The most effective habits are also the most basic ones
Ten years ago I was in rough shape. I lost just about every dime I had thanks to the father of my business partner stealing $250,000 from me. I was 60 pounds overweight, and in order to fall asleep most nights, I heavily medicated myself with a not so delicate mix of cheap booze and expensive drugs.
Today, my life is exactly where I want it to be. I’m married to the woman I was meant to be with and I’m doing work that I enjoy. Not only that but at the age of 41, I can whoop my kid’s butts on the playground.
So what changed? How did I go from someone who was broke and severely depressed to someone who on most days is a pretty well-adjusted member of society?
The answer, turns out, was a decision to finally heed my parents’ advice. My life, in fact, can be cut into two very clear categories: the years I spent disregarding my parents’ advice, and the years after I decided to embrace their words. The answer to my woes, it seems, was there all along.
Here are eight nuggets of my parents’ wisdom which have proven, upon reflection, most life-changing.
1. Stop hanging out with idiots
If you hang out with people who drag themselves down, your stock will fall. If you hang out with people who are taking the steps to not only take care of themselves but also the people around them, your stock will rise.
It really is that simple. If you choose kind friends, the world will be kinder to you.
2. Eat your vegetables
Who we decide to surround ourselves with matters. But what we choose to put inside of ourselves is equally important.
Fast-food may not slow you down at the age of 23. But give it a few years. If I’ve learned anything in my life, it’s that bad habits aren’t easy to break. So eat your broccoli and always pack a piece of fruit. Food is fuel and energy is everything.
3. Go for a walk, you’ll feel better
My wife walks 30 minutes each day to work and then she walks another 30 minutes back home. She rarely comes home in a bad mood. This isn’t a coincidence.
Stressed out? Go for a walk. Pissed off at someone? Go for a walk. Stuck at work? Go for a walk. I don’t have the data on this, but I can’t recall ever reading or hearing someone say that after going for a walk they felt worse than they did before they went.
4. Stop wasting your money on stupid stuff
One of the fastest ways to reduce the stress in your life is by printing out your bank statement for the last month and circling any item that you could have done without. Then make a commitment the next month to not make the same mistake.
Most people aren’t broke because they don’t make enough money. Most people are broke because they stopped making coffee at home.
5. Make your bed each morning
It’s hard to get more out of life if you don’t respect the things you have. Seemingly small things, like making your bed each morning, plays a role in this.
Plus, it’s hard to feel better about yourself after having a bad day when you walk into your house and there’s shit everywhere. A clean house leads to a clear mind. It will also teach you to be disciplined. Put those three things together and you have a lot of dead birds by taking one simple action.
6. Turn off the TV
It took me 37 years to discover that I had a real passion for writing. This is embarrassing. I could have been doing it my entire life. But instead I ignored my parents when they told me to turn off Saved by The Bell.
Meet one new person a day. Learn one new thing a day. Make one new thing a day. This is how you create not only a meaning full life but also an interesting one. So go ahead and watch TV, but only when you are so tired from learning something or making something that the only thing you can bear to lift is a remote.
7. Stop trying to impress people
Whenever I got detention, suspended or arrested in high school my dad would always ask me the same question: “What were you thinking, Mike?” And my answer was always the same — “I wasn’t. I was just doing what my friends were doing.” It took me a while to see a hole in that argument.
Most bad decisions are easy to avoid. We simply have to take a moment to think about why we are about to something. If it is to impress someone or because you feel like you are missing out on something, save yourself a headache and say no. Running someone else’s race is the fastest way to ensure you lose your own.
8. Sit up straight and smile
Who do you think gets more opportunities in life? Someone who is sitting slouched on their chair with a grim look on their face or someone who is sitting up straight and looks somewhat approachable?
Whenever I write an article about being positive someone always reminds me that life is hard. Yes, I know life is hard. But it’s not going to get any easier if you don’t look like you give a damn about yourself and the people around you. We attract what we represent.
I used to hate clichéd advice like the words above growing up. But today as a parent myself I’ll be damned if I’m not going to give my own kids the same advice.
Eat food that fuels you. Walk everywhere you can. Create more than you consume. Try to smile from time to time.
By following these super basic pieces of advice you may just find that your life gets a heck of a lot easier.