On a beautiful late spring afternoon 15 years ago, two young men graduated from the same college. The two young men were very much alike.
Both had been better than average students, both were very likable and both – as young college graduates are – were filled with ambitious dreams for the future.
Recently, these men returned to their college for their 15th reunion.
They were still very much alike. Both were happily married. Both had children. And both had gone to work in the same line of business after graduation.
But there was a difference.
One of the men’s life was on a downward spiral. He was living paycheck to paycheck, had become overweight, and going sideways in his career.
The other was the exact opposite: prosperous, fit, and constantly improving results and personal development.
What made the difference?
Did you ever wonder, what makes this kind of difference in people’s lives?
It isn’t innate intelligence, talent, or reading the Wall Street Journal. It isn’t that one person wants success and the other doesn’t.
The difference lies in daily habits and actions. What one person does, and what the other person doesn’t.
This article is inspired by Darren Hardy’s book, The Compound Effect. One of my all-time favorites and probably the defining book that got me hooked on personal development.
Later, I will get into building great habits in 3 areas, which I think, are universally important to everyone: wealth, health, and skills.
But first, there are a few important things you need to understand about habits and how they work for you. Or against you.
The two faces of habits
First, be aware of how bad habits will cancel out good habits. The duality of good and bad habits is very important and explains why so many fail to fulfill their goals. They simply have too many bad habits working against them.
Secondly, never underestimate the future effects of your positive and negative habits of today. The long term effects seem petty and invisible today, but the longer you wait, they will show up big time in the future.
Bad habits, even seemingly innocent ones like eating a chocolate bar each day, produce a negative compounding effect. Think you would keep stuffing your head with sweets if you could see yourself adding 10 lbs in the mirror now instead of in the future?
Devastating consequences of some habits
Now, gaining a few extra pounds might not be a Poltergeist type of scare to you. That’s fine. But bad habits, aka complacency, may lead to other much worse personal disasters.
Stress, addictions, divorce, debt … These things don’t just happen overnight. No, the hard fact of life is that you have neglected something in your life far too long. And, when the poop hits the fan, you seldom know why it just hit you.
Good habits, on the other hand, can elevate you to the life you’ve always wanted. Sticking to good habits, however, will test your discipline. In most areas, you won’t see results in weeks, or even months. You have to keep pushing because, over the years, the difference will be unbelievable.
Let’s take a look at this in action with some concrete examples.
These next 3 incredibly simple habits will easily improve your wealth, health, and talents if you stick to them. Let's check them out one by one.
1. The habit that will build your wealth
Most people are surprised to hear that they should stop saving to get wealthy. Putting your cash in the bank is a sure way to lose money. Inflation and today’s low-interest rates will take chunks out of your savings account every year.
You have to let your money go to work and grow. The best way is to invest them.
Many people are scared of the stock market. And if they do invest, they don’t have the stomach for the ups and downs. But in the long term, the average return on the stock market is 8 percent. When investing, you have to look long term. Therefore, the ups and downs are irrelevant if you just put in the time and discipline.
A simple way to build wealth
If you invest $500 each month at an annual return of 8 percent, you can expect this on your bank account in the future:
$500 invested each month for 10 years = $92,083 (investment $60,000; profits $32,083)
Not bad that 32k profit. But we can do better:
$500 invested each month for 20 years = $296,474 (investment $60,000; profits $236,474)
And we can do even better than that:
$500 invested each month for 30 years = $750,147 (investment $180,000; profits $570,147)
As you see, the magic happens the longer you invest. Sure, you have a nice profit after 10 years. Much better after 20. But from year 20 to 30 the compounding effect is on a tear.
Time and discipline are key when investing your money. Therefore, build a new habit of always making your money work for you. Most experts agree that for most people, the safest way is to invest the same amount of money every month into an index fund.
2. The habit that will improve your health
According to the World Health Organization, 39 percent of people aged 18 or older are overweight (2016). 13 percent are obese with a Body Mass Index climbing above 30. Why are some people able to maintain healthy body weight, while others keep adding the lbs?
Doctor James Hill, psychologist and an expert on weight loss, oversees the National Weight Control Registry. There are many ways to lose weight, but according to Hill, keeping your ideal weight consist of doing the same few things over and over:
Regular exercise, steady diet, and long-term focus.
It seems most people choose a different strategy. They search for fancy diets and starve themselves for a week or two, only to regain every pound they’ve just lost. The weight never stays off, because people revert to their normal habits after the diet is over. This temporary strategy never works.
Consistency, on the other hand, seems to be the trick. Maintaining your desired body weight via healthy habits is much easier than to shift in and out of diets and exercise plans.
Given the fact that obesity has tripled since 1975, this next habit looks to be indispensable.
A simple way to build and maintain health
If you are like me, it can be difficult to find the time to go to the gym regularly. The great news is that you don’t even need to leave your home. There are a bunch of home workout apps with short, intense programs made for everyone.
You don’t need to do a brutal Murph workout to get fit. A lot of smaller workouts amounts to huge totals.
For instance, just 10 minutes of exercise at home every day accumulates to more than 60 hours of focused, nonstop workouts each year! In 3 years, that amounts to over 7.5 full days of exercise.
Add a speedy 15-minute walk each day that burns 50 kcal. That’s an extra 5 pounds off the scale each year!
You should schedule a fixed time every day to do the short workouts and walks. I find it easiest to do the workout every morning right after I get out of bed. That way, no matter what happens the rest of the day, I at least did something good for myself. And obviously, a short morning workout is a great way to start the day versus laying in bed checking social media or reading the news.
(Used to do that a lot!)
Just remember, by not working out or going for walks, you will either gain weight or have to lose it some other way.
3. The habit that will advance your skills
Some people believe that plowing through at their job is the best, and perhaps, the only way to advance their careers. And it does seem plausible. Grinding it out is where the competition is among co-workers with comparable college degrees, right?
The truth is that hard work will only get you so far. If you want to advance your career, you need to feed your mind with quality knowledge that improves your personal skills and job skills. You need to build a habit of studying. Forever.
“If you work harder on your job, you can make a living. If you work harder on yourself, you can make a fortune.”Jim Rohn
Your study time takes place when you’re off from work. That’s when most people go look for entertainment. But extraordinary people pursue learning and personal growth.
You need to decide which person you are?
Similar to improving your health and finances, gaining new skills and knowledge isn’t hard. But most people will not do it anyway. What is easy to do, is also easy not do.
(That last one was another Jim Rohn gem for you).
A simple way to grow your skills
Are you dreaming of starting your own company? Or looking to advance your career? Unless you leave things up to chance, you will need to consistently expand your mind with quality (nonfiction) literature written by skilled, successful people.
All the books I bought are less than $20 each. Their value, though, is beyond price.
As you see, price is no excuse. Neither is time. Let’s hit the numbers again to see just how little it takes each day to move book mountains.
Reading just 10 pages each day amounts to about 12 books each year. In 3 years, that amounts to 11,000 pages of new knowledge downloaded to your mind!
If you choose your books wisely, you can learn just about any new skill you want. Sure, you can read The Hobbit. But your ten pages each day need to be nonfiction literature if you desire new skills.
The hand-pumped water well
No matter what people tell you, there is no quick and dirty way to lasting results. What you need is time and consistency to work in your favor. A few good things done consistently each day amounts to massive results.
To illustrate, I will use a vivid example from Darren Hardy’s The Compound Effect.
Think of your efforts like a hand-pumped water well. It takes time, energy, and lots of consistency to pump up the water.
Most people fight hard in the beginning. When the first few drops arrive in their bucket, it’s natural to think, “all that hard work for this little?” So, they quit.
But this point is critical. You need to continue because you are just starting to build momentum.
Before long, more and more water will land in your bucket. Continuing to pump, the water now flows easily and suddenly it’s not that hard anymore.
Small, steady efforts produce big amounts of water. Now you’re starting to get consistency working in your favor.
But remember, you have to keep going; otherwise you’ll have to start all over.
This is your simple plan with 3 new habits
These are the three things we covered, which will create great long-term results for your health, wealth, and personal development:
- 10-minute workout + 15 min walk
- $500 invested each month
- 10 pages read every day
Follow this simple, actionable plan for the next 3 years, and you will do better than most of the people you know.
When these habits are a natural part of your daily routine, you can either increase the levels or add other good habits to the list.
Tell me in the comments below which routines and habits you practice.