12 things high achievers always do to achieve their goals

Everyone knows that to achieve a goal, you first need to have one.

But simply having one isn’t enough – high achievers know this.

That’s why, more often than not, they’re the ones who go on to climb the ranks of their company, become successful, and make a meaningful impact on those around them.

What makes them so different? It’s simple: it’s their system.

As James Clear, author of Atomic Habits, writes, winners and losers both have the same goals; it’s their approach to achieving them that makes all the difference.

The best part is that you can learn some of the tactics high achievers employ to achieve their own goals.

Below are 12 of the crucial things that high achievers always do that separate them from the rest.

1. They Shut Out Distraction

In our daily lives, there always seems to be something that catches our attention.

We go about our days and stumble on an interesting video about animals on our social media feed, or we hop onto a new trend because we don’t want to feel left out – despite the trend not being close to something we identify with.

But high achievers are different.

High achievers sometimes take dire measures just to generate the focus they need to deeply concentrate on their work.

Bill Gates, for instance, has his own “Think Weeks.”

Even though he’s the head of one of the largest companies in the world, he spends a week twice a year off in a cabin by himself.

He spends his time reading, writing, and learning, in solitude. It’s being away from distractions that allows him to focus and make better decisions for the company.

“Successful people are focused. They have mastered the art of filtering out the unimportant and embracing the useful.” – Sophia A. Nelson, Be the One You Need: 21 Life Lessons I Learned While Taking Care of Everyone But Me

2. They Know Their Purpose

It was German philosopher Nietzshe that said that “If you have a why you’ll be able to overcome anyhow.”

High achievers are guided by a mission that’s larger than themselves, whether it’s to make others smile, provide a service to people around the world, feed people, or bring honor and respect to the team and the sport.

Having a purpose is not only motivational on the good days but on the bad days too — the times when work feels like a chore when it’s more of a mission.

By having long-term goals, successful people aren’t brought down by the short-term problems that unsuccessful people stress about.

3. They Show Up Every Day

One of the most important elements of success is being consistent.

No one can expect to earn more money if they aren’t trying to save as much as they can every day.

You won’t get better at your sport if you only train when you feel like it.

While motivation and inspiration to get to work might weaken and intensify, high achievers continue trying to become better despite what they’re feeling.

Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympian, once mentioned in an interview that, in fact, those days when you don’t feel like going through the training is when you improve and grow the most.

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4. They Do Deliberate Practice

Deliberate practice is the act of doing an activity with the objective to become better.

While it may not always be physically draining, it certainly is mentally.

Those who do deliberate practice always look at their weak points and feedback to learn how to improve.

Often, people might get insecure knowing how badly they perform in an activity, but high achievers understand that’s part of the growing process.

They don’t give up. They keep showing up. 

This is a problem in our instant-gratification society, according to Marc Fisher in his book, How to Think Like a Millionaire

We constantly see what appears to be overnight successes, but we actually never see the years of dedication and persistence they went through to get there. 

“In our instant gratification society, we often look only at the final product: the movie star, the millionaire, the acclaimed artist. It looks like an overnight success. We don’t see the years of dedication and patient persistence that went into the process. Dustin Hoffman joked that it took him ten years to become an overnight success. And Ray Kroc, the founder McDonald’s, wrote in his autobiography, “I was an overnight success all right, but thirty years is a long, long night.”

5. They Have Systems Rather Than Goals

What a high-achieving person does is create a system that allows them to achieve progress step by step.

Instead of telling everyone they have a goal of losing 20 pounds, they create a system of healthy eating and exercise.

They figure out the daily tasks that will move the needle forward

Focusing on “process goals” rather than “outcome goals” allows them to keep moving forward until they eventually (without even realizing it) reach a big goal.

James Clear, the author of Atomic Habits, explains how consistent small improvements can turn into something much more in the long run:

“Meanwhile, improving by 1 percent isn’t particularly notable—sometimes it isn’t even noticeable—but it can be far more meaningful, especially in the long run. The difference a tiny improvement can make over time is astounding. Here’s how the math works out: if you can get 1 percent better each day for one year, you’ll end up thirty-seven times better by the time you’re done. Conversely, if you get 1 percent worse each day for one year, you’ll decline nearly down to zero. What starts as a small win or a minor setback accumulates into something much more.”

6. They Don’t Take All The Credit

Success isn’t a ladder climbed alone.

Unsuccessful people tend to be driven by the notion that, since they were so focused on their own energy into something, they’re entitled to all the credit.

While it might be so sometimes, high achievers give credit to those that helped them along the way.

Unsuccessful people pass the blame for failures but take all the credit for successes.

This is a case of “You can’t have your cake and eat it too”. Both ideas require not honesty but also humility.

Showing gratitude is one of the most important things to do in a team.

Without showing the proper Thank you’s, a team relationship would be less likely to persevere under the management of a selfish and narcissistic boss.

7. They Make Their Own Luck

While other people stand on the sidelines waiting for the mythical perfect moment to arrive, high achievers get started.

If they say serendipity is an opportunity to meet preparedness, high achievers always try to be as prepared as they can be.

They have no control over whether or not an opportunity arises, so they just want to be as ready as they can be.

Because the truth is this:

Although luck may strike randomly, that doesn’t mean that you have to stand still and wait for it.

Taking action is the best way to increase your chances of good luck.

