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

I am a big believer in the power of habit. Successful people are people with good habits.  They have an exemplary work ethic, and that work ethic pervades all that they do.

If right now all of your habits aren’t “good,” never fear. Good habits aren’t developed overnight.  They are accumulated over a lifetime.  I am continually working at developing better habits in both my personal life and my work life.

Of course, some habits come more naturally to us than others. For instance, I get aggravated if my house is messy.  So being tidy comes easily to me.  However, I am a procrastinator.  I don’t enjoy the challenge of tackling difficult problems, so I tend to avoid them.

What I know is that good habits can transform your life. For instance, they give you confidence.  If you can master one habit, then what is stopping you from mastering 100?  Nothing.  In fact, once you master your habits, there is nothing stopping you from achieving any goal.  As a result, every time you create a new, good habit, you learn how capable you really are.

Good habits also lead to opportunities. How?  Well, people with good habits show up early.  They look their best because they take care of their appearance and their health.  And they have fewer mishaps because they are organized.  As a result, other people view them as capable.  Capable people stand out in the sea of folks who are barely surviving life.  So employers want to hire capable people.  Capable people want to marry other capable people.  And so on.  Good opportunities seek out people with good habits.

Now there are all kinds of good habits that you can incorporate in your life. Below are just a few that I’ve found to be worthwhile.  They may seem like small things, but I’ve found that they have big benefits:

  1. Flossing Daily: This is one of those habits that takes 1 minute, but that has a huge payback. If you don’t floss your teeth every day, your breath is going to smell bad. And while no one will tell you that to your face, I can promise you that no one is going to want to get too close to you. Moreover, flossing prevents gum disease and cavities. So if you floss regularly, you can be assured that your 6-month visit to the dentist will be a breeze as opposed to a torture session.
  2. Making Your Bed Every Morning: If you want to have a peaceful, inviting place to sleep, you need to make your bed. There is nothing more discouraging crawling into a messy, unmade bed after a hard day of work. Moreover, if unexpected guests stop by, the last thing you want them to see is your bedroom looking like a brothel. So every morning, turn back your sheets while you are getting ready. Let everything air out. Then before you leave for the day, make your bed. Not only will your sheets be fresher, but your home will look so much better.
  3. Sending Thank You Notes: I know that in this age of Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, we’d all rather gnaw off our own arms than send something via the U.S. Postal Service. However, there is a lot to be said for the handwritten card. It shows a level of thought and appreciation that an emoji simply cannot convey. What you may not know is that some people really cherish cards. Particularly elderly people. So make it a habit to regularly take 2 minutes to send a paper card to show your appreciation.
  4. Getting Up Early: Due to a hormone called melatonin, we are built to get up when it is light and go to sleep when it is dark. As a result, we naturally are most productive during the day. Being a night owl doesn’t allow you to be productive. At night, we naturally are sluggish. In the wee hours of the morning, we barely can muster up the energy to watch some bad TV, much less do anything useful. During the day, we have the natural energy to get things done.  So if you want to accomplish your goals, or simply get a handle on you To Do List, make it a habit to get up early.
  5. Reducing or Eliminating Caffeine and Alcohol: Years ago, I loved Starbucks coffee and a good glass of red wine. There really is nothing wrong with either one. However, as I’ve gotten older, my body’s ability to tolerate caffeine and alcohol has decreased significantly. So now I avoid both, and not surprisingly, I feel and look better as a result. My skin has a healthier glow and without the caffeine, I am more relaxed. Remember that as we get older, we need to pay attention to our bodies. They are talking to us, and they will quickly tell us what they like and what they don’t like. Pay attention to the messages your body sends you, and you will be healthier for it.

Those are just a few of the good habits that I’ve adopted over the years. There are many more that I am working on today – exercising daily, praying regularly, making time to practice my flute – the list goes on and on.

We are our habits. So if you want to have certain qualities, those qualities must become habitual.  Moreover, if you want to succeed in any endeavor in life, you have to develop good habits that support that pursuit.  This week, consider which habits you might want to work on adopting in the coming months.  I promise that if you adopt even one new, good habit now, you soon will see the rewards.

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