It can be easy to look up to well-known, successful people and ascribe something mystical to what they’ve been able to achieve. Yet, when it comes down to it, a lot of the mystery of success is cultivated in everyday habits.
More than 40 percent of what you do in a day is by habit, so it follows that these regular routines play a key role in success.
Fortunately, research has helped to find some key practices that are common to highly effective people. Some are embedded in routines and others in mindsets, but by becoming ingrained and automatic, these seven habits can have a powerful overall effect. So, what exactly are the highly successful doing each day and how can you get in on it?
1. They exercise
Exercise is one of those things that delivers huge benefits on pretty much any success metric – whether this be academic, social, mental or physical health. Yet, despite its clear advantages in numerous domains, its something that we often put off. We tell ourselves we don’t have the time or the energy; yet this neglects research that demonstrates that exercise helps us to feel more productive, more creative and more energised.
So rather than thinking of exercise purely in terms of fitness or physical health, think of it as a key factor in getting you in the right zone to achieve your goals.
2. They start their day focused
It’s an all-too-common habit to wake up in the morning, roll over to your phone and check Facebook. Then, when you get to work, the first thing you do is check emails. This is a bad idea. Your frame of mind in the morning helps prepare you for the day ahead. If you start the day distracted, this sets you up for remaining unfocused for the rest of your day.
Successful people begin their mornings doing something focused and productive, whether it be meditating, exercising or reading. When they start work, they begin with the hard tasks that require the greatest degree of concentration. They know that mornings are a precious resource – for most people, it’s the time of the day that when they are most focused – and they don’t waste it.
3. They strategise
Successful people don’t wait around for the world to give them the right opportunity to achieve their dreams – they make it happen. They set goals, break them down and visualise the steps necessary to make them happen. They write them down and think about them at night.
Their goals aren’t abstract fantasies, they are problems to be solved, which require proactive focus and attention.
4. They read
Reading isn’t just an enjoyable pastime, it’s an important ingredient to success. It’s no coincidence that some of the most successful people claim to be avid readers (think Barack Obama, Mark Cuban and Bill Gates) and that 75 percent of self-made millionaires report reading at least one book a month.
Most people have a ‘bubble’, both of people they interact with and situations they come across. Reading helps you to extend beyond your bubble, exposing you to new knowledge, perspectives and insights. This, in turn, aids your ability to synthesise material, think creatively and approach problems from new angles.
5. They build strong relationships
It’s a myth that to be successful, you need to be ruthless or completely self-serving. In fact, a Harvard study found that 85 percent of professional success comes down to people skills.
The reality is, we depend on the support of others to succeed.
While building strong relationships may not seem like a ‘habit’ at first glance, it’s composed of a lot of ‘micro-habits’. These include things like listening to others, admitting to mistakes and genuinely valuing every relationship you form (not just the ones that bring you obvious benefits). These skills may come more naturally to some people more than others, but like anything, the more conscious effort you put into them, the more habitual they will become.
6. They know when to say ‘Yes’
When given opportunities outside of our comfort zone and the risk of potential failure looms, it can be all too easy to turn opportunities down. We convince ourselves that we don’t have the right skills for the job, we won’t be able to deliver, we’ll fail, or any one of a number of other excuses.
What we forget, however, is that risk can also bring reward. When a worthwhile opportunity appears, successful people don’t let self-limiting beliefs get in the way. They understand that you never go into a situation with complete knowledge of what it’s going to be like. They go in willing to learn from their mistakes, prepared to adapt and open to figuring it out as they go.
7. They introspect
Elon Musk is quoted as saying,
“I think it's very important to have a feedback loop, where you're constantly thinking about what you've done and how you could be doing it better. I think that's the single best piece of advice: constantly think about how you could be doing things better and questioning yourself."
This quote sums up a crucially distinguishing factor in those that succeed: successful people have a growth mindset. In fact, Stanford researcher Carol Dweck found a significant difference in the learning and success of those that had a fixed mindset (seeing certain traits or abilities as unchangeable), compared to those that had a growth mindset, driven by the desire to improve.
Moreover, as Dweck argues and Musk’s quote suggests, a growth mindset is something that can be cultivated. Brainstorm further steps for every goal accomplished, find daily opportunities for introspection and even keep a journal if it helps to concretise your reflections.
Whatever you do. Go wild.
The world needs what you've got.
Share this with someone who's on their way...or your protege. #getit