The 5 Powerful Daily Habits

This article is part of a series in our academy’s “4-5-6 System” – 4 rituals, 5 habits and 6 life-hacks – for daily living. Systems like this are powerful because they do not rely on motivation. Whether you wake up feeling like crap or down on something, this daily system will keep you on track. What most of us don’t realise is that everyone on the planet experiences issues, setbacks and disappointments, some are just better equipped at managing them.


We have covered the 4 daily rituals in detail in past articles. Now we swing into the 5 daily habits that will absolutely revolutionise your life. If you are new to our community and have not read the rituals it is preferable you do so. Why? Because it will be difficult for you to instil these new habits without the 4 daily rituals as your foundation.

Ritual #1 – Journaling – is the conversation you have to hold yourself accountable.
Ritual #2 – Movement – gets you out of your head and into your body where the state of pure consciousness lives.
Ritual #3 – Meditation – teaches you to be mindful and conscious of your thoughts.
Ritual #4 – Learning – helps you grow so you continuously tweak your habits and life hacks.

To read the last 4 articles on the daily rituals and the one before titled: “Is Motivation Destroying Your Identity”, please go to www.ahigherbranch.com/blog

I know, I know. That is a lot of reading. But do you remember how many hours and effort you put at school, learning Shakespeare or trigonometry? Or at university getting your degree? How much more important are you than what you do? Your identity is not defined by what you do but who you are. So please take the time to learn about yourself. The ancient sears instructed us to “know thy self”. Why is this important? In my personal experience, my life started improving dramatically when I started to learn about me. That process of self-discovery is where you will discover and unleash your talents and skills. This in turn boosts your performance in all 8 areas of your life, including your work or business.

The Power of 5 Habits

We live in an era of self-actualisation where everybody has dreams but so few work on their goals. The difference? Dreams live in the heart. They ignite passion and excitement. Goals live in the mind. Goals are what you need to work on to achieve your dreams. (Some people describe dreams as ‘end goals’).

A dream may be to finish a degree. But the daily goals are the lectures you need to attend, the texts you have to read, the assignments you need to complete and the exams you need to pass. A dream may be to have a loving intimate relationship. But the daily goals are the dates you need to schedule, the hours you need to listen and the support you need to give, the tolerance you need to show in times of stress and conflict. A dream may be to have a have a fit and sculpted body. But the daily goal is to show up to the gym or park or oval, the waking early or staying up late to train, shopping, preparing and eating an athletic-engineered diet.

I outline this because people confuse goals with dreams. Why is it important for you to know the difference? Goals are the tough stuff you need to do daily. Everybody gets pumped up on ‘the dream’ but then lose motivation on the day to day goals they need to achieve. So, they give up.

Enter habits.

Habits are much more powerful than motivation. Habits are what drives the performance of your goals. Habits are what gets you through the tough stuff. The work. The grind. The setbacks. The rejections. The disappointments. The energy dips. The sore and sick moments.

Why Do Humans Have Habits?

Habits are an automation tool of the subconscious mind. Through the repetition of an act (that yields a reward), humans are wired to delegate tasks from the conscious mind to the subconscious mind so they end up performing a task without really thinking about it. This delegation frees the conscious mind up to focus on new experiences, new ideas, creativity, and other important functions. You don’t want to use the conscious mind to tie your shoe laces or brush your teeth. Waste of attention bandwidth, right? But what if we can use habits to automate actions that are tough but good for us? Really good for us.

In this next series of 5 articles I will outline the 5 habits that will help you power through the toughest of times. They will get you to show up every time, rain hail or shine. Before I reveal the first important habit you must be wondering….

How do you cultivate a new habit?

Through repetition and reward. Neuro scientists tell us that it takes two lunar cycles to cultivate a new habit. Roughly 60-odd days. So, at first, it is tough but as you repeat an action it gets easier and easier. You need to persist and have willpower at first. But to make it easier, the habits I will be sharing with you will yield a strong emotional reward and this is a critical element that makes you more inclined to repeat it until you cross what scientists call the ‘line of automaticity’. This is the point where this new task goes from the conscious to the subconscious. From there the task (and life) gets easier, not because you do not experience issues and challenges, but because you will have the toolset to deal with them.

The first habit is…..

Habit #1: Smiling

‘Smile on waking and smile all day.
Smile as soon as you open your eyes to greet a new day.’

My family say I am dorky for making up this simple little poem. But hey, behind those words is some powerful science. So please don’t dismiss this as too simple. Please stay with me as I demonstrate why this first daily habit is so important.

