how to create great habits

Heath Armstrong is a serial creative entrepreneur. He is the author of The Sweet Ass Journal to Develop Your Happiness Muscle in 100 Days. By adopting the habits of 100+ creative entrepreneurs, he was able to pay off $20,000 in debt, quit his job, sell all of his belongings, travel the world, and scale his e-commerce startup to over $600,000 in revenue in 2016.

In this stellar interview, we talk about Heath’s journey and what you can learn from his mistakes. We talk about the importance of meditation and gift-giving. We also talk about how to tackle large goals by choosing small daily “freedom actions.” Finally, we discuss how to develop lifelong success habits.

Heath met the turning point in his life when he woke up in his garage with a bloody nose, a bottle of whiskey in his hand, and his car running on his lawn. He didn’t know how he got there. In that moment, Heath made a decision that he was going to transition to a better life.

The first person Heath reached out to was Amber Ludwig-Vilhauer, founder of No Guts No Glory Enterprises. She introduced him to Paul Kemp and Hal Elrod. Hal helped Heath develop a morning routine.

Shortly after that, Heath started a podcast where he interviewed successful people. Over the course of conducting 100 interviews, he began to slowly reframe his habits.

Personal and Business Habits Are Connected

In order to be successful in business, you have to create a personal foundation first. You have to be able to control the voices in your head telling you what you can and can’t do. You have to be able to set goals and work towards them.

The key to success is to develop habits that lead to success. If you’re a writer, you want to write every single day. If you want to run an Amazon store, you have to work on that every single day and study the metrics that lead to success.

Heath hired a financial coach to help him develop good money habits. That expense—and the expert’s insights—helped him pay off his debts in short order.

In the process of developing those financial habits, Heath took a minimalist challenge and sold almost all of his possessions. Minimalism became an obsession for Heath. He sold his house and is location independent.

Heath met a mentor who taught him how to open a store on Amazon. Heath saw the potential there and created an automated business that supports his lifestyle.

Heath is planning a month of travels completely paid for by his automated Amazon store. None of it would’ve been possible without his focus on personal change and building a personal foundation.

The Importance of Having a Personal Foundation for Success

Heath tried several different things before focusing on his personal development and habits. Every business opportunity Heath jumped into before building a personal foundation of disipline didn’t work.

You have to be disciplined, methodical, and committed to doing what it takes to succeed if you want to achieve success. You have to know what success means to you.

You have to know what you’re aiming for, and you have to go after it every single day. That’s the only sure way to succeed.

Learn from Heath’s Mistakes

When Heath was younger, he started a WordPress website business with a friend from high school without putting too much thought into it.

Heath and his friend were able to secure a website contract with a Holiday Inn location. The Holiday Inn paid them $8,000 for the website, half of which was Heath’s.

He quit his 9-to-5 job after landing that first big contract and allowed his bank account to dwindle. Even though he knew he should try to find more clients, he spent his time going out and having fun. One day, he woke up to find the business bank account was empty.

After talking with the banks, Heath found out that his partner had withdrawn all of the funds through ATM withdrawals for personal use. He realized he made a mistake in opening the business with a friend without considering the trust levels.

Heath’s mistake was believing that his 9-to-5 job held him back from realizing his true potential.

how to use a day job to create your perfect career

“When you have a job, it is your platform that allows you to support yourself while you create something that helps you shine a little brighter.”

– Heath Armstrong

Everything you do and learn in life is connected to everything else. If you sit down and make a list of everything you’ve learned or experienced in your life, you will quickly see that everything you thought of as negative is connected to something positive.

Tom’s Timeline Exercise

Another way to do this is to create a timeline of your life. Write down all the important events you’ve experienced.

I have different timelines for different areas of my life. I have a timeline for:

  • Health
  • Relationships
  • Finances
  • Hobbies
  • Social life

When you do this exercise, it gives you perspective. You can look at the past and see how life is full of ups and downs.

