We all hear about the usual habits of successful people — waking up early, setting goals, networking.
But when I recently met a thriving business owner at a writer’s retreat, I realized there’s so much more under the surface.
As we chatted over coffee and shared stories, he spilled the lesser-known rituals that fueled his journey to the top.
And you know what? They’re not what you’d expect.
Get ready to uncover 7 eye-opening things high-performers always do — but rarely ever talk about.
This is your roadmap to success, straight from someone who’s walked the path.
1) Embrace boredom
You might think that high-performers are always on the go, leaping from one task to another with relentless energy. But the business owner I met had a different take — embracing boredom.
During our conversation, he shared that some of his most impactful ideas came when he was doing “nothing.”
“I’ll just sit on my porch, look at the trees, and let my mind wander,” he said, taking a thoughtful sip of his coffee. “It’s in those quiet moments that things click, and new paths reveal themselves.”
And he’s onto something. When we’re constantly distracted or entertained, there’s no room for deep thinking or genuine creativity.
The mental clarity that emerges from moments of boredom is invaluable; it opens up the space for ingenious solutions and fresh perspectives to take root.
In a book, I even read about this as being one of the secrets to being fully present and living a meaningful life — so there’s clearly much more to this habit than meets the eye.
2) Prioritize sleep quality over quantity
It’s a common misconception that high-performers skimp on sleep to get more done. And even when people debunk this myth, they often talk about clocking a full night’s sleep.
Yet, the successful business owner I met made it crystal clear: “I may not sleep a full eight hours every night, but the sleep I do get is top-notch.”
He went on to explain how he did this: “I invested in a good mattress, blackout curtains, and better windows to isolate sound. I even bought a Fitbit that tracks my sleep, which helped me figure out what I need. When I wake up, I’m actually refreshed.”
And science backs him up. Studies show that the quality of your sleep can be even more important than the number of hours you’re in bed.
Of course, that doesn’t mean you should go to bed at 3am or forget about length of sleep altogether. The two do go hand in hand to help you perform at your best.
However, know that there is much more to sleep than just a number.
3) Hold themselves accountable, silently
We’ve all heard the saying, “Actions speak louder than words,” but the business owner I met at the writer’s retreat takes this to a whole new level.
“I don’t like to announce my goals,” he confided. “I know a lot of people recommend doing it for accountability. But in my experience, the opposite works better.”
And when I did a bit of research, I realized that he’s totally right.
Studies show that the praise people give you when you tell them about your goals already gives you a feeling of accomplishment.
Which means you won’t feel as motivated to actually reach the goal.
What experts and this business owner recommend instead is silent accountability. Set your targets and work diligently towards them.
Look forward to surprising people with what you’ve already accomplished, rather than boasting about what you’re thinking about doing.
4) Visualize failure, not just success
Most motivational talks tell us to envision our dream life, urging us to visualize our success down to the tiniest detail.
Well, here’s an unconventional twist you probably hadn’t heard of before — visualize failure as well.
“You need to see what can go wrong, so you’re prepared,” the business owner shared, a steely resolve in his eyes. “Success doesn’t teach you anything; failure teaches you everything.”
This doesn’t mean dwelling on the negative, but rather understanding the full spectrum of possibilities. By mentally walking through what could go wrong, you’re essentially troubleshooting before the problems even arise.
“The first time I tried this, it felt odd,” he admitted, chuckling. “But when one of those ‘failures’ actually happened, I was ready. I had a contingency plan.”
It’s almost like having a roadmap that shows both the scenic routes and the dead-ends. And armed with that kind of information, you’re more likely to reach your destination.
5) Have a “stop doing” list
You’ve probably heard about the magic of to-do lists, how jotting down your tasks can keep you organized and productive.
But the problem with these lists is they can grow impossibly long, getting cluttered with all sorts of tasks that distract us.
That’s exactly why the high-achieving business owner I met swears by a different type of list — a “stop doing” list.
“Sometimes, you’ve got to recognize what not to do, what to cut out of your life to make room for more valuable things,” he explained. “It’s like weeding a garden. You have to remove the bad to let the good grow.”
For him, this meant eliminating activities that didn’t align with his long-term goals.
He stopped mindless scrolling through social media, cut back on late-night TV binges, and even reevaluated some of his friendships.
“The first thing I put on my ‘stop doing’ list was saying yes to every opportunity that came my way,” he shared. “I was stretching myself thin, thinking I was making progress, but I was actually spinning my wheels.”
By focusing on what needed to be pruned from his life, he found he had more time and energy for activities that genuinely moved the needle for him.
6) Manage energy, not just time
We all have the same 24 hours in a day, yet some people accomplish so much more.
The business owner I met at the retreat had a simple yet profound explanation for this: “It’s not just about managing your time; you have to manage your energy, too.”
“For years, I was obsessed with time management,” he confided. “I had every minute of my day planned out. But I was exhausted all the time and barely had the energy to execute those plans effectively.”
His solution? He started paying close attention to his energy levels. He noticed that he was most focused in the morning, so he reserved that time for the tasks that required the most mental effort.
He also built in short breaks for a walk or some light reading to recharge his mental batteries.
“The game changed when I aligned my tasks with my natural energy rhythms,” he said, a sense of relief washing over his face. “Suddenly, everything felt less forced. I wasn’t fighting myself anymore; I was working in harmony with my own body.”
Think about your own daily schedule. Are you trying to tackle challenging tasks when you’re barely able to keep your eyes open? Are you wasting your peak energy hours on tasks that don’t really matter?
Learning to manage your energy effectively can make those 24 hours stretch a lot further than you ever imagined.
7) Have a go-to decompression routine
No matter how high-achieving we are, stress is an inevitable part of life. It can sneak up on us and make everything seem overwhelming.
The business owner I met had a secret weapon to combat stress — a go-to decompression routine.
“I used to think decompressing was a waste of time. Why chill when you can work, right? But burning the candle at both ends led to burnout more than once. I had to find a better way.”
For him, that better way was a simple 20-minute routine that he could activate at a moment’s notice. It involved stepping away from all screens, practicing deep breathing, and throwing in a quick workout or a meditation session.
We all handle stress differently, but having a quick, effective way to decompress can make all the difference in how you handle challenges.
Embracing the little-known secrets of high-achievers
We often hear about the bold steps and major risks that high-achievers take on their road to success. What’s not talked about as much are these little-known habits that quietly fuel their journey.
The business owner I met agreed that things like discipline, sleep, exercise, and all the other often touted habits are indeed helpful.
But he attributed his success to mastering these little-known daily practices — the unspoken rituals that keep him grounded, focused, and always striving for more.
And guess what? You can cultivate them too, starting today. Whether it’s managing your energy better, embracing periods of boredom, or having a quick decompression routine, these are all tools within your reach.
You’ve now been let in on some of the best-kept secrets of high-achievers. How will you use them to elevate your own life? The choice is yours.
Make it wisely and watch how quickly you start ascending towards your own version of success.