8 behaviors to adopt now to get ahead of everyone else in 5 years

Hey, you.

Yes, you. 

Can you do me a quick favor? 

Stop what you’re doing and imagine where you envision yourself five years down the road. Is Future You living up to your full potential personally and professionally? 

More, importantly, are you happy, healthy, and fulfilled? 

There’s no handy-dandy crystal ball to tell us what the future holds. But we can cultivate habits to ensure we’re prepared for whatever life might throw our way. 

The trick to developing new, positive habits is realizing you’re involved in a process, not an event. Steady forward motion is the goal, not perfection. If you’re consistent with your new behaviors, you can’t help but increase your odds of success no matter what you’re doing.

Here’s a list of simple habits that can improve your quality of life over the course of five years. It’s amazing how many of these tactics are simple common sense.  

1) Take care of your health

First and foremost, your health should always trump any other concerns or responsibilities. After all, if you don’t have your health nothing else really matters, does it?  

These are the three vital components to living a healthy lifestyle.

  • Get moving (off the couch!)
  • Healthy diet (unhand those Oreos!) 
  • Get enough ZZZZZs (log off TikTok!)

And please, take care of little problems before they become big problems. You need your body to be in tip-top condition to accomplish all you’ve set out to do, so be kind to it. 

2) Never stop learning

Imagine if you could get the time back you’ve spent binge-watching garbage TV and invest it in learning a new skill or educating yourself instead.


We literally have a world of information at our fingertips 24/7 through this magical thing called the internet. Laughing at memes is awesome, but learning is always ongoing for people who want to stay ahead of the curve. 

Resolve to dedicate at least 20 minutes a day to expanding your knowledge base by reading a book, watching an educational or instructional video on YouTube, or even considering an online course.

Your opportunities to learn and grow are limited only by your own lack of imagination and motivation. 

Keep your mind open to new ideas and experiences. This is key to staying ahead of the pack.  

3) Cut down on your electronics  

I always try to convince myself that scrolling social media relaxes me when that’s a big, fat, hilarious lie. I usually feel far worse than I did before logging on. 

Reading my news feeds can trigger my blood pressure and anxiety simultaneously, and they usually do. There’s nothing relaxing about being bombarded with negativity.

It’s not about completely unplugging from all your electronics permanently anyway, but instead finding that happy medium so you can enjoy the benefits of our digital landscape without needing a rubber room when you’re done. 

It won’t always be easy, but I have every faith in you. 

4) Set reachable goals

If you want to make steady progress towards achieving your goals, you need to have a clear sense of what exactly you hope to accomplish and make those goals doable.

Use the old tried-and-true trick of breaking your goals down into smaller steps, so you can avoid getting overwhelmed. Baby steps will help you keep moving in the right direction and make staying on track much easier.

It’s never a bad idea to set your priorities for the day ahead of time, either. I don’t know about you, but the less I have to mentally process before coffee, the better. 

5) Change up your morning routine 

My mornings begin with Alexa demanding I get out of my warm, cozy bed while I demand that my kid get out of his warm, cozy bed.

The circle of life. Beautiful in its way.

But then I found that starting the day mindfully rather than as a slave to chaos is definitely the way to go. It’s way better than mindless, unorganized panic. 

Try this. Before you check your emails or start answering texts, just sit quietly with the beverage of your choice. Focus on your breathing and listen to the sounds of nature.

Believe it or not, This one simple habit can set you up for a fulfilling and productive day.

And, if your neighbor ruins your bliss with their stupid leaf blower, retaliate with the first Van Halen album and report back here.

6) Learn to say no and mean it

Let’s be frank. Saying “no” when “yes” feels like the gateway to future opportunities is freaking hard.

Nevertheless, you need to start saying “no.”

Don’t worry. It gets easier with time. You’ll  find “no” isn’t about rejecting opportunities, it’s about deciding which ones warrant a “yes.” 

Trying to be everything to everyone leads to burnout and stress, and leaves little time to pursue our own interests and passions.

So, the next time you receive an invitation or opportunity, stop and ask yourself, “Do I have the bandwidth to accomplish this? Would I be better off napping? And why do I keep finding my reading glasses in the freezer?” 

Learning to say no makes room for the stuff you really care about, like finding your glasses. 

7) Get back to nature 

True story. 

I’m a city girl, born and bred. But as soon as I could, I moved to my father’s oh-so-rural hometown to become one with the forest. And I’ve never regretted it for one second. 

All the noise, traffic, and people in the city overstimulated me. I was irritable all the time. Sitting in the notorious Boston traffic, I’d be yelling, “Why do I live here????” into the void along with everyone else stuck on the southeast expressway.

When I finally took the jump and moved out to the country, it wasn’t long before my nervous system began to regulate itself and I felt semi-human again.      

I realize this isn’t an option, or even desirable, for everyone. Some people don’t like driving thirty minutes to the grocery store. I myself consider it a fair trade-off. But getting outside in natural surroundings as often as possible is a great idea. 

We are part of nature, not apart from it. When we immerse ourselves in the natural beauty around us, we can ground and center ourselves with ease. 

8) Don’t shy away from boredom

We live in a world where being constantly busy is a badge of honor, a testament to our drive and determination.  

Allowing ourselves to be bored seems rebellious, almost reckless. 

But boredom is where creativity is born. We cook up the most innovative ideas when we allow our minds to wander freely.

So embrace your boredom. Don’t feel the need to be occupied every waking moment. Our most fruitful “ah-ha!” moments happen in the stillness between frenetic activity.  

Try, try again

Like everyone else, I’ve done my fair share of messing up. I always felt inadequate and even foolish at the time, but 20/20 hindsight showed me I was learning something I wouldn’t have otherwise, had I not royally screwed up. 

Failure and success aren’t opposites, they’re both two sides of the same coin. Their interplay is how the universe nudges you in the right direction.  

And five years from now, you’ll be reaping all the benefits. 

Picture of Kathy Copeland Padden

Kathy Copeland Padden

Kathy Copeland Padden lives in a New England forest paradise with her cats, kid, and trusty laptop. She has been writing since age 8 and is such a pack rat she can back that up with physical evidence. Music is her solace and words are her drug, so her house is strewn with records and books. Watch your step.

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