Your Habits And How One Simple Change Can Lead To Long Term Success

If you’ve been a reader of MyWifeQuitHerJob.com since the early days, you probably remember that I used to refer to myself as a lazy piece of c$%^.

lazyNow depending on the person, laziness can have different definitions.

To some people, being lazy is sitting around and watching television all day.

To some people, being lazy is staying in bed and not getting up until the afternoon.

To some people, being lazy is wanting to make a change and not doing anything about it.

But to me, laziness is participating in activities that have absolutely zero long term value.

As part of running this blog, complete strangers often ask for me for life changing advice. And I always say…If you want to make positive changes to your life, you have to avoid being lazy. If you are unsatisfied with the status quo, think about how you spend your time, because where you spend it will ultimately determine where you’ll end up.

My Story

When I first graduated from college, I fell into this habitual routine where I would come home from work, eat dinner, watch television or play video games, go to bed and then repeat this cycle day in and day out.

But the funny thing is that I didn’t feel stagnant at all. In fact, I was actually pretty darn happy with my life. I had spending cash, a good job, friends and all the video games I could play. I had no responsibilities whatsoever and I loved the fact that I was not obligated to do anything.

In fact, I spent most of my early 20′s playing video games. And I could do it all day and not feel bad about it.

One of my favorite games of all time was called Civilization and I probably spent well over 6 hours a day playing it at my peak(on weekdays). Weekends were a different story. Undisturbed, I could easily sit in front of my computer for 18 hours straight! I was an addict and sometimes I even forgot to eat and drink.

What’s Fun Might Be Holding You Back

But here’s what I’ve learned over the years. Satisfaction from fun and entertainment is fleeting and can ultimately hold you back. And if you stop and think about it, most things that are “entertaining” often have very little long term value.

Looking back at my video game habit, what good did I get out of it? One could say that “Civilization” taught me how to be more strategic and improved my decision making skills:) But let’s be honest, it was one big waste of time.

In fact, if I could do things all over again, I would have loved to reclaim all of those lost hours because playing video games had no beneficial impact on my life. I didn’t learn anything. I didn’t gain any knowledge that would further my career. I didn’t become a better person because of it.

And in reality, it had the opposite effect. I became anti-social. The computer became my best friend. And the meaningless accolades the game presented to me were worthless in real life.

The Long Term Effects Of Time Wasting Habits

We all have our habits and we all tend to gravitate towards leisurely activities. It’s easy to waste time and be lazy. But what would have happened to my life if I continued my all day game playing ways?

I probably wouldn’t have found my wife. I definitely would not have started any of my businesses. And I probably would not have the breadth of knowledge that I have today.

While it’s fun to be entertained, it’s really easy to get stuck in a rut when you routinely participate in activities that don’t have long term benefits, activities where you aren’t learning.

While you might think that a few hours here and a few hours there is not that big of a deal, it all adds up over time. Think about it this way.

A few hours wasted a day for 15 years adds up to well over 10000 hours.

And if you believe in Malcolm Gladwell’s 10000 hour hypothesis, you could have completely mastered a skill during that time!

The thing you need to realize is that even small changes to your lifestyle can have a profound effect on your long term success.

Do you want to look back on your life knowing that you wasted all your time playing meaningless games or watching tv? Or would you rather look back and appreciate all of the knowledge you’ve gained?

What if?…

Unfortunately, I ask myself this question all the time. What if I spent all of that time reading business books instead? What if I learned a new computer language or studied the stock market ? What if I became interested in real estate investing during the boom? What if I started my own business back when I was younger?

Maybe my life wouldn’t have been as relaxing. Maybe it wouldn’t have been as leisurely. But I would have become a much better educated person sooner rather than later. And who knows? Today, I could have been a billionaire by now.

But as it stands, I wasted a good portion of my time on low benefit and low value activities that added very little to my life. In fact, I feel lucky that I was able to turn things around by making certain changes to my habits.

Making The Most Of My Time

Today, I make a lot better use of my time and I waste much less of it. Don’t get me wrong. I still watch television and I still play an occasional video game, but the difference is that I now set aside some time everyday to learn a new skill or trade.

And if you ask my wife, she’ll probably tell you that I’ve taken this new habit to an extreme. For example, instead of reading fiction or short stories, I pretty much only read business books and technical manuals now.

On my last vacation, I took a book along with me called “JQuery In Action”. Great book by the way if you want to learn more about web development:)

Instead of surfing entertainment and gossip websites, I now focus on ecommerce, business and personal development websites.

These habits are now so ingrained into my routine that I don’t even think about it anymore. It’s now a part of my personality.

I’m also a lot more selective about what I do with my leisure time. My kids and family come first and I spend most of time with them. I also focus a large part of my leisure time strengthening friendships and forming new ones.

For the past decade, I’ve had no regrets and it’s nice to look back to see how much I’ve learned gradually over a long period of time.

Small Changes Can Have A Big Impact

So what’s my point? Leisure time is great, but it needs to be balanced with learning. Very few people are willing to change because they want to be able to see results right away. But unfortunately, life does not work that way.

If you want to change your life, you first have to change your habits. And when it comes to changing your habits, you have to look at things with a multi-year time horizon. Even the smallest change today can have a profound effect on your future many years down the line.

It doesn’t take much. Just set aside a hour every day to expand upon your knowledge and learn something new. For every activity that you participate in, decide whether that activity will benefit you in the long run or whether it’s just a waste of time.

