The habits of successful people are not complicated or special. That said, they do result in positive life outcomes. Given that our lives are ultimately a product of our habits, it makes sense that if we can modify our habits for the better, our careers and lives will follow suit.
If you continuously identify and cultivate positive new habits you can learn more, have more fun and set yourself up for success. I mean success in the way that you want it. Perhaps this is more money, more prestige or perhaps just a greater meaning out of life.
I’ve read countless (probably 100s?) of books about people who have achieved some level of greatness in their lives. I’ve also had the chance to meet and learn from others first hand. They all have many of the habits listed below. You would be well served to adopt a few of these habits of successful people.
Set clear priorities
Dr. Edward Banfield, a sociologist at Harvard University, building on more than fifty years of research, concluded that having a “long-term perspective” is the most accurate predictor of upward social and economic mobility. His findings in his book from the 1970’s, The Unheavenly City.
I challenge you to find anyone who is remarkably successful in their business or personal life that doesn’t have a clear set of priorities. They are probably written down, but if not, they can clearly tell you what they care about and why. There are no hemming and hawing and statements of “I don’t know what I want.”
In his outstanding business book, The Rockefeller Habits, Verne Harnish calls priorities a key component to mastering the habits for success in business.
Turns out, the same goes for living a success life. Everyone, from Bill Gates to The Pope, has priorities. Priorities focus energy and help busy people to manage their time and spend effort on the things that matter most.
Establish healthy routines
Companies flounder with a rhythm. Anyone in business knows this fact. Why then, do so many people lack a sense of rhythm to their daily lives outside of the required demands of work or school?
Routines include things like: setting aside time to handle personal matters during the word day, getting up early, going to sleep, making time to exercise or time-blocking important work tasks.
Routines give you structure and ease mental burdening of wondering when things will happen. Knowing there is a time to take care of something helps you not to think about it! The there is a science behind routines that you can study and apply to your own life to break bad routines and build good ones.
In The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg mentioned that inside the habit loop, resides a routine. The routine is like a key that allows the habit to live or die; and like it’s own locksmith, it is the only part of the habit loop that can be modified. “Routines are the organizational analog of habits.”
Given the power of routines, it is critical that you purposely build them out to support your other habits. Focus on practices that promote your work, your health, your relationships and the cultivation of a healthy mindset.
As a starting point, I advise that you begin with your morning routine. Read on for more about that.
Master your morning routine
I’ve never met a hugely successful person (to me that means more than just financial success, it means that they appear to have a balanced and happy life) who doesn’t wake up early. Even night owls should wake up early.
There is a magic to the morning hours when the world seems to be still asleep. For me, this is 6 am, though many ultra-successful people choose to rise at 5 am or earlier.
Psychologist Roy Baumeister, in his book Willpower, suggests that our willpower is greatest in the morning. There’s also a morning cortisol response that sends a surge of this stress hormone throughout our bodies roughly 30 minutes after getting up, providing the energy needed to accomplish important tasks right away in the morning.
I wrote about the morning routine of Tony Robbins and the power of setting an intention in an earlier post.
My morning routine? Wake up at 6 am. Let my dog outside to run around. Practice breathing and meditation for about 10-15 minutes total. Drink a hot beverage (usually chai tea) and write a blog post.
When I practice this routine, I know I’m starting the day out right. Even if I get nothing else done, I feel accomplished.
What is your ideal morning routine?
Read, a lot
Bill Gates and Warren Buffet have more in common than their massive wealth. They read a lot despite their remarkably busy lives.
When asked what he does during his work day, Warren Buffett says, “I just sit in my office and read all day.” What does that mean? He figures that he spends about 80 percent of his working day reading and thinking about what he is reading.
When asked how to get smarter, Buffett once held up stacks of paper and said that he “read 500 pages like this every day. That’s how knowledge builds up, like compound interest.”
Bill Gates is renown for his voracious appetite for reading. Check out his reading list. No fluff in his bookshelf!
Reading is important, but how you read matters. You need to capture the salient points, move through material relatively quickly and think about what the content means to you. Shane Parish has a great overview on How To Read A Book with more insights.
I used to PhotoRead, but stopped after about a year, it took too much focus and energy and seemed to make reading more of a chore than a joy. Now, I read using a hybrid of skimming and reading. I start a book by reviewing the table of contents, and the introduction and final chapter. Then I plow through the book, stopping to think about what I read and making notes if the book is provoking.
Pro Tip: Respect the content you are reading and take it seriously. Ask yourself “How will this content help me live a better life?” periodically as your read. This approach will get your mind engaged and looking for insights on a deeper level.
Spend time with inspiring people
Jim Rohn famously said that “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”
If you spend plenty of time with smart, motivated and successful entrepreneurs; you are more likely to become like that. If you spend time with people who are generous and caring, you are more liable to become like that. If you spend time with people are total slackers, well, you know where I am going with this!
For example, recently, an upstart entrepreneur spent a weekend surfing with Uber CEO Ryan Graves. During the experience, he had an epiphany about his business despite not talking about business details during the weekend. At least, I’m assuming they did’t discuss business in depth, they were surfing after all!
We learn a lot from others, and this learning often comes when we are not expecting it. Successful people know this and actively construct their peer group to support their happiness and success.
We influence by direct human interaction beyond just the words we say to each other. In fact, words represent a small fraction of the information shared. It is estimated, through research by Albert Mehrabian in 1971, that body language conveys 55% of information, compared to 35% for vocal tonality and only 7% for the actual words spoken.
We are also hard-wired to learn new things by observation. Our brain and body have an entire physical structure of Mirror Neurons to help us do jus that. This is what allows animals, particularly young animals, and babies, to learn skills before language develops.
You can’t choose your family, but you can choose your friends. Choose your friends, wisely and in a way where you can learn from them while also contributing to their growth.