The Treadmill Effect – The Daily Rituals of Extraordinary People

The Treadmill Effect - The Daily Rituals of Extraordinary People

“Curious things, habits. People themselves never knew they had them.”

Agatha Christie

Now, isn’t that a profound statement?


In a study conducted at Duke University back in 2006, researchers Neal, Wood, and Quinn found out that more than 45% of what we do each day is represented by habits; we are on autopilot half of our conscious lives; little active thinking is involved. Here’s what they said (direct quote):

Our own interest in habits has been fueled by the recognition that much of everyday action is characterized by repetition. In experience-sampling diary studies using both student and community samples, approximately 45% of everyday behaviors tended to be repeated in the same location almost everyday.

In these studies, people reported a heterogeneous set of actions that varied in habit strength, including reading the newspaper, exercising, and eating fast food.

This does not surprise me. If you’re familiar with the evolutionary perspective of the brain, you should know that what your brain wants to constantly do is to save energy. It runs by the law of the minimal effort or the path of least resistance.

The first few times when you learn to drive you actively engage your brain (neocortex) into the process. It’s very energy demanding and it’s tough because it implies that you are conscious of all of your movements: the steering wheel, the pedals, the shifter, your sight, etc.

However, as you do it more often, all these movements are transformed into habits and they are moved into the striatum, a much deeper region of the brain.

So, both good habits and bad habits find their way into the depths of your mind as they are created and reinforced for several times.

Tom Corley from RichHabits and the author of Rich Habits – The Daily Success Habits of Wealthy Individuals has conducted a 5 years research on 233 wealthy people and 128 poor people. It took an entire year to analyze the data and write the book on his findings.

Tom was interviewed by Dave Ramsey (a NY Times best selling author) and in this interview Tom points out 20 of the major differences in habits of wealthy and poor people.

Now, I would like to think of a wealthy person as that of being mentally wealthy, spiritually wealthy, physically wealthy (healthy) and financially wealthy. I personally don’t like rich and famous individuals that appear in the media and show-off their possessions.

To me, a wealthy person is someone like: Brian Tracy, Richard Branson, The Dalai Lama, Bill Gates, Martin Luther King Jr. and all other individuals who like to give back to the society and who are humble in their appearances.

Take a look at grandpa’ Warren Buffet for example. He’s one of the richest persons alive and he’s living in a small house in Omaha and he drives an average car. He’s the kind of example I like to promote.

Now to the habits (I arranged them this way because some correlate to one another):

Health and Productivity

1. 70% of the wealthy eat less than 300 kcals (calories) from junk food, while 97% of the poor eat more than 300 kcals. 23% of the wealthy people gamble, while 52% of the poor gamble. Click to Tweet

2. 76% of the wealthy engage in aerobic exercises 4days/week, while 23% of the poor do it. Click to Tweet

3. 44% of the wealthy wake up 3 hours before work starts, compared to the 3% of the poor people who do it. Click to Tweet

4. 67% of the wealthy watch 1 hour or less of TV/day, compared to the 23% of the poor people who do that (they watch more TV). Click to Tweet

5. 6% of the wealthy watch reality TV, while 78% of the poor people do it. Click to Tweet

My interpretation is that:

I think that good habits reinforce each other. If, for example, I tend to exercise everyday, then I will most likely engage in eating healthier as well. I will also have better sleeping routines. At least, that works for me.

Successful people are not time wasters. They appreciate and cherish time and they know that it is far more important than money. Do you think that the spiritual mentor Dalai Lama sits in front of the TV all day watching soap operas?

Long-term Orientation and Goals

6. 80% of the wealthy are extremely focused on one thing at a time, compared to the 12% of the poor people. Click to Tweet

7. 81% of the wealthy people maintain a to-do list, while only 19% of the poor people do that. Click to Tweet

8. 67% of the wealthy people write down their goals, compared to the 17% of the poor people who do it. Click to Tweet

My interpretation is that:

Tony Robbins (the motivational speaker) says that the first and most important principle to success in life is concentration of power, the ability to focus on a single thing at a time. This will drive all your mental and physical energy toward accomplishing that single goal.

