11 Best Habits for Personal Growth and Success as a Student

by Jalen & Sarah Bromley

Most major breakthroughs in life trace back to daily habits. Graduating from medical school demands a frequent studying habit rather than a single fantastic study session, while becoming a world-class athlete requires making sensible choices about diet and lifestyle every day. Duke University researchers found that 40% of our daily behaviors come down to habit — if we can develop the right habits, we have the power to reshape our lives for the better. 

Whether that sounds like a goal worth pursuing or not, you’re in the right place. We’ve identified the 11 best daily habits for personal growth and success, along with some tips to help with adoption.

Benefits of continuous self-improvement 

Self-improvement sometimes gets a bad reputation for its associations with “hustle culture.” Some see productivity as a toxic obsession with work; but done right, self-improvement is about being intentional with your life. Not working yourself to the bone.

Productivity aims to help you boost your quality of life and use your time more efficiently so you can dedicate it to the things you care about the most. You might want to optimize your schedule to fit in more of your favorite activities, or maybe you want to improve your language skills to immerse yourself in different countries and cultures. Similarly, nurturing a growth mindset through self-improvement helps you to reach your full potential instead of self-sabotaging, allowing you to enjoy life more.

Self-improvement is a broad category that can include everything from work ambitions to creative hobbies, but general benefits of it include:

  • Sense of direction and purpose
  • Career advancement 
  • Self-awareness
  • Confidence
  • Health and well-being
  • Adaptability and resilience 
  • Creativity
  • Positive influence on others
  • More knowledge and experiences

Best daily habits for personal growth and success

Everyone can benefit from implementing daily habits that foster continual self-improvement, but that doesn’t mean everyone’s daily routine must look the same. That’s why we’ve identified 11 different habits that you can choose between depending on your interests.

However, they all have one thing in common: They’re all meant to fill your day with intention and positivity.

1. Meditation

Meditation gets no shortage of attention, yet it’s often misunderstood. Some people think they need to make their mind blank and get rid of all thoughts when they meditate, and others believe they need to follow some complicated technique to do it “properly.”

There are many different approaches to meditation, but it definitely isn’t complex, and it certainly doesn’t require you to magically eliminate all your thoughts. At a second glance, meditation is about being aware of what you’re thinking. The aim is to notice your thoughts without getting caught up in them (although this will be impossible when you first start, so stay calm and bring your attention back to your thoughts whenever your mind wanders). 

Many people find it easier to retain focus by turning their attention to their breathing. Another option is to follow a guided meditation — there are plenty of free tutorials on YouTube.

Think of meditation as a chance to set aside time to focus on your mental and physical well-being instead of getting caught up in your day. When you sit down and do absolutely nothing, you may be surprised by the bodily pains that had gone unnoticed or the negative thoughts plaguing your mind. Try setting aside five minutes daily, at the same time each day, and gradually increasing that to 20 minutes.

2. Planning the day ahead

If you prefer a more practical habit, you’d struggle to find something more pragmatic than making a plan. Many people find that taking a few minutes in the morning to plan their schedule and goals helps them to clear their heads and feel more motivated.

This can take a few different forms. Some people like to make a to-do list where they simply list everything they want to do on a given day. You may also write down your most important task for the day (which you will tackle first), followed by a list of less essential tasks you will work on after.

Other people might want to create a plan that blocks their time in a more regimented way. For instance, you could write down your schedule for the day, outlining what you will do during different time chunks.

3. Journaling

If you like the idea of using the morning as an opportunity to self-reflect but you’re not so keen on planning your day, try journaling. This could mean taking pen to paper or using a virtual journaling tool such as Notion or Evernote. 

Perhaps the simplest approach is to use journaling as an opportunity to get all of the clutter out of your mind — write the first things that come into your head until you have nothing left to say. In “The Artist’s Way,” Julia Cameron terms this morning pages and credits them as a great way to water your creativity. 

If you prefer something less time-consuming, you could try bullet journaling. This method outlines a complete system that allows you to get the most functionality of journaling in the least amount of time through “rapid logging,” which involves using symbols and short sentences to get across your points. Bullet journaling can be a tool to self-reflect, set goals, manage tasks, and more.

Another useful technique is questioning yourself. Answering the same set of questions each day about how you’re feeling, what you want to achieve, or your life ambitions can center your focus and allow you to be more cognizant about said themes in the present. 

4. Affirmations

Want to start your day with a short and simple way to skyrocket your positivity? Affirmations might be the habit for you. This involves repeating a phrase that’s meaningful for you, such as something you want to achieve or a reversal of a limiting belief you have (e.g., “I am confident” if you have low self-esteem). 

Some people say affirmations out loud in front of a mirror, while others prefer to close their eyes and say them inside their own heads. 

The most important thing is to stay focused in the moment and pay attention to whatever you’re saying so that you can start to believe it. Set aside a five- or ten-minute timer, and stay present while you repeat your affirmation. 

The first few times you practice,  you will likely feel silly and like they’re not having any tangible impact on you. But persevere, and you will gradually start to believe what you’re telling yourself.

5. Visualization 

Visualization has a similar aim and approach to affirmations, but instead of repeating phrases to yourself, you envision certain things happening.  If you want to become a successful entrepreneur, you might visualize your day-to-day life after achieving this. What kind of person will you become, what will your daily responsibilities look like, how will you give back to the world? 

Visualizing is much more intentional than daydreaming because you choose what to imagine based on your biggest goals and motivations. Through this process, the real you can slowly change the limiting beliefs holding you back from going after what you want. Set a timer for 5 or 10 minutes and stay focused on your visualization for the whole duration. 

