From an evolutionary standpoint, human beings are designed to be lazy. The ecological concept of the optimal foraging theory states we’re inclined to do activities that offer us the most amount of award with the least amount of effort — particularly with food, but this concept applies to other areas of our lives as well.
The theory means that, unless you were born extremely motivated and resistant to fatigue, your brain is not inclined to do hard work. It’s the same resistance to if I told you to push a boulder up a hill. The exerted mental energy, as with physical energy, is not fun.
So how do you beat feeling like Sisyphus and stop feeling like you’re going on an uphill battle? Following these tips for success is a good starting point.
Let’s get started.
What Do We Mean by Success?
Before we immerse ourselves here, let’s clear up this important term.
We want this article to reach as many people as possible, so we’re going to focus on building important life habits rather than specific tips for a certain industry.
Whether you want to build a business, write a book, or just find ways to improve your life, keep reading.
Your Body Determines Your Success
It doesn’t matter what size or shape your body is. What matters is how positively you treat it.
You, as a human, will always be tethered to your body. And since your brain is housed inside that body, you must treat your body with the utmost care for success to follow suit.
Your Body is a Temple
We’re not saying you should go vegan and go for three runs a day — unless you want to, of course.
But you’ve been told what you must do to live a healthy lifestyle since childhood, so we aren’t going to explain it to you again.
Let’s face it, though. You could probably do more for your health than you’re already doing.
You don’t run as much as you should, or you don’t eat as many vegetables as you need to. You probably sit too much, or you don’t take breaks between writing a lot and using your computer.
You know what you need to do to improve your health, whatever it may be. Here’s a tip to make improving your health goals easier.
Here’s How to Make Healthy Habits Easy
We know you know what you can improve on, so make a list of all the health stuff you can improve on and then pick just one. Let’s say it’s running more.
To help improve your health, make it ridiculously easy to start building that better habit. You should feel kind of ridiculous for how easy it is, especially for an energy-intensive task like running.
Let’s say that on Sunday you run for three minutes around the block. Simple as that. If you’re an able-bodied person, there should be no reason why you can’t run for three minutes only for one day a week. The idea of not being able to do it for reasons of your own volition should make you feel a little ashamed.
So, you run on Sunday. And you feel accomplished, even if only a little bit. You did more than you would have done otherwise, and you’re probably enjoying a slight runner’s high too.
And now you’re emboldened to run next week, but now increase the time to five minutes. The next week, seven minutes and so forth.
Keeping your goals small and obtainable in the early stages prevents you from running out of willpower and eventually saying “screw it.” You slowly walk up the hill instead of sprinting up it, feeling tired, and deciding to go back down.
By working gradually to obtain your goals, you ease the mental resistance to changing your daily or weekly routine. You lock in habits, and usually after 66 days, you’ll be healthier without even realizing it. Autonomous habits will be as easy as brushing your teeth when you wake up, and your body — and productivity — will be better for it.
But building such health habits happen during the day. What’s more important for your health, though, is what you do at night.
Never, Ever, Ever Sacrifice Sleep
This quote from the Emory University health blog sums up the main motivation behind getting proper sleep.
“If you think about it, you would want to develop good habits for something you spend a third of your life doing,” says Amanda Freeman, senior lecturer of the course “The Science of Sleep” at Emory.
Sleep takes up a third of our life because it’s crucial to our body’s functioning. The National Heart, Blood, and Lung Institute states that sleep is the time our body repairs tissue and grows muscles (because, of course, you’re hitting the gym to keep your body fit).
Sleep aids in learning and memory retention, creativity, and reduces the risk of microsleep — falling asleep without even noticing. Microsleep can be extremely dangerous if it occurs during risky activities like driving.
Don’t sacrifice sleep if you can help it. Staying up late into the night because you’re grinding away at your side hustle isn’t worth the lost productivity the day after.
When you’re not at your most rested, you’re not at your healthiest body. You’ll be distracted more, moodier, and overall wasting time. And when you’re trying to be a successful person, you can’t afford to waste any time.
