Habits and How It Changed Me

HERE ARE SOME THINGS I’m working on to improve my life.

GrandCanyon-yoga“What you do everyday matters more than what you do every once in a while.”- Gretchen Rubin

San Francisco’s Alexander Bookstore, I saw Charles Duhigg’s book, “The Power Of Habits.” It’s a yellow, hard bound book that discussed why habits exist and how we can change them. According to Duhigg, successful people and organizations simply ingrained good mental and physical habits unto their systems. This is the beginning of my fascination with the subject.

Human beings have finite energy and attention everyday. This is why President Barack Obama only wears blue and black suits; why Haruki Murakami, one of the most prolific modern writers, wakes up, eats and writes at the same time; why the military and medical field have SOP’s; why Tiger Woods instantly goes on a intuitive mode on clutch putts. Habits eliminate choice – so you go on default. This way you don’t waste any little of willpower you have.

When I was training international-levels of golf, I practiced with full intent and purpose for six to eight hours a day. I did this – every single day – for ten years until I was offered a US scholarship. Even though I wasn’t aware, I was already cultivating habits that propelled me to a good life.

From reading, I learned that humans are creatures of habit and the brain is a “pleasure-seeker” (hello, behavioral finance). Therefore, applying good habits could make me a better person. Not only for golf when I needed it, but to other areas of my life too. But be careful: It’s easy to get into something but hard to get out of it. Sneaking a bag of potato chips everyday or trying cigarettes for the first time could easily spiral downwards…

Anyway, these are some of the habits that I’ve learned for the nine months I’ve been living in San Diego:

1. Exercise As A Habit

Gym was easy as a student-athlete because it’s scheduled. But now that I’m out of school and working, I needed to make sure that exercise is a choice I don’t have to make. I just do it.

My routine varies: sprinting, walking, lifiting, G-Flex, hiking, yoga and HIIT’s. 

My motivation for working this hard is so I can be free and proud – to wear a bikini without being self-conscious, to eat decadent foods without guilt, and to fuel my mental and physical capacity so I can enrich my life. When my legs are strong, I can hike for five hours. When I’m oxygenated, I can read and write all day long. That’s why exercise is important — aside from looking great, it allows you to accomplish more.

2. Healthy Eating As The Norm

I got into food by studying Paleo. Even today, I still think dairy-free, gluten-free, wheat-free as the cleanest way of eating. But is it sustainable for the resources and culture of a Filipino? No.

Pulled Pork with sautéed veggies, guacamole and lettuce

Sweet (bananas+bacon+honey) and savory (poached egg+avocado+cilantro) homemade waffles

Now I prefer a low-carb diet. My meals are 90% home-cooked, fresh,whole foods. I make sure my plate is balanced with proteins and vegetables. For snacks, I have smoothies or nuts. Here’s a secret with healthy eating: once that becomes a habit, your palate changes. You stop craving for salt and sweet. You respect ingredients (cooks know this) and think of food as nourishment.

3. Enriching My Mind Through Reading

I curate my books and summarize each one. This is a snapshot of my bedside table.

I’ve made a habit of borrowing from the library. So even if I don’t feel like reading, I have six stacks of books on my bedside table. Just the sight triggers me to pick them up.

On my way to work, I listen to podcasts such as Splendid Table, Harvard Business School, Unstuckable, Travel With Rick Steves and John Greene’s “The Fault In Our Stars'” audiobook. At least my daily 50-minute commute is not wasted by looping radio songs and DJ’s talking nonsense. 
The more I read, the more my mind is primed to learn more.

4. Guiltless Self-care

When I discovered the homemade skincare is just as good – or maybe even better – than synthetic ones, I never looked back. I advocate for Apple Cider Vinegar (1:2 vinegar to water ratio) as a toner, ridding me of whiteheads and open pores. Coconut oil is my all-in-one product – my hair mask, moisturizer and lotion.

As a habit, I do a weekly turmeric mask, lemon scrub, and a hot detox bath with Epsom Salt and Baking Soda. That might seem like an overkill for other people – but I care about the way I look and feel. I see people running around making money and taking care of others, but the real investment is in our own bodies. As Dr. Aris Latham of Sunfired Food would say:

“Where do you live? Country, city, or house? No. You live in your body. Take care of the only one you have.”

5. Household Chores On Auto

This is where I habits get the most mileage. My Saturdays are ‘cleaning day’ defaults. For bigger tasks like chores, I anchor or “stack” all my habits.

First, I load the washer. In the 30 minutes while that’s washing, I scrub the kitchen and bath floors, wipe the tub, mirrors, and tables, and change bed sheets. Second, I come back to the laundry and transfer clothes into the drier. The last and final step is laying all those clothes on the bed so I can pick work outfits for the next seven days. It just takes half a day to clean my house. I love this little system as much as I love coming home to an orderly and fresh-smelling abode.

How Habits Have Improved My Life

Truth to be told, I need time every so often to take a “break” from intense habit-forming. There are times, like whenever I enrol in a MOOC like Coursera that I decide to drop-out. Or some days I just watch three-hours worth of Grey’s Anatomy on Netflix. I still feel inadequate in my career, sleep, social media management, and networking skills. But as Jim Collins said, “Good is the enemy of great.”

My good version of habits have helped me best by saving time. I no longer waste gas driving in circles. The house is always clean. I’m proud of my monthly food budget, considering my lavish, healthy meals. My body looks and feels strong, so much so that Bikram is now just a moderate exercise for me. Best of all, I know this all preparation for a stronger and smarter version of me.

As an additional resource, here are three excellent blogs that discuss habits:

1. Gretchen Rubin’s “A Happiness Project” ;

2. Daniel Coyle’s “The Talent Code”;

3. Steven Covey’s “7 Habits Of Highly Effective People.”

What’s one habit that you can start changing today? Share in the comments section below.

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