5 Habits to Become An Independent Millennial

Our parents thought their baby boomer success would trickle right on down to us–that we’d all get to eat the fattened calf of the industrial economy forever. But somewhere between all the divorces, the alcoholism, and the evaporating jobs, we millennials put up a wall and said screw it. What’s the point in trying to succeed if we’re doomed to be as miserable as our parents?

Unfortunately for many of us, that mental wall has barricaded us inside our parents’ house…the last place a free-spirited millennial really wants to be.

That’s where I was a few years back.

I was 24, still living with my parents, haggling with my teenage sisters over who would pick up dog shit that weekend. I was the black sheep and I frickin’ hated it.

Although I knew I should’ve been grateful for everything my mom did—cooking, paying the bills, and giving me life—I was so focused on despising my situation and feeling hopeless that I couldn’t be grateful, and I couldn’t make progress towards a better life.

I got kicked out of the army and I dropped out of school. My first internet business went bust before I even had a chance. What could I do? I didn’t have the skills to pursue the career I wanted, and I lacked the discipline to hold down even a menial job.

Fast forward four years.

I’m 28 and writing this article from my own courtyard, which I’ve paid for through my writing and coaching business. The flowers are blooming, the sun is shining, and I’m writing because I’ve got hope to share–I have the secret to millennial independence. Are you ready for it?

The secret to millennial independence

In one short year I managed to take my passion and make a career of it. I’m currently a blogger for the world’s best websites, I get paid great money to write about the things I love, and I’ve used my success as a platform to teach others how to create their own success–I count Inc. 500 executives and Ivy League graduates as part of my coaching roster.

My growth curve almost defies logic. I was a slug—a couch potato who couldn’t flip burgers to save his life. Now I get paid up to $800 an hour to do the thing I love most. People who love my articles pay me thousands of bucks to mentor them. Yet just a few years ago, my dear Mom was practically wiping my ass for me.

The key?

Incremental change.

I was stuck at my mom’s because I had an unrealistic idea: I thought I needed to be successful immediately, and that if I didn’t have all the success I thought I should’ve had, that meant I was a failure. But that’s not how success works. Everyone has to start somewhere, no matter how low that place is.

You try and try every day, though, and you improve, and you keep trying even if you can’t see the results at first. If you keep trying, and if you refuse to give up, those fractional gains will add up to formidable chunks–like me with my first few writing gigs. In just a few months your life will be unrecognizable.

Keep going for a year.

You’ll be so far from where you started that the average person will just assume you are and always have been successful (or extremely lucky). But not you. You will have trekked and plodded and planned for 365 days straight to be who and where you want to be: an independent millennial, doing what you love and continually making progress.

Still living with your parents?

Okay, now you’re wondering: how do I actually do that? You’re living at your Mom’s house; your confidence and self-esteem aren’t exactly at all-time highs; and you have no idea where to get started.

The rest of this article is a breakdown of 5 habits that will make you an independent millennial within a year. Get a note-pad and pen handy, because you’re about to learn the exact steps that changed my life so dramatically, and that are the foundation for anyone who wants to make a major change in their lives.


Affirmations are what kicked off my self-improvement journey. Before I started them, I would try new things and hope for the best, but my subconscious steered me into another iceberg every time. Turns out, it’s really hard to succeed when you’re constantly telling yourself, “You suck, you suck, you’re gonna fail!” (Ha!)

After affirmations, though, I cultivated the self-esteem it took to stay on track with my goals and to persist past the inevitable hardships. If affirmations sound kinda new-age-y to you, they’re really not all that mystical: when you surround yourself with positivity, you’ll get positive results. When you fill your brain with can-do statements, you’ll finally see all the opportunities that were covered up by your formerly negative attitude.

On the other hand, if you have a subconscious buildup of negativity, as most people do, you’ll see everything in a disempowering light: like “poor me”, or “I could never do that. I’m not good enough.” Then when it comes time to act–which is every day!!–you’ll lack the confidence and courage to make consistent effort y0u need to thrive.

You can rewrite your subconscious dialogue with daily positive affirmations. (Print off the affirmation card below, and say them morning, noon and right before bed!)



Say these things to yourself in front of a mirror every morning. Add to them. Whatever you see negative about yourself, tell yourself the opposite.

