We all dream of success to one degree or another. The simple fact that you’re reading this right now tells me that you want to live a more successful life. But so many find it difficult to achieve the success they desire and instead of addressing their habits and routines, they continue asking themselves, “Why can’t I achieve success?” The answer is pretty simple, but changing your daily routine can be tough, and even impossible if you aren’t clear about how and why to go about shifting your approach to life. A big part of successful living is about having the right habits for success. It’s simple, and it’s an approach to living that’s available to everyone.
The difference between good habits and bad habits is precision and organization versus sloppiness and disorganization. Most people are sloppy about how they go through life, doing things in a general kind of way, rather than approaching them precisely, exactly. They do things in a way that just lets them get by in life. They would never admit that they’re cutting corners or slacking off; they’ll tell you they’re always busy and on the go, but it’s there, in their approach to life. That’s why they never get to where they want to go. The only person they’re hurting is themselves.
Sloppiness and disorganization create openings for things to knock you off track. They allow for delays and distractions to creep in and prevent you from getting to where you want to be. Think about it like this: if you leave your home with all its windows and doors open, you can’t be surprised when someone walks in and robs you. If you leave your own life open and vulnerable to delays and setbacks by coasting along with bad habits, why are you surprised when you don’t reach your goals?
If you truly care about hanging on to your valuables, you lock up when you leave your home, because the only person who will lose out is you. Similarly, if you care about achieving your goals and desires, you close up the opportunities for things to go wrong and hold you back. And that’s the reason the rich and successful cultivate good habits and precise, organized ways of doing things. It isn’t because someone else is standing over them, making them do it. It’s because they make the conscious, daily decision to do things in a way that helps them maximize benefit and minimize disruption. They want good results, and they want to win over and over again.
“Winning is not a sometime thing; it’s an all the time thing.” -Art Williams
Good habits are not an annoying and challenging approach to life; but they are a very specific, systematized and simplified approach to life. They make your life easier. They make it more productive. When you choose to live with a system of good habits, you move beyond deciding just to live life and get by any way you can. You are choosing to live more precisely by doing the exact things you know are going to give you the results you want. When you decide to do those things over and over again, they naturally become one of your habits.
The habit of habits
Successful people don’t just do things; they do things the right way, at the right time, over and over. They eliminate their margin of error. The difference is that not everyone operates that way. Not everyone pays the same attention to detail that high achievers do.
High achievers expect significant results as fast as possible, and they do it by being precise. They want to eliminate any margin of error, and they want to know what their payoff is going to be for the effort they put in. It’s pointless to follow some list of “rich habits” simply because someone else does them. The key is to look at lists like that as a resource to get ideas to help you get more organized on accomplishing the things that are important to you.
Great results don’t magically come because you follow some checklist of habits; great results come because you have organized yourself and your life around the activities that give you consistent, excellent results. That’s how you eliminate your own margin for error.
If you are lucky, you grew up picking up the right kinds of habits. If not, don’t worry. You can change. In fact, high achievers are continually making changes. That happens because their life changes. New opportunities open up, new goals emerge, and they adapt their schedule and activities to accommodate the new direction. Also, ideas for improvement continuously come from doing things yourself and from observing others. This allows you to do not only the right things but to do them quicker, faster, and better. That helps keep you fresh, energized, and growing.
Put yourself in a challenging environment, where you can stretch yourself and improve. Give yourself ways to grow and improve, perform under pressure. Your mental toughness and capacity are just like physical toughness; if you go to the gym and workout, lift weights, you’re going to become stronger, and if you work out your mental capacity by engaging it, stretching it and challenging it, it’s going to grow. You’re going to gain the ability to solve problems, develop new skills and new, winning habits are going to emerge. Good, new habits are the result of doing things in your life that you want to do.
Ray Kroc and the hunger for success
Back when Ray Kroc first joined the McDonald’s company and started selling franchises, he couldn’t figure out why his franchisees weren’t making a huge success out of it. The system that was in place was stellar and guaranteed to work. But somehow, the people buying his franchises just weren’t making it happen. That was until he started selling to a different type of person.
When Ray Kroc first started, he sold franchises to his buddies at the country club who bought them for their relatives and friends — people who weren’t truly invested in making it work. After all, even if it failed, they’d probably be okay. They had no real desire to follow his proven system, and they just went through the motions.
Things changed when he sold his first franchise to a door-to-door Bible saleswoman and her husband. They took the running of their new business very seriously and personally. They ran it like a mom-and-pop operation. They had invested everything in it, and it was their future, so they followed that system to the letter, and they found real success. This success was no surprise as the McDonald brothers had done the same thing before them.