As with health, you know how to sleep better (avoid phones before bed, don’t eat sugary foods at night, etc). But here are some lesser known practical tips to sleep better and wake up for a productive next day:
- Keep your bed for sleep only. We know you like being productive, but do it in another room. When you only sleep in your bed, you train your brain to fall asleep within the first few minutes of laying on your mattress. It’s like Pavlov’s dogs: instead of the bell and salivation, you hear the sweet, sweet sound of sliding underneath your covers to trigger sleepiness.
- Sleep naked. Research from the University of Amsterdam shows that decreased room temperature improves the quality of sleep and reduces the number of times people wake up at night.
Sleeping naked reduces your temperature automatically, so there’s no need to touch the thermostat. Plus, you can hop straight into the shower or immediately get dressed in the morning. Sleeping naked also helps you lose weight while you sleep and boosts confidence, so there’s little reason not to sleep naked if you can swing it.
- Consider an ice bath before bed. Tim Ferriss, author of the wildly popular book “The 4-Hour Workweek,” eased his way into taking ice baths before bed by putting a few more ice cubes in every night before the tub was 80 percent melted. But a cold shower would help you sleep better too.
Ferriss combines the bath experience with some melatonin and describes the experience as taking tranquilizers — but it’s all natural.
Consider Waking Up Earlier
Way earlier. We’re talking 5 a.m. early.
There’s a new trend of people waking up at 5 a.m. with massive success. According to this article from John Rampton on Entrepreneur, waking up early gives him more focus in the morning, less social media distractions throughout the day and a generally less stressed person.
Plus, there’s also talk that getting out of bed immediately upon waking up determines how productive you’ll be during the day. Just listen to this TED Talk about waking up early and stop screwing yourself over by the life coach Mel Robbins.
Take this pithy quote as an appetizer. “What’s interesting about being an adult is that when you become eighteen, nobody tells you that it’s now going to be your job to parent yourself,” said Robbins.
This article is all about helping you better parent yourself, and the very first thing you can do to help that endeavor is to wake up earlier, throw those sheets off your naked body, and put your feet on that cold floor.
By exercising that bit of control over yourself, you set the tone for a kickass day. It’s a challenge, but you can do it, right?
So now that your body is a beacon of health and restfulness, let’s tackle some life advice next.
What Are Ways to Improve Your Life?
Improving your life enhances your odds at success. When you feel good, you accomplish more.
Practice Material Minimalism
Minimalism is stereotyped as living in an empty house with one chair and one outfit hanging in your closet. But that’s not what minimalism is about. It’s about focusing on what really matters to you.
If you’ve been on Netflix lately, you know that Marie Kondo helps people declutter their houses and live a junk-free life. The people on the show often say they’re much happier after Kondo’s visit. Why?
Because Kondo forces you to focus on what brings you joy. Not what you feel obligated to keep because someone gave it to you or because you had it for so long you might as well keep it. No, she forces you to keep what makes you happy.
Too much physical junk in your house adds noise to the place you should be relaxing in. You’ve probably felt a sense of spaciousness and calm after getting rid of the clutter in your closet.
If your whole house is like that, you can come home after a busy work day and feel free, like you can unfurl, rather than simply putting up with all your stuff.
You can still have and buy things as a minimalist, but you have to make sure you buy and keep things with an intention.
Benefits of minimizing the stuff you have:
- With less shopping comes more money for bigger expenses, like vacations, important gifts for your loved one, higher-quality food, etc.
- Less time tidying up your house. This means fewer Sundays dedicated to making the house look presentable.
- You keep only what works for you, so the items in your possession are purposeful in some way. Nothing unnecessary takes up space.
- Get some money selling the stuff you don’t use/need.
Absorbing the benefits of minimalism is like learning a new word and seeing that word everywhere after. When you get home, you’ll automatically notice the stuff that you don’t need or haven’t used in a while.
