Are you on track with your new year’s resolutions or do you already experience setbacks or come up with excuses? Or maybe you don’t even have any resolutions because you think that it’s pointless anyways!?
Although I do not believe in the typical new year’s resolutions, I am a big proponent of installing, so-called, key habits in one’s life. Let me share my approach for the current year – and basically how I have lived for the past years.
What are key habits?
For me, key habits are the big building blocks that then shape your average day or week. Key habits are positive activities or concepts that then lead to other things and, eventually, have a positive impact on your life.
In my approach, I keep them very broad at first because I do not want to restrict myself or put myself in a corner. Key habits give you enough room and flexibility to branch off into other things so that you can follow your interests and what makes sense.
Without getting too abstract, let me share my key habits, the goals I am pursuing with them and how I implement each key habit in my daily and weekly life.
My key habits
The goal for me this year, like in previous years as well, is it to become the “best version of myself”. I want to be the best trader that I can be, I want to be the best athlete that I can be, the best friend/husband/son/brother, the best business leader and simply the best person.
I am not in competition with anyone else but myself. Each month, I just try to be a little bit better than the month before. I do not care about changing my life radically at once because I know that I have time.
If you just improve a little bit each week anything is possible.
8 months ago, I could not even run 1 kilometer at once. 4 days ago I ran my first half-marathon which is 21km.
6 years ago, I was working in a regular 9-5 job, not fully enjoying what I was doing. I am now my own boss, I can work from anywhere and I am successful in what I do.
I used to smoke 1 pack of cigarettes a day and drink too much. I quit smoking 10 years ago, I meditate frequently now, I started reading inspiring books, great novels and I feed my mind with positive things.
But none of my achievements happened overnight. It was always a gradual change, driven by installing certain key habits that then helped me move closer to where I wanted to be.
I want to share 4 of my key habits that I have implemented in my life because they help me in my trading and in all other areas in my life.
I try to read at least 1 book a month but usually, I end up reading more. Reading has many great benefits because it often sparks new interests for me, when I read biographies I get inspired or new ideas, or it just helps me see things differently when I am presented with a new perspective.
Reading trading literature will broaden your horizon. But you have to read the “right way”. Don’t just skim through the pages but make notes, think about the things you read, see what they could mean for your trading and how you can implement ideas or concepts.
I put together a list of my absolute favorite trading and non-trading related books: my recommended reading list.
You have probably noticed that I love writing when you are following my blog 😉
But I do also write a lot personally. Writing is a great way of organizing your thoughts. When I write about trading, it gives me time to really think concepts over and explore different ideas. Many traders will never spend quality time thinking about their trading or the concepts they use – they are too busy “hunting for signals”.
Just ask yourself: do you remember your last 5 or 10 trades in detail? If the answer is no, you either need to get a trading journal, or start writing down your trades. We easily forget our trades and, thus, we do not learn from mistakes if we do not have a way of capturing our thoughts.
The same holds true when writing about your personal life. A great exercise can be to just write down 3 things every morning that you are thankful for or 3 things that went really well the day before. Most people are too busy living their lives that they will forget to take the foot off the pedal and look around them.
I have been doing sports since I am 5 years old and exercising is a non-negotiable for me. When I do not get my regular exercise in, my performance and my mood suffer. I need to vent and I need to leave my excess energy somewhere.
Especially as a trader, when you are sitting all day and you are suppressing stress, anxiety, excitement and other emotions that arise from trading, you need to get it out.
A quick run, a walk with the dog or a short bodyweight circuit might already be enough for most people. But you need to move and get your blood flowing in some way if you want to perform at your best.
Meditation is a way for me to take a timeout and to completely get away from all distractions and influences. In today’s world, we are bombarded with stimuli all day long and it’s impossible to switch off if you do not actively take a timeout.
How often do you find yourself lost in thought walking down the street, or opening a new browser tab although the website is already open, or checking the phone again 3 seconds later because you actually didn’t read the time consciously!?
When I started meditating, I was shocked that I could not even focus on my breath for 30 seconds and my mind was always wandering to unimportant topics, often just repeating the same old movie.
A regular meditation practice changed a lot for me. I am more focused when I am working, I am calmer, I do not forget things as easily and I can actually pay attention to the people and things around me.
My trading has improved a lot as well because it allows me to look through the clutter, avoid the noise, I am more focused and I spend less time in my head.
My schedule – 30 minutes to change your life
The problem with new years resolution is that they are often too time-consuming or hard to follow. But do you have 30 minutes a day to change your life for the better? I probably sound like a TV salesman but stick with me.
Reading – you can get almost any book as an audio version and listen to it during your commute or when exercising
Writing – write 3 things that you are grateful for or that you are looking forward to each morning when waiting for the water to boil for your coffee. I always have my notebook on my coffee table ready so that I do not have any excuses.
Exercise – a 20 or 30-minute kettlebell workout, a brisk walk with the dog or a quick run is all you need to get going.
Meditation – Get an app like calm or headspace and then start doing timed 5-minute breathing exercises or meditations. You will instantly feel better.
The best version with momentum
The cool thing about starting with key habits is that it does not feel like a PITA because it doesn’t take a lot of time and it’s easy to do.
And once you start seeing the first benefits, you will feel how your key habits start branching out.
A 5-minute meditation turns into a 10 or 15-minute session. Feeling energized from running regularly will maybe motivate you to start a yoga routine or go to the gym and eat healthier. Reading an inspiring book will spark your interest in a new activity or hobby. Writing about your gratefulness can easily lead to writing longer texts or starting a diary.
Most importantly, though, do not pressure yourself. Start small and see where your new key habit will take you.
Understand that time is with you and by just making baby steps each week, at the end of 2018, you will be very happy that you started your journey.