Did you know that people who walk around with a ready-smile…..

· Are more attractive and charismatic.
· Have more confidence.
· Are more trusted by customers or clients.
· Are less likely to have arguments and conflicts.
· Are more persuasive and influential.
· Make better leaders.
· Have happier children and families.
· Are more productive at work.
· Are much less likely to suffer from seriousness, anxiety and depression.
· Have lower blood pressure.
· Live longer!

Smiling even boosts your immune system! [See research by Dr Murray Grossan, ENT-otolaryngologist and the science of psychoneuroimmunology – how the brain is connected to the immune system]

The science of how our physiology impacts our thoughts and feelings has been established by many researchers [notably by Harvard professor Amy Cuddy). And there is countless research specifically on the benefits of smiling (even forced smiling) but the most interesting is recent research by the University of Cardiff that showed even people who could not frown due to botox injections were happier on average than those who could frown.

Why is smiling on waking important?

The simple act of smiling on waking will set the tone for the next 16 waking hours. Science tells us that the first few seconds after we wake and the feeling we wake with stays with us all day.

How Can You Reward This Habit – so it Gets Repeated?

The benefits of smiling I listed above will be reward enough. But to make it even easier here are some powerful tips.

· Watch or listen to comedy before you go to bed – preferably before the last hour.
· Hang out with people that are fun or funny. There is a tonne of research on the ‘law of attraction’ and human mimicking behaviour. There is a tonne more showing that the majority of women prefer to marry or live with a partner who has a great sense of humour.
· Do more fun things in your day. For a detailed list of how to have fun read my blog: “Yes but are you having fun?”

How do I smile without appearing creepy?

It comes down to time and place. There is a time to be serious and a time for humour. There is a difference between child-like and childish. There is a difference between wit and just plain inappropriate conduct. And just like any other habit you create, the more you practice smiling, the more natural it will start to feel. And then you will find yourself smiling out of pure joy. It’s not about faking it until you make it, it is about faking it until you start to become it.

Coming Next: Habit #2

Essential Ritual #4: Learning

This article is in a series of articles about the ‘system’ of daily rituals, habits and hacks you that will completely transform your days. When you live by this 456 system you will find that obstacles and setbacks will not trip you up. You will find that on the days where motivation abandons you, you will still stay on track.

In case you missed the 3 previous essential daily rituals here are the links. It’s a good idea to go back and read them as a refresher anyway.

Essential Ritual #2: Journaling

Essential Ritual #2: Movement

Essential Ritual #3: Meditation

But this whole series started with this article that so many people absolutely loved: Is Motivation Destroying Your Identity

In today’s article I will share with you:

  • Why continuous learning is important to your success?
  • How and when to infuse learning into your day?
  • What books and podcasts should you learn from?
  • Who or what are the best teachers on earth?

Why Learning Is Important

Learning is how we grow personally and professionally. It is the sixth most important area in our lives and the foundation upon which A Higher Branch Success Academy has been established. It is the essence of our philosophy of ‘climbing higher’ in life and the quest for constant upgrade and improvement in all eight areas of our life.

Without learning we stagnate in those areas. We do the same things every day because we do not know any better. Learning empowers us to try new things and reach for new goals and dreams. All the latest brain research also shows that continuous learning and looking after your brain is good for our health and longevity.

The 3 mistakes we make when it comes to learning are as follows:

  1. We stop learning after we finish school and/or university.
  2. We only continue to learn about our job and subject matter expertise. True learning is a lifelong adventure where you continuously learn about each of the eight areas of life.
  3. We learn from the wrong sources. We live in an era of information overload and making sense of this information is difficult when digested in an unstructured way. The internet is also filled with information designed to promote one fad over another; one diet over another; one lifestyle over another; one product over another.

When Should You Learn Daily?

Something becomes a ritual when you do it at the same time every day or on cue. Learning should not be done as part of your morning and nightly rituals. These times are reserved for movement, meditation and journaling for the reasons previously discussed in those articles.

Welcome to Commute College. Most of us commute to and from work daily. This is the perfect time to plug in, listen and learn. I have learned to love traffic and sometimes I will arrive at work only to stay in the car for a few more minutes to listen to a riveting podcast or book. On weekends I also plug in whilst I am jogging or hiking.