Getting rid of stuff is hard at first, but it’s necessary for building a leaner life. Make it a challenge: how efficient can you get your house?
How Minimalism Helps Improve Your Work Ethic
Once you’ve gotten rid of clutter in your life, practice minimalism in your non-tangible commitments.
For example, maybe you keep scheduling coffee meet-ups with a colleague because you feel obligated to. But if you don’t feel edified by the time spent, politely extricate yourself from the engagement. Getting rid of tasks like this free you up to do other, more beneficial activities.
But here’s something to chew on: what are you committed to that you don’t realize is a commitment?
Do you spend too much time on social media? Watching mindless TV? Going down useless internet rabbit holes? These little addictions clutter up your day like junk cluttering up your closet.
In your phone’s Notes app or in a physical journal, jot down the stuff you do during the day and for how long, no matter how small, for the next few days.
The list should look something like, “Facebook ~20 minutes, TV ~ 1 hr.” You can make your list look however you want, but the main takeaway is the same: you could be spending your waking hours more efficiently.
The reason you need to write down these activities is because you rarely realize what you’re doing when you’re doing it. Especially in the age of smartphones, we mindlessly open up a social media app and scroll for minutes before we snap back to reality.
Having a physical list of the stuff you do is like have a physical pile of junk in your closet. You know what you have, so you know what to keep and get rid of.
Cutting down on the things cluttering up your day forces you to focus on what’s important — working towards your goals.
How to Actually Accomplish Your Dream Goals
Now that we have health and life advice for helping you get yourself sorted out, let’s talk about what you can do to work towards your specific goal.
Remember the habit building advice we gave earlier in the article about starting small and gradually building? Great, because we’re going to do that but raise the stakes.
Introducing the Impossible List.
What’s the Difference Between the Impossible List and a Bucket List?
Bucket lists are ideals that you would like to do one day but don’t put actual effort to. Bucket lists help you collect your daydreams, basically.
But the Impossible List creates tangible steps to help you work your way towards your dream goals.
For example: Let’s say you want to write a book. Books, for anyone who tried to write them, are hard to write and end up becoming a colossal mess for anyone with the intention to write a book but no discipline to finish one.
But if you start ridiculously small and incremental, the process becomes much easier. Let’s say you work to work to create a character list one day, outline four chapters the next day, four chapters the following day and so on until you have a cohesive book outline.
Then switch it up by adding the goals you want to accomplish. Write 1,000 words, then 10,000, then 25,000, 50,000, 75,000, 100,000, and then finish your book
Once you finish one goal, you have the next one lined up for you to complete. And since you set up the habit to accomplish the small goals, you have the chops to tackle the bigger ones.
So instead of saying “Write a book” on a bucket list, you’ve actually done so on an Impossible List. But that’s not all.
The Power of Pressure
The structure of the Impossible List makes setting up and working towards goals easily. But it helps you actually follow through with completion because your Impossible List is public.
That’s right — you tell the world about what your goals are. And because everyone knows what you’re working on, your friends and family can push you to complete your goal.
Set up a website, free blog, or even just a Facebook post and you can have other people hold you accountable for your goals.
Points if you have friends who set up their own Impossible Lists. You can keep call each other out when one person hasn’t made the progress they should have.
Research from the American Society of Training and Development, according to Entrepreneur, states that you’re 65 percent more likely to finish a goal if you have a person helping you along.
Even better, you’re 95 more likely to accomplish your goal if you meet up with someone each week to discuss your goal. So, if you meet up with your friend to discuss your Impossible Lists, you’ll cross more stuff off of them faster.
With digestible goals and external motivation to succeed, you’ve crafted the environment to finish your book or whatever else you want to accomplish.
While we’ve given you tips on how to succeed, let’s deal with success’ ugly twin — failure.
How to Deal With Failure
Just like we can’t feel warm without cold, we can’t feel success without failure.
Failure comes in all shapes and sizes. You could consider missing a run for the day a failure or not getting a publishing deal after you finish your book a failure. Whenever there’s a possibility to succeed, there are a hundred times as many more ways to fail.
