It only takes ONE new idea, action or habit to change your life.

Maybe it’s cross fit. Maybe it’s meditation. Maybe it’s yoga. Or maybe it’s a thinking habit like introspection or visualization.

For the past 3 weeks I’ve been counting down the top 50 habits of all time. These habits are life changing and it only takes one of these to change your life forever. Now we get down to the top 20 habits of all time – the very best of the best…

Let’s continue the countdown…

20. Introspection

“Know thyself.” – Oracle of Delphi

In last weeks article “peer review” I suggested asking others who know you well “What 10 words do you feel best describe me?”

This is one of my favorite exercises because it reveals a lot about how you come across to others and how they perceive you and it also builds self-awareness.

In addition to asking others how they perceive you, I also recommend making introspection and self-reflection a daily habit.

Self-reflection is good for us. It’s a healthy habit to have and it will make you smarter, more conscious, and it will build your self-awareness.

You can learn a lot just by looking at yourself and reflecting upon every aspect of your life:

  • Your career
  • Your diet
  • Your actions
  • Your habits
  • Your decisions
  • Your friends
  • Your relationships
  • Your clothing
  • Your hobbies

If you want to learn about anything you watch it and study it. You are no different. The more you watch yourself and reflect upon your actions the more you will learn about yourself and the more self-aware you will become.

Other people learn about you by watching you. Why can’t you do the same?

Ask yourself the following questions for contemplation and self-reflection:

  1. Who are you? How would you describe yourself in 10 words or less?
  2. What is your mission in life? What is your purpose?
  3. If you could only do/have/achieve one thing before you died… what would it be?
  4. What do you want your lifetime achievement to be?
  5. What would you do if you only had 6 months to live?
  6. What do you think about most of the time?
  7. Which emotions do you feel most commonly?
  8. What are your top 5 values?
  9. What are the best things about your life right now?
  10. What are the worst things about your life right now?
  11. What are your best habits?
  12. What are your worst habits?
  13. What are your strengths?
  14. What are your weaknesses?
  15. What are your addicted to? What are you attached to?
  16. What influences/motivates most of your decisions? Achievement? Anger? Approval? Fear? Greed? Love? Money? Power? Respect? Sex? Significance? Variety? New experiences? The opinions of other people?
  17. Are you an introvert or an extrovert?
  18. Are you a leader or a follower?
  19. When are you most authentic?
  20. When are you most inauthentic?
  21. What do you think is most people’s first impression of you?
  22. What would be your first impression of you if you met you?
  23. How do you think other people would describe you and your personality?
  24. Would you like you if you met you?
  25. What would you like most about you if you met you?
  26. What would you like least about you if you met you?
  27. Are you the kind of friend you would want to have?
  28. Are you the kind of person you would like to meet?
  29. What is the last thing you would ever want anyone to ever know about you?
  30. If today was to be your last and final day on earth: Would you be happy with the way that you’d lived your life and the way that you’d spent your time? What would you be most happy about? What would you be most unhappy about?

Ask yourself these questions every few months or so and pay attention to your answers. You will learn a lot just by looking at yourself and paying attention to your answers.

19. Truth seeking 

“Follow the evidence wherever it leads and question everything.” – Neil deGrasse Tyson

You want the truth?

You can’t handle the truth!

Unfortunately 99% of people are NOT truth seekers. Most people are comfort seekers, pleasure seekers, approval and validation seekers – but NOT truth seekers.

In fact, not only are most people NOT truth seekers, but they often hate and resent those who speak it.

“You can’t say that!”

“I don’t want to hear it!”

“That’s not appropriate!” 

This quote puts it nicely:

“The further a society drifts from the truth, the more it will hate those that speak it.” – George Orwell

In fact, if you want to lose ALL of your friends, start telling everyone the truth.

The truth is:

No one wants to be honest and they don’t want you to be honest either. Most people will turn a blind eye to the facts and conveniently ignore what’s going on the second it suits them to do so. Not only are they ignorant, but they’re willfully ignorant. They don’t know and they don’t want to know. They could care less about the truth. They just want to feel good. If the truth feels good they want it, but if it doesn’t, they don’t.

Most people would rather hear fake compliments and false praise than any kind of honest feedback or valid criticism. People only want ‘honest’ opinions if they’re complimentary and make them feel good. Instead of respecting you for being honest, most people will just resent you for hurting their feelings.

People love their delusions and people who play to their fantasies and tell them what they want to hear. Not people who burst their bubbles and give them reality checks.

