It's 7:51 AM and I open an Excel spreadsheet to record my success habits from the previous day. For the last 1001 days I've done this same ritual. I wake up, drink coffee, write in my gratitude journal, meditate, visualize and then record my daily success habits.
Currently, the spreadsheet has 25 things I try to do each day. Some of the habits are simple and don't require much brain power, like eating nutrient dense food, hydration and supplementation. Others require a significant investment of time, energy and focus, like copying (by hand) the words of a master writer such as Robert Greene, Cormac McCarthy or Dennis Johnson.
These 25 things are the habits I believe to be the most valuable towards my personal growth and the ultimate predictor of my long term success. I know that If I take action and do the success habit, than I will make progress towards my long term goals. If I complete the habit, I get a green "1", if I fail to do it I get a red "0". That's it. Binary. Clear. No ambiguity. I either did it or I didn't.
When I'm motivated and life is easy, I get a lot of "1's". When shit happens and life gets in the way... let's just say there's a lot of red on the spreadsheet.
The intention behind the habit tracking spreadsheet (Matrix Method) is simple -- Spend more time doing things that matter and less time doing things that don’t.
I'm one of those crazy people who actually believe they can change the world, so how I spend my time is essential.
Today, I'm feeling nostalgic, so I click to an older tab which reads "Days 1 - 703". I navigate all the way back to Day 1, where this whole journey started. I look at few weeks of early data and read my comments next to each entry. I cringe. It's painful, like looking at pictures of you as a teenager, but I keep reading. My comments were entirely focused on my main goal which was to get in peak physical shape (get jacked). Apparently, there wasn’t much else happening in my head.
One thing is clear -- I've grown. A lot.
Over the last 1001 days I've transformed into a completely different person (several times) and the transformation continues at an exponential rate. Keeping this daily record and analyzing my habits has taught me about the massive importance of measuring personal growth. It’s forced me to be brutally honest with myself about what’s working, what isn’t and make changes when I fall off course.
Today, I'm going to share with you the top 6 things I've learned about personal growth from tracking my habits 1001 days and how I learned to live a long life. Let’s dive in:
Personal Growth Begins With Awareness - The main purpose of tracking your habits is to make you conscious of your unconscious habits. You'll understand habits that empower you to make better decisions, and which habits put you on the slippery slope of procrastination, perfectionism and paralysis. You can't change if you're not aware.
When you become aware of how you spend your time, you'll naturally want to be more productive and do more with it. For example, the first time I tracked my daily habits I realized there were 3+ hours of each day I was consuming sports information instead challenging myself to be better by writing, reading or learning new skills. Unconsciously I was numbing myself with sports so that I could avoid doing the work I knew I was capable of. Since then, I've literally built a business in the time that I would normally commit to watching sports (take that ESPN!).
Time is our most valuable resource and is the only thing we can't make more of.
There are no magic pills - “8 minute abs”, “lose 30 lbs. in 30 days !”, “6 months to 6 figures !!”, “Find the partner of your dreams in 7 easy steps !!!” , “Become enlightened by drinking 57 cups green tea a day !!!!” … They all sound great, but after being exposed to so many marketing messages; we start to believe that we know the all shortcuts. We believe we’ll achieve success faster than everyone else, without paying the price.
After trying enough magic pills you soon realize there is only 1 way to achieve peak performance in anything and that's:
A RELENTLESS COMMITMENT TO MASTERY
When you commit to mastery, you stop believing in magic pill solutions and start doing what works. You stop trying to find the “magic green bean extract” that promises to help you shed the winter pounds and you start eating food that was once alive. You stop buying business courses that promise to get you booked solid or making millions and you start selling yourself. You stop searching for fulfillment in other people and start finding peace within you. You stop switching jobs in hope of “finding your purpose” and start finding purpose in your daily life. You stop hoping for completion and start enjoying your journey. You stop seeking acceptance from other people and you start accepting yourself.
There’s no magic pill, only mastery.
Your Best Performance Today Will Be Average In 6 Months - Pick your area of interest and the rule still applies: public speaking, algebra, fitness, speed reading, writing, strength training, storytelling, communication, confidence, music, etc. Stick with it and your best today will be average in another 6 months (assuming you use the 4 elements of deliberate practice)
The Price Of Personal Growth Must Be Paid In Full, In Advance - There are no free rides. You don’t get on the "progress bus" until you pay the price.
- You don't get a fitness model physique until you start living the life of a fitness model.
- Your investments don't grow until you invest your money into your accounts.
- You don't get promoted until you've proved that you can do your job a high level.
- You don’t find the person of your dreams until you become the person of their dreams.
Pay the price and reap the rewards.
Personal Growth Requires a Daily Game Plan - An athlete may get a day or two away from being an athlete. They can go to the beach, sit down in a reclining chair, grab a few drinks and spend the day soaking up the sun, knowing that their coach will do all of the strategic preparation for their next game or practice. They just have to show up and execute.
You don't have this luxury if you want to grow. You have to play the game of life each and every day, which means you have to be your own coach and also the athlete. You can’t step onto the field of play and expect to wing it. You need goals, habits, strategy, practice, tactics, leadership, review and a way to measure your progress. Each of these should be written in a journal, document, app, word processor or visualized as a dream board. You should look at it each morning and night and build your daily game plan from it.
Personal growth is a game and requires a game plan.
You'll Need A Specific Final Destination. Else You Get Lost On The Journey - Every day I ask myself: "is what I'm doing today moving me closer to my long term goals?"
If the answer, is "No" for too many days in a row, than I stop and re-evaluate.
This practice helps you stay focused, on track, clear and gives you the most direct line from where you are today, to where you want to be in the future. This way you're not distracted by every new shiny object, every new opportunity and every sales message which promise you a magic pill. It allows you to say "No" to the good opportunities, so that you can say "Yes" to the great ones.
Focus on Catalyst Habits - As a kid, I would watch my dad do several sets of pushups before he ate breakfast. Push-ups were a catalyst habit for him. This small win early in the day, got his blood flowing, put him into peak state and allowed him to go out and tackle bigger challenges later in the day.
Every single one of us has both negative and positive catalyst habits. Our negative catalyst habits, like checking email before starting your day, sets you up for a day of mindless email scanning without getting anything done. This small habit puts you into a state of reaction for the entire day (trust me, I’ve measured it).
Your positive catalyst habits like, meditation, breathing exercises, physical training, and gratitude, prime you to have an awesome day. They tune your Reticular Activating System (RAS) to focus on the opportunity and abundance of the world. These small habits put you into a state of action, so that you’re at the cause of your life.
It's now 8:46 PM and I'm reminded of a quote from stoic philosopher Seneca in his essay On the Shortness of Life. He say's "It's not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste a lot of it."
The next 1001 days of our lives start now and will be gone in the blink of an eye. And yet, when we spend our time on things that matter, each moment will feel like it lasts forever.