According to the book Luck Factor by Richard Wiseman, lucky people tend to just try stuff:

“Lucky people just try stuff. Unlucky people suffered from paralysis by analysis. They wouldn’t do anything until they walked through every single angle and by then the world had moved on.”

No matter how much you dream of making it big as a writer, without taking the first step to sharing your work with a public audience, no one will ever stumble upon and discover your works.

Likewise, you can’t earn on a large stock if you haven’t paid the money to buy shares.

8. They Trust Their Gut

Have you ever looked back and wished you had followed your gut?

It happens to almost all of us at one point or another.

We all have an internal compass that guides us to where we truly might want to go — and it’s usually opposite to what a rational line of reasoning might conclude.

As we go through life, we constantly gather experiences that will strengthen our intuition, much like how reps and sets build muscle.

With more experiences we expose ourselves to, the better our intuition, the higher the chance that good luck and success will occur.

High achievers have learned to back their intuition.They’ve learned from their experiences and they know that their intuition is usually right. 

And this is what leads them on the right path, and might even be why other people think “high achievers are just lucky”. 

According to the book Luck Factor, most people who are lucky tend to trust their intuition:

“Almost 90 percent of lucky people said that they trusted their intuition when it came to personal relationships, and almost 80 percent said it played a vital role in their career choices… About 20 percent more lucky than unlucky people used their intuition when it came to making important financial decisions, and over 20 percent more used their intuition when thinking about their career choices.”

9. They Continue to Learning

When someone is a beginner and begins learning more and more things, there’s a tendency for them to make the false assumption that they’re more skilled than most.

This is called the Dunning-Kruger effect, where the more you think you know, the less you actually do. Falling for this effect can stifle your growth.

That’s why high achievers always keep themselves in check by remaining a student. They’re always trying to improve and be better.

According to John C. Maxwell in Self-Improvement 101: What Every Leader Needs to Know, winners tend to be open to learning, whereas losers think they already know everything. 

“Successful people are always open to new ideas and are willing to learn from anyone who has something to offer…A winner knows how much he still has to learn, even when he is considered an expert by others. A loser wants to be considered an expert by others, before he has learned enough to know how little he knows.”

10. They Admit When They’re Wrong

In his book Think Again, author Adam Grant proposes that those who are open-minded and more willing to adopt new strategies are more likely to succeed than the stubborn who continue on a failing path.

High achievers are always looking for ways to improve themselves and their performance.

If they want to learn to sing better and realize that the technique they’ve been using has been too hard on their throats and lungs, they’re willing to innovate rather than stick to what they’re used to.

“We learn more from people who challenge our thought process than those who affirm our conclusions. Strong leaders engage their critics and make themselves stronger. Weak leaders silence their critics and make themselves weaker. This reaction isn’t limited to people in power. Although we might be on board with the principle, in practice we often miss out on the value of a challenge network.” – Adam M. Grant

11. They’re Organized

High achievers wouldn’t be able to meet their goals if they don’t have a clear system for actually achieving it. For that to happen, they’re going to need to be organized.

Some stick to a time-blocking method of time management, where they block out periods of time in their day to dedicate to certain tasks.

Others might simply have a list of to-dos that have a few priorities.

While the systems change depending on the person, what’s most common is that high achievers more or less have their bearings on their days.

They can be as systematic as planning out their entire year, or be as small as planning week by week.

What they seldom do is start a new day blind.

12. They Work Smarter Than Others

While working hard is important, knowing what to work hard on might be more so.

Working 10 – 12 hour shifts at a job that doesn’t provide opportunities for growth might be similar to being the fastest chef to prepare food while the Titanic sinks; no matter how hard you’re working, if you aren’t going anywhere, then it will have been a waste.

High achievers understand this.

They question traditional modes of thinking – that more hours logged guarantees an increase in the quality of life. Instead, they’re more deliberate about what they want to work hard on.

They ask, “what can give me the greatest leverage?”

It could be spending more time learning while others dare to start without knowing all the facts.

It could be spending years developing a revolutionary app while others fall for get-rich-quick schemes.

High achievers are efficient when they work and they focus on what matters. 

According to John C. Maxwell, in his book, How Successful People Think: Change Your Thinking, Change Your Life, successful people use the 80/20 rule: 

“You could use the 80/20 rule. Give 80 percent of your effort to the top 20 percent (most important) activities. Another way is to focus on exceptional opportunities that promise a huge return. It comes down to this: give your attention to the areas that bear fruit.”

Achieving Goals Like a High Achiever

Understanding and remembering why you’re doing something will provide you with the foundation you need to achieve what you want. It’s what you return to when doubt begins to creep into your mind.

While you see other people earning more and more money than you at a faster rate, understanding why you’re doing something can help you avoid feeling discouraged or even give up on your dream entirely.

If you see someone losing more weight than you and gaining more muscle, it’s easy to think that you’re simply being weak and that you’re never going to achieve their level of success.

But if you return to your why – maybe you want to live a healthier lifestyle – you’ll have the confidence to keep going; it reminds you that you’re both going on your own different personal paths in life.

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Lachlan Brown

I’m Lachlan Brown, the founder, and editor of Hack Spirit. I love writing practical articles that help others live a mindful and better life. I have a graduate degree in Psychology and I’ve spent the last 15 years reading and studying all I can about human psychology and practical ways to hack our mindsets. Check out my latest book on the Hidden Secrets of Buddhism and How it Saved My Life. If you want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Facebook or Twitter.

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