schedule 30 minutes at the end of the two-week mark to go over expenses with an eye toward identifying low-hanging fruit to trim. Sort expenses into categories first (rent or mortgage, utilities, groceries, entertainment, etc.). Consider what categories to trim. Set a goal to reduce or eliminate some of these expenses (for example: cut out 5% of spending across the board or in one category, ride a bike to work rather than paying commuter fees, or make my own coffee rather than buying it).
- At the end of the fourth week, review all spending categories and add up the money I’ve saved. Decide on an appropriate reward — maybe spending half the money, spending time in a pleasurable pursuit, or just basking in praise for a job well done.
Share this page:
- Share this page to Facebook
- Share this page to Twitter
- Share this page to Google Plus
- Email this page
Print this page:
As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review or update on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.
To be smart is great, but it doesn’t happen overnight. If you want to become smarter, you have to create habits that will groom your intelligence and nourish your mind.
Some people are born smart, but most smart people do daily rituals to maintain their smartness. Whether they do it in leadership, business, the arts, or a different field, they push and challenge themselves daily.
Here are 18 habits that can help you become your smartest self:
1. Question everything. Don’t assume anything or subscribe unthinkingly to the conventional wisdom. Keep your eyes and mind wide open. The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance but the illusion of knowledge–and questioning and curiosity are the key to overcoming it.
2. Read as much as you can. Many years ago, I started the habit of reading a book a day, and the wealth of knowledge I accumulate every week is priceless. Make reading a habit–serious reading, not celebrity gossip and lists on the web. Even if it’s just part of a chapter each day, stick to your reading schedule and your intellect will be enriched.
3. Discover what motivates you. Find a topic that keeps you interested and dive in. It’s easier to stay engaged with a topic you find stimulating. Find a format that stimulates your mind, too, whether it’s a podcast or a newspaper. Feed your mind well with things it will enjoy.
4. Think of new ways to do old things. To be innovative means making creativity more important than the fear of being wrong. Even in the things you do every day, you can be inventive and experimental. When you take risks, make mistakes, and have fun instead of slogging through the same routine. You’ll have a daily reminder that imagination and creativity can change the world.
5. Hang out with people who are smarter than you. Smart people have interesting things to talk about. They know how to expand their mind and feed their brain, so spending time with them is good for you on multiple levels. Seek them out at work, in service organizations, and socially.
6. Remember that every expert was once a beginner. When you have an opportunity to learn something new, you become smarter. Make a point of continuously and consistently acquiring new skills, because life will never stop teaching if you’re willing to learn.
7. Make time to reflect. We’re all so distracted, it’s easy to dash from one thing to another without pausing to consider what it means. Make time to pause and reflect–reflection is an important part of the learning process.
8. Exercise your body. As you’re caring for your mind don’t neglect your body. Build discipline in doing what you need to do in terms of diet, exercise, and sleep.
9. Push yourself to become more productive. Being busy and being productive are two different things. The future you want is created by what you do. Smart people make the most of today.
10. Come up with new ideas daily. Carry a journal to jot down ideas when they come to you. Push yourself to be creative and to think in new ways. Review your ideas weekly and edit them as you go.
11. Do something that scares you. Facing your fears makes you braver, smarter, and better able to withstand what life throws at you. Sometimes the greatest rewards in life come from doing the things that scare you the most.
12. Replace TV with online learning. Devote your break time to something more productive than social media or binge watching TV. The internet is filled with awesome learning tools. It’s a small habit but a big win if you can nourish your brain and advance your career and life at the same time.
13. Be mindful of what you are absorbing. Everything you take part in is either uplifting or detrimental to your mind. It’s important to silence inner and outer negativity–once you do, you begin to play a role in shaping your mindsets and beliefs, which in turn guide your actions.
14. Read something you normally wouldn’t. Every day, look online and in other media for topics, interests, or other sources that fall off your usual path. When you do, you absorb wisdom you would never have been able to access otherwise.
15. Share what you know. Learning something new is important, but sharing that knowledge makes what you’ve learned actionable and meaningful.
16. Apply your new knowledge. There really is no point in learning something if it doesn’t make you smarter or inspire you to improve. The smartest people apply what they know not to become a person of success but rather to become a person of value.
17. Keep a journal. It turns out that journaling is an important way to become smarter. Taking a few minutes each day to reflect in writing has been shown to boost your brain power. Smart happens when you learn from your experiences.
18. Be selective. Intelligent people tend to have fewer friends than the average person–at least in part because the smarter you are, the more selective you become. Who you spend time with reflects who you are.
Start building smart habits today and see what happens to your thinking tomorrow.