List of Good Habits for The 21st Century

In a world deluged by irrelevant information. Virtual slot machines disguised as sites that connect people – yes, I’m talking about the evil social media sites. It’s hard to stay on course. Even if we somehow manage to get clear on what we want out of life. We have to do the even harder work of maintaining that clear vision. Plus, obviously, the needed physical and mental labor of doing what needs to be done. Is there a shortcut to rich and fame? No. But a list of good habits is a good starting point for a smooth journey.

In theory, anybody can become everyone.

You just have to dream big, hustle, and keep a positive mind.

But besides these pseudo skills imposed by online celebrities – producing content for the sake of producing content. You also need to consider something that looks rather simple, but I bet you haven’t given much thought and consideration.

At least I haven’t.

For most of my conscious existence. I’ve never sat down to figure out what type of daily routines – good habits sort to say. I need to step up my game. To improve. To master a field and to become indispensable, as Seth Godin would have said.

I’ve read all the major books about habits: Atomic Habits, The Power of Habit, The Now Habit, and The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. And while these books offer amazing content about developing good habits. I’ve realized that these are not tailored specifically for me. Furthermore, these also are not tailored for the unstable and uncertain age we live in.

So, below, I’m proposing a list of good habits that aim to help me – and you, hopefully. Achieve a better balance between the insanity of our chaotic modern culture and maintain a positive state of mind.

Hey, you can even use this list of good habits to replace bad ones but the main goal is a bit different.

It’s not to list every possible good daily habit under the sun. Rather, give a tight-knit list of righteous practices that when followed, will enable you to create systems, not goals, improve your thinking, cross the Plateau of Latent Potential, and allow you to blossom as an individual.

List of Good Habits for Busy People in The 21st Century:

1. Reminders

Yes, reminders to get up and do what you plan to do. But mainly reminding yourself why you are doing what you’re doing.

Are you building a website? Are learning to become a designer? Are you trying to lose weight?

And while doing these things, are you feeling inadequate because the progress is just too damn slow?

Regularly reminding yourself why you’re doing what you’re doing. Why you’ve started. Will keep you on track.

This will not only help you stay sane and focused on the task itself and on improving your skills. But it will also prevent you from abandoning your long-term goal.

When you’re working on a project and things are stall. When nothing seems to happen. Instead of jumping ship. Fleeing the path you chose some time ago. Remind yourself why you started. Why did you want to become a designer? Probably your last job sucked and you were looking for ways to reinvent yourself. To do something you adore, not just senselessly fill data into sheets.

Most commonly, this is done in a journal. But any format will do. The point is to regularly remind yourself why you’re doing what you’re doing so you can maintain a clear vision and keep moving forward.

2. Ignorance

This is not something you’ll usually see inside articles listing good habits. Commonly, writers will tell you to “never give up” or the bizarrely obvious – brush your teeth.

In the endless depths of information – the so-called information overload. More than ever, you need to regularly ignore unimportant things.

Take social media for example.

If you are still using these life-sucking platforms, you are probably still unaware of how much they influence your decisions. Ultimately, we are what we consume. And the more you motionlessly stare at your phone. The more things you didn’t know existed a couple of seconds ago become your primary objectives. You just saw a post about a new kind of tablet that allows you to draw like a 19th-century artist on a canvas and now you suddenly want it.

Practicing ignorance is not about being unqualified or indifferent. Rather, being aware of what you don’t need to care about. Or, if you allow me to quote the controversial author Mark Manson, “deciding what not to give a f*ck about is as important as deciding what to give a f*ck about.”

OK, I’m not entirely sure that he actually said that same string of words. But one thing is certain – the use of the F word. Besides, that’s the underlying message of his masterpiece: The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck. I highly recommend reading this book.

3. Courage

Besides needing a clear vision of where you should be headed. You also need the courage to act when others wouldn’t. When you wouldn’t. When everything feels scary. Hard. Impossible.

