11 Key Habits Followed by Successful People

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The small things you do daily play an outsized role in your life. “Watch your habits; they become your characters,” Lao Tzu famously said. “Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.”

Keep learning

You may have finished school long ago, but you can always learn more. Staying abreast of new ideas, information, and skills is crucial to keeping up — and getting ahead — of an ever-changing world.

Read every day

One of the best ways to learn more is by reading. Many successful people, from Warren Buffet to Mark Cuban, have said they read every day.

Track your progress

By keeping track of your progress in a journal, you can look back and see just how far you’ve come. According to the University of Rochester Medical Center, journalling also brings several other benefits, from mental health boosts to help prioritizing problems.

Learn how to say “no”

Saying “no” can be difficult, but it’s critical to establishing boundaries. A 2020 study published in the Frontiers in Psychology Journal found that “employees who experienced increases in blurring of work-life boundaries reported a deterioration in healthy lifestyle behaviors, which in turn was related to reduced happiness.”

Beat procrastination 

The first step is often the hardest, but taking it is crucial to achieving any goal. Recent studies have shown that “procrastination is not laziness” but instead the result of unmanaged stress, according to McLean Hospital. “If you tend to procrastinate … ask yourself if your behavior may be linked to fear, anxiety, ADHD, or another underlying issue.”

Prioritize self-reflection

Self-reflection is critical to identifying where you are going wrong and how you can improve your life. “Reflecting helps you to develop your skills and review their effectiveness,” according to The Open University, “rather than just carry on doing things as you have always done them.”

Focus on the long-term

The ability to resist instant gratification in pursuit of a long-term goal is fundamental to becoming successful. A famous fable explains how a lion that snacks on field mice will eventually starve. The lion can only get the calories it needs to survive and thrive by putting in the effort to hunt down larger, more challenging prey.

Figure out what you want

“Clarity isn’t something that emerges on its own,” wrote Brendon Burchard, author of High Performance Habits. “It requires reflection.” Think about what you truly want and how you can make that happen.

Focus on results

You’ll never win all the time. Instead of dwelling on failure, reflect on how far you’ve come, focus on the goal you’re working towards, and consider how you might overcome the setback.

Define your goals

Dr. Randy Paterson explained the danger of setting vague goals in his book How to Be Miserable. The more precise a goal is, the more achievable it becomes and the more likely you are to reach it.

Look after yourself

Don’t let the costs of achieving success outweigh the benefits that success will bring you. According to the 2012 book The Top Five Regrets of the Dying, three of the five most common regrets involve self-care: not working so hard, staying in touch with friends, and letting yourself be happier.

Kate Smith, a self-proclaimed word nerd who relishes the power of language to inform, entertain, and inspire. Kate's passion for sharing knowledge and sparking meaningful conversations fuels her every word.