Hundreds of articles talk about morning habits, day to night habits, weekend habits, and financial habits of powerful, influential people. They’re all trying to tell you what those people do. But it looks like nobody really cares if you can actually embrace all those rituals, or whether you adjust them to your interests and needs, or how to actually stick to them. This isn’t one of those articles. Instead, it’s a concise guide on how to develop the habits successful people live by. Read on if you’d like to find out all about it.
How to Become Goal Oriented and Act Till You Get it
All successful people are goal oriented. They all know precisely what they want to achieve in life. They have specific goals, detailed plans on how to get there, and backup plans for any potential failure. As Napoleon Hill used to say, “The primary reason for failure is that people do not develop new plans to replace those plans that didn’t work”. Don’t think that powerful people never fail or never make mistakes. They do, just like you and me. But where we fail and give up, they fail and give it another try—from a different angle, with a different strategy. And they keep it up until they finally make it.
This one is, perhaps, the most important of the many habits successful people live by. But how do you become goal oriented and action oriented?
Becoming a goal-oriented person is all about practice. Day after day, you should have an action plan in mind and follow it. By the end of each day, you should revise it – see what’s working and what’s giving you a hard time. Think of what you can change, and then take immediate action. Never postpone, never let your fears interfere.
Now take a few minutes and imagine how your ideal life would look like:
- How much would you like to earn this year? Next year? In the following 5 years?
- How would you like your family to be and what lifestyle would you live by?
- How your health could become perfect, compared to how it is now?
- How and what you want to save through life?
Note: The faster you write your answers, the more likely it is you have picked goals that you sincerely desire.
Try to make plans for the next 10 to 20 years. It sounds scary, but you can divide it in smaller chunks, per year, per 6 months or whatever makes you comfortable.
Successful people know that there are always setbacks and constraint factors. What would yours be? The theory of constraints states that when you fail, you are 80% responsible. The other 20% comes down to external circumstances. With this 80/20 rule of constraints in mind, identify any skills, qualities or knowledge that you may lack.
Enrich your plan by adding the following facts:
- Describe the skill set that will help you reach the top 10% in your field – start working on it ASAP
- Which skill from that list do you need to work on most? – Work on that one first as it determines how much you can succeed
- Who are the people whose help you need in order to ensure your success? – find them and develop the relationship
These are the basic habits successful people start with. This is the foundation. The smaller your steps are, the larger your odds of success. When you have little tasks to accomplish, you will feel less stressed and more eager to get things done. It’s just one tiny thing to do. And one tiny thing after that, etc. Never give up, even when you fail!
How to Wake Up Early and Get Ahead of Everyone
We all have 24 hours in a day to get stuff done. Napoleon had 24 hours at his disposal every day. So did William Shakespeare, Abraham Lincoln, Alexander the Great, Queen Victoria, Albert Einstein, Leonardo de Vinci, Joan of Arc and… well, you get the point. The second most common habit successful people have in common is waking up early.
- Thomas Edison preferred taking daily power naps instead of the traditional nighttime sleep – he always thought sleeping was a total waste of time
- Leonardo da Vinci was adept at the Uberman sleep cycle – he only had 20 minutes naps every 4 hours
- Mozart used to sleep, on average, only 5 hours a night – he would have worked until 1.00 am and woke up regularly at 6.00 am
- Voltaire would regularly sleep just 4 hours a night (and, of course, drink about 40 cups of coffee per day)
- Donald Trump is said to sleep just 3 hours a night – “to stay ahead of the competition”
- Benjamin Franklin lived by the motto “Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise”
If you want to feel as if you have more time in a day, you’ll have to wake up when many others are still asleep. I’ve written more on how to become a morning person here, but below I will give you a recap. Research indicates that those who wake up early are more conscientious and optimistic. They also have an increased ability to anticipate problems and to neutralize them more effectively. Of course, you don’t need research to realize that if you wake up early, you get to:
- Do the things that matter to you most, first thing in the morning
- Establish a morning routine that will keep you healthier and more energetic (workouts, breakfast, meditation etc.)
- Get to declutter your inbox, make a to-do list for that day, leave the home earlier and avoid getting caught in a stressful traffic jam
Waking up early requires a routine like the one from below:
- Start to wake up earlier, gradually – if you now get up at 9, you can begin with 8.30 am. Keep it this way for one week and then try to switch to 8.00. If it’s still too hard, continue with 8.30 until you feel you’re ready. Adjust on the go, but always go earlier, not later.
