How to live a legendary life
“Champions don’t do extraordinary things. They do ordinary things, but they do them without thinking, too fast for the other team to react. They follow the habits they’ve learned.” — Charles Duhigg
Two years ago, I made a few strategic choices that changed the course of my life forever. I installed 12 simple habits that led to stunning results.
My impact has multiplied.
My inner peace has skyrocketed.
My mental focus has never been that sharp.
Let’s be blunt. You and I waste too many precious hours. Do you remember the famous iPhone update when you suddenly received a summary of your screen time?
“Really? Did I spend that much time on Facebook?” I thought I just opened the app for a minute or two here and there — small insignificant actions compound.
A few minutes became hours in a week.
For a time, I deleted the Facebook app to make the login more difficult. It worked. I reduced the time I wasted on social media.
To help you understand the key to make the best use of your time, I want to tell you the story of the Tower of Pisa.
In the 12th century in Pisa, Italy, the beautiful and well-known tower became a reality. But five years later, during the construction of the second floor, the tower began to sink. Why? The builders set the foundation on weak and unstable ground. They stopped the building for almost 100 years. The finished tower is now what we call the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
When I visited Pisa, we could not go into the tower because of the risk that it would collapse.
Let’s look at the tallest building in the world: Burj Khalifa in Dubai. Why is this 15x higher skyscraper straight? Because of solid foundations.
This article lays out the fundamental habits that will enable you to make your day perfect. To be clear: You can live a legendary life. All it takes is awareness and a decision to install the game-changing habits.
To make your day perfect, you need to lay solid foundations. Here are 12 habits that will enable you to create your best day ever.
To quote Paul:
“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time.” — Ephesians 5:15–16
It’s what you do every single day that allows you to live a legendary life.
Let’s get started.
Are you ready?
1. Rise Early
“The early morning has gold in its mouth” — Benjamin Franklin
The way you begin each day sets up the way you live each day. You want to develop a morning routine. You take time at the front end of your day to:
- Spend time with God
Many successful people get up early. There seems to be something special in the early morning hours.
Leadership expert and advisor to business titans Robin Sharma wrote in the 5 am Club, “Take excellent care of the front end of your day, and the rest of your day will pretty much take care of itself. Own your morning. Elevate your life.”
Rising early will change your life. Since the day I set my alarm clock one hour earlier, from 6 to 5 am, my productivity has taken off.
“In order for man to succeed in life, God provided him with two means, education and physical activity. Not separately, one for the soul and the other for the body, but for the two together. With these two means, man can attain perfection.” — Plato
One Sunday, a few weeks ago, I did not exercise in the morning. Guess what happened? I felt tired the entire morning and did not do a lot.
Science shows that exercise has a beneficial impact on our bodies. At the beginning of the year, I read the book “The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain” by John J. Ratey.
I learned that by elevating my heart rate and sweating, I could beat stress, lift my mood, fight memory loss, sharpen my intellect, and function. That’s what I experienced.
Aerobic exercise remodels our brains for peak performance.
The author tells the story of a high school in Naperville in the Chicago suburbs. In short, the quality of education was poor. The school and the community did not have the money to hire better teachers.
They implemented a sports program before the classes begin. The result? The students improved their performance. A lot!
They start their school day in the gym and not in the classroom. Exercise improves learning and academic performance. Those students who exercised were improving math skills two to four times more than those who did not.
Exercise promotes the growth of new brain cells. In other words, if you exercise, you get smarter.
3. Spend Time With God & Reflect
“And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, [Jesus] departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.” — Mark 1:35
Put first things first.
Jesus spent the early morning hours praying. So should we.
I start the day by praying and reading the Bible. I want God to speak into my life. And I want to get wisdom and understanding from his word.
Then reflect. Write in your journal. Franklin started each morning by asking: What good shall I do today? That’s an excellent question to ask yourself in the quiet morning hours.
4. Learn Something New for 30 Minutes
“Anyone who keeps learning stays young.” — Henry Ford
Learning compounds too. If you learn something new for 30 minutes every day, over a year, it will add up to the time you generally work in one month.
Let me show you the math!
If you work 8-hour days Monday through Friday, you work on average 22 days times 8 hours, which amounts to 176 hours.
Thirty minutes every day adds up to 30 times 365 at the end of the year, which corresponds to 182.5 hours. That’s the equivalent of one (working) month of learning every year. If you do that for many years, you will become better and successful.