However I’m advising you to truth-seeker. Something that 99% of people aren’t. Learn to love the truth no matter what it is. No matter how inconvenient, ugly or unpleasant it might be. Don’t resist it in any way and don’t hate those who speak it.

The truth is your friend. Ignorance isn’t bliss it’s your enemy. Lying to yourself won’t help you. Fairy-tales and fantasies might make you feel good in the short term, but they’ll only cost you in the long term. The truth might be inconvenient, sad, ugly, or unpleasant, but it’s the only thing that can help you.

You want truth not lies, fact not fiction, reality not fantasy, clarity not confusion.

“Those who expect to be both ignorant and free, expect what never was and never will be.” – Thomas Jefferson, 3rd President of the United States

You can believe whatever you want to believe but it won’t help you because your beliefs, desires and preferences make absolutely no difference at all to the way that things actually are. You can believe whatever you like about your bank account, pay check, height, weight, IQ or skin colour, but it doesn’t change anything.

Instead of believing whatever you want to believe I strongly suggest you become a truth seeker and:

  • Don’t assume the answer before you’ve even asked the question
  • Don’t jump to conclusions until you have all the facts
  • Don’t confuse your perspective with reality
  • Follow the evidence where it leads (instead of looking for evidence to support what you already believe). Your beliefs should be based upon evidence not preference.
  • Let the facts speak for themselves (even if you don’t like them)
  • Don’t ignore or turn a blind eye to what’s going on because you don’t like it
  • Have a mind that is open to everything yet attached to nothing
  • Question everything: Ask why? Why not? Question the answers, question your assumptions, question authority, question the ‘facts’
  • Resist the urge to believe whatever you want to believe (like 99% of people)
  • Think for yourself and don’t let anyone tell you what to think
  • Want the truth MORE than you want to feel good

In short: Have the courage, determination and discipline to see things as they are and not how you want to see them. Knowledge is power. If you know something you can do something.

“The way of truth is like a great road. It is not difficult to know it. The only evil is only that men will not seek it.” – Mencius

18. STAND ON THE SHOULDERS OF GIANTS

Be careful about who you listen to and take advice from.

Most people aren’t worth listening to and don’t know what they’re talking about.

Most people have all kinds of opinions about:

  • People they’ve never met
  • Places they’ve never been
  • Things they’ve never experienced

However, that won’t stop them from happily opening their mouths and giving advice about things that they know absolutely nothing about as if they were an authority or expert on the subject.

My advice is this…

Choose your teachers wisely and be careful about who you listen to and take advice from.

Most teachers suck and do their students more harm than good. Not only do they not teach you what you need to know, but they waste your time by filling your head with all kinds of nonsense you don’t need to know.

If you’re going to learn from someone why not learn from the best?

Before taking advice from anyone, ask yourself:

  • What makes this person qualified to give you advice?
  • On what basis is this person an authority or expert on the subject?
  • Where has their advice got them?
  • How successful is this person?
  • What results have they produced with this advice?

I generally only listen to the top 1% of experts in any subject and even then I carefully cross check and screen what they have to say against other experts because the ‘authorities’ and ‘experts’ are WRONG ALL THE TIME.

Yes you can learn from anyone if you have eyes to see and ears to hear but let’s be honest:

You have so much more to learn from some people than others.

Where do you find the best teachers?

It might not be face to face. It might be via audiobook, blog, book, podcast or video.

I’ve often found this to be the case in my own life. I’ve learnt more from dead authors and teachers I’ve never met before then I ever have from any living ones.

17. GET A COACH OR MENTOR

When I look back to my teenage years and early twenties the biggest thing missing from my life was a mentor.

Having a great coach/mentor/teacher can save you years.

A great coach/mentor/teacher can:

  • Give you personalized advice and tips specifically tailored to your situation
  • Introduce you to the best habits, hacks, strategies, techniques, tips and tricks that can really help to shortcut your learning curve and shave years off your learning curve
  • Prevent you from forming any bad habits and stop you from wasting thousands of hours of time, effort and energy on dead-end paths to nowhere
  • Tell you what to do and what not to do, what’s effective and what’s not
  • Give you an outside perspective and allow you to learn from the years of their experience

Finding a coach/mentor/teacher is life changing but that’s not to say that it’s going to be easy. It’s not going to happen overnight. You need to do your homework and research to find out who the best of the best are.

You also need to find a coach/mentor/teacher whose teaching style matches your learning style and can communicate ideas and information in a way that you can easily understand.

16. PUT YOURSELF IN A POSITION TO SUCCEED

Why is it you never hear of billionaires from Afghanistan, Bolivia or Ethiopia?

Aren’t there any smart people there? No talented people? No business minded people? No one hungry for success with the will to win?

