The Most Common Health Habits of Ambitious People

“You are what you repeatedly do…” Here’s the habits successful folks focus on most for their health and happiness.

Long Life wooden sign with a street background

So what are those habits?

I’ve pulled insights from many interviews and deep dives into the lives of successful people – from wide backgrounds including athletes, tech wizards, authors, spiritual gurus, and celebrity personalities.

These habits become the scaffolding that support lasting joy & fulfillment in your life.

1.) Selfish Sleepers – 

The one habit that seems to come up the most in my research is nurturing sleep routines.

Having a nightly routine is just as important as a morning routine.

Habits might include reducing blue light exposure, eating lightly at night like sipping tea or broth, nightly journaling, limiting alcohol or caffeine, turning off the home wifi, and setting the stage for the next day’s tasks. 

Popular gadgets mentioned in my reading include sleep masksear plugs, and even higher end items like the ChiliPad which has been described as a game changer. The ChiliPad is a cool technology that keeps each side of the bed at a consistent, cool temperature all night long.

I use the sleep mask and ear plugs, and the ChiliPad is on my own wishlist.

When high performers go out to a social event, they’re back home by midnight or earlier. The costs of staying out late are too large on their productivity. 

They simply don’t allow one night to steal fitness, focus and more from the following days!

I personally have attributed sleep quality to at least 80% of my happiness and productivity in any given day. 

2.) Meditation Practice –

Many high performers have a meditation practice. Wash your the mind daily like you would wash your body. 

For the :”time-sink” of 10-20 minutes of meditation, you will get 3-5 fold more productivity out of your day. 

Meditation supports mood, helps us make less impulsive decisions, and trains us to stay in the “now”.

Deep breathing also stimulates the relaxation arm of your nervous system.

Yoga can be very meditative. Also, check out Tony Robbins’ priming technique which I’ve used in the mornings and noticed a mood and productivity boost on the days that I do. 

I also use HeadspaceBox Breathing while in the sauna or hanging upside down on my inversion table. I will also work in workout/stretching routines in the sauna depending on the day.

Interestingly, the one habit that surprised me was that many high achievers will take long walks, sauna sessions, or baths. 

Some of the greatest minds that ever lived attributed their walks through a garden or countryside as key to their big “ah-ha” moments. Walking can be very meditative and the movement stimulates the brain.

Add in some deep breathing and mindfulness – hear the birds, listen to the crunch of your footsteps, & enjoy the breeze while you walk.

The de-cluttering of your mind allows you to keep the right things in focus – and improves the endurance of your focus.

Any time you feel overwhelmed, it’s a trigger that you should focus back on your physical health.

Usually it’s time to get back to basics when it comes to mindfulness, exercise, and taking the time to reevaluate priorities.

Stretching woman in outdoor exercise happy doing yoga stretches after running. Beautiful happy sport fitness model outside on summer spring day3.) Exercise Practice –

This one is probably the most obvious habit. Many successful people exercise at least 30 minutes daily. They will rotate between intense workouts, restorative yoga, self-care body work like foam rolling, saunas, and cold showers/ice baths. Many enjoy hikes, swims, bike rides, and runs.

Exercise can be a social event. I personally enjoy pick-up basketball, and the random conversations you have with folks in the sauna, at the gym and more. You start running into people outside of the gym or office – and it adds to those “loose connections” that add richness to your life.

Healthy people also love to be around other healthy people – and when you surround yourself with them, our “mirror neurons” will kick in and infuse you with the habits. 

We passively and subconsciously mirror those we spend the most time with – don’t underestimate the power of this effect as it is the most primal form of human learning.

4.) Intermittent Fasting –

What if “breakfast” was a made-up meal by food marketers trying to sell you breakfast food?

Edward Bernays was one of the first marketing experts to use psychological science to inspire his work. He was hired by President Coolidge to help his re-election campaign. He was also hired by Beech-Nut Packing company to help sell more pork products to the American public – specifically bacon.

He used an internal doctor in his agency to convince a group of doctors and the public that a “heavier” breakfast was ideal – naturally, bacon and eggs became the solution.

