One thing that separates highly successful people from regular people: discipline.
Meaning, if you spend every day just coasting wherever events and situations take you, you’re going to end up somewhere other than an ideal place.
To your reach your potential, you need to carve your own path via daily habits that set you up for success.
Here are 10 things successful people do every single day.
1. They only focus on a few priorities
If you’ve got too many things you want to do, you’ll struggle to focus your attention on one thing, and everything will become diluted.
Successful people channel their resources towards a small number of tasks to engender a better outcome.
In Morten T. Hansen’s, From Great at Work: How Top Performers Do Less, Work Better, and Achieve More, he described how top performers focus on a small number of tasks to produce high-quality work:
“Once they had focused on a few priorities, they obsessed over those tasks to produce quality work. That extreme dedication to their priorities created extraordinary results. Top performers did less and more: less volume of activities, more concentrated effort.”
People who lead cluttered and disorganized lives are rarely able to fully focus. They end up multi-tasking and doing too many things at once, without impact.
If you have 3 priorities, you’re focused. If you have 25 priorities, you have a mess.
Successful people say “no” to most things so they can keep their focus clear.
And the truth is, if you want to be world-class, then you need to keep your focus narrow, according to Shan Snow:
“There are a lot of great inventors and improvers in the world. But those who hack world-class success tend to be the ones who can focus relentlessly on a tiny number of things. In other words, to soar, we need to simplify.”
2. They focus on small gains every day
Jim Rohn said it best:
“Success is a few simple disciplines, practiced every day. Failure is simply a few errors in judgment, practiced every day.”
For some reason, humans overwhelmingly underestimate what it takes to accomplish big goals and grossly overestimate what it takes to accomplish a series of small tasks.
Most of us believe in the narrative of a big defining moment where we achieve everything we’ve ever dreamed of, and completely forget the value of numerous small, good decisions on a daily basis.
Successful people know that tiny gains made frequently move you slowly and steadily forward.
They start small and add up to something big.
Want to write a book? Write 2 pages a day and would have written a book in 6 months.
Want to run a marathon? Start with a 5-minute run and increase from there.
It sounds simple, and, well, it is.
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.”
3. They try to keep themselves in a positive mood
Research suggests that so much of motivation is about mood and how we feel.
When we’re positive, we’re more likely to be effective and productive.
According to the book, The Happiness Advantage:
“…doctors put in a positive mood before making a diagnosis show almost three times more intelligence and creativity than doctors in a neutral state, and they make accurate diagnoses 19 percent faster. Optimistic salespeople outsell their pessimistic counterparts by 56 percent. Students primed to feel happy before taking math achievement tests far outperform their neutral peers. It turns out that our brains are literally hardwired to perform at their best not when they are negative or even neutral, but when they are positive.”
A successful person tries to view every situation as optimistically as possible.
This doesn’t mean they ignore their reality or that they avoid difficult situations.
Being optimistic means you approach hardship in a more productive way.
They don’t waste time dwelling on the negative. They instead look to what they can learn from negative situations and how it can help them in the future.
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4. They eliminate distractions
We live in an interruption-based culture that can be really damaging to productivity. Notifications from electronic devices only add to the distractions.
But distraction and multitasking can hurt your performance.
To be productive and achieve your goals, you simply must get rid of distractions.
American poet Maya Angelou had a routine that she followed in order to get as much focused work done as she can.
After waking up at 5:30 AM and having her morning coffee, she locks herself in a small hotel room from 7 AM onwards to work.
The only things she would bring were a bible, a dictionary, a deck of cards, and a bottle of sherry.
In those hours spent alone, she wrote with all her energy.
She was serious about her work, which was why she did all she could to avoid any distractions.
Being shut out from the world and able to focus helped her maintain a level of productivity that would make her one of the most iconic authors in American literature.
Sunday Adelaja in How To Become Great Through Time Conversion affirmed that you must understand the value of spending time without distractions:
“You must understand that your creativity comes alive when you spend time alone focusing on your projects without distractions…When you understand the value of time, the resource and the wealth of time, you will be running away from the crowd, you will be running away from distractions.”