When Ray Kroc saw this success, a lightbulb went off, and he realized he needed to sell it like a mom-and-pop business to first-time business owners. Sales began to skyrocket. He even went to the Small Business Administration and made an arrangement where underprivileged families could get individual loans to purchase a franchise. It was good for them, good for the economy and good for Ray Kroc. That small shift of finding people who would follow the system to the letter turned McDonald’s into the global, runaway success it is today.
It all comes back to systems and habits. If you want to develop the right kinds of habits for success, you need to be invested, committed, and determined to make it work, no matter what. Travis Bradberry said: “Humans are creatures of habit. If you quit when things get tough, it gets that much easier to quit the next time. On the other hand, if you force yourself to push through it, the grit begins to grow in you.”
What will give you the determination to push through the tough times is when you know this is the system, these are the habits that are going to pay big dividends for you. The only person who will lose if you start cutting corners is yourself. Life is hard enough, and we don’t want to be our own worst enemy. Once we understand the situation, we’re going to want to stay with the system, game plan, and activities that allow us to move upwards. That’s what’s going to give you the grit, the toughness and the determination to stay on course. In other words, it’s more than just knowing what habits to develop; it’s about sticking to it, committing, being all-in.
Developing the habit
Think about it like a factory. At the start, it takes time, energy, and effort to set things up the right way, to find the optimum way to manufacture products, so they come out as quickly as possible, perfect every time, and with as little waste as can be managed. Once everything is in place, it’s a simple matter of adding the raw materials and pushing the “start” button.
Likewise, you want to build and develop the right habits and the right systems to make growing your success as automatic and natural as possible. You’re pretty much rewiring your brain and body to turn them into a well-oiled, properly set-up machine that produces success after success. So how do you develop the right habits for success?
1 – Don’t try to do it overnight
Breaking one bad habit and replacing it with a good one could happen overnight if a lightbulb goes off, but often it takes longer. This is because it takes time to unlearn the old habit, learn the new one and incorporate it into your everyday routine. Sometimes these bad habits hide and it takes a while to realize they are even there. Once you start moving forward to new projects with energy and intent, the bad habits begin to reveal themselves, and you will recognize them. They’ll show themselves because you will find yourself wasting time, becoming side-tracked, and going nowhere. The good news is, the more you unravel the old habits and start building new ones, the easier it becomes to change.
2 – Focus on the things you want to accomplish, not your habits
Once you start moving towards new goals and projects you want to achieve in your life and spend more time on the right activities to make them happen, your habits will begin to change. Old, bad habits will start getting squeezed out by new, good ones. Of course, it’s good to be aware of your bad habits, but don’t waste all your attention on them by obsessing over them. Put your mental energy into achieving your goals and dreams and let the habits change by themselves, as your new activities start aligning with your goals.
Habits aren’t made by taking a vow, like a New Year’s resolution. For good habits to form they need a purpose, an end goal, for them to become part of your life. Bad habits are things you grow out of as you grow into new ones.
3 – Take it step by step
Evaluate where you’re spending your time and see where it needs to improve. Where are you wasting time on things that aren’t giving you a good return on investment or, even worse, things that are dragging you down? The idea is to take the 24-hour allotment of time you have daily and put it to productive use so that you can live a rewarding life.
Here are some tips to make that happen:
- Create schedules and game plans that fit your personality and character. We all have ways of getting things done.
- Set your own goals. It’s great to be inspired by someone else’s success, but don’t try to copy them exactly. Make sure that the goals you are setting are important to you, and will help you find the success you desire.
- Be consistent — you don’t only want occasional success, you want constant success. Once you start building momentum and progress, you don’t want to throw that hard-earned effort away. Give your efforts the opportunity to compound and multiply.
- Celebrate your achievements. As important as it is to push through when you hit a bump in the road it’s just as important to reward yourself when you succeed. (Just don’t reward yourself by indulging your old, bad habit!)
- Use the resources you have available. Read motivational books and blogs, listen to podcasts, and watch videos of successful people for inspiration and motivation. Keep a journal of your progress. The power of writing things down is that it forces you to be specific. It forces you to take a few seconds to think about what you are doing and evaluate whether you are satisfied with the results or can think about improvement. Taking time to be specific pays dividends.
Don’t give up — failure is going to happen. The dieter is probably going to break down and have a slice of pizza with their friends occasionally on a Saturday night; the new early riser will oversleep one morning and get behind on a deadline. So what? These things happen, but they are not a reason to give up; they are a bump in the road. It’s how you deal with failure that shows your character, and determines whether or not you achieve success. Get over it, get past it, and move on. Evaluate why it happened, change a couple of small details if you need to, and keep moving forward.
Changing the bad habits of a lifetime can be challenging, as can learning good new habits that serve you well. But no matter how tough it is, it will be worth it. Nobody ever regretted becoming a better, stronger, more successful version of themselves. When you achieve real success, you will also experience amazing rewards for your efforts.
What are the most important habits you want to develop to help you reach your goals?
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