We all want to be the most successful version of ourselves, whether it be a top athlete, business owner or a good mother. The most successful people have one thing in common: good habits. Bad habits cause stagnation and a sense of dissatisfaction, whereas good habits can help create a life that is full of purpose and accomplishment.
While having good habits will not make you perfect, because, let’s face it, no one is, practicing them will get you closer to your goals more than anything else.
Here are 10 of the most important habits of successful people. (You’ll notice that none of them are expensive or require drastic life changes, but when done together can result in big payoffs toward your goals.)
1. Be Specific with Your Goals
The way you describe your goals is going to have an impact on how successful you are at reaching them. Saying “I want to be happy” or “I want to be rich” is too vague. Successful people are not afraid to dig deep. Try asking yourself “Who? What? When? Where? Why” questions about your goals to help improve their specificity.
2. Be Persistent with Your Actions
Successful people fail. A lot. Success is not inevitable. Failure is. The more you can anticipate it, plan for it, and learn from it the more likely you are to keep going, which is the only way to succeed at anything.
3. Be Positive in Your Day
Cynicism is easy, especially in today’s world. But, successful people practice positivity and the result is that more people want to work with them.
4. Be an Excellent Listener
Successful people listen more than they speak in an effort to continue learning about the people around them, instead of using conversations as a way of reiterating their self-worth. Try filling any awkward silences with a question, instead of a personal anecdote.
5. Be Willing to Go Above and Beyond
If you want to meet your goals, whether it’s in business or your personal life, you’ve got to be willing to exceed expectations; go the extra mile. Thomas Edison once said, “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”
6. Be Diligent with Your Sleep Habits
Research has found that the human brain can only be at its best after a good night’s sleep. Bad sleep habits can cause our bodies to wear out. We also can suffer memory lapses and cognitive delays, become irritable and moody, and even resort to substance abuse. There are numerous ways to get a better night’s sleep. The best place to start is to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day.
7. Be Still
Studies have shown that meditation, when done properly, can alleviate depression, anxiety, and even pain. It can also improve the ability to focus and not get overwhelmed which is a common obstacle people face when moving toward their goals.
8. Be a Bookworm
Everyone from Bill Gates to Oprah Winfrey recommends reading to increase the likelihood of success. In 2015, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg pledged to read a book each week. No time for a trip to the library? Many have digital lending programs that allow you to check out books for free that can be read across a variety of digital devices.
9. Be a Planner
Set weekly and daily goals. Write them down and cross them off. Don’t get bogged down if you get behind, just keep going. Perfection is not the goal. Consistency is. Do the hardest things when you are at peak energy and focus, which for most means in the morning right after the coffee kicks in.
10. Be Active
Successful people from President Obama to Vogue’s Editor-in-Chief Anna Wintour look at exercise as a way to increase focus, attention, and alertness, among numerous other benefits. They prioritize exercise by scheduling it into their day, oftentimes first thing in the morning. (See #9.)
Not a morning person. No problem. It doesn’t matter when you exercise, what matters is that you do it consistently several times every week.
Most people will read this, get excited, and try doing all of these at once. Then they will get discouraged and give up, because it’s impossible to implement 10 new things simultaneously. The best way to achieve success at changing habits (after you’ve clearly defined what your goal is) is to implement them, one at a time, then build on it. Goal stacking, if you will.
For example, pick a goal from the list, like #6 “Be Diligent About Your Sleep Habits.” Let’s say you’ve decided to start waking up at 6 AM every day. Once you feel like you’ve mastered that - it takes three weeks or more - try stacking another goal on top of it, such as exercise, eating a healthy breakfast, or meditation.
Bottom line – It’s common to get frustrated at all that needs to be done to reach any large goal. If you focus on building good habits every day, you have a much better chance at success. Use these 10 habits to build whatever success means to you.
About the Author
I am a regular writer for Forbes, Inc., Huffington Post, Entrepreneur Media (among others), as well as CEO and Chairman of Alumnify Inc. Proud alum from 500 Startups and The University of San Diego. Follow me on Twitter @ajalumnify