We are surrounded by comfort. Thanks to my phone. I don’t have to talk to people to order a cab. To find a date – if I needed to find a date. To have fun. I can play with other folks around the world without seeing their faces.

But the more comfort we have access to, the more uncomfortable we feel when we have to talk to others or when we divert from our usual routines. This feels horrifying. That’s why we tend to avoid social interactions or we proudly guard our faces with our phones when we’re in an uncomfortable situation – in an elevator with another person.

The ability to rise above fear. To do what’s right. To do what’s needed seems harder these days.

We might appear as if we’re bold and brave on our social profiles but we are crippled by impostor syndrome when among others.

How to become courageous?

Practice tiny acts of bravery!

Here’s an example:

  • When you feel uncomfortable talking to somewhere besides you. Make sure to talk to this person.
  • When you feel scared of saying what’s right. Just say it.
  • When you don’t feel like going out. You absolutely should go out.

4. Thoughtfulness

Egoism is a big part of our identity. If we don’t care about our needs. We’ll never motivate ourselves to get up and find food in order to keep existing. Not to mention the required set of tasks that will enable us to propagate our genes.

But serving our interests is hardly the only thing we need.

To thrive in the world. To help create a better world. We, more than ever, need to be mindful of the needs of other people.

I’m not going to mention bigger projects like fixing the climate crisis. Or, persuading your boss to actively participate in creating a better working environment where every person – regardless of race or cultural background – feels safe to share and thrive.

No, I’m mostly referring to focusing on small acts that can potentially lead to big improvements.

Things like…

  • Picking up a piece of litter on the playground which everyone is bravely ignoring and throwing it out in the designated place for litter – the trash can.
  • It means being on time because you realize that other people also have other things to do.
  • It means talking to a stranger at a party who looks like they don’t know anyone.

And if you happen to do these small acts of kindness. You’ll do them without needing, wanting something in return. You’ll do them just because you believe it’s the right thing to do.

5. Adaptability

Change is the only constant.

This sole concept can shatter every stable thing you have in your life.

Your knowledge about the industry you operate in? It will become obsolete in a year or two.

The project you’re trying hard to turn into a full-time job? It will require a total revamp after a couple of years.

You can’t stand still – in terms of knowledge and know-how – if you want to keep progressing.

This means that you need to become an adaptive thinker. To embrace curiosity and continuous learning (a.k.a. self-regulated learning).

6. Reflection

The more you put your thoughts into writing, the more you can challenge them. The more you’ll understand them.

Sadly, we rarely schedule time to sit and consider what we have experienced.

There is so much stuff to do nowadays. To consume. It’s easy to slide into the next series of Twitter threads or accidentally start binging a new YouTube channel.

However, these things hardly make a difference.

I can watch every productivity video online. And still be unproductive.

I can read all the posts about having good habits. And still have bad habits.

Conversely, I can read only one book about productivity. And become more productive. Or, read a single article about embedding good habits, and learn how to form good habits into my life plus break bad habits.

Reflecting on your experiences. On what you consume helps you connect the pieces. Helps you form mental models about how the world works. How the discipline you want to perfect should be approached.

As more and more content is created. It’s vital to reflect on what we are consuming. Think critically about what happens during our days. This allows us to become mentally stronger. Not only aimlessly wandering the endless sea of content.

7. Solitude

During the Renaissance era. Most modern European homes were equipped with a cabinet (also known as a study room).1

Full of books and works of art. The goal of this room was to provide a quiet place for the owner to think and work.

Nowadays, we call such rooms home offices.

And now, more than ever, we need time away from everyone.

Not only to reflect on our days – as noted above. But to continue on our journey of intellectual growth.

As a father, and person living in the insanely busy modern world – like you. I’m very careful about how I allocate my time. I defend my attention like an ancient knight defending a stronghold attacked by an enemy legion.

This is one of the reasons I’ve quit social media.2 And also why I consider myself a minimalist.

But there are other things to consider.

I surely love spending time with my son. But I’m also aware that if I don’t schedule time for myself daily, I’ll grow frustrated with my inability to pursue my own projects.

