We all admire high achievers. They’re the people who are willing to go the extra mile to make things happen.
But often we’re unsure of how to create our own path to achievement.
High achievers, however, understand that it’s about what they do every day that powers their way to success.
If you want to become a higher achiever yourself, check out these 10 things high achievers do differently than everyone else.
1. They treat life like a game
One of the biggest reasons we don’t improve is that we avoid getting out of our comfort zones.
We place too much importance on being safe than taking risks that will allow us to improve.
But if you treat life like a video game, you’re more likely to try new things.
You’re more likely to move past failure and keep going.
And most importantly, you’re more likely to have fun.
High achievers enjoy the thrill of improving and getting better at life, just as you would in a video game.
In Eric Barker’s book, The Surprising Science Behind Why Everything You Know About Success Is (Mostly) Wrong, treat life in this way also allows high achievers to keep going without depleting our willpower:
“By engaging in cognitive reappraisal, and telling ourselves a different story about what is happening, we can subvert the entire willpower paradigm. Some research has shown that willpower is like a muscle, and it gets tired with overuse. But it only gets depleted if there’s a struggle. Games change the struggle to something else.”
2. They keep trying in spite of failure
Failure and mistakes are inevitable in life. But the difference with high achievers is that they don’t let failures stop them from trying again.
According to psychologist Angela Duckworth in her book, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, grit is the number one predictor of success.
She says that staying committed and turning up every day is reflective of true grit:
“Staying on the treadmill is one thing, and I do think it’s related to staying true to our commitments even when we’re not comfortable…
“But getting back on the treadmill the next day, eager to try again, is in my view even more reflective of grit…”
“Because when you don’t come back the next day—when you permanently turn your back on a commitment—your effort plummets to zero. As a consequence, your skills stop improving, and at the same time, you stop producing anything with whatever skills you have.”
So if you want to be a high achiever, it’s imperative to keep turning up. Improvement happens gradually and it’s those that continually improve that end up being high achievers.
3. They don’t rely on talent
Our society tends to praise natural talent, but we forget that it takes hard work to develop expertise.
Angela Duck worth explains it perfectly in her book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance:
“In other words, we want to believe that Mark Spitz was born to swim in a way that none of us were and that none of us could. We don’t want to sit on the pool deck and watch him progress from amateur to expert. We prefer our excellence fully formed. We prefer mystery to mundanity.”
There aren’t many people who can rely on their natural talent to become high achievers.
Life is challenging, and it takes hard work and persistence to reach your goals.
Believing that you don’t have the “talent” to achieve your goals is a limiting belief that stops you from working hard.
High achievers focus on what they can control, which is their ability to work hard and keep improving every day.
Hard work is an excellent quality to have. But what else makes you unique and exceptional?
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4. They have a growth mindset
According to psychologist Carol S. Dweck, a fixed mindset is “believing your qualities are carved in stone,” while a growth mindset is “the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts.”
Which mindset do you think high achievers have?
High achievers have a passion for stretching themselves to reach their potential.
They have discipline and focus to keep trying even when the odds are stacked against them.
Dweck says that this is the mindset that allows people to thrive during some of the most challenging times in life:
“Why waste time proving over and over how great you are, when you could be getting better? Why hide deficiencies instead of overcoming them? Why look for friends or partners who will just shore up your self-esteem instead of ones who will also challenge you to grow? And why seek out the tried and true, instead of experiences that will stretch you? The passion for stretching yourself and sticking to it, even (or especially) when it’s not going well, is the hallmark of the growth mindset. This is the mindset that allows people to thrive during some of the most challenging times in their lives.”
5. They can focus
Focus is nothing more than eliminating distractions.
Ed Hallowell, a former professor at Harvard Medical School, says in his book Driven to Distraction that we have “culturally generated ADD.”
High achievers don’t get distracted by modern life. If they have a project they need to complete, they’ll put their phone in another room nowhere to be found.
According to Ed Hallowell, there is nothing special about people who can focus. It’s simply the ability to limit the options for procrastinating.
“Focus is a function, first and foremost, of limiting the number of options you give yourself for procrastinating… I think that focus is thought of as this magical ability. It’s not a magical ability. It’s put yourself in a padded room, with the problem that you need to work on, and shut the door. That’s it. The degree to which you can replicate that, and systematize it, is the extent to which you will have focus.”
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6. They are resourceful
When the boss puts a deadline that’s much shorter than what they’re used to, a high achieving person doesn’t sit still trying to go about the process as usual.
They get to work to figure out what parts of the process can be expedited, delegated, or done in a different way with a different piece of software.
They ask around for help and try out different approaches.
They always keep an open mind about what they can leverage to do what they need to do.
While being resource is a great quality, there’s actually another secret to getting whatever you truly want in life.
But it’s got nothing to do with what phony manifestation gurus are constantly on about.
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7. They resolve to overcome their problems
If there’s one thing that separates high achievers in any domain of life, it’s the willingness to welcome obstacles and embrace challenges.
High achievers see them as a force that will make them stronger, strengthen their skills and make them more valuable.
We all know that we will encounter challenges, but if you face these challenges with an openness and willingness to be challenged, you’ll find yourself constantly improving and getting better as life goes on.
Self-improvement expert Tony Robbins says it best:
“Your biggest problem is you think you shouldn’t have them. ‘Cause problems are what make us grow. Problems are what sculpt our soul. Problems are what make us become more.”
8. They make sure to keep positive
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.”
Higher achievers try 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.
A high-achieving person realizes that everyone can choose to be optimistic. After all, studies show that optimism is about 25 percent inheritable. The rest is in our control.
9. They take responsibility
There can be a litany of reasons why you haven’t made any progress on your goals. The motivation isn’t there, the time isn’t right, you just haven’t got the skills yet, cookies are just too good.
These are excuses, which is something that isn’t in a high achieving person’s vocabulary.
When you decide on a goal, it’s important to remember that you chose it.
A high achieving person doesn’t blame others for imposing such an impossible goal on them — they take responsibility for their actions.
They seize control of themselves so that they remain accountable for what they decide to do or not do.
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10. They’re organized
Time is our most precious resource. It was Annie Dillard that wrote, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives”.
If we aren’t allocating the time and energy needed to achieve a certain goal, it will never be fulfilled.
The benefit of having an organized system is that it allows all the focus to be placed on the work itself.
According to James Clear, author of Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones, all big things come from small beginnings, and it’s really your habits every day that determines where you’re going:
“All big things come from small beginnings. The seed of every habit is a single, tiny decision. But as that decision is repeated, a habit sprouts and grows stronger. Roots entrench themselves and branches grow. The task of breaking a bad habit is like uprooting a powerful oak within us. And the task of building a good habit is like cultivating a delicate flower one day at a time.”
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