Our habits create success.
While every successful person has their habits that may work for them, I believe each one shares a common thing:
Their habits generate momentum.
By taking deliberate steps – and making small investments every day in our growth -we often begin to see transformative growth and momentum develop.
Despite an active lifestyle, I try to carve out time each day to read and reflect. It’s a bit of “me” time that I protect daily. It’s also my way of recharging my batteries, maintaining my balance, and focusing on things important to me.
During this time, I nurture a positive mindset and keep up my momentum by reading, practicing meditation, eating healthy, and exercising.
Reading is on the top of my list. Here are a few of my go-to books for regular guidance and reflection.
The Daily Stoic by Ryan Holiday.
I love this book and read one page every night before bed. Marcus Aurelius, who is hugely inspirational to me, is quoted throughout the book, as well as other stoic philosophers.
After each quote, the author Ryan Holiday gives a thoughtful explanation and an additional example explaining the topic further. It’s a wonderful food-for-thought reading.
Additionally, I love the daily reminders on how to live a life of excellence while developing personal ethics. I believe that to live a good life, you need to understand the laws concerning the natural order of things.
Stoic philosophy focuses on using your mind to understand what you can and can’t control and your choice of perspective while accepting each moment as it presents itself. It is a great way to be tuned to a mindset of happiness and calmness consistently.
This book also outlines the benefits of keeping a journal and recording your thoughts and ideas as Marcus Aurelius did (a primary focus of a separate book, called Meditations).
The philosophy also touches on the importance of taking care of yourself and your health and not overindulging. I strongly believe in all the lessons to be learned through this philosophy and gift this book often.
While I don’t think there is one particular way to form good habits that work for everyone, I believe that whatever you choose – do it consistently.
Habits form over a specific time, but it doesn’t have to take much time. Sometimes it takes me just a minute or two, and I’ll quickly write down a thought, such as something I heard or learned and want to remember.
For example, I will jot down a quote, a line from a podcast, or notate how something made me feel. To get started, I suggest leaving a notebook and pen beside your bed as the first step.
As a Man Thinketh, James Allen
This book, by James Allen, is an easy read and implies all the ideas about applying thoughts for a happy life.
The main idea is to transform your circumstances and destiny by intelligently cultivating how and what you think.
Your thoughts and application are what define your character. Constant personal growth, self-awareness, and a good character are extremely important to me.
I want to add that I think meditation is a great way to stop and focus on the thoughts that pop in and out of your head throughout the day and analyze them, redirect them, and then change the ones that are not working in your best interest.
There is so much scientific evidence now that explains the benefits of meditation for your brain. Research has shown that meditation can change the brain’s structure and function: Enlarging the prefrontal cortex, shrinks the amygdala, thickens the hippocampus, increases overall grey matter, and enhances high amplitude gamma brainwave activity.
Meditation gives me the time to reflect and analyze the conclusions my mind makes up about my circumstances and give me the self-awareness and the ability to change the way I think if it’s not making me happy.
We all can control our thoughts and emotions – if we practice. Our ability to stay calm and focused can be learned, allowing us to change our level of success.
I have found that meditation also keeps me grounded because it also gives me time to think about all that I have to be grateful for. I enjoy playing chess so much because it reminds me of playing the game of life. I don’t believe in luck. When you have a plan and focus on strategizing what your next move is, developing all your pieces, and taking control of the centre generates a higher probability of winning.
I want to take this time to encourage you to try meditation on your own.
I think the easiest way to get started is with a guided meditation. Many apps like Head Space, Calm and Mind Valley, or even YouTube videos with varying lengths of time can help. I would suggest starting with even a 3-5 minute per day meditation.
As you practice, it becomes more comfortable but can be quite challenging in the beginning to jump into a 20-minute or more extended meditation. One of my favourite guided meditations is The 6 Phase, by Vishan Lakiani, which is nice because it incorporates some visualization techniques.
No Self, No Problem: How Neuroscience is Catching Up to Buddhism) by Chris Niebauer, PhD
I loved this book because the author, Chris Niebauer, a neuropsychology professor, can connect two practical things to me: science and spirituality and explains how your brain works in conjunction with them.
He discusses your left and right side of your brain’s responsibilities and their effects on human cognition, behaviour, and your ego.
The book explains that our sense of self (ego) is an illusion created by the brain’s left side. The left side of your brain is the interpreter or storyteller responsible for pattern recognition and categorization.
The right side of your brain is responsible for finding meaning, understanding big picture ideas, creativity, and experiencing emotions. I love that the author offers tools and exercises to implement to experience the world in a better way and provides for a deeper, more hands-on understanding of the concepts discussed
Learning how your brain works – recognizing the balance between interpretation and meaning of all that you experience – allows you to understand better how to master and manage your thoughts. This is a crucial component of a positive mindset and cultivating success.
The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz
This book ties in all the concepts I love about thought agreements with yourself, other people, and God affecting reality and circumstances.
In these agreements, one may tell themselves who they are, how they behave, and what is possible or impossible.
These thoughts (or agreements) have a significant effect on your self-worth, confidence, and mindset.
This book teaches you how to eliminate fear-based self-limiting agreements and replace them with four beneficial agreements that will transform your overall state of wellbeing.
Dramatically impacting happiness regardless of external circumstances.
(1) Be impeccable with your word.
(2) Don’t take anything personally.
(3) Don’t make assumptions.
(4) Always do your best.
You will notice a common theme within all of the books I have listed so far! Regardless of external circumstances, if you have the right mindset, nothing can get in the way of your happiness, self-worth, confidence, and success. Your perspective on these events is key!
21 Lessons for the 21st Century by Yuval Noah Harari
After reading Sapiens, A Brief History of Humankind, I had to get the author’s take and perspective on the present and future. I found this book intellectually stimulating and engaging on topics I find very interesting and impactful in our generation.
Harari reveals present dilemmas facing the world. These include unemployment due to automation, nuclear threats, scientific endeavors, and genetic engineering. He argues that nationalism does not solve global problems.
The last chapter is actually on mediation and self-observation, which I was not
He explains how it showed him how little control he had over himself – and how we need to accept that we are all connected and part of a global community.
I believe we all derive from the same molecules. Quantum mechanics and entanglement theory state that the human brain tricks us into thinking we are all separate when, in reality, nothing is separated, including us. It’s an enlightening book that I strongly recommend.
I could go on forever listing books I love!
Some others that I like, which are less self-help based are, Am I Being Too Subtle? Straight Talk From a Business Rebel by Sam Zell; Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl; and The Unbearable Lightness of Being, by Milan Kundera.
Our daily habits in developing self-awareness through insightful reading, reflection, and meditation can impact our health, sense of fulfillment, and overall happiness. In turn, we begin to formulate a positive-mindset so critical in our ability to achieve and maintain success. I encourage you to find positive habits that can uplift you and provide an opportunity for reflection, self-awareness, and focus.