So how do you flip failure around and make it a tool for success? Follow these tips.
View Failure as a Draft
If you’re a writer, you know that your rough draft is just that…rough. It has imperfections, edges, and mistakes. For the writing to succeed in its purpose of being flowing prose, you have to go back and revise it multiple times to get that efficiency.
Failure is the same way. A failed situation or goal begs to be reworked and tinkered on like a bad first draft.
It’s best to write down what happened that lead to failure. Be clear and honest with yourself as to what happened, and try not to blame the failure onto anything other than a series of events that didn’t work out for the best.
Then draft up a plan as to how the second iteration of the events could run smoother. Fine tune the plan and really think things through logically as they could, not through idealized optimism that “this time it will work out.”
Eventually, after enough drafts, things will click into place and actually work themselves out. That’s because you did the hard work to make sure that happened rather than blindly wishing it would.
Which brings us to our next point. There’s a secret ingredient to success.
The Secret Ingredient to Success
Okay, hear us out. This isn’t cocky, pretentious, insufferable arrogance. It’s modest arrogance, but arrogance nonetheless.
The writer rewrites their draft because they know they have something to tell the world and that they have the arrogance to go out and do it.
Any artist needs a certain amount of arrogance to become successful because they have to know at their core that their art is worth creating. If they didn’t want to share it with anyone, they most likely wouldn’t put in the work to hone their craft and make a consumable work of art.
You, to some degree, need to have such arrogance. You need to tell yourself that you’re worthy of success on the basis of your existence and because you want it. But arrogance is only half the equation.
Perhaps confidence would be a gentler term, but the point remains. You must believe in who you are, and you must have conviction about it.
Building Success is a Positive Feedback Loop
Arrogance without empirical data backing it up morphs into cockiness. You don’t do anything to prove your high claims about yourself, so your words about what you have accomplished or what you will accomplish are empty.
If you fulfill your goals and accrue a good amount of experience, your arrogance morphs into confidence. Confidence is the ability to say, “I am great because I not only thought I can do what I want (arrogance) but I went out and proved that I could (empirical data).”
It’s arrogant to say that you could write a bestselling novel without having written one. It’s confident to say that you could if you actually wrote your book and are putting in the effort to make your book the best on the market. See the difference?
The more you build your habits, the more you build your confidence to succeed in future endeavors. And the more endeavors you accomplish, the more confidence, and so on.
A success-oriented mindset gets you past the initial hard stages of getting the ball rolling until it’s not something you think about anymore. The success you actually achieve pulls you along into more confidence.
You Must Build the Mindset for Success
The most basic foundation to success is thinking you deserve it and that you can put in the effort to achieving your goals. The skyscraper on top of that foundation is the hard work and habits you build to achieve that goal.
There’s no elevator on this skyscraper, though. You’re going to have to take the stairs (it’s healthy for you!) Achieving success is hard, time-consuming, and often stressful, but there are ways to make it easier.
First and foremost, taking care of your body and sleep schedule puts you in the best physical condition to work toward success. You can’t go forward in life if you constantly have to baby yourself.
The second is to work at your home situation and see how it can improve. While you’re making your body leaner, make your house and calendar leaner too. Make your space and the way you spend time a collection of what is most important to you.
Third, set up systems that guide you toward achieving your goals, such as setting up an Impossible List and having an accountability buddy. As you spend time with that person, you’re reminded why your goals are important to you and why you don’t want to drop working toward them so easily.
Finally, you have to always be fine-tuning your success mindset. It’s not enough to want it. You have to think you deserve it, which is arrogant. But you can’t ask the universe to deliver your goals to you. You have to turn your arrogance into confidence by being able to back up how great you are.
Can you do that? Would you be able to tell me right now why you’re awesome and deserve success? Which is louder: your actions or your words?
You know what you have to do to succeed, so go ahead and do it. And if you need a refresher, we’ll be back here to give you success tips for a better life.