Of course there is.

It’s just that you can’t get rich if there isn’t any money.

You can’t take advantage of opportunities if there aren’t any.

You can’t meet the right people if they’re not there.

Three things stood out to me traveling the world

  1. Location is EVERYTHING
  2. Some places are better than others no matter how you look at it
  3. People are largely a product of their environment

Yep, the clichés are true.

Forget politically correct crap like: ‘Well everywhere is different and you can’t just compare different places because they’re all different, unique and special in their own way!’

No. Sometimes the grass really IS greener. Much, much, much greener.

Each city/town/country might be different, and they all might have their own strengths and weaknesses, but some places are disproportionately better than others and you know it. New York is better than New Delhi. London is better than Lima. Vienna is better than Detroit. Tokyo is better than Cairo. It doesn’t matter how you look at it, what you value or what measurement you use. These are facts. The end.

Take my advice: If you’re living in a boring, dead end, go nowhere town, with no real options or opportunities, leave ASAP and move somewhere better.

Even if you grew up there.

ESPECIALLY if you grew up there.

Where you grew up is what suited your parents – not you. You had no say in the matter and you shouldn’t feel attached to staying there if it’s not conducive to your success. Your parent’s choices don’t need to be your choices and they’re not necessarily the best choices for you or your future.

Go to where you can succeed and to where your dream is actually possible.

Go to where the money is.

Go to where the opportunities are.

Go to where the power is.

Go to where the resources are.

Go to where the winners are.

Live in an environment that’s good for you physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.

Surround yourself with progress and success. Get around people who are already doing what you want to do. Be where it’s happening. Be where it’s at.

This is some of my greatest advice of all time, and if I had no job, no money and no options, this is the very first thing I would do.

Just as being richer, smarter, taller or better looking gives you an unfair advantage over other people, so does living in the right place. Certain towns and cities are centers of power and give their inhabitants an unfair advantage for business, jobs, money, networking, opportunities, resources and everything else and that’s why they consistently tend to attract the best and brightest.

Where you live is one of the single most important factors in your success. It shapes your beliefs, desires and values. It plays a massive role in the way you think and feel about life and other people. It determines your lifestyle and everything you experience and everyone you meet on a daily basis.

What will you see today?

What will you experience?

Who will you meet?

What will you do?

It all depends on where you live.

I mean let’s be honest: Your choice of career, job, friends, options, partners etc. is only as good as the town or city you live in.

If you want to make a lot of money, you need to be where there is a lot of money.

If you want to capitalize on opportunities, you need to be where there is a lot of opportunities.

If you want to meet the right people, you need to be where the right people are.

If success is being in the “right place at the right time”, then 50% of that equation is being in the right place to begin with. By being in the ‘right place’ you make it infinitely more likely that you will be there at the ‘right time’.

If “it’s not WHAT you know it’s WHO you know”, isn’t it obvious that you’re much more likely to know the ‘right people’ by being where the ‘right people’ are?

Do yourself a favor and move to the best place you can as soon as you can. Life is too short to live in a shit hole and there are too many awesome places in the world to put up with a bad one. And if you can’t move to the ‘best’ place, at least move somewhere better than where you are. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know anyone there. You’ll easily make friends once you move there. Believe me you’ll never regret it and always be glad you did. The only thing you will regret is not doing it sooner.

Which towns/cities are you MOST likely to achieve your career/lifestyle/personal goals?

Which towns/cities are you MOST likely to have access to the greatest opportunities and meet the right kinds of people?

Which towns/cities are you MOST likely to have the highest chances of success?

Dubai? Hong Kong? Shanghai? Singapore? Tokyo? London? Hollywood? Los Angeles? New York? San Francisco? Silicon Valley? Melbourne? Sydney? Somewhere else?

I moved from Wellington, New Zealand to Melbourne, Australia in late 2005 (voted the “World’s most livable city” for the past 7 consecutive years”) and it was easily one of the best and smartest decisions I’ve ever made. It completely transformed my life in every way. Almost every day is a great day because I live in a great city. For career, lifestyle, money, opportunities, partying, work, etc. Melbourne has it all.

What about your city? Is it the right place for you? Are you surrounded by abundance or lack? Intelligence or ignorance? Progress or regress? Success or failure? Wealth or poverty? Winners or losers?

15. USE YOUR ENERGY WISELY

I started writing the original draft for this article in back in South Africa shortly after I had just experienced severe food poisoning.

It was bad. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t talk. I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t even sleep.

All I could do was lie in bed lifeless like a corpse.