For example, I always considered myself almost supernaturally irresponsible, so I needed to affirm responsibility and make it part of my identity before I could act responsibly–otherwise I’d continue to fulfill my own prophecy: “I’m so irresponsible.” Now I am responsible. I pay my rent on time. I pay back my debts, and I can be counted on by my friends and family. And it all started with having the courage to say good things about myself on a regular basis instead of talking trash.

Don’t just reserve affirmations for the morning, though: continue them throughout the day. When you have a spare moment for thinking, go back to the positives. When you start feeling like a failure, go back to the positives. If you make positivity your habitual thought pattern, that’s when you will act positive, accomplish your goals, and create a life worth living–far, far away from your Mom’s couch. Just stick with the affirmations and make it a ritual that you can commit to every day.


Your life what you focus on. If you are ungrateful about your situation and that’s all you think about (like how you’re still dependent on your parents, or how you don’t have money) that’s all you’ll experience; you’ll never change. But if you dig deep to find things to be grateful for, which everybody has in spades, gratitude will be your focus, your attitude will automatically adjust, and you will start generating more and more things to be grateful for through your positive actions.

Don’t think gratitude will work for you?

I was stuck at my parents’ because I lived in a constant state of regret. I didn’t have my girlfriend. Wahh. I didn’t have a job. Wahh. I lived with my freaking mom at 25. Wahh. Wahh wahh wahh wahh wahhhh! My whole life was one big wahh.

But then I started a gratitude practice because the alternative clearly wasn’t working. And, like clockwork, the more I practiced gratitude, the more grateful I became, the happier I became, and the more opportunities opened up for me to succeed. Really the opportunities had always been there, but my attitude of ingratitude had always prevented me from seeing them.

Now I take 30 minutes a day for gratitude. I sit down and reflect on all the blessings in my life; all the people who have helped me; all the things that make me healthy and happy; all the opportunities I have to do what I love and to make a living. And the more gratitude I express, the richer and happier I become.

I’m not always beaming like a maniac when I practice gratitude; oftentimes I’ll feel depressed or anxious. But I think grateful thoughts because it’s a ritual–and after a couple minute, my whole day shifts! I relax. I genuinely feel happy because I’m focusing on the good things in life, things that are always there, waiting for me to focus on them. Then I get the inspiration and motivation to do greater things that help more people and that make me more money–which are just more things to be grateful for. All I have to do is stay disciplined in the practice. And all you have to do is start!

So start your own gratitude practice. Kick it off with 10 minutes at first, once a day. Put your all into remembering and feeling the experiences you are grateful for, the miracles you’ve been blessed with, all the people who’ve loved you. If you’re attitude is really heavy, try going for a walk at the same time. It works!


3-Start planning out your day

You might think there are a million and one things wrong with you, that are keeping you from experiencing independence and success. But that’s not true. The only things preventing you from kicking ass and doing cool stuff are your daily decisions, which are completely under you control. You just need to start planning out the best decisions possible.

Most people make bad decisions for a lack of good options—such was my case. But when I gave myself a list of life-affirming decisions I could realistically do in a day, like writing, learning, exercising, etc, I started choosing the good ones. Why wouldn’t I?

Seeing the choices on paper made them easier in my mind—more concrete. When planning out my day became a habit, success became a habit too. And it’ll work the same for you.

So define the activities you can do every day to be more successful: like exercising, reading, studying, working, learning, playing, practicing, perfecting, interviewing, pitching, etc. Do everything that makes you a more balanced and productive human being, and write it down each morning. Then check off each item as you accomplish and congratulate your effort. Always remember to congratulate your effort–not the results. This builds resilience and self esteem.

I build my success rituals into my daily plan. I plan to encourage myself so many times. I plan to spend so many minutes journaling every day. I plan to write inspired for 2-4 hours every morning. I plan to edit. I plan to pitch. I plan to take care of my body and move naturally through the day. I plan to study my craft. I plan to work on projects that make money for me. I plan to do the things I need to be healthy—like eat certain foods, and take certain supplements. I plan to network with other entrepreneurs. I plan to do fun things like beach volleyball that keep me inspired. I plan to do my best.

And because I plan all of these things, I do them! It’s not rocket science.

Here’s the daily planning template I use for myself and for clients: 



Commit to the daily planning and execution of your weekly goals. Do it every day. And call me from your private island in 2 years—tell me how proud your parents are.


