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Five Personal Habits That Can Change Your Life and Career

Remember the days when your mom had to nag you to make your bed? It turns out that she may have been on to something.

Researchers are uncovering that our habits, both good and bad, can have a powerful effect on our lives. In his book, The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg emphasizes what scientists call keystone habits. He describes keystone habits as routines that “influence how we work, eat, play, live, spend and communicate. Changing or establishing a positive keystone habit can trigger a chain reaction that leads to other good habits.

Here are two examples of keystone habits that Duhigg reports can lead to positive changes:

1.  Make Your Bed Daily. 

Five Personal Habits of Successful Nurses: Making Your BedWhat better way to begin the day--or evening, for night-shift nurses? The simple, three-minute task of making your bed daily is shown to increase productivity, happiness, and, surprisingly, the ability to stick to a budget. If you don’t already make your bed every day, try it for a couple of weeks and see if you find yourself making positive changes elsewhere.

2.  Exercise Regularly.

This particular habit can have a far-reaching impact. Even a once-a-week workout can move people toward eating better, becoming more productive, feeling less stressed, showing more patience, smoking less, and using credit cards more infrequently. It isn’t clear why one habit can reverberate into so many areas of an individual’s life, but it is encouraging that focusing on change can have multiple benefits.

Duhigg encourages individuals to find their own keystone habits; for you, it might be cooking at home a few times each week and insisting everyone has dinner around the table--which studies have shown can lead to healthier eating and stronger family relationships.

Jennie Turton, certified life coach and owner of Invigorate Life Coaching, recommends establishing the following good habits as ways to transform both your personal and professional life:

Jennie Turton, owner of Invigorate Life Coaching

3.  Dress for Success.

“Even when your uniform is  scrubs, you can still find ways to express yourself.  Perhaps it is investing in some quality cosmetics or jewelry that helps you feel like you. Get a manicure or a fresh haircut. When you feel good about your appearance, your confidence and self-esteem are boosted,” Turton explained.

4.  Take Positive Action to Overcome Negative Thoughts. 

“To gain an awareness of your negative thoughts, I recommend jotting a note in your phone when you have one of those thoughts and then look for repetitions” recommended Turton. At the end of the day, you may notice a pattern of thoughts like, “I don’t think I can pay my bills.”

By identifying these negative thoughts, you can direct active energy, rather than passive, to dealing with them. Perhaps you can solve the problem yourself or you may need to reach out to a coach, counselor, or another expert. Turton asserts that doing nothing will continue to drain your energy.

“Choosing to engage with negative energy often causes it to dissipate quickly,” she added. “You can’t just tell your brain to ‘Think positively’ or say ‘Everything will be okay,’ when you feel like it won’t be.  When you lie to your brain like that it creates the fight-or-flight response.”

Remembering something positive can help, though. Turton explains that reciting a mantra or scripture verse can be helpful if you repeat the words as a legitimate reminder of a positive experience.

5.  Regularly Assess and Align Your Values.

“Do a quick check-in with how much your use of money, time, and energy is aligning with your most important values,” Turton began. “Jot down the five things that are most important to you this year, this month, or this week. Check to see how much of you is being directed towards those five things. What you focus on and invest in grows, so make sure that you are happy with what you're growing!”

Turton suggests that you consider what you want people to say about you at the end of your life. What do you want to be known for? And what is on your bucket list--what, out of sheer delight, do you want to do in your life?

“When you have narrowed in on the five things that are most important to you, ask, ‘What do I have planned this year, this month, or this week that is going to get me there?’” she said.

“Another good question to ask is, ‘Where am I feeling energized and where am I feeling drained?’” Turton continued. “It is likely that what drains you either is not within your values or is out of balance.” Balance is vital; you don’t want one of your core values to get lost in the shuffle or to take over all of your time, she explained. This balance will change from season to season, but each core value needs tending to at some level.

This is not an exhaustive list of good habits for successful nurses, but it can get you started. Since multiple positive behaviors can spring from developing one good habit, start by picking just one that seems attractive and attainable to you. Once you have mastered that habit, consider pursuing another.


Ready to break some old habits and try something new? Contact AMN Healthcare today to discover how our travel nurse assignments and award-winning placement services could change your career for the better.

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