I asked some of my favorite experts and thought leaders – people that are world class performers in what they do – for quick and uncommon habits and practices that we can adopt to help us thrive in life and at work every day. They really came through with some priceless wisdom and tips that will help you on day 1.
When you’re done reading, I would love to hear a quick and uncommon habit or practice from you, in the comments!
On Wellness, Health, & Fitness
“Take 5 minutes each day to practice sitting completely still. This takes the meditation one step further. By committing to stillness, you’re forced to meet, be with, and find an inner grounding amidst all of the things you might typically try to move away from (e.g. an itch, low back pain, extra energy in the body). Doing this over time develops calm, resilience and confidence to meet the various discomforts that may arise.” Cory Muscara, Long Island Center For Mindfulness
“Prioritize getting to bed early and sleeping 7-8 hours a night. Sleep impacts every system of the brain and body, including memory, creativity, the regulation of your hormones, metabolic capacity, strength of your immune system, and resilience to stress. The hours of slow-wave sleep that happen before midnight are the most rejuvenating, so getting to bed around 10:00 is ideal.
Move for 30 minutes every day of the week. Not only does physical activity improve our muscular strength, bone density, heart health, and metabolism, but is also nature’s antidepressant! In the short term, the release of endorphins from exercise naturally lifts our mood and improves concentration. In the long-term, regular exercise changes the brain to improve memory and learning for a lifetime. Just 30-minutes of brisk walking is enough to experience the profound benefits of physical activity, so lace up the sneakers and get going!” Kayleigh Pleas, Wellness & Positive Psychology Coach, @kayleighpleas
“The number 1, most important thing when it comes to fitness, movement, and diet, is self-love. That is the foundation. Once we start loving ourselves, all that other stuff naturally falls into place. When we start giving our self the attention we need, the self-care we deserve, everything else will naturally arrange itself right as it’s supposed to be.
When it comes to exercise, our bodies are resilient. Life is dynamic. Only doing one thing, staying one dimensional prevents us from truly growing. It’s really about tapping into all those neurosynapses, it’s about fully expressing ourselves. It’s about playing. Get out and move and do things that challenge you to stretch beyond your current paradigm, but also takes you to a different place mentally. When we move in a completely different way, the brain grows as well. And that is just as important to our well-being as gratitude, family, and a sense of purpose. Branden Collinsworth, Nike Master Trainer, Founder of Real Results Fitness Gym, Warrior Retreats
On Achievement & Goal Setting
“The fastest way to create habit change is to change your environment. That includes selecting the right people, people that have the same goals and the same attitude that you want to have. That’s #1. Be around the right kind of people. That kind of positive air of wanting to be better, doing your best, going out of your comfort zone, being passionate about something … that is contagious.” Caroline Miller, Getting Grit
“You experiment. Try things and see what works for you. Don’t just sit and worry about not making the progress you want. Make a particular plan, a small step you can take. Try it out and see how well it works. If it works well, great, do more of it. If it doesn’t, then try setting different kinds of goals. Kathryn Britton, Writing Coach, Smarts & Stamina, Character Strengths Matter
On Personal Development
“If people can take their focus off of looking good and focus more on getting good, that is one of the best way you can wire your brain for confidence. What is really important is what do you say to yourself after a setback. If I have a setback, and I’m being cruel to myself, that is really detrimental. It’s time to talk constructively to yourself after a setback. None of the beating up parts, and none of the name-calling. Instead, it’s time to ask yourself, what did you do well, what would you do differently next time, and how can you turn this around?” Louisa Jewell, Wire Your Brain For Confidence, @louisajewell
Identify your top 5 strengths or your signatures strengths. Then choose one of those strengths to use in a new way, each day for a week. In double blind, randomized, placebo controlled studies, it’s been found that it leads to lasting happiness and less depression. What’s happening is that you’re expanding and expanding that strength. And then the potentials continue to be unleashed. Imagine what our life would be like if we took this approach seriously and looked at all of our top 5 strengths as they relate to our whole life – at work, in exercise, at home. Ryan Niemiec, Education Director of the VIA Institute on Character, Licensed Psychologist, Character Strengths Interventions
On Work – Leadership, Resilience, & Recovery
“Organizational leaders can lower the likelihood of burnout and increase resilience to stress by focusing on the ABC’s of motivation.