The point is that fasting practices are natural & physiologically normal for the body – the concept of a breakfast, lunch and dinner were terms humans created. Our genetic ancestors did not have food available to them 24/7.

Even the word breakfast literally refers to “breaking a fast”. 

I cannot count how many times intermittent fasting has been mentioned in interviews from researchers, health professionals, to business executives.

Why is fasting healthy aside from weight management?

The digestive system has an under-appreciated “sleep” and “wake” cycle.

It needs a break from digestion to fully process food, encourage growth of healthy microbes, and fully mobilize wastes out of the body.

Fasting might involve abstaining from meals for at least 12 hours from the previous day’s last meal or snack. Optimally, fasting ranges from 14-16 hours, most days of the week. Overachievers will do a 24 hour fast to reset their system (especially the immune system) as much as monthly or quarterly.

The good news is that you have greater flexibility to eat whatever you want in the 8-10 hours between fasts and still reach and maintain a healthier weight. 

With intermittent fasting, you’ll find that within three days or so, your cravings will be gone, you’ll lose some weight, and you’ll be less bloated and gassy.

I also sleep better, heal better, and perform better on my workouts when following an intermittent fasting schedule – so it’s a great habit that feeds other habits. Give it a try!

5.) Journaling –

Another habit that I personally want to incorporate more is a journaling practice.

This can be as simple as reviewing 3-5 things that you are grateful for each day (large and small) – it can also means reflecting on what went well during the day, what didn’t, and what you will do differently next time.

When I have journaled I have found it much easier to stick with priorities and “keep first things first”. It has helped me become a better husband, friend, and business owner. It also helps to capstone my day and evaluate my progress along the small goals I set for myself.

I use yellow legal notepads, and I also use Evernote. I can review the handwritten notes, highlight the things I want to remember, or simply take a picture of the notes and enter them into Evernote that way. I do this for receipts, research articles, and more.

My wife enjoys the The 5-minute Journal – which is also a favorite in the self-help community., I journal at night after I turn off the wifi and sign-off from devices. 

You manage what you measure, and so you can also track career, fitness, and relationship goals and progress with your journaling habit.

Which brings us to number 6…

Hand with marker writing the word Goal Acronym

6.) Goal Setting – 

When we talk loosely about “success” – really we’re talking about “happiness”.

Humans are happy when they’re seeking something. The reward-seeking hormone dopamine is more of a motivation neurotransmitter. 

If you lack motivation – you are in need of better goals to drive you forward.

Constant never-ending improvement is a guiding philosophy for your health, relationships, and career.

If you do not have your own goals small and large, you end up fulfilling someone else’s goals.

We’re all going to face challenges, obstacles, and disappointments, I can PROMISE you that.

When you’re constantly working toward something (and setting new goals as you approach a goal achievement), it breaks of the monotony of day-to-day life.

Purposeful goal-setting turns life into a fun game where you get to test cool strategies and habits for yourself.

Goal-setting allows you to choose your own problems.

  • Your response to a “problem” is going to be positive if it is something that you chose, or had control over (“good stress”);
  • Your response is going to be negative if the problem is a result of some external demand on you (bad stress).

Constant goal setting and refinement of those goals is a way to keep your stress on the “good” end of the spectrum!

Process vs. Outcome Goals

I tend to focus on
 “process” goals as opposed to “outcome” goals. 

Outcome goals are tricky because once you reach the outcome, you can fall back into old habits.

Outcome goals are okay only if you already have a new goal in line as you approach completion of that outcome. This keeps the momentum going forward and prevents yo-yo’ing back to where you started.

This will help ward off what psychologists call the “hedonic treadmill” where initial bursts of happiness naturally fall following  reaching of a milestone, a windfall of money, the “honeymoon” period of relationships, and more.

Alternatively, focus your goals on processes and habits. This will help you enjoy the journey – while also reaching benchmarks along the way.

There you have it! If you mimic those habits and techniques – how can your life satisfaction and joy do anything but improve?