5. They do some form of physical activity
Running a business and hopping from meeting to meeting can be mentally taxing, which is why successful people are no stranger to taking care of their minds by engaging in physical activities.
A study has shown that regular exercise can increase mental activity and improve memory.
Founder of Virgin Airlines Richard Branson has said that he works out for 60 minutes daily — from playing tennis to weightlifting to even kitesurfing.
He says that if he isn’t able to get his body up and moving, he isn’t able to perform at his best level.
So he creates the time in his busy schedule to focus on his body so that he can continue with his work successfully.
John. F. Kennedy said it best:
“Physical fitness is not only one of the most important keys to a healthy body, it is the basis of dynamic and creative intellectual activity.”
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6. They focus on getting better in spite of failures
Successful people are successful because they’ve chosen to act; to do something about their dreams.
They aren’t the type to sit around and daydream. When they want something, they’re going to go for it — even taking action through failures.
Author Angela Duckworth has said that successful people have what is called a “growth mindset”.
Successful people understand that they are not limited to the skills and knowledge that they’re born with. They can change. They can improve their performance, despite failures and mistakes.
Each opportunity is taken as a chance to learn more and become a better version of themselves, moving forward.
7. They reward themselves
No one can keep working for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It’s impossible.
A successful person knows that it’s important to take a break and reward themselves for the hard work and what they’ve achieved.
In her book, Better Than Before, Gretchen Rubin explains why rewards are important:
“When we give ourselves treats, we feel energized, cared for, and contented, which boosts our self-command — and self-command helps us maintain our healthy habits.”
These rewards could be for small things along the journey.
For example, perhaps they had a goal of reading 50 pages in a book.
If they are to achieve that goal, they reward themselves with a steak dinner afterward.
It may sound trivial, but little rewards like this keep us motivated.
This helps them to drive forward to be more successful and get more done.
8. They are selfless
A successful person knows they aren’t the center of the universe.
They appreciate the luck they have found in life and they try to give back and help others as much as they can.
Life is more meaningful when you help others.
As Gandhi said, “you find yourself in the service of others”.
Their actions might be small. Perhaps they hold the door for a stranger. They smile and say hello to people who pass them by. They listen to their friends when they ask them how they are.
A successful person is simply focused on others and not themselves. They want to make life better for other people, and that will, in turn, make life better for them.
And this is why they are living a fulfilling life.
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9. Their self-talk is positive
Self-talk is our internal dialogue. It is something we do naturally throughout our conscious moments. It reveals our innermost thoughts, beliefs, fears, and ideas.
The way we talk to ourselves is important because it affects the way we feel about ourselves, about the things we can achieve in life, how we’re viewed by others, and how we interact with the world.
There’s quite a large body of research that supports the importance of our inner dialogues.
In one study published in The Sport Psychologist, researchers found that athletes use self-talk for a “cognitive and motivational” boost, while a separate study proves that motivational self-talk helps increase performance in young athletes.
So you see, how we talk and what we say to ourselves affect not only our chances of success, but it can also significantly boost how we pursue our goals.
Author and psychologist Charles Fernyhough explains:
“Inner speech has a lot of different functions. It has a role in motivation, it has a role in emotional expression, it probably has a role in understanding our selves as selves.”
Our thoughts literally become our motivation. And the way we talk to ourselves plays a huge part in how we perform in life.
Successful people don’t put themselves down through negative self-talk. They encourage themselves to improve their skills and grow as a person.
10. They only focus on what they can change
There are things that are naturally out of our control; things like the weather, traffic jams, or the behavior and opinions of other people.
The reality is that the evaluation of your project is out of your hands, so your concern of whether or not your work is good may be misplaced.
What successful people would rather focus on is if they’re giving the best effort that they can.
If they’re devoting enough of their time to make the project as good as they believe it can be.
If they only place their focus on what they can control, they become resilient to whatever assessment others may have on their work.
They understand that people will have their own opinions they cannot change; that they have no control over how many cars will be on the road today; nor can they dictate when the sun is to shine.
They’re only concerned about what’s within their power.
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