Other success coaches such as Brian Tracy and Zig Ziglar, as well as Leo Babauta, the author of The Power of Less agree on the concentration of power principle.

Todo lists and goal writing are two subjects that I researched and practiced a lot. It’s more than a year now since I’ve started using todo lists (in which I write my daily, monthly, and yearly goals) and I can say that my life, in all its aspects, has improved tremendously.

I personally think that people who do not have todo lists or goals, they just go with the flow!

They are being carried wherever their wandering mind takes them. That is another facet of the law of minimal effort (living your life by inputting the minimum that is necessary to survive).

Commitment to the 3Ls (Life-Long Learning)

9. 63% of the wealthy people listen to audio books during commute to work, compared to the 5% of the poor people who do it. Click to Tweet

10. 88% of the wealthy read 30 minutes or more every day for education or career reasons, while only 2% of the poor people do that. Click to Tweet

11. 86% of the wealthy believe in life-long educational self-improvement, while 5% of the poor people believe in that. Click to Tweet

12. 86% of the wealthy people love to read, compared to the 26% of the poor people who love to read. Click to Tweet

My interpretation is that:

Why do you think that wealthy people have so little to 0 time for watching TV? Yeah, it’s because they read and develop themselves. Jim Rohn, one of my mentors, has said that:

“Wealthy people have huge libraries, while poor people have large TVs.” Click to Tweet

Audiobooks are great tools for learning. Brian Tracy likes to call the action of listening to audio books while driving as the University on Wheels because it has been said that the average person commutes to work and back home for more than 100 hours each an every year.

There are people who do it for several hundreds of hours every year. This is equal to the time spent on earning a University degree.

So, if you listen to audio books on the subjects that you are most interested in, you’re like earning a degree each an every year. You become an expert in a certain field.

Think about it:

Why not listening to audio books on your most loved subjects while driving, instead of inefficiently spending that time on listening to music or not listening to anything at all?

I started listening to audio books approximately two years ago. I’ve listened to more than 30 audio books each year since then. I do it whenever I’m not actively engaged into thinking, such as: when I cook, when I do chores around the house, when I commute from home to the gym, and in several other occasions.

If it weren’t for these audio books, I wouldn’t have known about: Charles Duhigg (and the power of habit), Joe Navarro (the ex-FBI agent, who is expert on body language), Brian Tracy, Tony Robbins, Eckhart Tolle (the spiritual teacher), the willpower instinct, Donald Trump, Robert Kiyosaki and the importance of financial education, as well as other subjects. I’ll elaborate more on the subject of audio books in a future post.

Social Success

13. 80% of the wealthy people make “happy birthday” calls, while only 11% of the poor people do it. Click to Tweet

14. 6% of the wealthy say what’s on their mind, while 69% of the poor do it. Click to Tweet

15. 79% of the wealthy people network 5 hours or more every month, while 16% of the poor people do it. Click to Tweet

My interpretation is that:

Doing personal happy birthday calls to people shows them that you really care about them. This will most likely create a positive attitude from them towards you.

The statistic says that very few wealthy people say what’s on their mind. I’d like to interpret it as these wealthy people do not act when their impulsive thinking kicks in, but rather they think and judge first and only then, if appropriate, they speak their mind;

I think that “less fortunate” people act impulsively, which will, most of the time, bring “bad luck” to them.

Also, wealthy and successful people know the importance of peering and creating a circle of positively reinforcing people. They know that success never comes individually but as a group.

Could Bill Gates have built Microsoft all by himself? I know he’s a very smart guy, but I’d question that he could have done it alone.

Could Zuckerberg grow Facebook to what it is today all by himself? I guess you know the answer.

Leaving a Legacy

16. 63% of the wealthy parents make their children read 2 or more non-fiction books a month, compared to the 3% of the poor parents who do it. Click to Tweet

17. 70% of the wealthy parents make their children volunteer 10 hours or more/month, compared to the 3% of the poor parents who do it. Click to Tweet

18. 74% of the wealthy parents teach good daily success habits to their children, compared to the 1% of the poor parents who do it. Click to Tweet

I know that many poor people (financially speaking) are focused on making it to the next day. They are so preoccupied and they often forget to teach their children the right stuff. The situation can be somehow understandable, but think of it this way:

Should these parents want their children to end up like them? I think there is no excuse for parents to not offer the best for their children.

