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When you think of success, getting your goals, and what successful people do, what do you think?
What creates their success? What are the causes for success?
A lot of people would think it’s things like education, willpower, motivation, perhaps who you were born to, what city you live in, or maybe it’s down to talent or natural skill?
I don’t think it’s necessarily any of those. What success boils down to is… HABIT.
Habits = Easy
That’s it! Just boring old habits. Something you do day in, day out. That is what gets you success. Why? Because it is the ingrained behaviour that you do repeatedly, which is going to either move you towards your goal or move you away from your goal, that ultimately leads to your success (or not).
The Oxford English Dictionary describes a habit as “a thing that you do often and almost without thinking, especially something that is hard to stop doing”. Habits are an ingrained behaviour. Your brain loves routine, so always tries to make a habit of something as quick as possible. Your brain likes that routine, because it makes your life easier.
Now, you’ve got to think back to caveman days when there was lots of danger out there. The simpler you could make something, the better, because then you’d have the capacity to focus on other areas (like worrying whether that red berry you ate was poisonous, if the fire you have stoked was big enough, or whether that noise was a sabre-toothed tiger). The same is for modern day life; you can drive a car and hold a conversation because the act of driving has become so habitual for you.
In a nutshell, habits are great! They get a double thumbs up from your brain (if your brain had thumbs). Brains like habits.
Why habits are the key to success
Habits are therefore key to success. The easier something is to do, the more likely we are to do it. And the more likely we are to do something, the more likely it is to become a success because you’re doing it over, again and again. But…
The problem is our brain doesn’t know the difference between a bad habit and a good habit.
Let me give you a real-life example: it was about November last year and I hit a bit of a blip where I was having bit of a comfort eat. (We’ve all been there, right?) If I was having a bad day, I would treat myself to a chocolate bar. That is OK, but the problem is that it quickly turned into a habit, because then there was another bad day. And another chocolate bar. Then another, and another. Suddenly, it started turning into a habit and not a good one!
Perhaps your goal is to get healthy. So you decide that with every single meal, you’re going to have a side salad or some vegetables with it. That quickly becomes an ingrained habit. Something you do without thinking, and that is doing you good. So, you’ve got to be careful with your daily actions because it’s either going to ingrain into a habit that is good for you or bad for you. And this has everything to do with success: it’s those daily actions that are going to add up to the big picture.
Ingrained positive habits will lead to success
There’s a brilliant writer and researcher called Angela Duckworth who authored “Grit” and she says that sometimes success looks easy. We look at people that are successful and it doesn’t even look like they’re working hard. We’re like, “huh, how are they doing that?!” So, then we come up with reasons, like “Oh, it’s talent” or, “It’s natural ability” or, “They were born like it” but it’s not.
The fact is that it looks easier for them because they’ve ingrained a habit so much that they don’t even have to think about it anymore. It becomes automatic. They can do it without even thinking. They don’t have to rely on willpower or motivation or feeling like it, and that is what separates successful people reaching their goals from people not achieving theirs.
“ Without effort, your talent is nothing more than your unmet potential. Without effort, your skill is nothing more than what you could have done but didn’t.” Angela Duckworth
Don’t rely on feeling like it, don’t think you haven’t got the talent or the natural ability or the skills or whatever excuse you are giving. What it boils down to is just successful daily habits.
This can be applied to absolutely anything and everything, whatever your goal is or whatever your version of success is.
For example, I was working with a client who wanted to write a book. Her method was, after work and after having something to eat, she would write a few pages. Nothing more. This is so powerful because the act of just writing a few pages doesn’t sound that consequential, it doesn’t sound that big, but actually when that ingrains into a habit and you do that every day, now you can start to see how that adds up to the big picture to making you successful or not.
So, my call to action to you is to look at your goal and to look at your habits – are they matching up???
Are your daily actions the right habits to take you a step forward (closer?) to where you need to be? If your goal is to be healthy, then is your daily habit of a glass of Pinot (or two) after work really doing you any good? Or if your goal is to get a promotion at work, what do you need to be doing daily in order to get in front of your bosses and get that attention and progress your career? What daily habits do you need to start applying?
Look at your habits. Look at your goal. Ensure they marry up and remember that your brain is always looking for the short-cut. Your brain is always looking to make your life easier, so you have to ingrain habits in order to do that and THAT is what is going to get you success.
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Below are links to other blog articles that you might be interested to read.
Essential tips for organising your diary plus how to include “non-negotiables” when you plan your diary for effective time management without sacrificing your health or relationships. What Non-negotiables? Click the link and read my blog to find out!
When it comes to goal setting, you’ll have heard about SMART goals. But if SMART goals are the way to do it, then why do so many of us not achieve our goals? Here is why SMART goals are stupid and some top tips how you can improve your goal setting!
If you asked me what was one of the things I was most proud about in my corporate career, apart from moving up the ladder fairly quickly, it would also probably be my work-life balance.
This article is written by Alice Dartnell, life and success coach of Alice Dartnell Limited. Alice empowers busy professionals to be successful, transform their lives and achieve more by improving their confidence, mindset and time management.
For more information please see www.alicedartnell.com.