As Brian Tracy said, “To earn more, you must learn more.”
5. Do Not Use Your Phone for the First 2 Hours
What happens if you take your phone first thing in the morning?
- You check your newsfeed.
- You respond to messages and comments.
- You start to react.
- You get your dopamine kick when looking at the likes of your posts.
But you miss out on what you should do. Do the tasks that get you closer to your objective.
If you take your phone in the morning, two things happen:
- You get distracted, which means you waste time.
- You react instead of proactively doing what is essential.
6. Focus on Your Most Important Task
“Lack of direction, not lack of time, is the problem. We all have twenty-four hour days.” — Zig Ziglar
Start with your most important task at the beginning of your workday. And don’t stop until you get it done.
Focus on it. Don’t do multitasking. You may think that you get more things done. It’s not the case. Science has shown it multiple times.
You get the best results if you focus on one single task.
7. No Email Before 10 am
When I was working in the pharmaceutical industry, I made the same observation every day. My colleagues arrived at work, said “hello,” sat down at their desk, switched on the computer, and then checked their emails.
The time I went through all of the new emails and responded to the people, the morning was over.
There is a better way!
I stopped looking at my emails before 10 am. What’s the result? I got the critical tasks done. And not the urgent, or what other people think is essential.
Like the apostle Paul, let’s make the best use of the time!
8. Play: Have Fun and Recover
If you work hard, you deserve to rest and have fun. Recovery is non-negotiable. You need to take a break. And you are no exception to that rule.
Every sports athlete knows this truth. Training for the Olympics, they work hard. But they take regular time off to recover.
You, too, you need to rest.
- Take a walk.
- Ride your bicycle.
- Enjoy time with friends and family.
- Have fun.
- Watch a movie.
To keep going day after day, you need to rest.
9. Schedule the Following Day
“Plan your work and work your plan.” — Napoleon Hill
In the evening, look at your schedule for the following day. Schedule your most important tasks.
Do strategic time blocking.
- I block time for creative thinking.
- For learning.
- For exercise.
- Family time.
- Time with my friends.
The things you schedule get done.
I make a weekly schedule during the weekend for the coming week. And then, before going to bed, I review the next day.
10. Switch off Your Devices at Least 1 Hour Before You Go to Bed
Your smartphone emits blue light that suppresses melatonin, a hormone responsible for controlling your sleep-wake cycle. When your body runs low on it — you use your phone in your bed before going to sleep — you can experience insomnia, and thus tiredness during the day. The same is true for laptops and TV screens.
Switch off your phone to avoid interruptions during the night. Put it in separate pieces or at least on the other side of your bedroom.
If you do that, the quality of your sleep will rise to new levels.
11. Give Thanks
“Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson
Before going to bed, think of three things you are grateful for. It may be the smile of your daughter. The delicious lunch, the beautiful sunset, the word of encouragement a friend gave you.
Give God thanks.
There is always you can be grateful for. You just need to look for it.
12. Get a Healthy 7+ Hours of Sleep
“Sleep is just as important as eating and drinking water.” — Benjamin Hardy
Protect your sleep.
I’m reading the book “Why We Sleep” by Dr. Matthew Walker. I have discovered many interesting facts.
The shorter your sleep, the shorter your life span.
Routinely sleeping less than six or seven hours a night demolishes your immune system, more than doubling your risk of cancer. Insufficient sleep is a crucial lifestyle factor determining whether or not you will develop Alzheimer’s disease.
Inadequate sleep disrupts blood sugar levels that you would be classified as pre-diabetic.
Sleep is the most useful thing we can do to reset our brain and body health each day.
Let’s look at the positive sides of good and enough sleep.
- enhances your memory.
- makes you more creative.
- makes you look more attractive.
- keeps you slim.
- lowers food cravings.
- protects you from cancer and dementia.
- guards you from colds and the flu.
- lowers your risk of heart attacks and stroke, and diabetes.
- helps you feel happier, less depressed, and less anxious.
In sum, sleep enough.
These 12 habits help you to lay the right foundations. To build a tall building like the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, you need to invest in solid foundations.
If you want to live a legendary life every day, you need to develop these habits. You will go farther than you imagine.
Since I installed these 12 habits, my life has taken off to new levels. I became more successful, passionate, relaxed, purpose-driven, and productive.
What day do you create?
These 12 simple habits will make your day perfect — and eventually your entire life.