Everyone wants to be successful in one arena or another. A business owner and a stay at home mother might define “success” differently, but both want to be undeniably successful in the arena they choose. For this reason, such books have been written with titles like The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People and The Success Principles. Yet still, while everyone wants to be successful, few know how to actually go about doing it.
A large reason for this is that much of what’s out there in the self-help industry (previous book titles notwithstanding) is unactionable fluff, advice like “take a risk,” and, “believe in yourself.” This has never sat well with me. Through my own research, and after reading, speaking, and listening to anyone with a valuable opinion on the matter, I’ve been able to distill the top actionable habits that result in success – any type of success that you want.
Below is a list of the 10 undeniably successful habits for achievement:
1. Keep Quarterly & Annual Goals
The funny thing about success is that you actually need to know what you want in order to become successful. The idea of “success” means different things to different people, but at the end of the day, people want to be good at what they do and feel good about doing it. This is the essence of success. It’s why a stay at home mother and a business owner can want two very different things but achieve it using the very same principles.
The first successful habit for achievement in life is to define your quarterly and annual goals. This is important because it gives you a direction to go towards as well as a way to measure your progress towards success, but it’s also important because it keeps you from planning too far into the future. While an annual goal is great and feasibly achievable, a five or 10-year goal isn’t, mainly because the person you expect to be in five or 10 years isn’t typically the person you end up becoming (nor do you end up wanting all the things you thought you would five to 10 years ago).
So instead of trying to formulate a grand plan for your life, think of your goals as a direction rather than a destination. The way you do this is easy. What do you want to achieve one year from today? Answering that gives you your annual goal. Then, work your way back to today. What do you need to achieve in Q3, Q2, and Q1 so that your annual goal is achieved at the end of Q4? Answering this question will give you a quarterly goal for the next four quarters.
2. Focus on a Repeatable Daily Routine
Once you have your annual goals set, as well as your quarterly goals for each of the next four quarters, the next successful habit to cultivate is to focus on a repeatable daily routine. A fallacy of success is that people often think that achievement comes from large events, momentous occasions, or unexpected windfalls. However, this isn’t true. Instead, actual achievement comes from repeatable daily habits and routines, that over time, compound themselves into success.
We could use a million analogies, similes, and metaphors to illustrate this point, but I’ll spare you. What I will say, however, is that even the most successful people in the world – LeBron James, Meryl Streep, Ray Dalio – achieved success (and then remained successful) through practice and repetition. If you’ve ever tried to achieve anything, you know that the only way is to methodically try to move the ball or kick the can just a little bit further down the field every day, until one day you wake up and realized you achieved your goal.
For example, if one of your quarterly goals is to write a screenplay, the only way you’ll achieve it is to figure out how many pages you have to write a day to complete it, and then put your head down and start writing. In that way, your goal isn’t to write a screenplay in three months, but rather to write “X” pages a day until it’s complete. This is the value of a repeatable daily routine.
3. Continuously Write Out Goals
Now that we have our goals and have broken them down into repeatable daily actions, we can’t rely on ourselves to always to follow our own advice. No, chances are we’ll skew back towards the median and find ourselves taking the path of least resistance. This is fine for many of us but is a detriment to those who want to cultivate successful habits and achieve their ideal life.
To combat this, I find it best to continuously remind yourself of your quarterly and annual goals. This way, you’re more likely to put in the daily effort to achieve them. The way I do this is two-fold. First, I break down all my goals by category (health, wealth, business, fiction, nonfiction, happiness) and create four lists on a whiteboard, outlining which goals I need to achieve in which quarter.
Then, each week, when I’m planning out my routine for that week, I physically write out my annual goals in my notebook so I get in the habit of remembering them. I do this once a week, each and every week, so that I’m reminded of my “why,” or the reason that I’m putting in the daily work to move in a specific direction. This keeps me from getting too caught in the weeds to see the forest for the trees while still letting me focus on my daily routine.
4. Think with Passion & Pragmatism
Successful people are often passionate, yet they’re also often times pragmatic or analytical. So, what gives? You hear stories all the time about entrepreneurs who are so passionate about their product or service that they achieve success even when others thought they’d fail. Conversely, you hear about entrepreneurs who are extremely pragmatic and think more like machines than people with actual feelings and emotions. The same goes for artists, musicians, and everyone in between.
It seems like some successful people cultivate a habit of passionate thinking while others think with extreme pragmatism. So which one is the best habit for success? Well, why not both? No one said that these things were mutually exclusive. In fact, each way of thinking is extremely important in their own right. For example, you might need passion in order to persevere when the going gets tough, but you also might need pragmatism to see when it’s better to quit and try a different approach.