So if you’re at a low point right now, you can see that things are bound to shift to an upward trajectory based on your own past experience.

Heath’s Favorite Habits

Great habits are essential to your success, no matter what part of your life you’re focusing on. Let’s look at some of the habits that Health swears by.

The Importance of Meditation as a Daily Practice

“If you want to find God, find the space in between your thoughts.”

– Heath Armstrong

If you want to be successful, you have to be able to control your mindset and that’s what meditation allows you to do.

Check out this article for ways to get started with mindfulness meditation today:

Heath’s Productivity Hack

There are two reasons people fail to meet their productivity goals: either they aren’t motivated to actually do what they say they want to do, or their overwhelmed by the sheer amount of action they have to take.

Heath began to find exponential success when he made a list of all the goals he wanted to achieve in the next 100 days. Then he resolved to do two things every day that led to achieving his goals.

This established the habit of productivity and created a success loop where he felt like a success every single day just for doing small tasks.

To create his system, Heath used 3 x 5 cards. On one side of each card he would write the end date for his 100-day vision every day. On the other side of the card he would write the two actions he wanted to accomplish before anything else on that day.

He knew that if he accomplished two actions every single day that actually moved him towards his 100-day vision, at the very least he would be moving towards the person he wanted to be.

The Importance of Affirmations and Celebrating Wins

Heath writes down everything good that he does, and every win that he achieved during the day before he goes to sleep.

Reminding yourself of what’s gone right and what you’ve accomplished is very important to maintaining a positive mental outlook and increasing your self-esteem.

“Focus on who you are and who you’re becoming instead of the results. When you focus on results, you’re focusing on things that may not happen on your timeline. When you focus on becoming a better person, you can see those results every day.”

– Tom Corson Knowles

Gift-Giving Gives You the Greatest Feeling of Bliss

Out of all the habits Heath has cultivated, the habit of giving gifts gives him the greatest feeling of bliss.

Cami Walker has a book, 29 Gifts: How a Month of Giving Can Change Your Life, in which she challenges the reader to give away one thing a day for 30 days.

It doesn’t have to be money. It doesn’t have to be for other people. It can be a gift to yourself. You can take a day off from checking your email or going on social media.

Some years ago, Heath was in the middle of his first gift-giving month when he sold his fridge on Craigslist to a father and son who drove from Cincinnati, Ohio, to Lexington, Kentucky, to get it. In the middle of helping them load the fridge into their car, Heath got a strange feeling that he should just give them their money back. So that’s what he did.

At first the men were confused and thought he was crazy. He found out after talking to them that they decided to buy the fridge for somebody in need. They had decided to give a gift before Heath entered the picture.

This is one example of how generosity and gift-giving can touch multiple people.

When Heath started giving things away, he noticed odd things happening. One of the first things he gave away was all his alcohol. His mother-in-law offered to bring over a keg shortly after he’d gotten rid of the last of his alcohol. Heath politely declined the offer.

Shortly thereafter, Heath decided to bring some old instruments over to a kids’ charity. The music teacher was happy with the guitar but her eyes lit up when she saw that Heath had brought a cello.

It turns out there was one little girl there who only wanted to play the cello. The charity had at least two of most instruments so that the children could take their chosen instrument home and practice. But the charity only had one cello, so the girl wasn’t able to take it home and practice. Thanks to Heath’s gift, she would be able to take a cello home to practice with. It’s those types of experiences that give Heath a real high.

Heath has also noticed that when he gives money to charity, he usually soon gets some sort of financial windfall.

Make a habit of giving gifts whenever you can, and log what you give them and what comes back to you. You should never give a gift expecting something in return, but if you keep a record, you may be surprised at what you get from the universe for being generous.

More doors will open to you…doors you didn’t even know were there.

Giving gifts makes you happier, more productive, and more motivated. You’ll get where you want to go faster the more you’re willing to give of yourself and your resources.