- Pick something to spoil yourself in the morning – not necessarily a big slice of cake, but something that would make you feel happy about being up: a creamy cup of coffee, a walk in the park, a half an hour reading, morning sex, etc.
- Learn to relax and go to bed earlier, by your own personal routine – you can even prep some of the things that usually stress you in the morning, right the night before.
- When the alarm goes off, get out of the bed and go outside for a refreshing meeting with your brand new day. Your senses will activate, the light will signal your brain to generate daytime hormones, and everything will seem much easier.
Keep Yourself Away from Distractions
The habits successful people pursue include coping with distractions for obvious reasons. The more successful they are, the more people are fighting for a few minutes of their time and attention. This adds up. It might not be your case, but there are definitely things that can distract you throughout the day.
Some famous people (writers, painters, politicians) prefer working in the quietest times – late at night or early in the morning. If you learn to become an early person, it would work for you too. Otherwise, you can always try, throughout the day, to:
• Set up short working sessions followed by short breaks – experiment with work session duration, and when you work, ignore phone calls, emails or social networks; when in the break, leave all the work aside
• Find a little time for your hobbies too – this is valuable advice coming from the one and only Warren Buffett, the most successful investor of the past century. George Bush used to oil paint, Meryl Streep enjoys knitting. Buffett himself loves to experiment with the ukulele. Your hobbies are important. They relax you and motivate you to stay focused when you get back to work. When you know you’ll have free time to indulge in your hobbies, you’ll feel less resistance to long work sessions.
• When thoughts come to you, put them on paper – or record yourself on the phone
• Refrain from multi-tasking because it won’t do you any good – successful people know the more you try to do at the same time, the less efficient you become. So prioritize, delegate, postpone, but never juggle with more tasks at once – that’s the very definition of distraction.
How to Find Time to Read
Books can increase your knowledge and, consequently, power. They can act as a free source of entertainment and can also improve your vocabulary. Books keep you informed, but reading is also known to:
- Stimulate the mind
- Reduce stress
- Improve your memory and your analytical thinking skills
- Improve your concentration and focus
- Enhance your writing skills
Powerful, influential people throughout history didn’t necessarily have a superior education. But many were self-taught, and they educated themselves through reading. Warren Buffett is famous for reading 80% of the day away. Bill Gates tries to read one hour every night, no matter how late he comes home. More examples:
- Phil Knight, Nike founder, has an outstanding library and requires guests to remove their shoes and bow when entering
- Steve Jobs had a not so obvious passion for William Blake’s writings
- Winston Churchill won a Nobel Prize in literature
- Sidney Harman, founder of Harman Industries, loves Tennyson and Shakespeare, and considers poets to be “the original system thinkers”.
The habits successful people enjoy, especially in terms of reading, are various and often surprising. Yet most of them agree that reading across fields is a must-do, especially if you plan to stimulate your creativity. After all, grasping the essence of sociology or psychology, economics or physical sciences, can help you prosper innovate in any field.
If you currently don’t have enough time to read, here’s what you can try:
- Wake up earlier and spend at least a half an hour reading
- Try to introduce reading into your bedtime routine – it helps you relax
- Try to learn some speed-reading techniques, so you will make the most of your little reading time (John Kennedy, the famous US President, was an avid fan of speed reading and even encouraged his entire staff to take such lessons)
- Have a book with you no matter where you are or where you go; the moment you feel stuck somewhere, with nothing to do, take out your book
- Use audio books and play them while you’re in traffic or at the gym
- Read in the bathroom, in your bathtub or (ahem) on the toilet – don’t let your bathroom sessions be just a waste of time
- Try to bring a reading habit in your relationship – reading with a partner or your spouse could motivate you
- Try to read small pieces at once, even from different book simultaneous – it should be a very interesting focus experiment
Only take the GOOD habits successful people live by
As you can see, all the habits successful people live by, listed above, are good habits. They are also the reasons why those people became so influential. Habits determine 95% of our behavior and the better they are, the better they make us. Everything that you will ever achieve will be determined by the quality of the habits you live by.
If you have an interest for powerful and successful people, strive not just to read about their lives, but also to learn. No one said these people’s lives were easy. However, if you are planning to achieve even 1% from what they did, it’s time to realize that this is it: it’s happening now and it’s the only time you will ever get in this life. Use it wisely!
Opinions expressed here by Contributors are their own.