8. Motivation

Assuming you want to improve as a person. At least that’s what I think if you end up reading this. This is never a short-term project.

It takes years to see your project bring meaningful results. This also means that you need to keep your motivation high.

This is a difficult task.

In fact, your ability to keep persisting is far more important than your ability to start on a project.

Think about it for a moment…

Everyone can start writing a book. But few finish writing their books.

Few ever finish the things they start.

So, how you should approach this?

How can you turn motivation into a habit?

There are a couple of things to consider:

  • The people around you. The more you surround yourself with people who are cheering you during your journey, the more likely you’ll keep going forward. In the book The Four Tendencies, Gretchen Rubin offers some great resources for creating accountability.
  • Practicing delayed gratification. The more you teach yourself to skip things that bring immediate pleasures – a.k.a. instant gratification. The more you’ll find waiting more beneficial.
  • Find joy in what you are doing. In the book, Tiny Habits. the author shares the following: “People change best by feeling good, not by feeling bad.” If you don’t quite enjoy what you’re doing – if it doesn’t bring positive sensations. You’ll abandon the task.
  • Submerging into inspirational books, movies, and conversations. Maintaining goal-oriented behavior is about feeling hopeful. You will keep doing something because you wholeheartedly believe that it will lead to good outcomes in the future. A good way to keep this sensation alive in your brain is by occasionally consume inspiring stories.
  • Regularly ask yourself this: What’s the next most necessary thing? As Oliver Burkeman explains in his excellent book about time management, Four Thousand Weeks: “precisely because that’s all you can do, it’s also all that you ever have to do.” When you feel stunned. When you are not sure what to do, simply do the next most necessary thing.

9. Progress

Whatever it is what you are doing. Focus on progress. Focus on doing the thing that drives you every day.

But there is a twist. A modification to consider so you can stay sane.

There is a huge pressure nowadays on all of us. Online, everyone seems flawless. So we imagine that the end result of everything we do must be with the same level of perfection. And not only that, but we also strive to become rich, famous, muscular, smart, etc., in a haste. Unfortunately, when our project fails – because that’s exactly what happens behind the scenes. Instead of persisting, we submerge into depression and we quit.

Accept that not every project will be amazing or successful – at least not at first. And rather, focus on slow progress.

As the creative photograph, Arno Rafael Minkkinen would put it: Stay on the bus.3

That’s the metaphor he uses to motivate his students.

In simple terms, when we begin our journey in a particular field. Our first couple of years won’t be that original. What we’ll create will probably already be invented. But if we stay on the bus – perfecting our craft instead of going back to the bus station and taking another bus (focusing on another discipline). Our work starts to get noticed. Our work becomes ours – not a mediocre copy of someone else’s work.

Choose one field you want to be known for and progress slowly.

Some Closing Thoughts

What usually happens is that people don’t accept that something should be practiced regularly. But rather, they strive to get it out of the way.

Here’s an example:

People start going to the gym so they can lose weight. And once they do, they stop. Naturally, they gain weight again and the cycle repeats itself.

Habits are never meant to be “done”. The types of habits you’ll embrace in your life are your faithful companions that will allow you to have decent-looking physic. Enough money in your bank account. Enable you to work on interesting projects. And even beyond these: stretch your intelligence.

For all of the above. I think that reading books is by far the best thing you can do for yourself – daily – to keep the fire burning.

The fire inside you to get up every day motivated to pursue whatever is that you are pursuing.

If you are interested in books. Or if you want to become interested – besides checking my post on good reading habits for non-readers (and even the one on bad reading habits). I suggest subscribing to my newsletter below.

In it, I will regularly expose you to interesting books and concepts that will fuel your curiosity, keep your motivation levels high, and inspire you to commit to continuous growth.


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Footnotes:

  1. The idea about the cabinet room actually inspired me to call my newsletter The Study.
  2. Read more about my post on Life After Quitting Social Media.
  3. This is also known as The Helsinki Bus Station Theory.
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