Note: this post has been contributed.
Viewed in one respect, our lives are the product of an accumulation of habits. Of course, these can be either positive or negative, but over time, the things we do begin to shape who we are. Our habits are literally the foundation of our characters and our destinies.
So it's little wonder that we spend a lot of time and mental energy engaged in a struggle to make our habits better ones. From the age old tradition of New Year's Resolutions onto setting SMART goals at work, and even reflected in the popularity of charity challenges such as Stoptober or Dry January, our desire to makeover our habits, and so, makeover the person we are, is deeply ingrained in us.
We all have our individual motivating factors - from wanting to live a healthier lifestyle to scaling the corporate ladder, or even just making our children proud of us. We want and need to do better for our own sake. So what habits should be top of the list to change in our lives?
Find Your Tribe
Making connections is essential to us as social animals. We find fulfillment in the approval of others, in being accepted - and there's nothing wrong with that. Spending time around people who inspire and uplift us, and who have similar values really can make a huge difference to our quality of life. And when we don't feel that sense of connection and support? We fall prey to the epidemic of loneliness that is all around us in a digital age. So make it your mission to find your tribe in life - people with the same passions as you. This tends to get harder as we get older, when we aren't exposed to new people and ideas as frequently. The key is to keep challenging yourself and learning new things. This will bring a new energy and usually new people into your life, and this can only be a positive. Surrounding yourself with the right networks can lead to new opportunities and great things - you just have to put yourself out there and find the connection. Natural introvert? Take a look at how to make small talk for introverts to arm yourself with the tools you need to succeed.
Never Pay More Than You Need To
Our consumerist society is tuned in 24/7 to give us messages that we constantly need more and never things. Yet we know in our hearts that objects don't have the power to make us happy. Over the past few years, there has been a massive backlash movement which quite rightly values experiences over possessions, and prefers to spend any disposable income on making memories rather than acquiring the latest designer fashion. Indeed, one of the best and simplest habits is to learn respect for our money. Sooner than racking up needless purchases at high interest on easy credit, it's much healthier mentally and financially to take a step back. You can do that in several ways. The most useful is to create distance between you and a purchase. Never buy something on impulse, or because it's on sale. When you look at an item, challenge yourself to decide how much you think it's worth before looking at the price tag. If it's over that amount, put it back. You could also try adding items to an electronic wishlist rather than clicking ‘Add to basket’ on auto-pilot. If it's still on the list a month later, you have carte blanche to purchase, but you'll be surprised how many bad purchasing decisions this simple tactic can prevent. And make it a point of pride to never pay more than you have to on any purchase. Say you fall in love with a pricey set of new golf clubs. Instead of maxing out your credit card in the first shop you see them in, get smart. Shop around to find the best deal with a shopping comparison site or a specialist outlet such as rockbottomgolf.com. Or browse local listings for a preloved set - not only are you doing an incredibly positive thing for your wallet and impulse control, but you're also saving the planet!
Say No To Multitasking
We're often sold the myth that multi-tasking is crucial if we want to get everything done. But when you try to complete more than one task at once, you aren't putting your full effort and mental ability into anything that you do. This can be especially destructive if you run your own business, where you rely more on the quality of your individual output. If you want to improve at anything - from your half marathon pace time to your presentation skills, you must give it one hundred per cent - and that means focusing on one task, and one task only. Cut the mental clutter. Close all those browser windows. Switch off your incoming email notifications and put your phone on silent. Tackle the most important job on your list first and give it your complete attention. You'll be surprised how much quicker you get it done and how much better quality you can achieve.
Commit To A Better Night's Sleep
It may sound like a minor thing to those who lead busy lives. But a night of quality sleep is the foundation of mental and physical health. When we don't get enough rest, our minds and bodies suffer. Our focus is gone, we have poorer impulse control, we are more likely to make mistakes at work or to not have enough energy to work out. Practicing great sleep hygiene is a crucial habit that can make all the difference in your life. Start by finally banning electronics from the bedroom. The constant disturbances and the melatonin-disrupting blue light they emit have really negative impacts on our sleep quality. Then make sure the room is dark enough - you ideally need blackout blinds or curtains fitted. You should also check the room temperature, and invest in a great quality mattress and bedding. If you're still finding it hard to drop off, an electronic aromatherapy diffuser or even a white noise machine could be helpful, or try a mindfulness app like Calm or Headspace if you can't ‘switch off’ after a busy day. Aim to get at least seven or eight hours - that means properly calculating when you need to be in bed by counting back from your morning alarm time, and making sure you are wound down and ready to sleep by then. It makes a big difference to what you can achieve in a day.