4-Eliminate your distractions

This article is mostly about proaction. But there are traps that can hold even the most disciplined person back, myself included. Facebook is one. Email is anothern’. So is twitter, and texting, and TV. And videogames. The worst of all is unrestricted Internet time.

If you don’t limit the reactive activities mentioned, they will limit you. That’s true for you and for anyone no matter their success level. It’s especially true for me–I recently had to straight up delete my Facebook because it was interfering with my daily productivity no matter how much I restricted it.

Now I perform at my peak all day every day as a habit. But, sometimes (rarely) I have off days. And when I reflect on the reasons for my off-ness, unrestricted technology is always the culprit.

I should see it coming every time! But, if I get a little lax, if I think, “Eh, screw it. I’ll just check Facebook before I’ve done what I need to. No harm,” I start a snowball of reactive decision making. By the end of the day I’ll have spent an hour chatting on Facebook and twitter, and another couple hours regretting the things I didn’t accomplish.

That’s why I plan to limit my internet time. I have to check email and texts for coaching clients, so I pencil in between one and three 5-minute checks, depending on the day. Some days I’ll do a technology fast when I need pure production.

You will enhance your productivity and decision-making 1000% in a week (I crunched the numbers) if you start limiting your technology today.

Promise yourself to accomplish a morning routine with gratitude and exercise, and to do a couple hours of real work before you check anything, even your phone. Prioritize your success rituals and the things that help you grow and profit above all else. And if you feel the need to catch up with loved ones or share something inspiring on social media, schedule in a limited amount of time for that later in the day. But remember: you have to limit your technology. Otherwise it will limit you.



You read it right. You need to play, damnit.

When I was first extracting myself from the cracks of mom’s couch, I went overboard with production, got burnt out, and fell right back into the couch. There is no worse feeling, and it’s totally preventable: all you need to do is schedule playtime to be a balanced human.

So figure out the things that recharge your battery. (If you need help finding your play, just reflect on what you loved as a child. Reflect on the things you’ve really been wanting to do.)

I need to play competitive beach volleyball 2-3x per week to feel energized and focused. I need to read fiction every day. I need to take my dog to the park and run around and be silly. I need to go rock climbing once a week or so. I need to play guitar every day. I need to listen to music—it’s like breathing for my ears.

All of these play activities keep me humming along at 100% productivity for the time I spend working. If I skip them, I start to feel a little dry. And when I flat out ignore them for any reason, I have mental hell to pay and I feel like I’m grinding my gears. I might get a lot of work done, but the quality isn’t what it could be, and I feel burnt out the next day.

My career really launched when I got responsible about playing enough.

I got real with myself and said “I need x amounts of x activities to be my best.” Then I scheduled the fun throughout my days and weeks, and, presto: I work less, but I earn more. I’m happier. I’m more available to my loved ones. I’m more resilient. And I love my life.

So get real about your needs for play. Then schedule play activities to break up your day and week. Commit to those as if you get paid to do them.

5.1- Exercise.
Exercise is hugely important for focus and productivity. Start your morning with at least twenty minutes of movement like walking, running, biking, weightlifting or calisthenics.Then get up every 30-45 minutes and walk, stretch, do calisthenics, or do what ever you want to get your body moving and your mind focused.

If you sit still all day, your brain will sit still, and so will your production. You are a human, mind and body, so pay attention to your body’s needs. If you feel a little out of focus, break away from work for a couple squats or a walk around the block.



If you’re still living with your parents and hating life, don’t worry—with this article, you have a definitive guide for all the changes you need to make. Just commit to the decisions that will keep you consistently focused, energized, and productive. Start an affirmation ritual. Start a gratitude ritual. Start a daily planner. Start exclusively encouraging yourself, and stop talking trash to yourself. Stop reacting to facebook and email. And make sure to have fun.

Now you have the raw materials to build your most successful year yet, and to finally become an independent millennial. Go out and get the life you want. And if you feel like you need help on your journey, check out my coaching program.



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Written by Daniel Dowling
As a former couch-surfing millennial turned solopreneur writer and coach, I write on massive personal development for sites including Entrepreneur, Fitbit and Fast Company, and I teach ambitious people how to become successful solopreneurs and balanced human beings here at Millennial Success. Thanks for spending your valuable time here with us!!