It became abundantly clear to me in that moment that ENERGY IS POWER and time is worthless without energy. Seriously you can have all the time in the world but without energy you can’t do anything. You can’t act. You can’t move. You can’t even think.

How often do you come home from work with the intention of going to the gym, reading, studying or working on a personal project – only to lack the energy to do it?

You need to be smart and stingy with your energy, because like time and money it’s finite and if you waste it on distractions and things that don’t matter, you won’t have any left over for the things that DO matter.

When is your energy at it’s highest?

I’m a morning and night person so that’s when I write my articles for Life Lessons and do my best work.

I’m often tired in the afternoon so I try and do as much as possible in the morning before my energy crashes.

Pay attention to your energy and note when it’s at it’s highest:

  • What time of the day do you tend to have the most energy?
  • What gives you energy?
  • What drains your energy and makes you feel tired?
  • What kinds of foods give you the most energy? Note: Remember that whilst coffee and sugar might give you a quick burst of energy, it’s often followed by a crash
  • Do you have more energy when you’re by yourself or with a group of people?
  • Do you get more energy from the sun or from the rain?

I’m introverted and tend to burn energy quickest when I’m:

  • Around large crowds of people
  • After a large meal (it takes a lot of energy to digest food)
  • In the hot sun (the sun drains my energy)

I tend to get the most energy:

  • After a good night’s sleep
  • Doing something I love
  • Reading a book
  • Thinking
  • Meditating
  • When I’m by myself
  • When it’s raining

Here are some quick tips to boost your energy:

  • Get a good night’s sleep the night before (8 hours or whatever your body needs)
  • Take a 20-30 minute nap during the day to recharge your batteries
  • Meditate
  • Eat healthy
  • Drink water
  • Exercise 3 – 5 times a week
  • Coffee is OK, but water and fruit is better
  • Listen to inspirational/motivational speakers on audio and video
  • Spend time with people who inspire you
  • Do work you LOVE that really matters to you
  • Live in a town, city, or neighbourhood that energizes you

You also need to watch out for things that drain your energy:

  • Anger
  • Arguing
  • Being around controlling or manipulative people
  • Being fake or inauthentic or trying to be someone else
  • Complaining
  • Criticizing
  • Digestion/eating large meals/eating too much food/eating difficult to digest meals
  • Eating Fast food/Junk food/Unhealthy food
  • Excess body fat or muscle on your body
  • Fighting
  • Living in a boring, dead end, go nowhere town
  • Negativity of any kind (Movies/TV/Music/People/Environments)
  • Over stimulation of any kind (Movies/TV/Music etc.)
  • Resisting ‘what is’
  • Spending time with people you people you don’t like
  • Talking to someone who doesn’t want to listen
  • Trying to help someone who doesn’t want to be helped/won’t help themselves
  • Working in a job you hate
  • Worrying about the future

Note: Digestion is a MAJOR energy thief, probably the biggest.

It’s estimated that up to 70% of your bodies energy goes into digesting the food you eat after a meal. That’s why after a large meal (or after eating foods that are heavy and difficult to digest such as steak), you often feel like having a sleep, and your body just wants to crash out for a few hours.

Tips to make digestion easier:

  • Allow your body more digestion time by giving yourself more time between meals
  • Eat smaller meals. The larger the meal, the harder your body has to work to digest it, and the more energy it takes to digest
  • Eat foods which are more easily digestible for your body and contain a high water content such as fruits and vegetables
  • Don’t eat heavy meals, and don’t over eat, especially before bedtime
  • Don’t eat within 3 hours of bedtime or your body will have to work hard all night while you sleep to digest the meal instead or resting

14. CONTROL YOUR FOCUS

In the section above I spoke about the importance of using your energy wisely (and how you spend your energy is how you spend your time).

But energy starts with your focus. Where your focus goes your energy flows.

Your focus is everything. It is the starting point of everything you experience and do.

Your focus determines your thoughts.

Your thoughts determine your emotions.

Your emotions determine your decisions.

Your decisions determine your actions.

Your actions determine your habits.

Your habits determine your destiny.

If you want to be successful you must learn to master your focus and keep your eyes on the prize. You cannot allow yourself to get taken out of the zone or distracted from your goals by anyone or anything.

These days there are an infinite number of distractions competing for your attention 24/7 and if you allow people to distract you and waste your time they will.

What is the number #1 focus in your life right now?

What do you spend most of your time thinking about?

Are you focused on what you want or don’t want?

13. REDUCE YOUR LAG-TIME BETWEEN WHAT YOU KNOW AND DO

“Nine-tenths of wisdom consists in being wise in time.” – Theodore Roosevelt

If you want to change your life immeasurably for the better stop wasting time!