Learning should be done whenever you have ‘dead’ time. Boredom should be your cue to read, listen and learn. In the car, on a plane, train or bus or whenever you having ‘nothing to do’. You need to resist the temptation to drift to mindless entertainment on radio, television, and social media. You need to be in conscious control with what you let into your brain.

This is what the highest of achievers do. Learning is their daily ritual. My first mentor and supervising partner in a law firm taught me this lesson in 1990 when he would hand me ‘cassette tapes’ to listen to in the car on the latest in property and finance law. This helped me become an expert. I simply applied this ritual to all other areas of my life. So I started to  listen to cassettes on health, fitness, relationships, and all 8 areas of my life.

What Should You Learn? Podcasts and Books…

You should be seeking books and podcasts about all 8 areas of your life and not just one area of interest (typically health). This is a problem in itself. I know some people who become obsessed about one area and start to neglect other parts of their life, especially relationships. It is important that you spread the learning equally among all areas.

We are so fortunate to live in an era where we have so much to read, listen and watch. We not only have so many books written by pioneering minds, but we also have Audible, we have Podcasts and we have YouTube. But we need to be discerning and distinguish between entertainment and information.

Two decades ago the challenge was the lack of information and lack of scientific research. Today the challenge is to sift through all the overwhelming and often conflicting information. These are the podcasts I recommend. They are all also on YouTube.

  1. Kwik Brain with Jim Kwik
  2. Impact Theory with Tom Bilyeu
  3. The Joe Rogan Experience with Joe Rogan
  4. Found my Fitness with Dr Rhonda Patrick

I recommend these podcasts the hosts are caring, knowledgeable, authentic and share information generously with no strings attached. They rarely sell you anything. They also interview experts, researchers and actual practitioners across the 8 areas of life.

Is JIM KWIK The Best Teacher on Earth?

The standout and foremost world-renowned expert on the super power of learning is Jim Kwik. He is a world expert in memory improvement and optimal brain performance. I attended one of Jim’s workshops and implement his brain training methods and let me tell you it is unbelievably effective. It has helped me think smarter and faster in meetings. He is also one of the humblest people I have ever met. He has worked with actors on the biggest Hollywood blockbusters, top global organisations and CEO’s that includes Harvard, Virgin, Nike and GE. His personal story is also compelling.

One of the principles I learned from Jim Kwik is that your own curiosity is the best teacher on earth. If self-awareness is a great teacher of all things internal, then curiosity is the greatest teacher of all things external.

Applying Curiosity to Information

So, it is important when you read or listen to books and podcasts that you apply a curiosity mindset. Are you accepting everyday information as it is or are you adding to it or contradicting it with your curiosity? This means having your own opinion and questioning everything you learn. Do this by asking yourself: ‘Yes AND …’ or the ‘Yes BUT …’ principles. To apply these principles, we must let our curiosity break through our fear barrier. We all have this curiosity inside of us as children but over the years fear tends to keep it locked away. Trust that curiosity. Unleash it. You will find behind every curious thought is the potential to discover your own wisdom on what you read. It is that curiosity that leads to genius or a genius idea.

Applying Curiosity to People

There is also another huge area of knowledge, apart from books, where we can learn from – people. This is the fastest way to acquire knowledge. Therefore, we must master the skill of listening with undivided attention. We can never know everything in life but by listening to others we can learn from their experience and that accelerates our learning.

Listening is a dying art. Many people overindulge in constant talking that they go through life never really learning from others. I was once sitting in a café and overheard a conversation between a boss and what looked like her protégé. She said to him, ‘We have two ears and only one mouth. We must use those two faculties in that proportion. We must listen to our customers twice as much as we talk.’ Very good advice, I thought.

But my advice is that the people you must listen to first come from the 8 areas of life, in the following order:

  • Your partner who often knows you best
  • Your mother, father or grandparents. They have experience and perspective
  • Your work mentors, colleagues and customers
  • Your closest friends

But as always you need to filter any knowledge from these sources by using your own curiosity and asking the two questions above. This does not make you a contrarian. This make you progressive where you build on wisdom from others to create what’s right for you.

………….

This completes our series on the 4 Daily Rituals. Next Week we will start on the 5 Daily habits you need to program into your life.

Before I leave you, I’d like to share….

Something Personal

The following is an excerpt from Chapter 3 of my book A Higher Branch called The Tree of Learning. It was a book that I consider my magnum opus. I have written 3 more books since then but I still consider this my finest and most instructive. It was dedicated to my grandmother Rose whose mulberry tree was the first thing I learned to climb in life and written as a guide for my 3 now grown-up children.