How To Use a Journal for Self-Improvement

Heath used to have multiple journals that he used to track different things. He was encouraged by others to merge his journals into a system that anyone could use. The tipping point for Heath was when his dog peed on all of his journals and he had to start fresh with a simple spiral notebook. That’s when he merged all the things he was tracking into one system.

There’s a few steps to using Heath’s journal system.

Step 1: Define Three 100-Day Visions for Your Life

Heath creates 100-day visions for his life because they are trackable.

He borrowed the 100-day timeframe from Honorée Corder and her 100-day massive action planner.

At the beginning of the journal, you set three visions. Heath likes to set one business vision, one personal vision, and one oddball vision, like a new skill you want to learn or hobby you want to take up.

Some people do all business visions. Some people do all personal visions. If you are in a place where you do not have business or a personal foundation, like Heath was when he started, he recommends you set three personal goals to start building your foundation. That’s what he did.

Step 2: Manage Your Daily Actions

After you define your goals for the next hundred days, the meat of the journal is a daily planner.

You start the day with gratitude. You end the day with reflection. So there’s a place in the journal to record things that make you smile every day.

Step 3: Develop Lifelong Habits One Day at a Time

There is a section in the journal for gratitude. The journal also has sections for habit-forming activities.

There is a section for daily idea generation, for example. Every day you pick a theme for your ideas and generate ideas based on your theme.

Because Heath is planning a trip to Uganda, his recent list of ideas was about things to do in Uganda.

From there, you decide on two freedom actions per day. These freedom actions are designed to move you closer to one of your three visions for the next hundred days.

After that, the journal gets into minimalism and gift-giving. Heath tries to get rid of one thing a day. It doesn’t have to be a physical item. It could be cleaning out your email or organizing your music collection.

It can also be a physical thing, because our things tend to own us more than we own them.

Step 4: Use the Nighttime Part of the Journal to Reflect on Your Day and Life

The nighttime part of the journal is all about reflection. Here is where you’ll write down:

  • Everything you accomplished that day. This can be as simple as brushing your teeth or getting out of bed. If it moves you forward in the pursuit of your goals, you should write it down.
  • Your wins for the day.
  • Your abundance list. This is a reminder to count your blessings.
  • Your freedom actions for the next day.

If you plan your freedom actions for tomorrow before you go to bed, you will sleep better and your subconscious will be working on how to get your freedom actions done efficiently while you sleep.

The whole point of the nighttime section of the journal is to set your mind up for the next day.

There’s a section within the nighttime part of the journal where you check in and grade yourself on how well you did on your important habits. You grade yourself by smiley faces so it’s not overly judgmental.

The whole point of the journal is to try and make yourself just 1% better every day. If you can do that, there’s no telling how much you can achieve.

The Journal Is Undated for a Reason

Heath doesn’t journal for 100 sequential days. He feels like putting dates on the journal would put some people into a straitjacket and make them feel bad on those days when they inevitably miss recording their day.

The system isn’t supposed to be a straitjacket. It’s supposed to help people facilitate their transformations.

Don’t get too caught up in doing things “right” or every single minute of every day. Do what works for you and what moves you towards your goals.

What’s right is what’s right for you, right now.

Links and Resources Mentioned in This Episode – this is where you can find the Sweet Ass Journal – Heath’s website — sign up for Heath’s email list and get the audio version of the Sweet Ass Journal, as well as a checklist for creating your sacred space

The Sweet Ass Journal to Develop Your Happiness Muscle in 100 Days – this book has a ton of free resources designed to help you change your life

The Artsy Now Show: Creative Entrepreneurs – Artists – Musicians – Digital Nomads – Heath’s podcast. He interviews all kinds of creative people

The Five Minute Journal: A Happier You in 5 Minutes a Day – one of the many journals Heath models in his approach

29 Gifts: How a Month of Giving Can Change Your Life by Cami Walker

Become An Idea Machine: Because Ideas Are the Currency of the 21st Century by Claudia and James Altucher


For more on how to build and maintain great habits, read on: