As a follow up to last week’s 20 habits to happiness post, let me go a little deeper into the first five habits:
1. Practice gratitude daily. The simple thing I do is write down 10 people I’m grateful for in my journal each day. Why gratitude? In a study by Dr. Robert A. Emmons of the University of California, Davis and Dr. Michael E. McCullough of the University of Miami, asked participants to split into three groups. The first group wrote about things they were grateful for during the week. The second group wrote about things that displeased or irritated them. The third group wrote about things that simply affected them (whether positive or negative). After 10 weeks, the researchers found that the group who wrote about gratitude felt more optimistic about their lives. They also exercised more frequently and on average, had less visits to physicians when compared with the second group that focused on their personal irritations.
2. Take your M.E.D.S. M.E.D.S. is an acronym for Meditation, Diet, Exercise and Sleep, which are the keystone habits that create small wins. I know if I start my day being calm, with some sort of meditation, get my exercise in, watch my diet and get enough sleep, I’ll have a great day. Yes, these are small wins but small wins compound over time to great incredible results. Small wins are exactly what they sound like and are a part of how keystone habits create widespread changes.
A huge body of research has shown that small wins have enormous power, an influence disproportionate to the accomplishments of the victories themselves. Small wins are a steady application of a small advantage. Once a small win has been accomplished, forces are set in motion that favor another small win. Small wins fuel transformative changes by leveraging tiny advantages into patterns that convince people that bigger achievements are within reach. M.E.D.S., once accomplished, are absolutely small wins. Meditation calms the mind; exercise strengthens the body; diet nourishes the body and sleep replenishes the body. As legendary NFL coach Vince Lombardi once said, “Fatigue makes cowards of us all.”
3. Create a solid morning routine. There’s something to be said when you have a good morning; it really helps you have a good day. The morning sets the tone for the entire day and that’s why you should do those things in the morning (like your M.E.D.S.) that will help strengthen your mindset throughout the day.
4. Focus on your Wildly Important Goals. The idea of Wildly Important Goals (or WIGs) comes from “The Four Disciplines of Execution,” an incredible book for creating a system around which your team can accomplish their goals. Remember, your goals need to be expressed in this format: From X to Y by when. You should also have one to three goals at most, and three is the absolute maximum. Studies show when you have one to three goals, you have a good chance of achieving them. When you set four to 10 goals, the probability of achievement goes down and when you have 11 to 20 goals, you’ll most likely get none of them accomplished.
5. Adopt a philosophy of continuous improvement. It’s all about continuous improvement! You are a constant work in progress. Never stop growing, never stop learning and never hide your talents. Remember, when you are through changing, you are through. If you’re silent, you’ll be forgotten. If you don’t believe in yourself that will make it unanimous. If you do not advance, you will fall back. If you walk away from any challenge today, your self-esteem will be forever scarred and if you cease to grow even a little, you will become smaller. Reject the stationary position because it is always the beginning of the end.
So, what’s the message? There’s a Japanese term, “kaizen” and it means “change for the better” or “continuous improvement.” Think about that concept as you implement these habits for happiness into your life. And don’t try to implement all 20 this month. Pick five for June, five for July and in four months, you’ll knock them all out. Remember, small changes compound over time to create big results and in this case, happiness.
This article is adapted from Blefari’s weekly, company-wide “Thoughts on Leadership” column from HomeServices of America.