Epilogue to Chapter 3:

 “What the old man taught me about the Tree of Learning left a deep impression on me throughout my years as a student. It empowered me to look at school objectively, only applying the lessons that were relevant.

Just as the old man predicted, school made me think that learning was all about attaining good grades and getting a good job. I was never taught what I wanted to learn, but what the curriculum outlined. Had I been given the freedom to choose my learning, I would have embraced it. Instead, I expressed my defiance by doing the bare minimum in subjects I had no talent for or interest in.

I took the old man’s advice and taught myself about all areas of life. I studied books on health, love, family, work, friendship, wealth and charity. There were not that many at the time, but the ones I did find were insightful books by pioneering minds. After many years of private learning I began to discover my own ideas on how to live and express my talents. It was through these ideas that I developed self-awareness. They led me to many opportunities that I seized. What I Iearned privately became the real reason for my achievements, personally and professionally. Learning to climb to a higher branch in all Eight Trees taught me to be a healthier person, a loving partner, a supportive father, a caring brother, a fun friend, an inspirational leader, a visionary entrepreneur and an empathetic, charitable member of society.”

Essential Ritual #3: Meditation

This article contains a very special video presentation of the meditation session presented by Tom Sullivan at our recent Upgrade Your Life 2019. Never-seen-before footage and compelling viewing! YouTube thumbnail below. But first, I would like to bring you up to speed. This article is third in a series about the 4 rituals, 5 habits and 6 life-hacks. If you have not read the first two essential rituals here are the links:

#1 Journaling
#2 Movement

All the research and my own personal experience shows that these rituals, habits and hacks work. I have been living by them, refining them and adding to them over many years.

This does not mean I have lived a perfect life. I have experienced many failures, rejections and setbacks along my life journey. But living by these protocols have helped me get back on track every single day. They have helped me greet each sunrise as the birth of a new possibility, no matter what happened the previous day.

The sceptic inside of you may tell you that these rituals, habits and life-hacks will not make a difference in your life. The cynic inside will also tell you that you can’t change. We all have those voices. But I am asking you to dismiss them because how you live your life is totally within your control. Forget about the outcome. I am asking you to own your greatness. Show courage. Be motivated by love for yourself and honour the potential you were born with.

Although this series of articles are written in what I consider to be the order of importance, the sequence in which they should be performed every morning and every night is as follows:

1. Movement
2. Meditation
3. Journaling

The 4th ritual (to be discussed in the next article) can be performed anytime throughout the day.

Why Meditate?
We are now ALL competing with a new breed of high achievers across all industries. They eat like athletes, train religiously and meditate like monks. In today’s world, success no longer belongs to the smartest or the most knowledgeable. It belongs to the most effective. And that’s what meditation delivers. Effectiveness. It’s the NEW secret weapon.

Meditation is a practice that should be infused in your day much like eating and sleeping. It is that important. So, don’t quit because you get impatient or find it irritating to sit there. You might have a bad meal or a bad night’s sleep, but you still eat and sleep, right? Meditation is not about perfect practice. It is about doing it no matter what, whether you are stressed, on business travel, on holidays or whatever.

Meditation is Like Fitness
You see, meditation is like fitness. You really do not know how physically unfit you are until you get really fit and look back on your old self. Once you practice meditation it will become your daily detox for your mind. One of the life-hacks we will talk about in this series of articles is a unique way of fasting from food, otherwise known as ‘going hungry’ by our ancestors :). Well you can think of meditation as ‘fasting from thought’. And when you fast from thought daily, you will be amazed at how fit your brain will become. You will be amazed at how much clarity and creativity you will achieve. You will be amazed at how mentally sharp you will be in your job and how attractive you will become in social gatherings.

Meditation also de-clutters the brain and gives you clarity in a world full of noise. I could ask you to cancel your social media accounts, disable notifications and stop listening to the news but you probable would not do that. So, you need meditation to quieten the mind from all these daily distractions.

What Type of Meditation?
There are two types of Meditation that we encourage at A Higher Branch: “Visualisation” Meditation in the Morning and “Relaxation” Meditation in the Evening. We find this to be a practical and realistic approach to meditation. More on that below but first we would like to share with you the power of group meditation. At Upgrade Your Life 2019, Tom Sullivan, meditation coach, rocked the room with stillness when he performed group meditation for over 200 people at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Sydney. It was incredible. See it for yourself here.

