11 Daily Habits of Exceptionally Successful People
Learning these fantastic habits is just half the equation. Actually doing them will get you to the promised land.
None of them, unfortunately, come from reading books or articles such as this one, but it’s certainly a good start.
The real success factor comes from the “doing” part–making the things you learn habitual so you create new neural pathways in the brain. When you change your brain, that’s when you can be assured things will stick.
So let’s get the ball rolling. While the following is far from a comprehensive list, learning and “doing” these daily habits may be crucial to being more productive, having more meaningful work relationships, and leading yourself and others at a higher level.
1. Make more decisions with your heart.
Do you think too much before pulling the trigger on a decision? Sure, a few hours or a couple of days is normal. But three months? If this sounds familiar, you have “analysis paralysis.” If you’re thinking too much, you’re probably stuck in your head and intellectualizing things too much. The most important decisions you’ll ever encounter will always be based on your feelings–it’s a heart thing, not a head thing. Not sure if you can rely on your heart just yet? OK, do this: Document every decision you make over the next three months. Look over which decisions were spot-on because you chose to rely on that “inner voice.” The better the outcome of those decisions, the more accurate your intuition is becoming–going with your heart. Learning to go with your heart is a much more effective way to make decisions than to get stuck in analysis paralysis. It’s empowering, and your peers and close friends and family will look at you in a whole new way.
2. Do a five-minute favor for someone.
Five-minute favors are selfless giving acts you do for someone without asking for anything in return from the person whom you help. Examples of five-minute favors include sharing knowledge; making an introduction; serving as a reference for a person, product, or service; or recommending someone on LinkedIn. As Adam Grant, author of Give and Take, points out, by paying it forward, you are more successful without expecting a quid pro quo. And you aren’t just helping others in five focused minutes of giving. You are supporting the emotional spread of this practice–it becomes contagious.
3. Practice the skill of accepting feedback.
In Seven Pillars of Servant Leadership, authors Don Frick and James Sipe describe these helpful approaches when receiving feedback:
- Openness. Listen without interruption, objections, or defensiveness.
- Responsiveness. Be willing to hear the speaker out without turning the table. Ask questions for clarification.
- Thoughtfulness. Seek to understand the effects and consequences of your behavior.
- Explicitness. Make it clear what kind of feedback you are seeking and why it is important to you. Offer a structure for the feedback–questions, rating scales, stories.
- Quiet. Refrain from making or preparing to make a response. Do not be distracted by the need to explain, defend, or fix.
- Being clear with your commitment. Describe how you have benefited from the feedback and what specific steps you will take toward improvement.
- Clarifying. Make sure you are clear about what the speakers are seeing, saying, and recommending.
4. Put yourself in someone else’s shoes.
People are drawn to empathy; it’s an attractive quality to have in building successful relationships at work. Sound too soft or idealistic? Think again. DDI research makes the business case for empathy by calling it the No.1 driver of overall organizational performance.
5. Listen to advice.
Imagine going about your business thinking that “this is the right way,” but realizing later you were miserably wrong. I see this in clients all the time–a tendency to plow ahead like lone rangers, convinced they have all the answers. Show me a person who does not solicit the sound advice and wisdom of others, and I’ll show you an ignorant fool.
6. Communicate clear expectations.
Leaders have to take responsibility for making the mistaken assumption that a team fully recognizes their roles and responsibilities. To avoid something like a missed deadline, get back to the basics: Spend some one-on-one time with each person to talk through the steps involved in a project after you give out work assignments. Go a step further and communicate the time requirement for each step so that team members know exactly how the work will be broken down into manageable pieces.
7. Avoid drama.
In emotional intelligence, self-control (or “self-management”) is a personal competence every good leader develops. The question behind self-control is: Can I manage my emotions to a positive outcome? Internationally known psychologist and best-selling author Daniel Goleman says this about leaders with self-control:
Reasonable people–the ones who maintain control over their emotions–are the people who can sustain safe, fair environments. In these settings, drama is very low and productivity is very high. Top performers flock to these organizations and are not apt to leave them.
8. Set three personal goals for the day.
I’m not talking about writing daily tasks on your work to-do list. The most successful people start the day by putting their mental focus on something that will make them better. Before the rat race starts, write these questions down first thing in the morning:
- What will grow me personally or professionally, and improve me as a human being today?
- What will excite me and give me more energy today?
- What will set the stage for an epic productive day?
Make sure you write down your answers before leaving the house, and more important, have them visible as reminders during the day. Staying on track to accomplishing these energizing goals will keep your mind elevated to a positive state throughout the day.
9. Overcome your fear by “hacking your system.”
Darren Hardy, best-selling author of The Entrepreneur Roller Coaster, says that the real reason 66 percent of all entrepreneurs fail is fear. To overcome it, he says you need to “hack your system”–literally habituate your brain to fear. When you expose yourself to whatever you fear, it loses its power and control over you. The one thing that was your greatest detriment now becomes your greatest strength. In fact, get this: Hardy recommends submerging yourself in your fear for 90 days. In other words, have relentless contact with the activity or activities that you fear, and by the end of 90 days, you’ll no longer fear them.
10. Change your environment.
It goes without saying, if you’re stuck and can’t see a way forward, something needs to change. Sometimes it’s the very environment you live or work in. I say this because your environment may manipulate your decision making more than you think. Example: If you’re looking to lose weight and your office is next to a row of snack machines, are you repeatedly tempted? Ask to relocate it to another part of the building. Changing your environment will help retrain your brain to make other choices.
11. Speak in the positive.
Take clues from your colleagues known for being positive and happy. Have you paid attention to how they speak? Most of them, you’ll note, refrain from resorting to negative words, speech, or conversational topics that are divisive (think politics or religion) because they know the stressful effects it has on their (and others’) emotional well-being. They stay away from unnecessary drama, malicious gossip, and psychological warfare. Helpful tip: When you’re present and “in the positive,” offer the other person helpful feedback that empowers and lifts up. Doing so will inspire, build trust, and generate happiness in your own life.