How does success happen? Some say it’s just plain luck, but when you look at the habits of successful people, you know it’s more than mere happenstance. Successful people make smart choices and practice intentionality in almost everything they do. Sure, there are a few fortunate souls who stumble their way into success, but most get there through good habits.
Anyone can learn the habits that pave the way to success. It is true, however, that some people are pre-loaded with certain traits. But that doesn’t mean that they can’t learn something new. Pop psychology tells us that it takes 21 days to form a new habit. If you make a New Years Resolution, according to this calculation, we should all be hitting the gym at 6 a.m., munching on carrot paté at lunch, and relaxing with a glass of sparkling water before tucking into bed at 9 p.m. by Martin Luther King Day. So why don’t we?
Habits happen through repetition. They could be developed through effort in 21 days, but they could also be something you make a conscious decision to do every day for 21 years. You do this because that one habit makes your life better. It could be writing, meditating, or taking 15 minutes of me-time in the middle of a busy workday. Good habits provide good benefits. They also provide structure and routine to your life.
Psychologists find that routines are proven to help us during times of uncertainty and stress. If you want to improve your focus and productivity and increase your sense of control, add more good habits to your life.
What are the habits of successful people? There are entire books and many articles written on the subject. But there are a handful of habits that are nearly universally recognized as contributing to success. They are backed by scientific research, as well. Others just make good sense and are habits that successful people promote as contributing to their so-called good fortune.
Top athletes and entertainers, concert pianists, chess masters, and many other performers use visualization to picture themselves performing exactly as they have rehearsed. They set the stage for success in their minds and then execute in real time. There are business people who use visualization, as well. In fact, a TD Bank survey found that of the 20% of entrepreneurs who used a vision board when they first started their businesses, 76% experienced the success they envisioned.
What do Richard Branson, Sheryl Sandberg and Bill Gates have in common? They all carry notebooks with them everywhere they go, freely admitting to this seemingly obsolete habit. Branson says his notebook is his “secret life hack” and that having a notebook with him allows him to write down ideas when they come to him. Sandberg enjoys the personal satisfaction of ripping out a page when everything is crossed off her list. Several scientific studies make the case for writing by hand. Writing apparently evokes a process that is good for the brain, and even unlocks creativity, according to neuroscientist Claudia Aguirre.
Tom Corley, author of the book Change Your Habits, Change Your Life, conducted a study of self-made millionaires. He found that 88% of those surveyed read at least 30 minutes a day. Warren Buffet recommends reading at least 500 pages daily. Bill Gates, Mark Cuban and Elon Musk are all avid readers, as well. Cuban devotes three hours a day to the habit. Musk credits reading with helping him learn to build rockets.
Highly successful executives prioritize exercise. It’s typically what they do first thing in the morning before life gets in the way. Different types of exercise provide different benefits. In the book, The Scientific Guide to an Even Better You, researchers note that while weight lifting assists the prefrontal cortex of the brain with complex reasoning, yoga helps the frontal lobe with integrating thoughts and emotions.
It’s not great news for night owls, but it does make sense that early rising is a nearly universal habit of successful people. Some 90% of executives are up before 6 a.m. Apple CEO, Tim Cook is up at 4 a.m., followed by Michelle Obama at 4:30 a.m. For busy professionals, it gives them plenty of time to exercise, catch up on the news, meditate, eat breakfast, and get the kiddos off to school before appearing in the office at 9 a.m.
With such an early head start, the days turn out to be more productive. Plus, during the early hours, there are fewer distractions and the brain is at its most efficient. Harvard biologist Christopher Randler says early risers are more proactive, as well.
There’s a warm, fuzzy feeling that comes from doing good. And there’s research that backs that up. Altruism is good for you and can help your mental well-being. When you do nice things for others, the positive benefits may be far-reaching. Many successful business people make giving back a key component of their company culture. They actively invest in the communities that support them, mentor others, and donate their time and money to helping others, considering themselves fortunate to be able to do so.
Paying it forward, of course, does benefit businesses. If it becomes a cultural value, it can boost morale, inspire teamwork, engender loyalty, and attract employees and customers who share similar values.
You don’t have to completely overhaul your life to develop good habits. Tackle these habits over time and give yourself time to appreciate the positive benefits. This will give you the momentum to keep going and develop more habits geared toward success. Don’t procrastinate, though. Get started building these six “success habits” today. They will benefit you in the long run and help you achieve your goals sooner than you ever imagined.
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