Watch this incredible group meditation at Upgrade Your Life 2019.

MORNING Power of 8 “Visualisation” Meditation
This type of meditation should be done in the morning after exercise (for the reasons stated in the last article on Ritual #2 Movement).

Visualisation meditation in the morning is all about preparing and priming you to take daily, decisive, and deliberate action in each of the 8 areas of life depicted below. It is about visualising your best day in each of the 8 areas. Humans are all born with the innate ability to visualise. This faculty known as creative imagination was not given to us by some evolutionary accident. It is there to help us materialise what we visualise. It triggers the mind’s reticular activation system (RAS), which has been described as a manifestation super power. Your mind starts seeking out the actions, solutions, and opportunities for you to achieve your goals for the day. For example, if one of your visualisations is to start a new exercise regime, you may see or hear an advert or billboard of that gym you drive or walk by every day. If another visualisation is of you and your partner on a perfect date, you might notice a lifestyle article of a new restaurant that just opened featuring your partners favourite food. In both cases your RAS serves as a prompt. You still have to take the action.

Cycling through, your morning visualisation can look like this:

Health: Visualise yourself with strong posture, smiling, and full of energy. What will you nourish your body with today? How will you feel sitting and soaking up the sun? How powerful will your body feel while exercising? How relaxed will you be for sleep tonight? Is your body soft and supple? Is your skin glowing? Is your hair shiny? Are your eyes bright? Is your heart beating calmly?

Love: Visualise smiling at your partner with love. Touching their hand. Kissing them goodbye and hello again. Cooking with them. Eating with them. Reading together. Hugging and anything else you want to visualise that brings you closer. If you are single, then imagine meeting someone with all the qualities you desire in another person. How will they look? Act? Are they affectionate? Are they witty? Imagine yourself loved and loving. Wanted. Desired.

Now continue visualising for each of the 8 areas of life.

We will soon be publishing a downloadable guided MORNING visualisation meditation pioneered by our faculty. Stay tuned for future updates including dates for meditation workshops with Tom.

EVENING “Review and Relaxation” Meditation
Your evening meditation should be performed in the same order as your morning rituals: Movement, meditation, and journaling. It is important you perform these before your dinner. All three will neutralise the impact of daily stress that builds up. All 3 will activate your parasympathetic nervous system, otherwise known as the rest and digest system. This will ensure you enjoy your food and engage with your family in a loving, calm manner.

Meditation in the PM is all about relaxation. It is about healing any rejections and failures that may have happened to you during the day. It is about the breath. It is about calm. It is about forgiveness. It is about acceptance. It is about acknowledging your humanity and reminding yourself that you will always be a work in progress.

Our meditation coach and faculty member, Tom Sullivan kindly prepared this guided audio practice for your personal use. Stay tuned for his new book, A Still Mind due out soon.

Nightly Guided Meditation

4 Essential Daily Rituals #2: Movement

This is part of a series of articles relating to the 4 rituals, 5 habits and 6 hacks that systemise your life. Remember what I said in earlier articles and I emphasize in my keynotes, “Don’t rely on motivation alone. Rely on repetition and automation. Not just in your personal life but also in business.” A well drilled team will always outperform a motivated one.

In my last article I shared with you the most important daily ritual of all – Journaling. If you have not read it, here is the link: Journaling Essentials.  Now I will share with you the second most important ritual you need to do before journaling, without compromise every morning and early evening: Movement. I never skip exercise whether I am in my usual routine, traveling on business or holidays, sleep deprived and tired, working long hours, or whatever my condition. I say this because a lot of us make excuses to abandon a ritual. Don’t blame yourself too much. We are hard wired to crave food and comfort. Recognise this and let it be your cue to fight the urge for comfort and go for growth instead. Let it be your trigger for tenacity.

All the research shows that delayed gratification is the key to success in all areas of life. You study hard, you graduate. You work hard, you outperform the competition and make more money. You save and invest your money, so you can afford to have more freedom later in life. You put in the effort in your relationships, you have more intimacy and build bonds for life. You exercise, you have better health and energy as you get older. You stretch, you get more flexible and supple. You eat live unprocessed food, you build healthier cells in your entire body including your eyes and skin. You learn new things and meet new people, you get a sharper mind as you grow older and bolder. Rarely does anything good in life come easily. You need to put in conscious effort but that makes it all the sweeter.

In future articles I will be sharing 5 habits and 6 life-hacks that will make it easier to implement the 4 daily rituals. For now let’s get onto the next essential daily ritual.