6. Reading 

Learning is one of the best habits we can have for personal growth. By exposing ourselves to new ideas and perspectives, we can become more creative, understand the world and people better, and achieve more. You never know when a book you read will become relevant in your work —  whether that’s because you have a boss who shares the same interest or something you learn about in a book becomes relevant to a new business or product.

For many people, reading is just something they do if they have the time — and it tends to fall by the wayside as soon as they get busy. By making reading a priority, you can get ahead of the crowd.  If you find it tough to sit and read a book, consider audiobooks instead. Building a reading habit has never been easier!

7. Working out

The benefits of doing exercise are so extensive they warrant an article of their own. Working out is good for our brains, our immune system, our bones, our sleep, our mental health, and probably just about anything related to the body or mind you can name. Yet it’s a habit many people struggle to build. Only around 28% of Americans exercise as much as guidelines recommend.

When most people think of working out, they instantly think of the gym, but there are so many different options. Try to pick something you enjoy enough to want to keep doing — whether that means joining a tennis club for the community or choosing a fun activity that doesn’t feel like exercise, such as dancing.

8. Walking

Working out has its benefits, but you might find that doing it every single day isn’t compatible with your lifestyle. Just because you can’t fit in a full daily workout, it doesn’t mean you have an excuse to go the whole day without exercising. Nobody is so busy they can’t fit in a 15-minute work each day, and walking carries many of the same benefits.

This kind of low-intensity cardiovascular exercise is great for your joints, circulation, and mood, yet won’t put a strain on your body.

Some people also use walks as an opportunity to listen to audiobooks or podcasts, which ticks off the reading habit we listed earlier. Two birds with one stone!

9. Practicing gratitude 

One of the greatest errors of humans is the phenomenon of hedonic adaptation: Our tendency to feel happy when we initially obtain something, then start to take it for granted over time as it becomes our new normal.  

For the sake of our well-being, it’s essential to appreciate what we have and what we’ve achieved so far — yet for most people, this is a challenge without intentionally including it as a daily habit.

You can include gratitude practice as a journaling exercise by setting aside a few minutes every day to write down a list of what you’re grateful for. Alternatively, you could set a timer, close your eyes, and imagine what you’re grateful for (in the style of a visualization). 

10. Breathing

We all breathe every day,  but proper breathing exercises are a fantastic way to manage stress and improve our mental health. 

One breathing method that has become popular in recent years is the Wim Hof method.  This is all about breathing through your chest rather than the upper part of the body, which most of us do by default —  you can check out a tutorial here. As well as reducing anxiety, many people report better mental clarity and improved energy levels.

Other breathing methods you can check out include holotropic breathing, 4-7-8 breathing, and alternate nostril breathing.

11. Working on relationships

Relationships don’t often make it onto lists about the best habits for success. Yet we all know that relationships are a huge contributor to our well-being, and that our network plays a significant role in our success. So doesn’t it make sense that working on our relationships should be something we prioritize to work toward our personal growth?

Implementing daily habits that improve our communication skills can be a game-changer for our success, and it’s also pretty enjoyable.

A few suggestions include:

  • Checking in with loved ones each morning
  • Talking to someone new each day
  • Practicing active listening in at least one conversation each day
  • Reflecting on your relationships at the end of each day

Tips for setting a daily intention-setting routine

We’ve now covered the best habits, but don’t underestimate the intricacies of pulling everything together to create the perfect routine. Below are some tips to help.

Setting SMART goals

If you spend enough time in the productivity world, you’re probably familiar with SMART goals already (we also cover it in our procrastination methods post). But if not, SMART goals are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timebound. 

This gives you a clear framework for achieving your goals and staying on track instead of setting yourself a vague objective such as “becoming a better communicator.”

Time management strategies

If you want to try out more than one of the habits we’ve recommended but feel like it would be impossible to fit all of them in, it may be time to turn some attention to time management strategies.

Some of the best ones include:

  • Pomodoro method
  • Time blocking 
  • Batching similar tasks together
  • Delegating where possible
  • Saying no to less important tasks
  • Using technology to automate where possible

Ensuring the basics 

No matter how efficient and optimized your daily habits are, there’s a limit to how far you can go if you don’t look after yourself along the way. Eating well improves your mental clarity and helps you avoid brain fog. Similarly, getting enough sleep keeps your brain functioning at optimum capacity.

If you know you’re currently not sleeping as much as you should or eating as well as you should, tackle these habits first. Think of them as your non-negotiable building blocks.

Holding yourself accountable

Even if you get everything right, starting a new routine is never easy. It’s oh-so-tempting to skip your standard routine for a day because you’re too busy, or to miss out on a couple of habits. This is why it’s so important to hold yourself accountable — you need extra checks in place to stop you from throwing it all away.

A habit tracker serves this purpose. This involves making a table that lists all the habits you’re trying to create — on any given day, you simply tick off the habits you did successfully. Seeing how consistent you’ve been serves as a motivator to retain your “streak.”

Seize the day

There’s not one universal approach to achieving personal growth and success, but all the daily habits outlined above are valid methods for self-mastery. Whether you’d prefer to focus on meditation or your relationships with others, be consistent and avoid common traps for failing to build habits, such as not getting enough sleep.

If you’re motivated to become the best version of yourself through continual self-improvement, you’re in good company. At Frugal Student, we publish regular articles related to personal development, especially in the financial sphere. To keep in the loop, subscribe to our email list.

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