10 Great Habits That Changed My Life

I arrived in Miri in 2008, as fresh grad with high hopes and dreams to be as successful as I can become.

Fast forward 7 years, I still am (with regards to hopes & dreams) but what it meant has changed over the years. I no longer craves every latest macbooks, new clothes, shiny cars, expensive sunglasses, and fancy house items.

I also changed from mindlessly living with the flows, to questioning a lot of the way I spend my time. In the process I rediscovered the joy of reading (again) and running (just recently). Looking back, I would like to narrow down the habits which has made me come from a laid back teenager to a (more) driven (still) teenager.

I’ve started this post to enlist 50 habits that changed my life, but it would be too lengthy and one of my friend reminded me of the fact that less is more, so I cut them down to the essential 10:

1. Running

I just started running by late 2013. From there I set a lofty target of entering a 10K run the following March. Hoping that the pressure would eventually drag me into training. I train quite regularly for someone who never enjoy running before. In doing that, I discover the whole other side of me in solitude. Part of the pull factor towards running other than (obviously) exercising your heart and body, I got the chance to hear my latest music playlist & audiobooks. I felt super productive! After the run in March, I need more challenge, hence I enrolled in 21K Standard Chartered run last Oct. It was a great experience for me as Standard Chartered run is the running experience you need to have at least once in your life. It’s the pilgrimage of runners and you would never regret the experience. My family also gathers to support me and I felt blessed with the whole emotion when it ended. Going forward, I’m looking to enter 2-4 running events next year but I won’t be upgrading myself to marathon (42K) just yet as I need to improve my time.

2.Preferring (lot of) plain water

I forgot when I started this but for a long time I did not expect to see Coke/Pepsi on my table anymore (and in the process reducing McD or other fast foods to a rare events). I just pick-up plain water instead wherever I eat. It’s easy as you don’t have to think of whether the restaurant have it or not and it’s healthier choice as well. The habit is further reaffirmed when I stopped smoking. One of the strategies is to replace smoking with drinking plain water everytime I felt the urge. It helps reducing the coffee I take as well as over time I do enjoy the taste (it’s weird but that’s me). It promotes your health in various forms, but I love that it keeps me fresh with energy, keeping my body weights, and removing the toxins efficiently.

3. Praying Longer (slowing down)

Oh you know this folks! Don’t pretend you’re not struggling as me. I admit that this is still a struggle. I would be the ones  who struggled to slow down and to be fully engaged while praying. We called the center (when you forgot everything else and submit fully to God) as ‘khusyu’. I found that as many other endeavors in life, I would rush completing this responsibility. It’s then when I learned to slow down. There is no other things which I need to be doing, regardless of how important it is, worldly. And it’s showing progress! Nowadays, as in other activities I often remind myself to slowed down and miraculously I enjoyed the activity tenfold!

4. Stopped smoking

I used to be by any definition a heavy smoker for 13 years. Until I stopped since Dec 2013. This is the culmination of other habit changes that I have in mind through the years. If I can put the sequence, it roughly started with stumbling into minimalism. Then, I reduced possessions and questions how I spend money & time. Seeing smoking expenditure as one of the area I felt need to be reduced to bring back my finances in order. Little that I know, it will be a permanent feature of my life. To cut a long story short, I found that smoking clashes with one of my highest values (FREEDOM). Once I figured that out, smoking has loses it’s appeal and it’s quite frankly a brisk walk.

Read further here.

5. Keeping a Journal.

It all started way back in 2012, where I felt the need to document my spending records. I jot down obsessively every spending I’ve done and at the end of the month manually calculating them to be incorporated on a monthly overview cockpit. From there, I wrote the findings each month and began writing about other areas in my life as well. From personnel finance notes, I began planning my life (maximum with a year’s plan) with numerous objectives and goals. I have to say it kept me grounded to the challenges that I faced and over the years I incorporate the best practices from the previous years. I uses manual journal hence, I’d always be seen holding around my ‘Dream Books’ anywhere. My first journal was engraved with a big ‘My Dream Book’ title that I had to be cautious while holding it (especially offshore) to ensure the title side is always covered/positioned towards me.

That’s how insecure I am.

I prefer writing manually as it is liberating and I can’t get the same feeling with typing or using Ipad. The biggest disadvantage is though, you would be crazy-fucked when you lose the journal. It happened to me this year (not once but twice already). I left the 2014 book (with a cool pineapple cover) at Kuching en route to my way to Kota Kinabalu. I started over and right now I don’t mind if it’s lost again – I would just start it again and just loving the moment when the pen is meeting the paper every morning.

6. Early Rising (5AM Club)

This is also an impossible act that I never thought I could have managed to do. I remember confiding to my senior colleague of my problem on getting the work done during the office hours. His reply was an out of the world, ‘then rack in more hours by waking up early!’ I thought to myself I could never do that.

But the seed is there, whenever I met anyone else who managed to be an early riser – I would be star strucked (ok let’s name them; Seir, Pert and Adib). Someday, I thought I will be just like them. So how I did it? For one, it’s a long process spanning over 2 years (yes it’s that long).

I note my sleeping hours and figured 7 hours are the ideal sleeping time. From there, I changed my sleeping time to be as early as possible the night before. In the morning, I set my alarms incrementally earlier (mostly by 5 minutes at most) to slowly get myself into waking up earlier. Now, I am waking up (not consistently though) on 5 to 5.59AM in the morning thus putting me in ‘The 5AM Club’.

Come join the top 1% of human population.

7. Reading constantly.

It’s funny when I looked back that my teacher had once pulled me in front of a school gathering and pointed out myself as a very obsessive reader (hence the habit to be followed). OK, let’s name him – Cikgu Johar. It must have mean that I am super nerd as well. Perhaps. Why is it that the teacher always find ways to make my life less cool then it is?

Anyway, yes I am an obsessive reader. However, when I entered my university years I found the other habits (playing music and procrastinating). While playing music is good, I forgot that I loved reading for an entire university days and my first 5 years of working.

It only started back when I was deep in financial struggle. I happened to pick up Rich Dad Poor Dad from a friend’s shelve. The rest is history. I said holy shit, other people has gone through this challenges and I just need to learn from them. That would my first forays into enjoying self help books. You can always be caught up by reading only with no time for doing what the book envisaged; so I need to be careful to ensure the balance of reading and doing.

If you haven’t make reading your habits, I beg you to do so.

8. Meditating.

It’s the thing that got me into focus and in chaos; remember to put things in place just as it meant to be. It helps me to condition my mind to the thing that matters and more often than not, to laugh more at challenges seeing it as just a passing thoughts. It enables me to control my mind certainly and I’m glad I can call it a part of my daily structure. I uses Lift to help incorporating the habit and as a guide – depending on free version of Calm & Headspace. It is something that you need to be doing daily for a long period of time (3 months?) for you to really feel the experience. OK, I lied, it depends on people. Sometimes, perhaps on your very first meditation you would get the fresh sensation and awareness to your body like never before by focusing to breathing. If you haven’t done this, pick this up.

9. Learning other languages

Currently I’am looking at being well-versed in French and Mandarin in 5-10 years (yes, slow so what). How should I start other than informing you that bi-lingual speaker are smarter? If you’re not particularly interested in being smarter, then it’s OK. But I am always fascinated by the variety of languages in the world.  You can get the sensation in this great Let It Go (my daughter’s favourite). The only way to treasure it more is by understanding and speaking the languages. This is by far the hardest endeavor since I did not speak those languages frequently enough.

10. Public Speaking

If you haven’t be in Toastmaster meetings or conferences, sign up next week as a guest (it’s free). You would never know that such wonderful communities exist in our society. I stumbled into this groups after some encouragement by the same senior colleague (who ask me to wake up earlier), and I’m hooked. Here it was a community that support each other to be better at public speaking and leadership. I can see everyone has their own struggle and improvement to be done. It’s great looking back at how far I have become in public speaking as I am super shy back in my school days. I did not claimed that I’m good at public speaking, as I need to improve a lot more; but doing it in a good supportive environment certainly help.

Let me know any other habits that changed you profoundly.

2 Comment

  1. I’m inspired! Thanks Bro. Run like the wind!

    1. thanks, happy to share!

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