Movement – AM and PM

Before you perform the first mentioned ritual (journaling), it is absolutely critical to start your day with movement. Anything from a 4 minute Tabata routine to a 30-60 minute jog/cycle/swim or whatever gets you puffing and sweating. Exercise is best in the morning when your cortisol levels are highest; but not too early in the morning. There are a lot of ‘experts’ who preach early morning exercise (before sunrise) but the science shows that this is not the most optimal time. The optimal time starts at sunrise and peaks around 7-8am. Exercise later in the day should be milder as the cortisol curve tapers off for rest and sleep.

What Type of Moving?

Moving, just like going hungry, is natural. You need to listen to your body every morning and adapt the length and intensity to suit. But there is never any excuse not to do anything. Even if I am unwell I will still muster the effort to do a brisk walk for 15-30 mins and I am always surprised by how much it lifts my mood and energy.

The best form of exercise is one that you enjoy. Think competitive sport, dancing and training with friends. The second best and most natural is walking, jogging or running. Generally, the shorter the time you have to exercise the higher the intensity should be. When I don’t have much time I do at the very minimum a 10-minute Tabata routine. My usual ritual is however to do a 30-minute jog followed by a cold shower. On weekends I might do a 60 to 90 minute hike or trail run. Or I might do a high intensity session with friends at F45. I am not sharing my routine for you to copy but to demonstrate that you can go hard or you can go slow but the main thing is to go and do whatever suits you. You may be a swimmer or a cyclist or a heavy lifter. Or love yoga or pilates. But never ever skip moving in the morning.

Why is exercise such an important morning ritual?

We live in a world where people rarely sleep straight through the night. Our mind is racing as soon as we wake. We can be confrontational and edgy in the morning and our energy crashes and burns around mid-morning and/or mid-afternoon. Exercise neutralises these abnormal afflictions.

Most people think that exercise is for the body. Its biggest impact however is on the mind. Science tells us that when you are in motion, your mind is on fire! All parts of the brain are active. This kick-starts your cognitive engine in the morning and keeps you mentally sharp throughout the day; which means you will perform tasks faster and you will get more done in less time. And that means you can spend more time with your partner, family and friends.  

Exercise also impacts your emotions in a profound way because it changes your body chemistry. It replaces adrenalin and cortisol (fight or flight) with dopamine and serotonin (inspiration and calm). These are the neurotransmitters you should be running on all day and it all starts with morning exercise. Exercise also kickstarts your metabolism and stimulates your lymphatic system (for immunity). Especially when you exercise in the sunshine without wearing sunglasses. Exercising in morning sunshine also promotes a deeper and longer sleep that same night. In fact, exercise in conjunction with sunshine and sleep has been proven to be more potent than Prozac as an antidepressant. (Sleep is the ultimate superpower for your overall health. Read the definitive guide to sleep here: How to Get the Best Sleep)

And why is it important to exercise before the three other daily rituals?

If you try to journal on waking without first moving you will have trouble calming the mind. Your mind is no match for adrenalin and cortisol. You will be edgy. You cannot sit still let alone think straight. We are wired to hunt and gather on waking, so we need to respect this natural rhythm and get moving. We need to also respect this cycle by eating low carb meals in the morning (if anything at all), moderate amounts of carbs during the day, think substantial salads and higher amounts of carbs as the last meal of the day. Think, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, broccoli (NOT pasta, pizza and bread). Carb cycling in this way promotes healthy cortisol levels.

After you move in the morning, you will find your body gets calmer and your mind clearer and these two qualities are the perfect prerequisites for journaling and the other morning rituals.  

Can some exercise be doing you more harm than good? Find out by clicking here.

4 Essential Daily Rituals #1: Journaling

The Foundation for Identity Change

In the last article I wrote to you about defining your identity clearly by asking yourself “WHO do I want to become in each of the 8 areas of life?”.  Here is the link: Is Motivation Destroying Your Identity? In that article I made the point that chasing outcomes and relying on motivation is a trap. (Please note that I always write to you with pure love for your potential. I can say this with hand-on-heart because I always write using my 3 grown-up children as my frame of reference. They are my North Star. My BIG why). 

Please also note that this article is longer than usual because it is prescriptive and simply cannot be achieved with a brief blog. I respect you too much to give you stuff you can Google yourself. My information is proprietary and contained in my next book.