A = Autonomy (Can I make my own decisions?)
B = Belonging (Do I belong? Am I connected?)
C = Competence (Am I being challenged so that I don’t stagnate?)
To promote autonomy, offer explanations when projects are presented and let people have options about where to work and projects assigned. Think about ways workplace friendships can be developed during all phases of an employee’s career, starting with onboarding. Employees feel competent when they are meaningfully recognized and are given opportunities for growth.” Paula Davis Laack, Paula on Forbes, Paula on Psychology Today, @pauladavislaack
“Leaders need to catch people doing things right. One of my coaching clients did it like this: she put 5 pennies into her left pocket every morning. She wandered around and interacted with her staff members as she normally would, but also kept a specific eye out for people doing things “right” – big or small, regular jobs or new projects, routine or initiative – it didn’t matter. She made it a personal mission to catch people doing things right. Every time she did, she moved one penny from her left pocket into her right pocket for accountability. Sometimes her left pocket was empty by 10am. Sometimes she would put her hands in her pockets at 3pm and realize she hadn’t moved anything yet. But each day her goal was to move all of the pennies by the end of the work day.
She found that relationships improved, productivity was better, morale was up. And for herself, she found that her energy was up and she enjoyed interacting with her staff more. As a basic purposeful habit to improve work and life for self and others, this is something that’s free (well, I guess it costs you 5 pennies… but that’s a one-time investment!) and takes no extra time.” Lisa Sansom, LVS Consulting
“It’s not just a matter of taking time off from work but actually how we spend our time away from work. That has a big impact on whether we recharge … replenish and come back to work read to go.”
“One of the mistakes … [we]… make is that we assume that all we really need to do is switch off. It’s not enough to switch off, we actually have to switch modes. We need to get out of work mode. We have to try to actively do something different. One mode might be relaxation mode … Intentionally engaging in whatever activity you find helps you wind down … Social mode would be another one. Where we actively try to make it a point to interact with other people. Or maybe it’s physical activity mode or volunteering mode … The research suggests that these help us psychological detach from work….which helps us recover and refocus when we come back to work. Reb Rebele, People Analytics @ The Wharton School of Business, UPenn
On Creativity & Innovation
“Try to think of secondary uses for household items. It’s a fun game that is actionable and keeps creative juices flowing! Make a grilled cheese sandwich with an iron. Turn a ceiling fan into a disco ball by taping flashlights in various positions on the fan blades. Discovering secondary uses for everyday things is a great technique to foster creativity and innovation!“ Tyson Weinert, Design Strategist @LUMA, Innovation & Creativity Expert
On Finding More Meaning
“There are small things that we can do every day to make our lives more meaningful. For example, belonging is such an important part of meaning. For all of us then, we need to reflect on our relationships and see if they are as meaningful as they can be. [Try being ] … very mindful in our relationships, being present and making sure that what we do makes the other person feel valued and cared for … When you’re having conversations with people, put aside those distractions, don’t reach for the phone. Keep your phone away from the dinner table.” Emily Esfahani Smith, Author of The Power of Meaning
“Number 1, turn off your editor while you write first drafts. Number 2, you’re going to throw away a lot of what’s in your first drafts but maybe you can save some of the outtakes because maybe they’ll be useful later on.
Number 3, observe life going on around you and collect story seeds. For example, you have a fight with your friend, and you make up. That might be a story seed. If you keep your eyes open while you’re going through life, sometimes you might collect story seeds, sometimes you might find it a little easier when you get to that point in your writing where you think ‘oh, I really need a story here.’
Number 4, when you start a project, break it down into parts that you can work on independently. For some people that is an outline, for some people it’s an overall structure with stories plugged in. But remember you’re not always going to get 3 hour blocks of time. Make it so that you can sit down and write something useful in a short period of time because that’s just the world we live in right now. Thirty minutes is long enough to write a 500-word story that could be a building block in your structure. Kathryn Britton, Writing Coach, Smarts & Stamina, Character Strengths Matter
What’s your tip for habits and practices that help us thrive in life and at work every day? Please share in the comments! Look for even more great insights, habits and practices shared by some of the experts in this post on upcoming episodes of the Next Year Now Podcast!