The difference between habits and philosophies, how to use the What If? quadrant, and 15.5 practical habits to embrace

We’re often presented with lists of habits that we’re told we should be embracing in order to live healthier, more productive and fulfilling lives.

Progress not perfection, think positively, be grateful, don’t worry what people think…

These are all wonderful ways to live your life… but they aren’t habits.

They’re philosophies.

Philosophies and habits

This is a huge problem for so many of us – we hear about something we should be doing but without a definite course of action to follow there’s nothing we can actually do about it.

This can leave us feeling frustrated and overwhelmed at all the things we’re not doing.

This is the big difference between a philosophy and a habit.

A habit is the physical manifestation of a philosophy… something you do in the real world that demonstrates a belief you hold about what’s important.

It’s not what you KNOW, it’s what you DO that makes a difference

I’m going to share with you some simple and practical habits you might want to consider embracing, if you happen to share similar philosophies to me about personal development, self-improvement, and physical and mental wellbeing.

Before we get into that though, I want to share something with you that will help you take any motivational expression or quote, and crash it headlong into your unique world.

The 4 Quadrants Of Change

Adapted from learning psychology, the 4 Quadrants of Change are

Why? > What? > How? > What If?

Essentially, we need to know why something is important, what it is and how to do it, but also how it’s going to work in our world.

‘What if I were to do this…?’

Any time you hear an expression such as ‘progress, not perfection’ (one of my most personal philosophies), think about how it might look in your life.

Progress not perfection means striving to make improvements rather than trying to be perfect.

This might look like eating one extra piece of fruit, drinking an extra glass of water, or going to bed 15 minutes earlier.

Progress not perfection is the philosophy, the fruit, water and sleep are the habits.

Make sense?

Let’s take a look at some of these habits you may decide to consider embracing if they resonate with you.

Embrace these habits

In the interest of interest, I’ve kept these varied, covering different aspects of physical and mental wellbeing, productivity and personal effectiveness.

The order they’re in is the order they came out of my brain. I could have spent longer organising them into categories but hey, done is better than perfect 😉

Most importantly, what they all have in common is that they are actionable.

1) Use Flight Mode in the evening

Switch your phone or tablet to flight mode an hour before bed, and keep it out of the bedroom completely if possible.

This ‘magic hour’ is part of your daily strategic recovery.

Scrolling through social media might feel like ‘unwinding’, but this kind of stimulation is the last thing your brain needs as it tries to calm down.

2) Keep a Gratitude & Victory Log

Before you go to sleep, write down 3 things you were grateful for and 3 ‘victories’ from the day.

Keep a notebook and pen handy for this, so you always remember to do it when you get into bed.

Try to notice the little things as well as the big ones.

3) 5 minute morning workouts

Spending just a few minutes in the morning doing something physical can have several positive benefits.

Aside from the accumulated effects of activating your muscles daily, you may find that you experience improved posture through the day, as well as increasing your chances of making healthier choices with food.

Take a look at my free daily core training program the Plankathon if you want a structured starting point for this, but even doing a couple of sets of press ups or squats can give you similar results.

4) Visualisation

Collect pictures that visually represent goals or ambitions you are working towards, and put them in a separate folder in your smart phone.

First thing every morning, flick through these pictures to remind yourself what your goals are for the day.

You may find that it helps to tie this habit into an existing one, such as when you are drinking a glass of water.

5) Schedule in your workouts

Plan them into your diary and you’re more likely to get them done rather than just hoping you’ll find time.

If you can arrange to meet somebody for your workout even better, as will boost your accountability.

If you find yourself regularly skipping out on solo workouts, try asking somebody to check up on you afterwards to make sure that you’ve done it!

6) Write down what’s on your mind

Think on paper; if something is bothering you get it out of your head and onto paper so you can work through it more logically.

When we hold everything in our heads it tends to get clouded with emotion which makes it harder to figure out what’s really going on

7) Hide your phone

When you’re not using it, keep your phone out of sight.

The more you see it (or feel it, if it’s in your pocket!) the more likely you are to ‘quickly check’… which can often turn into another wasted 20 minutes.

This habit can be particularly effective when you’re working on something you want to get into ‘flow state’ with, and also when you’re with family or friends.

When something or someone requires your full attention, make it easier for you to give it to them.

8) Work on yourself every day

Reading personal development books or articles, watching TED talks, taking online courses… these are all great ways to keep yourself developing and learning.

Try the Blinkist App, which condenses books into short summaries you can absorb in just a few minutes.

8) Add salad

If you’re trying to eat more healthily, one of the easiest ways to get more nutrients into your body is to add a salad to whatever meal you’re eating.

A bowl of leafy green veggies like spinach or herby salads, with avocado, tomato and walnuts, dressed in olive oil, lemon juice and salt & pepper is a simple starting point.

Easy way to add more nutrients to your diet.

9) Walk briskly

Find 10 minutes during the day to go for a brisk walk; if you can, do this 3 times a day,

You’ll not only get numerous health benefits but it can clear your head and help your subconscious mind get to work on solving problems.

Recent studies have shown that just 3 ‘Active 10‘ intervals during the day can improve health markers such as blood pressure and glucose levels.

10) Carry a bottle of water with you

If you find that you struggle to drink enough during the day, try taking a large refillable water bottle with you when you leave the house.

If you have it with you, you’re more likely to be reminded to keep taking regular sips.

11) Plan meals

Create a list of go-to meals that you know to work for you and your family. Keep them in a file or document you can refer to when you’re planning meals for the week.

Build the habit of planning your meals into a set day each week.

12) Batch cook

Cook once, eat multiple times.

Either do a big batch of meals you can freeze, or just cook double portions you can then use the following day for lunch.

13) Meditate

Drive to work 10 minutes early and when you arrive sit quietly and meditate for 10 minutes before going about your business.

Either use the Headspace or Calm apps, or just try to focus on your breathing for a few minutes (here’s a breathing app to help with that!).

Experiment with meditation without any expectations or pressure of ‘emptying your mind’.

14) Notice your thoughts

Mindfulness teaches us how to bring our attention to the present moment. A powerful and practical application of this is to start noticing when your inner voice is starting down a negative track in your mind.

When you catch this happening, instead of trying to stop it simply say to yourself ‘I’m having the thought that…’.

Take a few minutes at the end of the day to note down the times you were able to do this.

Over a short amount of time, combined with other mindfulness training, you can easily build an increased level of self-awareness.

15) Curate content playlists

If you sometimes find that sit down to watch something on YouTube, you can often waste the short amount of time you have by searching. And that’s if you don’t get distracted by funny cat videos!

Instead, create a playlist to add videos to as you find them so you always have something ready to watch in those precious few moments.

I have created a YouTube playlist with some of the TED & TEDx talks I’ve watched and personally taken something away from that you are welcome to subscribe to as a starting point.

15.5) Apply the What If quadrant

Ever read a book, watch a TED talk or listen to a podcast, get to the end of it nodding in agreement and then do nothing about it?

You know the what, the why and the how, but you don’t necessarily take it to the What If quadrant.

Try to write down 1-3 things you are going to actually do, as a result of what you have just learned.

I’ve called this habit ‘15.5’ because really it applies to everything else I’ve written on this page.

Take a moment to write down 1-3 things that you’re going to do differently as a result of what you’ve just read.

This is where the theory collides with your reality, and takes the knowing to the doing.