Cultivate Excellence Daily

11 Habits That Are Worth the Work

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act but a habit.”

This quote from Aristotle is one of my favorites. Habits form the foundations for how we live, work and play. Whether or not we’re intentional about them, our habits shape who we are becoming. Where are your habits leading you?

Where are your habits taking you?

We all have habits and daily routines. Many we aren’t even aware of. However, due to the power of habits in our lives, we would be wise choose our habits deliberately.

John Maxwell said, “I can predict the long-term outcome of your success if you show me your daily habits.” Ten years ago, my habits were clearly not setting me up for long-term success. Thankfully, I’ve employed more intentionality in recent years and have been cultivating habits that will pay off for years to come.

To get you thinking about your own habits, I’ll share with you 11 habits that are helping me cultivate a life of excellence.

Consider how many of them you may already be doing or which ones you’d like to put into action more consistently.

1. Be An Early Riser. This is one of the toughest habits I’ve ever developed. Yet, it pays off every single day. Starting my day at 5:00 AM provides me with some guaranteed quiet time (more on that next). It also makes me feel like I get a head start on the day, pursuing excellence before other people even drag themselves out of bed. Here’s a how-to guide to help you.

2. Start Every Day with a Power-Packed Morning Ritual. My morning ritual is one of my favorite parts of the day. This is really when I invest in myself, feeding my mind and body. My morning ritual is 2 1/2 hours long. Regardless, use the time you have to start your day with high impact activities like prayer, reading, journaling, exercise, meditation, eating breakfast, etc. The point is to be intentional with how you start your day!

3. Live Each Day with Purpose. We were made for a life of excellence [link]. When we pursue that excellence daily, we live with passion and we operate from our sweet spots. My purpose and passions have become clearer to me over the last few years. It takes effort, but it is so worth it.

Now, I look forward to welcoming each morning and feel more continuity and fulfillment in my life. If you’re still figuring it out, you are in good company. The links above will help you out.

4. Exercise. Where do I start? If we want to be our best selves, we have to cultivate a habit of exercise. Exercise strengthens us physically, but also mentally. People who exercise regularly  feel better, are healthier, cope better with stress and adversity and are more successful than those who don’t. Some studies have found exercise to be just as good, if not better, than medications for forms of anxiety and depression.

All it takes is a minimum of 3 – 4 days of 30 min. of sweat producing activity. In his book, The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg says that exercise is a keystone habit, one that spurs the development of other positive habits.

5. Sleep Well. If you’re not regularly getting enough sleep, you’re probably experiencing a number of consequences. When we get 7 to 8 hours of sleep we are more creative, make better decisions, have more energy, experience better health and perform better than people who don’t.

Need some tips to help you sleep better and develop this habit? Check out my 5 Powerful Tips To Help You Sleep Better Tonight.

6. Eat Well. As the saying goes, “Garbage in, garbage out.” Fortunately, people in America are becoming a bit more nutritionally aware. Healthy food options are more widely available than they have been in the last 50 years. Most grocery stores have entire sections devoted to healthy eating. My wife and I continue to find ways to eat healthier and since we’ve begun this pursuit I’ve lost weight, gained muscle, and had more energy throughout the day.

7. Keep a Journal. It doesn’t have to be lengthly and can include anything you’d like to track, summarize, reflect on, etc. There are even apps to make it easy. If you are a leader, journaling is doubly important as you grow and process through change and decisions. I find that journaling helps keep me balanced and thinking more clearly. Keep a record of your pursuit of excellence. Be flexible, be consistent.

8. Connect with Others. Family, friends and colleagues are crucial to a life of excellence. They help us to flourish. The people around me speak wisdom into my life, share ideas and serve as a sounding board. They support and encourage me. They show me love. Feeling accepted and having at least one or two people that you can go to with anything will carry you through the good and turbulent times.

9. Rest. Do you look forward to the weekends? What about vacation? Mentally and physically we need rest. Our bodies know this and give us reminders when we’ve been pushing too hard. As a Christian, taking time for rest is a biblical mandate that, admittedly, I struggle to follow sometimes. I like results as much as you do, but my faith comes from God and not my own abilities. If he can rest after creating the universe, I can rest too.

10. Play. As we grow up, we can easily forget that this is essential to a life of excellence. Play inspires our creativity. It rejuvenates us. It enables mental agility and problem solving. These are all essential for pursuing excellence. Play games or sports. Explore and go on an adventure to somewhere new. Do something artistic. Most importantly, smile, laugh and have fun.

11. Learn Something New Everyday. If you want to live a life of excellence, you have to keep learning and growing. Today, there are so many ways to learn. I’m a naturally curious person, so this one comes easy to me. But, the point is to better yourself daily. Knowledge is power. Here’s a few ideas for how to do this during your morning commute.

Worth the work

You are probably already utilizing some of these habits. You may just do them once in a while. The key to habits is consistency. However, as Benjamin Franklin found out, we can really only create one or two new habits at a time. Pick a new habit to develop, one that you think will really make a difference for you. Work at it; solidify it.

I use Coach.me to help get my habits off the ground. You can track whether or not you accomplished your habit each day. It will even remind you if you’d like. Regardless, keep track and build momentum as you go. If you miss a day or two, just get back on the horse again.

Remember, our daily habits are shaping the trajectories of our lives. Where do you want your habits to lead? If yours aren’t taking you there, it’s time to adjust your route.

Question: What is one habit that is helping you live with excellence? I’d love for you to share your ideas in the comments to this post. 

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Please note: I encourage reader discussion, however, I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • I have three habits I’ve identified as keystone habits; waking early, exercising, and daily planning. You covered the first two, and hinted at the third with numbers 3 & 7.
    What I do is fairly simple. In the evening, I write down a task list of everything I need to do the next day. Often I’ll plan out the times for when I’ll do them.
    Here’s what is funny. Though the next day never, ever goes quite how I planned it, it always goes better than if I hadn’t planned at all. It’s a simple task, but it is absolutely one of the best habits I have ever developed.

  • JustinRFoster

    Allen, those are absolutely 3 powerful habits you mentioned. Great tip for planning tomorrow’s tasks today. Love it! Thanks for sharing!

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