Five habits of successful people

The habits of successful people
By Alex Burden, Professional Development Editor

5 April 2017

Success comes in many forms and there is no single clear template that we can all follow. Some may find success at work, or even find success in their hobbies, and all have steered their own path there. But are there habits that could be adopted for everyday life? 

We asked the foremost leadership thinker and renowned executive coach, Marshall Goldsmith, about what he considers to be the common habits or routines of successful people.

“The qualities of the people I work with, who get better, are three: one; is the courage to look in the mirror, two; they need to have the discipline to follow up and do the work, and three; they need to have the humility to admit they need to improve. Courage, humility and discipline.”

So are these the three basic tenets for becoming successful and continually improving? “Absolutely", says Marshall. "Do you have the courage to do this? Do you have the humility do this, and do you have the discipline? Let me give myself as an example: I pay a woman to call me on the phone every day. Every day, she listens to me read questions and answers that I wrote.

My job is not to tell people what they want to become; it’s to help people become the people they choose to become.

“Someone asked me, ‘don’t you know the theory about how to change behaviour’? I wrote the theory! That’s why I pay a woman to call me; I’m too cowardly to do this by myself and need help – and that’s ok. I’m no better than anyone else. Why does everyone in Hollywood have a personal trainer?”

Developing a support network that can help you when needed is a valuable tool for successful people. They create beneficial relationships with people around them; whether that’s at work, through friends, or at home, this network can help improve psychological well-being and create a great foundation upon which to build. 

Marshall notes that success for each person will look different from week to week, but how can people manage their own expectations for success? He emphasises the importance of people committing to themselves in order to achieve and maintain successful lives: “To me, my job is not to tell people what they want to become; it’s to help people become the people they choose to become.”

If you know who you want to be, and where you want to get, then try our five quick tips on the habits of successful people to blend with your working life, today.

1. Be an inspirational leader

Don’t just be successful: aim to grow the next generation of successful people. “In most instances, with a little guidance and some mentoring, almost every person will rise above your expectations regardless of the task requested,” said Daniel Farrer, CEO of travel commerce company, Switchfly.

Speaking to peers and employees on a daily basis helps with identifying issues and understanding what is facing the wider organisation. It also builds important working relationships, and real-time feedback can go a long way towards helping employees recognise and reflect on their strengths.

2. Treat your development time as you would any product

We search for the best mortgages, the best electric toothbrush, and even the best holidays, but what about the best development for us? Successful people dedicate time to themselves to prioritise the development of new skills because it is in their interest to realise an even more successful version of themselves.

Ric Militi, CEO of tech think-tank, Crazy Raccoons, believes going that extra step is key to success: “If your significant other asks you to vacuum the bedroom, vacuum the whole house. Give every request – no matter the investment it requires – the same level of attention, because once you make over-delivering a habit, you’ll find yourself more motivated and more successful in every area of your life.”

3. Keep your me-time golden

By me-time, we mean connecting with friends, family and yourself, and this is one aspect that just about every successful person recommends. Look after your health, as you’ll need it for whatever you have planned in the future, and stay engaged with loved ones as they are a vital support network - one you must nurture to receive any benefit from.

“Whatever you need to keep yourself balanced, make sure you carve out time for it, even at your busiest times," said Dan Ruch, CEO of Rocketrip.

4. Review and reflect on what you have achieved

If you’ve ever felt like you’re continually achieving things, but cannot entirely recollect what you have done for the week, look at creating a ‘done’ list – the anti ‘to-do’.

When you have finished your day, summarise what you have achieved and then reflect at the end of the week. Are you surprised at how much you accomplished? What frame of mind does this put you in for tackling the rest of your tasks?

There are even apps to help you tackle this, such as iDoneThis, which can also be used for the entire team to assess completion. Get out of the mindset that you didn’t complete two items on your list. Think about the fact that you completed 32 items from your list.

5. Don’t be put off by delays

So your fantastic new idea isn’t going to happen this week, or it wasn’t received in the manner you had hoped it would be. Successful people expect setbacks and deal with them appropriately – look past the setback and to the success that lies beyond. Sherman Finesilver had a down-to-earth view on how you should gauge your progress: 

“Keep these concepts in mind: You've failed many times, although you don't remember. You fell down the first time you tried to walk. You almost drowned the first time you tried to swim.... R. H. Macy failed seven times before his store in New York caught on. Babe Ruth struck out 1,330 times. Don't worry about failure. My suggestion to each of you: worry about the chances you miss when you don't even try.”  
Sherman Finesilver, US Federal Judge (1927-2006)

Keeping up-to-date technically is one aspect, but how do you develop as a leader or become accountable for your career? 

ICAS knows that professional development should be engaging and we want to transform learning for our members with global and innovative initiatives.

Our programme, Make Your Professional Development Count, has three pillars: Technical; Leadership and Management; and Careers, each with a range of development opportunities - discover the full range of your talents, skills and knowledge.


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