If you know better do better. Don’t think about it. Don’t talk about it. Just do it. Pick up the phone as soon as it rings. Reply to that email as soon as it’s received. Seize the opportunity as soon as it presents itself. Take action. Reduce your lag-time between what you know and what you do.

There are probably 100+ ways you can think of to improve your life right now – DO THEM.

  • Don’t wait until January 1st
  • Don’t wait until next year
  • Don’t wait until next month
  • Don’t wait until next week
  • Don’t wait until tomorrow
  • Don’t wait until tonight
  • Don’t put it on your ‘to do’ list

Don’t even wait until you feel ready. You might never feel ready. Especially if the thing you know you should do is outside of your comfort zone like changing careers, starting your own business or moving to another country.

What are you waiting for?

What you do today doesn’t need to be done tomorrow.

What you do now doesn’t need to be done later.

If you are waiting for the time when:

  • All of the obstacles will disappear
  • All of the opponents will go away
  • All of the problems will solve themselves
  • All your questions have been answered
  • All the risk has been removed
  • All the unknowns have been made known
  • All the steps are revealed
  • Success is absolutely 100% guaranteed

You will be waiting forever.

Today is the oldest you’ve ever been and the youngest you’ll ever be again.

You are never going to be any younger than you are right now or have more time on your side to achieve your goals than you do right now.

“What a fool does in the end the wise do in the beginning.” – Spanish proverb

12. Be Adaptable

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.” – Charles Darwin

If you want to be successful, you must be smart and flexible in your approach and adapt to the needs of the moment.

Too many people are attached to doing things the way they’ve always done them. They do the same thing over and over again hoping/praying/wishing for a different result even though what they’re doing isn’t working now, hasn’t worked in the past and will likely never work in the future.

Don’t do that. If what you’re doing isn’t paying off the way you thought it would, cut your losses, move on and try something else. There is nothing wrong with making a mistake or being wrong but you should learn from it instead of stubbornly and stupidly persisting in your error, making the mistake even bigger than it is.

Don’t just stick to the game plan ‘no matter what’ if it’s not working. Sometimes you need to throw the game plan out the window and pay attention to what reality is trying to show you. Remember: There is always a better, faster, quicker, smarter, easier, more effective and efficient way to do anything.

11. RAISE YOUR STANDARDS

I spoke about the importance of raising your standards in my very popular article on Tony Robbins

If you want to achieve massive success you must raise your standards and demand more from yourself, the work you do, and the results you produce, than anyone else would. Forget about doing the bare minimum – you must give it everything you’ve got and refuse to settle for less than you can be, do, have or give. Mediocrity cannot be an option. Good enough cannot be good enough. Remember: Good is the enemy of great. What is ‘good’ for others cannot be ‘good’ for you.

In life you get what you settle for. If you’ll settle for less you’ll end up with less. If you demand more from yourself you will get more.

What are your standards? What will you settle for? What’s good enough for you?

Your answers to these questions determines what you will end up with.

One of the best ways to raise your standards is to study/spend time with people who are better than you are at what you do. People who are richer than you. Smarter than you. Stronger than you. More successful than you. Why? Because these people can help you to redefine your idea of what ‘good’ is. Most people don’t know what ‘good’ is. They’ve never seen ‘good’. A world champion has a much higher standard for what ‘good’ is than an amateur. An expert has a much higher standard for what ‘good’ is than a beginner. A black belt has a much higher standard for what ‘good’ is than a white belt.

Finally, know that you might have to move somewhere where your standards can be met. (See above “Put yourself in a position to succeed”). If you have billion dollar dreams but you’re living in a broke and bankrupt dead end town, it’s probably not going to happen.

If that’s the case you have 2 choices:

  • Either drop your standards according to the town or city you find yourself in
  • Keep your standards high and move somewhere they can be met

Personally, I recommend the latter.

RECAP

Let’s do a quick recap of this week’s habits:

20. Introspection

19. Truth seeking

18. Stand on the shoulders of giants (choose your teachers wisely)

17. Get a coach or mentor

16. Put yourself in a position to succeed

15. Use your energy wisely

14. Control your focus

13. Reduce your lag-time between what you know and what you do

12. Be adaptable

11. Raise your standards

This is Part 4 of a 5 part series: The Top 50 Habits of all time

Part 1 of this series: Top 50 Habits – Part 1

Part 2 of this series: Top 50 Habits – Part 2

Part 3 of this series: Top 50 Habits – Part 3

Part 5 of this series: Top 50 Habits – Part 5

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