Stop and consider how far you’ve come in the last 10 years. Reflect on this and you will be able to see how much you’ve changed.

Now think about how much you will change over the next 10 years. That becomes a little more difficult.

Here’s the problem. It’s easier for us to remember than to imagine. As a result we make the mistake of thinking that the same kind of change won’t happen. At every stage of life we make decisions that influence who we are becoming – and then we become those people. As one researcher put it:

“Young adults pay lots of money to get tattoos removed that teenagers paid lots of money to get.”

“Older age people rush to divorce people who young adults rushed to marry.”

We look back and see how we’ve changed. Unfortunately most people think that “now” is magical – “We’ve now become all that we were meant to be” and “we will be that for the rest of our lives.”

Yet the idea that our personal history has come to an end is an illusion. Psychologists call this The End of History Illusion.

How do we counter this illusion? By choosing good habits that keep us moving in the right direction, overcoming our tendency to simply drift. It’s more than knowledge. Knowledge alone does not produce growth. A habit takes what you know and changes how you live.

Here are 4 daily habits that will help you live by design rather than by default.

1. Touch base with your feelings everyday. Are you up or down? Everyone gets down from time to time. We all get exhausted and experience doubts. Denying this can keep you stuck. You don’t always have to be on. We all get H.ungry, A.ngry, L.onely, and T.ired. And this spells HALT! Time to take a break and let your body and soul catch up to each other. There is no need to prove to everyone around you that everything is terrific. There might even be some health in shedding some tears. Just remember that you will smile again!

2. Do not let the past slow you down. You are not perfect. You are growing. Your past can deepen you, but it does not define you. It is a part of your maturity, but it is not your identity. Don’t attach yourself to a label – divorced, rejected, poor, depressed, doubter, timid. You are greater than any particular temporary shape you might be at a given moment. Our tendency is to isolate one particular shape and then amplify it. Giving up today because of an experience yesterday is a mistake. Cut the anchor and get moving.

3. Choose growth over comfort. Hard times have made me stronger. Mistakes have made me wiser. Tough conversations have increased my personal awareness. These must be invited and integrated if growth is our goal. Happiness is not the absence of discomfort. It is the product of growth. If we settle for what’s available, we discover that what’s available is not always great. What’s right in front of us and right for us is rare. What skill, talent or attitude do you wish you had that would be fulfilling to acquire?

4. Pursue meaning over happiness. Viktor Frankl understood this core truth.

Pursuing happiness as your primary goal is like a dog chasing its tail.

Research has shown time and again that when happiness becomes the primary goal, depression and unhappiness are more common. Pursuing meaning and purpose is a far better recipe for happiness.

According to The Center For Disease Control 40% of the population do not think their lives have a clear sense of purpose. 25% do not have a strong sense of what makes their lives meaningful. Having purpose and meaning:

  • Increases overall well-being and satisfaction
  • Improves physical and mental health
  • Enhances resiliency and self-esteem
  • Decreases the chances of depression

Connecting to purpose and meaning has greater benefits than striving for happiness. Which epitaph would you choose?

Here lies (insert your name), who put all his/her energy into being happy.

Here lies (insert your name), who set out to be a good friend while trying to make this world a slightly better place.

The illusion is that day by day it seems like nothing changes. Yet when you look back, everything will be different. Good habits push you down the line and are an antidote to drifting.

How about you? What are some of your daily rituals?