One of the questions I have asked myself a lot recently: If I wanted to become a world champion, best-selling author or just be plain phenomenal with the life I live, what habits do I need to develop and how would I go about developing them? One thought would be to study the people who have achieved the same level of excellence I aspire to and try to model my development after anyone I connect to. This is right, and might be helpful.
However, I am not sure there is a one-size fits all approach to this. Given differences in environment, ability or other resources available to me. People often assume that the same approach will work for everyone, that the same habits will work for everyone, and that everyone has the same aptitude and appetite for forming habits, but from my observation, that’s not true.
For example, living in Paris it was easy for me to plan and schedule my life and build my habits down to the clock. I wake up, go for a run, breakfast, then catch the bus to work.However, since I moved to Lagos in the past 4 months, I have found this arrangement doesn’t work here. I don’t have a place to run if I wanted to run every morning so my fitness plan which worked while in Paris doesn’t work here. The transportation system in Lagos isn’t as structured as that in Paris so you can’t exactly plan your itinerary with a bus schedule.
So to help me deal with this situation, I decided the best way to start would be to get to know myself better,my values and generally my habits. Understanding this would help me figure out how to adapt myself to any environment I find myself whether in Mumbai, New York, back in Paris or in Lagos.
It’s hard, however, to know ourselves. And it’s hard to know the aspects of our nature that are relevant to how we might form habits.
I came up with a list of questions to help me understand myself better. Consider for yourself…
The rhythm of my days
- Would I rather be ten minutes late or ten minutes early? (Oscar Wilde wrote “punctuality is the thief of time,” but I’m always ten minutes early.)
- What errands do I regularly do? How many times each week?
- How much control do I have over my time: what time I get up, go to work, go home, go to the gym, leisure time?
- How much time do I spend commuting or taking other people to activities?
- Would I like to spend more time with friends, or by myself?
- At what time of day do I feel energized? When do I drag?
- Do I like racing from one activity to another, or do I prefer unhurried transitions?
- What activities take up my time but aren’t particularly useful or stimulating?
- Do I want to spend more time outside?
- What stores do I often visit—for necessity or for fun?
- Do I have several things on my calendar that I anticipate with pleasure?
- What does my ideal day look like?
- What can I do for hours without feeling bored?
- What daily or weekly activity did I do for fun when I was ten years old?
- Do I find it easier to do things for other people than for myself?
- Do I find it easier to spend money on other people than on myself?
- Do I fear that adopting regular habits will stifle my creativity?
- Is my life “on hold” in any aspect? Until I lose weight, get that new job, get a promotion?
- Am I always working, or feeling that I should be working?
- What’s most satisfying to me: saving time, or money, or effort?
- Does it bother me to act in a different way from the people around me?—say, not ordering a drink or dessert when everyone else is doing so? Or do I get a charge out of it?
- Does spending money on an activity make me feel more committed to it, or not?
- Do I spend a lot of time on something that’s important to someone else, but not to me? If I had 500 Euros that I had to spend on fun, how would I spend it?
- Who are the five most important people in my life? Do I wish I could see more of them?
- Do I like to listen to experts, or do I prefer to figure things out for myself?
- Does paying with cash make spending money seem more “real” to me than using a credit card?
- Am I motivated by the thought of winning or losing a bet?
- Do I embrace the rules or flout them?
- Would I be happy to see my children have the life I’ve had, more or less?
- Given my existing habits, what kind of life should I expect to live?
- How do I spend money? (Look at my bank statement and credit-card statements.)
- How do I spend time? (Look at my calendar.)
- What do I do with my weekend afternoons?
- What medications do I take regularly?
- What foods are in my fridge and cupboards?
- What are the last twenty photographs I took?
- Am I more likely to indulge in a bad habit in a group or when I’m alone?
- If I could magically, effortlessly, change one habit in my life, what would it be?
- If the people around me were able to change one of my habits, what would they choose?
- Of my existing habits, which would I like to see my children adopt? Or not?
- Do I lie about any of my habits?
Do you find any of these questions particularly helpful, in thinking about what habits you might like to acquire, and how you might structure them for greater success? Let me know.