While attending the International Leadership Association Conference in Barcelona this year; one question kept coming up for me. What makes a person successful? Aside from the random element of luck, much of what makes some people successful involves the cultivating of certain habits. Learning what these habits are and how to employ them in your own life could be a worthwhile exercise.
Upon returning home, I surveyed the research and reflected on my observations at the conference. To that end, here are 10 of the most often cited habits of successful people.
One of the most frequently mentioned habits of those who are successful in life is organization. Organization includes planning as well as setting priorities and goals.
Joel Brown, founder of Addicted2Success.com, calls for a prioritized “To-Do List” every evening before going to bed to prepare for the next day.
According to Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey, Sunday is an important day for organization and a time to “get ready for the rest of the week.”
It’s interesting to note that relaxing – by meditating or simply avoiding distractions – is another one of the most-often mentioned habits of successful people.
Of course, relaxation comes more easily to those who are organized, so perhaps for some it is more of a natural byproduct than a conscious decision.
It may also be that the act of “taking a breath” is the successful person’s way of preparing for the effort yet to come. In fact, one of the first steps toward achieving a meditative or relaxed state is to concentrate on your own breathing for three to five minutes.
3. Taking Action
Third on the list of habits of successful people is the inevitable “action” habit. It is important to organize, to plan and to set priorities, but without action, a plan is nothing more than potential.
Successful people act – quickly and often. In addition, although it may sound counter intuitive, according to James Clear, they act (start, anyway) before they feel ready.
According to James Clear, while others come up with reasons not to act, successful people take that all-important first step – even if it seems outlandish.
4. Personal Care
Personal care with regard to diet, exercise and hygiene comes next on the list of habits of those who are successful.
For some, personal care involves a complex regimen and a highly disciplined lifestyle. For others, not so much. Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla Motors, (see Is Elon Musk’s Hyperloop Economically Feasible?) put it succinctly when asked what daily habit has had the largest positive impact on his life. In a tweet, Musk said simply, “Showering.”
5. Positive Attitude
According to many successful people, having a positive attitude is not just a result of being successful – it’s one of the root causes of success.
Joel Brown refers to gratitude and positive self-talk as priorities in the lives of the ultra successful. Moreover, Brown says, it’s not enough to express gratitude and a positive attitude. You must also remind yourself why you are grateful in order to achieve a deeper effect.
Successful people know the value of exchanging ideas with others through networking. They also know the value of collaboration and teamwork – all of which are likely when you network.
According to author Thomas Corley, successful people know the importance of surrounding themselves with other successful people. Corley says 79% of wealthy (successful) people spend at least five hours a month networking. By contrast, only 16% of poor (unsuccessful) people network on a consistent basis. For more, see 10 Tips for Strategic Networking.
Frugal is not the same as stingy. Frugality is a habit of being thrifty, with money and resources. It is also a habit of being economical. Learning to be economical comes through avoiding waste, which automatically results in efficiency.
Corley notes that wealthy, successful people avoid overspending. Instead they comparison-shop and negotiate. The result, according to Corley, is financial success through the simple act of saving more money than they spend.
8. Rising Early
The more time one can devote to being successful, the more likely success will result. Successful people are accustomed to rising early, and that habit appears repeatedly among those who do well in life.
While the “Early Riser’s Club” has a huge membership among successful people, a few notable members include Sir Richard Branson (see How did Richard Branson make his fortune?) of Virgin Group, Disney CEO Robert Iger and Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer.
Whether through donating to charity or the sharing of ideas, successful people have a habit of giving. They know the value of sharing and most believe their success should result in something more than the accumulation of wealth for themselves.
Some of the most well-known successful philanthropists include Bill and Melinda Gates, Oprah Winfrey and Mark Zuckerberg.
As Keep Inspiring Me points out, however, lack of wealth does not need to be a factor when it comes to sharing. Volunteering in your community or at a local school does not cost anything but could provide help where it is needed most (see Retirement Tips: Choose The Best Charity Annuity).
It’s important to note that successful people read. While they also read for pleasure, most use their reading habit as a means to gain knowledge or insight.
For anyone who needs inspiration about the value and importance of reading, look no further than the example of billionaire author, J.K. Rowling, who says she read “anything” as a child, and who advises, “Read as much as you possibly can. Nothing will help you as much as reading.”
The Bottom Line
Most people have habits – some are positive, some are not. Successful people tend to have more of the kinds of habits that contribute to their success.
The good news, for those who wish to be successful, is that cultivating positive habits takes no more effort than developing bad ones.
Some of the best habits of successful people involve only conscious effort – i.e., getting up early every day. Others, such as becoming organized, may take a little more skill and practice but ultimately result in the most desired outcome of all – success.