I write to start you on the journey for identity change using 4 Rituals, 5 Habits and 6 Life-hacks we use in our Higher Branch workshops. Today I start with the first most important ritual – Journaling. I will share with you the simple techniques for journaling I use in my one-on-one coaching. There are so many journals out there for sale that make it too complicated and frankly too airy-fairy. All you need is a simple blank journal and a system for journaling that I will teach you. 

Why Change is Hard

Most people don’t realise that they spend up to 85% of their day living in their subconscious in ‘cruise-control’, thinking, doing and feeling the same way they did yesterday and the day before that; effectively living in the past. This is fine if this 85% is filled with positive stuff that serves your growth. After all, the subconscious is there as an automation tool for us to do things without thinking. This frees up the conscious mind to focus on high impact, high return, high reward activities like creativity, strategy, and meaningful connection with others. But what if that 85% is filled with a lot of unwanted behaviour that just gets repeated without thinking? Stuff like procrastinating, eating too much, binge watching TV, mindlessly scrolling through social media, shopping online for stuff you don’t need, or picking fights with your family. It is difficult to erase these behaviours, but you can REPLACE them with better behaviours that serve the identity you want to create.

Over the next few series of articles I will step you through each ritual, each habit and each hack that will ensure you live consciously with purpose. I am starting with rituals because they will become the foundation for the 5 habits and 6 life-hacks. You cannot stack the habits and hacks without mastering these 4 rituals first. The reason will become clear.

It is Difficult at First

Infusing these 4 rituals daily is difficult at first, but know this, rarely does anything good in life come easy. You will feel the need to skip them because you are just ‘too busy’. You need to stay committed to them until you cross, what scientists call ‘the line of automaticity’. This simply means that when you repeat something enough it becomes second nature and easier. Some scientists say it takes two lunar cycles to cross this line but in my experience it all depends on the difficulty of the ritual and the frequency in which you repeat it. The former is subjective for all of us. What is extremely difficult for some can be lightly challenging for others. What is difficult may take you many months. What is easy may only take you a few weeks. Either way, I will outline a method that works for me and I trust it will work for you. 

Journaling

Journaling is the most important ritual out of the 4. It is also the most difficult to stick with because it can be confronting when done right. Mainly because this ritual is all about self-ACCOUNTABILITY. Ignoring it or skipping it is a big mistake because it has been the single most important success factor in my life.

Most people don’t journal because they don’t know how, or they underestimate how beneficial it is. The other reason why people don’t journal is because they wake up late and hurry to get to work on time, so they skip this ritual and the three other rituals because they ‘don’t have time’. Know this. Time is the great leveller. We all have the same 24 hours in the day so the difference between us can only be our discipline and the systems we follow (i.e. our rituals, habits and hacks).

You may have heard the phrase “Win the morning, win your day” which is so true, but the bigger truth is that winning your morning starts the night before. Getting organised the night before is the real secret to your morning success. Getting a deep sleep is the second biggest secret to winning your morning (Read my previous article on sleep). So, ask yourself, how do you spend your nights? This is where most people (even some high performers) waste their time because they feel like they’ve earned the right to flop in front of Netflix, scroll social media and snack. When rather it should be the time to hit repeat on the 4 morning rituals and get ready for the following day, by packing your workout gear, your work bag, your lunch, turning off all technology and socialising in person with your family or by phone with a friend. Not by text.

Why is JOURNALING so important?

Journaling is important for many reasons:

·     It is a conscious conversation you have with yourself
·     It helps you notice any negative self-talk
·     It keeps you focused on your priorities
·     It helps you take stock of your life, so you don’t drift aimlessly
·     It helps you notice whether you are neglecting parts of your life
·     It holds you accountable to the promises you make to yourself 
·     It helps you process and review any negative or hurt feelings

All these reasons will become apparent when you start to journal properly.

How do You Journal Properly?

At A Higher Branch Success Academy, we developed a unique journaling technique that shows you how to become your own life architect. We do not like the idea of an accountability coach. People need to hold themselves accountable and journaling is the ultimate accountability tool. 

​The template below gives you a guide. You need to devote two pages for every day. Once you use this template a few times, you will remember it. 

Morning Journaling – ACTION page

The left page of your journal is for your morning ritual. It is for the mind. The right page is for your heart. In the morning you need to focus on your actions for the day. So, it is future-focused. It is all about visualising as you write what you need to do for the day in each of the 8 areas of life depicted in the diagram below. (If this is your first time journaling, I suggest you devote the first few pages of your journal to write your long term goals and dreams in each of the 8 areas of life. That way, the front of your journal becomes your big picture reminder to reference from time to time. 

