16 habits to adopt now to get ahead of everyone else in 5 years

Imagine yourself 5 years from now. Do you see someone who has maximized their full potential? Do you see someone with a competitive edge?

We can’t predict our future accurately, but we can always prepare for it today.

I’ve compiled a list of simple yet powerful habits you can adopt now to set yourself up for professional and personal success.

The key is to strive for progress, not perfection. With consistency and hard work, you’ll feel empowered to thrive and live the life you want.

Let’s start with this first habit that will keep you healthy in the long run.

1) Get active

We all know that exercise is a great way to improve our mood, protect ourselves from various diseases, and combat anxiety and stress.

Yet, many of us fail to make exercise a part of our daily routine. Here are some tips to make it easier for you to move your body every day.

  • Do you love to walk, run, dance, or go biking? Do something you enjoy doing.
  • It’s best to exercise in the morning but choose a time you can commit to doing it each day.
  • Start small. I used to run for only five minutes a day. Now, I can run up to 20 minutes daily. Again, it pays off to be consistent. 

2) Eat (and drink) well

What and how you eat can affect your life. You need to fuel your body with healthy foods to keep up with a day’s demands.

Don’t worry if you can’t go vegan. The goal is to start with simple actions. Try these:

  • Have a meatless day of the week.
  • Add leafy greens to your sandwich.
  • Eat nuts instead of crackers or potato chips.
  • Take vitamins and supplements.
  • Drink 8 glasses of water every day.

3) Sleep well

If you’re always sleep-deprived, you won’t perform at your best. Making sleep a priority is one of the most effective things you can do for your brain, body, and quality of life. 

The National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults get at least 7 hours of sleep every night. Consistent good sleep will help you recover and recharge and have plenty of energy for a long day ahead. 

4) Practice mindfulness

Deep breathing exercises, journaling, and meditation — all these are mindfulness practices you can incorporate into your day to achieve mental clarity. 

It’s all about being fully present and aware of the moment. For example, spending a few minutes of quiet time alone every day — free from any distractions — will help you rewire your brain to protect solitude and personal reflection.

This allows you to let go of any stress and come back to who you really are and what’s important to you. 

Related: 9 traits of people who are genuinely happy in life

5) Calm negative self-talk

A little self-doubt and self-criticism are normal. Too much of it, however, can sabotage your chances of success.

Giving yourself a motivational pep talk will help you deal with your inner critic, focus on what you can control, and build your self-esteem.

Try this: Whenever a negative thought pops up and says “I’ll never be good enough,” reframe the narrative and tell yourself “I’m going to persevere until I succeed.” It makes a huge difference.

6) Increase your adaptability

Adaptability is a must-have skill in an ever-changing world. How flexible can you be? Do you embrace change and evolve with it?

Everyone can become more adaptable and proactive. You can do this by….

  • Asking questions, researching, and being open to new information.
  • Accepting more challenges and taking risks.
  • Looking for new opportunities to grow personally and professionally.

This brings me to my next point….

7) Cultivate your curiosity

Learning never stops for those who want to stay ahead of the game. Stay curious about people, innovations, and ideas.

Don’t be afraid to try new things — whether it’s a hobby, skill, or subject. Explore and find ways to break habits that you already have. This will help you expand your knowledge and abilities.

Plus, an insatiable desire for learning can create new excitement and helps you connect with others. 

8) Develop a growth mindset

Embracing failures as opportunities for growth is crucial to moving forward in life

Sure, you may find yourself repeatedly feeling defeated after every setback. But you shouldn’t believe that’s just the way you are.

With a growth mindset, you get the confidence in knowing that effort and learning make everything possible. 

You’ll see yourself as a ‘work in progress.’ When things get tough and you fail, your next steps are to reassess, adjust, and try again. 

9) Maintain a healthy relationship with tech

Simply put: Don’t let technology and social media take away most of your time and rule your day.

One of the best ways to make tech and social media work for you, not against you, is to set boundaries with them. 

It’s not always easy to adopt phone-free habits but it’s always worth it. You can start with these….

  • Don’t use your phone whenever you’re with family and friends.
  • Don’t text or call while walking or driving.
  • Stop scrolling one hour before bedtime.

10) Set realistic goals

Nothing can stop you from making progress if you have a clear sense of what you want to achieve.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s good to have big, scary goals that challenge you. 

But if you break your goals down into smaller, achievable steps, moving in the right direction and staying on track will be easier.

Start with setting your priorities for the day. This is good practice that will help you focus on doing the important things. 

11) Have a deep sense of purpose

Purpose — it’s something we create or do that is associated with a host of benefits to our mental, emotional, and physical well-being.

Having a deeper sense of purpose will help you feel the greatest satisfaction and fulfillment and make the greatest impact in whatever you do.

It’s about using your passions, talents, and skills to help others in a way that matters to you. It gives you the hope and optimism you need to overcome any obstacle that comes your way. 

12) Use your money wisely

Lay the groundwork for a financially healthy future by adopting these money-savvy habits:

  • Know how much money you’re bringing in and how much you’re spending every month.
  • Create and stick to a monthly budget.
  • Reduce your debts. Use your credit card responsibly.
  • Build your savings and emergency fund. Using promos or discount codes and skipping expensive meals can help you save money now so you can use it later.
  • Set concrete financial goals and put money toward them every month. 

13) Build strong relationships

Nurturing deep and positive relationships keep us happier and healthier, and helps us live longer, according to the Harvard Study of Adult Development.

And one of the best ways to strengthen the connections that matter to you is by building more empathy. Try these exercises to help you better understand the thoughts and feelings of the people around you.

  • Actively listen. Be fully present, ask thoughtful questions, and listen without judgment. 
  • Agree to disagree. Be open-minded and listen to the other person’s perspective.
  • Do one random act of kindness every day. 

14) Celebrate the tiny victories

Want to know an easy way to create happiness and feel good at any given moment? Give yourself a pat on the back or tell yourself “Great job!”

Any accomplishment, no matter how small, deserves to be recognized. It’s not just about the goal. It’s also about the journey.

So, be happy about the little progress made and celebrate those small wins. Your future self will thank you for it. 

15) Set healthy boundaries

Here’s a simple truth: You can’t say yes to everyone and everything.

If you don’t break this habit of saying ‘yes’ all the time, it’s a recipe for stress, burnout, and even depression. 

Asserting and protecting your ‘no’ is a powerful habit that will develop your discipline and self-control. 

It’s okay to turn down requests and commitments if they don’t align with your priorities and values and if they will only compromise your well-being.

16) Practice self-care

You can’t expect to be your ‘best self’ if you don’t put yourself first. Prioritize activities that nourish your mind, body, and spirit. This includes rest, relaxation, and downtime.

Most importantly, be kind to yourself. Building healthy habits takes time, so don’t beat yourself up for making mistakes. 

Take moments to ponder all that you’ve been through. Think about what you want and what you need to do to get what you want.

Keep your 5-year goals in sight and keep chasing after your dreams. 

Remember: it’s about consistency. The more you do something, the more likely you’re going to keep doing it. Before you know it, these will all be second nature to you. Here’s to a wiser, happier, and stronger you!

Maria Fatima Reyes

Fat Niebres is a freelance writer who loves to chase stories that matter. She finds meaning and inspiration in the mundane. When she's not writing, she's probably reading, eating, traveling, or having deep conversations with her husband. She brings her experience in broadcast, print, and NGO communications, and has been published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer and Inquirer.net.

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