Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes, 11s.
Not all habits are created equal. Usually, your most important habits set off a chain reaction, and affect other parts of your life.
Take exercise. The immediate consequences can be a bit annoying: you feel sore, and have less time for other things. But the chain reactions that exercise sets off are easily worth it. Exercising gives you more energy for everything you do. And in the long-term, it boosts your happiness levels and even lets you live longer.
A negative habit like overeating can do the opposite. The immediate consequence is that you get to enjoy a lot of food. But the chain reactions of the habit are much worse. Overeating steals from the energy you have to work and play, makes you feel sluggish, and can decrease your lifespan if you don’t get the habit under control.
I’ve spent a lot of time over the past several months reflecting on my most important habits. A habit can be important for one of two reasons:
- The consequences of it add value to your life (and so you want to continue doing it, or ramp it up);
- The consequences of it subtract value from your life (and so you want to cease doing it).
Everyone is different, and your most important habits will likely be different than mine. After some reflection, I’ve found there are five main habits that contribute to and detract from the quality of my life. Three of these habits are positive, and two are negative:
Do some self-reflection: what are your top five habits, good or bad?
Over the next week, be mindful of the immediate and longer-term consequences of your habits. Notice which habits make you productive, creative, and happy, and which ones do the opposite. There are likely a small number of habits—five or less—that contribute to and detract the most from your overall wellbeing.
After a bit more reflecting, you may find that your top habits are so powerful that they may even affect one another.
For example, drinking too much alcohol and overindulging in food means I have less energy, and am less likely to meditate, read, and exercise. On the other hand, regular meditation improves the other habits. I drink less alcohol and don’t overeat as much—I have more awareness to indulge without going overboard. I also read and exercise more often when I’m meditating, because I’m able to live and work with greater intention overall—this saves me time, which lets me spend more of my day on productive habits.
My five most important habits are connected in many ways:
I keep a list of these most important habits on the large whiteboard in my office. Seeing them throughout the day lets me reflect on the ways that these habits—and the string of consequences they can unravel—affect my work and life. Keeping track of this even forced me to promote and demote certain important habits.
When it comes to listing your most important habits, I really recommend you do the same. After deciding on your most important habits, keep a list of them somewhere you can see every day. Reflect often on the difference they make in your life. Notice how differently you act when you indulge in a negative habit, or how much more energy you have when you invest in a positive one.
Doing this lets you act with greater awareness and intention, and pick apart the impact your most important habits have on your life.
Your most important habits don’t exist in isolation—they are important precisely because they affect many other parts of your life. Chances are you have a few key habits that contribute the most to your overall happiness, productivity, and wellbeing. Become aware of these habits and make an effort to invest in them daily: your productivity and creativity will thank you.