And the sooner you make that small change, the sooner you will reap the rewards.

photo credit: casey.marshall susivinh

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20 thoughts on “Your Habits And How One Simple Change Can Lead To Long Term Success”

  1. I agree small changes make a huge difference. Having goals is another important aspect to keep you on track to accomplish what you want out of l ife.

    1. Yep. Setting goals is important too, but for me, making subtle changes to my routine usually results in positive changes that I can maintain in the long run.

  2. Thanks for sharing and putting yourself out there Steve. Great post and excellent life lessons here. I’m like you, always focused on reading “practical and substantive” resource materials…Reading some good fiction now and then can be a good thing though!

    1. Thanks Troy!
      I actually haven’t read a good ole fiction book in a very long time:)

  3. Oh man, I can’t tell you how much of my life slipped away with video games. And really what do I have to show for it now? But I realized how much time I wasted when I was younger and now I know to stay away (a game here and there is ok just no more all night marathons).

    Great point on looking at the long-term value of what you spend your time on!

    1. Hey Glen,
      Like you, I have a long list of video games that I wasted time on as a kid. I don’t regret the multiplayer ones because I was hanging out with friends. But man, I shudder when I consider what I could have been doing with all that lost time.

  4. For me this article was perfect timing. A few bad habits have been sneaking into my day and this was a great reminder.

    Now, if I could just find a way to get my son who is just like you said were in your 20′s to view things differently. Any ideas?

    1. Hi Pamela,
      I don’t have any good answers for you:) I’m going to see if I can instill a little entrepreneurship into my kids early on and see what happens.

  5. This was perfect timing for me as well. I woke up this morning thinking I needed to stop wasting time with non important distractions. Now I realize why this is so important. Your posting just supported my thoughts that I no longer want to waste my time with useless activities. I love the idea of learning at least one new thing each day. Thanks for the insight!

    1. Hey Barbara,

      Great to see that you settled down on a niche:) Looking forward to taking a closer look at your site and thanks for the comment!

  6. Heh, always nice to hear someone else was as addicted to Civ as I was! (I can only cringe at the amount of time and money I wasted on playing chess tournaments for 10 years. ) I think most people (with at least average intelligence anyway) eventually fall into an unconstructive rut, then realise something’s gotta change. The only problem I find these days is that it’s impossible to be constructive 100% of the time because even my brain needs a little bit of time off each day. Before I go to sleep each night I first read a non-fiction book in whichever interest strikes my fancy and only then watch a sitcom and read a non-fiction book until my brain officially fizzles out. The rest of my time is put to good use!

    1. You played Civ as well? Great game eh? I think it’s impossible to be constructive all of the time. For me, I just make sure that I at least spend 30 min – 1 hour everyday on something worthwhile. After all, it all adds up over time.

  7. Steve,

    Excellent post and insights. Thanks for sharing your personal story – I can certainly relate to the days when I was younger – very carefree and lazy! I’ve recently changed all of that and I know my family and I will be much better for it.

    Thanks again.

    1. Thanks Karman,
      It’s pretty crazy what having a family and kids does to us.

  8. Marc says:

    Thanks Steve. Will check out JQuery in Action. Do you have a list of other books you have read and recommend?

  9. Well said. DUDE I used to blow SO MANY HOURS playing diablo 2. My buddy and I would pull all nighters playing that game… I’m so glad the new one sucks. It was a hidden gift.

  10. Hello Steve!

    Thank you for sharing your story with us! For me, it seems like things are being reversed. When I was younger, I did not have much and it seemed like I was working harder. The more I have, the lazier i get and less risks I am willing to take.

    I will take your advice and will change one habit at a time.

    Teodora

  11. Jamie V says:

    I used to be addicted to Pharaoh, and the boyfriend was addicted to Civ. Between the two of us..man, we wasted a lot of good time. Don’t get me started on the Sim games by Maxis… But that’s in the past (well, mostly) and here I am now, and I’m so glad I found your website to help motivate us! Well, I cheated: I drifted over from Retire By 40 after your guest post.. :) This is going to be a great resource for the boyfriend and I from now on. We are starting some blogs within the next few weeks, understanding it is NOT a get-rich-quick deal, but rather, to document some pretty neat and off the natural path things we are doing (I think people will be interested and find it helpful), as well as hold ourselves accountable for…..starting a small business! It has all been so very confusing surfing the internet and seeing a bajillion articles about a trillion things, but your blog is not only extensive in research and resourcefulness, but the personal experiences really help me feel that we also can do it (and you write things for the simple man, not in technical jargaon that goes over my head). On of our blogs will actually be a documentation of our small business journey and how we started from not really knowing anything, whatsoever. But we thought, “it sure would be nice if someone out there went through this and we could just sort of follow along and make adjustments where we need to” and BAM! We could be those people! So thank you very much for providing this website because I know we’re going to be using it a LOT. (We’re starting a farm, which is not something 20 and 30 year olds are really striving to do these days, and we get a lot of weird looks for it.)

    1. Ack. I forgot all about this game SimTower that I used to play as well:) Anyways, I’m glad you found me and thanks for the kind words

  12. James says:

    Very good point about time management over the long horizon! If we know where we are going in the long run, then it is easier to choose what to spend time on. I wasted too much of my time without a clear long term plan.

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