The key is to think in both ways and understand when it’s time to use one and when it’s time to use the other.
5. Seek Knowledge, Skills, & Experiences
Successful people have the habit of constantly seeking growth through new learnings. These learnings come from anywhere and everywhere. Some of the more natural places to gain knowledge are via things like books, podcasts, speeches, and seminars, but there are opportunities abound.
In fact, anytime you step outside your door, your brain is processing information and you’re learning something. This is why many of the most successful people in the world view any experience as a good one in retrospect. It’s because even the worst experiences leave us with some new piece of knowledge, some new skill or experience we can rely on in other situations moving forward.
The most successful people are quick to try new things because they know the end result will always be positive. They know that the new experience, knowledge, or skill will force them to grow as a person and increase their value – both to themselves as well as the people around them. Seeking new learnings will help you accelerate your path towards the success you want. The best way to go about doing this is to start saying “yes” rather than “no,” and to view any experience as a good one.
6. Grow the Size & Scope of Your Network
With a newfound focus on seeking knowledge, skills, and experiences, the size and scope of your network will naturally grow. This is a good thing, considering the fact that one of the most successful habits you can cultivate is the habit of sociability. Being social is a skill. If you work on it, you’ll have the ability to connect with anyone you meet. If you don’t work on it, you can lose it, thus losing out on opportunity.
One of the best ways to grow the size and scope of your network is to focus on the three layers of a network:
- Mentors who teach you
- Peers who push you
- Mentees who you can turn around and teach
These people can be anyone: friends, family, coworkers, or even random connections. The point is that if you focus on growing these three phases of your network, you’ll have the strong ties needed to help you in your pursuit of success.
7. Break Social Norms & Resist Social Pressure
One of the worst things we can do is to live the life that society tells us is “acceptable,” rather than living the life we actually want. This is the exact opposite of success because while you might achieve what others deem as successful, you’ll most likely feel empty and unhappy inside, defeating the entire purpose of these successful habits before they have a chance to take hold.
It’s always better to march to the beat of your own drum and follow your own definition of success. In fact, most of the successful people you know did just that – they broke social norms. They zigged while others zagged (or vice versa), stuck to their guns and their beliefs, and came out on top. Think about what would’ve happened if Elon Musk listened to his naysayers and shut down SpaceX after it’s string of initial launch failures?
Often times society doesn’t know what’s best, and successful people are able to listen to themselves rather than the people around them. The result is a life filled with the type of success that is fulfilling rather than hollow.
8. Build a Healthy Level of Self-Deprecation
I noticed recently that a lot of comics are self-deprecating. Now, this might not seem like a huge breakthrough, but it was interesting to me nonetheless. In fact, as I did more research, I noticed a common theme amongst most people of success, and which is that many of them openly acknowledge that there is luck involved. While they recognize their own hard work, they often downplay it, giving credit to serendipity or the people around them.
In essence, they’re self-deprecating, and I’ll be honest with you, they seem much happier because of it. Now, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t also have a healthy level of confidence, or dare I say it, swag. But still, if you can also cultivate a healthy level of self-deprecation, I’ve seen time and time again that life seems much more enjoyable and fun.
9. Remember What Actually Matters
Successful people also have a habit of putting things in perspective. Sure, we all want the trappings of life, whether that be a happy and healthy family or a fast car and a big house. But at the end of the day, what truly matters to you? As far as I’m concerned, any day you wake up is a good day, and if you’re able to think that way too, then your life will be better off because of it. If you have your health and a few friends and family to rely on, isn’t that what really matters?
Putting things in perspective is the act of controlling your goals and not letting them control you. It’s the act of waking up, leaving it all on the field, and then at the end of the day, being content with the effort you gave. This habit lets you move more confidently in the direction of the success you want because you know that even failure isn’t that bad. In fact, if you’ve been reading, it might be the best thing to ever happen to you.
10. Embrace Death Rather than Fearing it
This is actually more of a reminder for myself than anything. And yet still, it’s important to mention here. Look, we’re all going to die. Ignoring that fact won’t do you any favors. In fact, if you do ignore your own pending demise, you might fail to maximize the time you have while you still have it. For this reason, successful people acknowledge their own mortality and embrace it rather than fearing it.
The last thing you want to happen is to be on your death bed with this regret or that. To combat this very real possibility, make sure you embrace mortality. Understand that life is a gift – and one that quickly expires – so you can use that gift as early and as often as you can while you still can.
Conclusion – Successful Habits for Achievement
Overall, success isn’t an accident. You can achieve the success you want with specific habits that have been verified by undeniably successful people. Follow the 10 habits above in order to live your best life.