We all have goals in life, but very few of us ever learn to consciously set, work on and see our goals through. In our naturalness bias, we marvel at those who have set and reached their goals thinking they have some esoteric abilities that we don’t. We overlook that the final product is the result of a series of mistake-ridden, unrecorded pains. What if we could learn from the process, the habits and rituals of the high achievers?
Below are the seven core habits that high achievers went through to reach mastery:
1. They made a decision
It is arguably one of the most important components of goal-setting: Making a conscious, deliberate decision to set and see your goal through. This is a singular moment, when you say; “That’s it! I have had it! I can’t take it anymore.” You decide that the pain of staying the same outweighs the pain of changing. Those who have successfully reached their goals have all had those awakening moments.
Steve Jobs made the decision that he was going to make a dent in the universe after he knew he was adopted. Muhammad Ali made a decision that he was going to be a great boxer after his bike was stolen. They made a decision! Reading, watching motivational videos or even reading articles like this mean nothing without a deliberate decision to change.
2. They built on past successes
We are naturally inclined to focus on our flaws, we know everything that is bad about ourselves. We are experts at proving the “negatives.” The people who are deemed high achievers are the ones who know that they have flaws and that they also have unique talents. How many times have you found yourself saying things like; “there is nothing good about me, I screw everything up, I always have and I always will.” Those words limit your world. No one can consistently screw up everything, there is undoubtedly a time when you have succeeded at something. Find that moment, and use it as a foundation to build momentum.
“Be better today than you were yesterday. Be better tomorrow than you were yesterday.” – Lorenzo Snow
3. They practiced Kaizen
Those who reached their goals know that constant improvement is the norm not the exception. They have made the Kaizen or “continuous improvement” their life philosophy. There is no room for complacency. They know in our neophiliac nature, one way to remain motivated is to learn new things that relate to our goals. Don’t compare yourself to others. In this instance, I am reminded of Steve Job’s words: “life is too short to spend it living someone else’s life.”
Comparing yourself to others can be as delusional as being complacent. High achievers know the value of mentors and role-models, but they also know that real success is how they bring their uniqueness to what they do. Have the courage to be yourself. Fail, learn and improve. This is the virtuous cycle that will guide your self-improvement journey.
4. They have a great people only group
People who succeed know the importance of social circles. They associate themselves with great people only. These are the people who they could rely on when the going gets tough. They are energy givers, they listen to you and they boost your spirit. As a matter of fact, a myriad of studies has shown that people whom you associate with can have great impacts on your overall wellbeing.
Plato, at the peak of the Greek Empire noted, “what is honored in a country will be cultivated there.” Psychologist Emma Seppälä, PhD noted “we are wired for empathy.” Our behavior, attitudes and actions are a direct reflection of whom we spend time with. Starting today, build a social village with people who share your vision.
5. They had a bias for action
It’s been a month since you said you were going to start working out. To motivate yourself, you even acquired a treadmill. Everything is set, the first day you are excited, but suddenly a friend calls, it’s urgent you have to be there. You say: “well, I will have time tomorrow.” It’s been six months now since you’ve been saying “I am going tomorrow.” Sound familiar? Taking action can be the most daunting aspect of goal-setting.
Fear of failure, procrastination and fear of embarrassment, among many others, stop us from taking action. The people who made it knew the value of taking action, they got their hands dirty. Take action! Think of a goal you have been putting off, write your next action. Don’t continue until you’ve written it down. Don’t just think it, ink it!
6. They were flexible
“Where attention goes, energy flows” is a popular saying to help us focus on our goals. However, well-intentioned it may be, some of us seem to misunderstand it. We single-mindedly focus on a goal as if it’s a must-have, that attitude may create tunnel vision that can be detrimental to our goal in the first place.
The path to effective goal-setting is more ambiguous than we may think. Some of us are fortunate to find a goal early in life, while some of us don’t. For those of us who don’t, we need to navigate different paths before we ultimately settle down on a single goal. It’s best to have both a deliberate and an emergent strategy.
While we deliberately choose a life purpose, we should keep our aperture open to opportunities. Be strategic in your goal-setting endeavor. How do you know when to change strategy? Listen to your heart.
“The heart has its reasons of which reason knows nothing.” – Blaise Pascal
7. They were persistent
Having a clear, compelling goal does not guarantee a smooth ride nor does it exempt you from failing. The high achievers knew that great talents, inordinate amount of time and effort do not bulletproof them from temporary defeats. In order words, they knew that failure is part of the journey.
Failure is definitely an option, giving in is not. There will be times when there seems to be no way out, those moments are meant to strengthen you. Be persistent. Failure is neither pervasive nor permanent as our minds have us believe, but temporary setbacks to make us shine brighter.
High achievers ensure that every action taken is in alignment with their overarching goals. Contradictory actions will distract you from your reaching your goal. Make every day count and every single action meaningful. Keep your eyes on the prize! There is no one-size-fits-all answer. How much I succeed in writing this article depends on your willingness to be creative, flexible and bold.