If they cannot provide the material possessions their children dwell upon, they should at least guide their children to life-long education, teach them good values, and try to make them adopt positive habits.

It’s all about Mind Control

19. 84% of the wealthy people believe good habits create opportunity luck, while only 4% of the poor people believe so. Click to Tweet

20. 76% of the wealthy people believe bad habits create detrimental luck, while only 9% of the poor people believe so. Click to Tweet

Do you think that if you ask a person who almost ruined his life by gambling, he’ll tell you that he has created detrimental luck for him when gambling all of his money? Read Dale Carnegie and you’ll find out.


I believe that it’s becoming more and more clear that success is not encountered by chance; that really successful people have not been blessed by opportunity with the riches of life. Throughout history, many brave men and women have created their own success by adopting positive, self-reinforcing habits, by being persistent and by never giving up.

The blind is only the one who does not want to see. It’s always in your power to make a change. One change for the good, even the smallest, if it is persistent will become powerful and will drive other changes.

Stop complaining and start acting like a successful person. There is a dormant potential in each and every one of us. We have achieved and we will achieve the astonishing. It only depends on the time you want to devote for the astonishing to happen.

Now tell me what’s that negative habit that you want to change? Speak your mind (but think first) in either of the comment sections below and I’ll try to help you the best way that I can.


1. Tom Corley – Rich Habits: The Daily Success Habits of Wealthy Individuals.

2. Neal, D. T., Wood, W., & Quinn, J. M. (2006). Habits – A Repeat Performance. Current Directions in Psychological Science, Vol. 15, Nr. 4.

3. Leo Babauta – The Power of Less: The Fine Art of Limiting Yourself to the Essential

4. Brian Tracy – The Power of Self-Confidence

5. Charles Duhigg – The Power of Habit: Why we do what we do in Business and Life

6. Trafton, A. (2013). Breaking Habits before they start. MIT News.

Photos: here and here

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7 Responses to The Treadmill Effect – The Daily Rituals of Extraordinary People

  1. Jan Koch says:

    Great article Chris!
    I agree that habits are one of the most important aspects in life, but I didn’t know that they control almost half of our day.

    It’s interesting to see how habits from wealthy people and poor people differ, and I’m happy to see myself more inline with the wealthy habits, even though I’m not (yet) wealthy 😉

    For 2014 I’m going to build 12 new habits, one per month. January is all about writing 1k words daily, February will be about reading 1 hour every day and more important: implementing the new learned things.


    • Chris Chris says:

      That’s great Jan. But come to think of it: what will you do when you’d have to write 1k per day and also read 1 hour a day, + the other 10 good habits that you’ll gonna get this year.

      Think you’ll handle them?

  2. Great post, Chris 🙂

    Personal development is one of my favorite topics, so I am familiar with a few of the authors you mentioned – Charles Duhigg, Zig Zaglar, Joe Navarro and Leo Babauta.

    I liked how you analyzed the statistics. Liked you mentioned, poor people are trying to get through their day (that could be an excuse? But, they should try hard to help their children escape their fate. I suppose a few of them do, to the best of their abilities, but opportunities just don’t open for them, like it opens for rich and the middle class. But, that doesn’t mean life is easy for the wealthy or the middle class).

    I am experimenting with lot of my habits and routines (that’s all I did for the second half of 2013…now that I am back to college, it’s more of a challenge. Adjusting those new habits to go along with my college schedule).

    Anyways, thank you for sharing the post, Chris!

  3. Chris Chris says:

    Thanks J! 🙂
    One important thing that I got from all these authors is that you learn about other great authors as well. For example, Charles Duhigg mentions Joe Navarro’s book in one of his chapters. That’s how you can go from one great book to another great book and you dont have to worry about finding the next best read.

    Have you experienced this so far Jacob?

  4. adarsh says:

    its really inspiring

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