Nothing is too trivial or too small to write. Once it is written, it can be reviewed throughout the day to see how you are tracking. I always keep my journal in my bag and check in throughout the day to see if I have forgotten to action anything. I do one final check before I leave work and do a brain dump at the end of the day. If I have missed anything I write it on the next day’s ACTION page to get it out of my head and onto paper so I can shut down when I get home.

As a guide see below a few examples of daily action items I have written in my journal in the last week. You will notice that nothing is too trivial to write. You will also notice that there is an action item for each of the 8 elements of my life. We often make the mistake of thinking that our wellbeing is fuelled solely by diet and exercise. In truth it is all 8 elements that make us whole and complete us mentally, emotionally and spiritually. And so we cannot neglect them.

Health: Do F45 today at 12 noon. Stretch for 10 minutes afterward. Book a massage for Saturday. Use the stand-up desk between 8:30am – 11:30am. Buy blue-light blocking glasses. Fast till 1pm today. Have a no-protein day today. Order more turmeric & ashwaganda. Go to bed 10pm. Rest day, do brisk walk after work. Eat out in sunshine at lunch.

Love: Book a surprise dinner date for Saturday night. Light candles tonight and read together. Go for a hike together. Go home early today and cook her favourite pasta.

Family: Play backgammon with daughter. Share Chapter 8 of David Goggins with my oldest son. Book lunch at a Lebanese restaurant on Sunday for the whole family. Check in on my nephew who is studying for HSC. Call mum.

Work: [Keep a separate diary for your work to do]

Friendship: Organise tickets to the footy this Sunday with mates. Call mates to organise run on Saturday around the bay. Have breakfast after. Help mate with his wedding prep.

Learning: Listen latest episodes of Dr Rhonda Patrick and Jim Kwik. Research whether autophagy accelerates with exercise. Research whether coffee breaks a fast. Re-listen Chapter 11 in David Goggins book, “You Can’t Hurt me”.

Wealth: Assess UBER IPO. Look into solar panels and going off the grid.

Charity: Help son with setting up his new website. Spend 9am-12 noon training new recruits. Write next article for A Higher Branch community. Write cards to my World Vision sponsored children. Give legal advice and business strategy to a friend who is starting a new business.

Journaling in this way helps you keep track of your commitment to each of the 8 areas of life otherwise you will end up focusing all of your time on work. I do a stock take on Sunday night for the week in review to see if I have neglected any area. This helps me pivot for the next week. There is so much more I can write about morning journaling.

Evening Journaling – REFLECTION Page

The right page is for your heart. It is to review and reflect on what happened during the day. So it is best done in the last hour of the day before bed.

This nightly journaling is extremely powerful and useful for 3 reasons:

1.    To heal any hurt feelings, rejections, failures, disappointments that you had during the day.
2.    To list everything that happened in the day you are grateful for.
3.    To list all your achievements for the day.

1. Processing Feelings

Processing your feelings is all about acknowledging them. The worst thing you can do with hurt feelings is to deny them and sweep them under the metaphorical carpet of your subconscious, only to manifest itself in headaches, poor sleep and irritability. You cannot hide from your feelings. If you do they will haunt you. If you confront them head-on you will neutralise them. You need to feel to heal. Did someone reject you today? How did that make you feel? You need to process it by stepping into their shoes and forgiving them. Did you make a mistake that made you feel like a failure. You need to process it by writing down what you learned from that mistake. 

2. Gratitude

If this is your first time journaling then I want you to go to the front of your journal and just like you listed your goals and dreams in each of the 8 areas of life I want you to devote some of those first few pages to list everything you are grateful for in the 8 areas of life to date.

Then every night you should write down what you should be grateful for that happened to you on that day. Simple, powerful and effective.

3. Achievements

You may have heard of the power of a gratitude but heard little about the equally powerful task of listing your achievements in the 8 areas of your life. It will surprise how much you have achieved. We live in an era of over-achievement and most of us can be too hard on ourselves and fall into the trap of feeling like we are not enough, that we do not have enough and we do not do enough. The reality is that we have achieved a lot and continue to achieve so much daily. 

Listing your achievements daily reminds you of your self-worth, builds your confidence and neutralises the anxiety that lives in the gap between where you are now in life and where you want to be.

NEXT ARTICLE: Rituals 2, 3 & 4.