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Updated on April 5, 2010

12 Irrefutable Habits You Need to Succeed

  1. The Habit of Self-Discipline

“Self command is not only itself a great virtue, but from it all the other 
virtues seem to derive their principle luster.” (Adam Smith)

The most important habit you can develop for success, achievement and happiness is the habit of self-discipline. Perhaps the best definition of self-discipline comes from Elbert Hubbard:

“Self-discipline is the ability to make yourself do what you should do, when you should do it, whether you feel like it or not.”

The habit of self-discipline is closely tied to the Law of Control that says that, “You feel happy about yourself to the degree to which you feel you are in control of your own life.”

2. The Habit of Developing Personal Power

There is a direct relationship between self-discipline and self-esteem. The more you discipline yourself to behave in the manner that you have decided, the more you like and respect yourself. The more positive and confident you will feel. The stronger and more in charge of your life and situation you become.

Every act of self-discipline strengthens every other discipline at the same time. Every weakness in self-discipline weakens your other disciplines as well. Like working a muscle, your ability to discipline yourself to behave in the way that you have decided grows stronger each time you exercise it. This is why the happiest, most successful and most respected men and women in our societies today are all men and women of great self-control, self-mastery and self-discipline. And this is a habit you can learn, with practice.

3. The Habit of Becoming a Lifelong Optimist

Perhaps the most helpful mental habit you can develop is the habit of optimism. Optimists are usually the happiest, healthiest, most successful and most influential people in every group and society.

According to Dr. Martin Seligman, in his book Learned Optimism; people learn to become optimists by thinking the way the optimists think. They in effect learn to be optimistic just as pessimists learn to be pessimistic.

The summary statement of psychology, religion and philosophy is that;

“You become what you think about most of the time.”

What is it that optimists think about most of the time? In its simplest terms, optimists think about what they want and how to get it, most of the time. They think about where they are going and how to get there. The very idea of thinking about what they want makes them happy and positive. It increases their energy and releases their creativity. It motivates and stimulates them to perform at higher levels.

Pessimists, on the other hand, are the opposite. They think and talk about what they don’t want most of the time. They think about the people they don’t like, the problems that they are having, or have had in the past, and especially, they think about who is to blame for their particular situation. And the more they think about the things they don’t want and who is to blame for their problems, the more negative and angry they become. The more negative they become, the faster they attract into their lives exactly those things that they do not want to happen

4. The Habit of Developing a Resilient Personality

There is a relatively new field of medicine called “psychoneuroimmunology.” Research in this area has concluded that the quality of your thinking has an enormous impact on the strength of your immune system. The habit of optimism, combined with a positive mental attitude, seems to strengthen and increase the cells in the body which are responsible for resisting and overcoming the various factors that contribute to disease and illnesses of all kinds.

Psychologists have now developed a profile of what they call the “hardy

Personality.” This is the man or woman who seems to respond positively and effectively to adversity and setbacks. He or she is optimistic and forward thinking. It seems that the more optimistic you are, the stronger and more resilient is your mind and body. As a result, you will have higher levels of energy and a quicker recovery rate from fatigue. You will seldom be ill for any reason. If you catch a cold or flu, which will be rare, you will bounce back quickly as the fortified t-cells in your body quickly counter attack and eradicate the infection that is causing it.

5. The Habit of Thinking About What You Want

You develop the habit of optimism by disciplining yourself to keep your thoughts and words on what you want, and off of what you don’t want. You become an optimist by thinking continually in terms of the specific actions that you can take immediately to achieve the goals that are most important to you. The busier you become working toward the accomplishment of goals and objectives that you have set for yourself, the more energy and enthusiasm you will have, the faster you will move ahead, the more you will get done, and the happier you will be.

Earl Nightingale once wrote that,

“Happiness is the progressive realization of a worthy ideal.”

When you are working hour by hour and day by day toward the achievement of something that is worthwhile and important to you, your brain releases a steady stream of endorphins that gives you a feeling of happiness and well being. You feel more positive and creative. You have more energy and enthusiasm. This positive feeling acts as a reward or reinforcement that motivates you continually to think the thoughts and take the actions that move you even more rapidly in the direction of your hopes, dreams and goals.

6. The Habit of Developing Orientations for High Performance

Optimistic people think very differently than pessimistic people. They develop a series of “orientations” or general tendencies of thinking that separate them from the average person. These orientations soon become habitual ways of thinking and acting that propel them forward toward the success and happiness they desire. Like all habits, these habitual ways of thinking are learnable through practice and repetition.

As you develop the habits of thinking in these ways most of the time, you become a different person. In a way, these are the habits of “mental fitness.” Just as you would become physically fit if you went to health club and worked out with the equipment regularly, you become mentally fit, positive and optimistic, as you work out your mind practicing these orientations.

7. The Habit of Thinking About The Future

The first way of thinking practiced by optimists is future-orientation. Optimists are those who develop the habit of “idealization.” In the process of idealizing, you take your thoughts off the present situation and you instead imagine a perfect future for yourself in your business, your finances, your family, your health or any other area. You imagine that you have a “magic wand” that you could wave and create your ideal future vision. Instead of worrying or becoming preoccupied with the details of the present moment, you ask yourself, “What would I ideally like to be, have or do in the future?”

You develop the habit of practicing “back from the future” thinking. In this type of thinking, you project forward into the future to your ideal result and imagine what it would look like in every way. You then look back to the present and ask yourself, “What would I have to do, starting today, to create this ideal future that I desire?”

You develop the habit of “long-time perspective.” Instead of focusing continually on the moment, and on immediate actions and gratifications, you instead think long-term about what you want and where you are going. The greater clarity you have with regard to the results you want to achieve in the future, the better and more accurate will be your decisions in the present moment. When you idealize and practice long-term thinking, you find yourself setting much better goals and priorities in your day-to-day life.

8. The Habit of Thinking About Your Goals

Goal-orientation is the second quality or way of thinking practiced by optimists and all successful people. In future-orientation, you develop a clear, ideal image of what you want to accomplish sometime in the future. With goal-orientation, you crystallize that image into specific, measurable, detailed goals and objectives that you will need to accomplish to achieve that ideal future vision.

Successful people soon develop the habits of personal strategic planning. They sit down and make a list of exactly what they want to accomplish in the short, medium and long term. They then use a powerful, seven-part goal setting methodology to create blueprints and plans of action that they follow every day.

Once you develop the habit of setting goals and making plans for their accomplishment, it will become as natural for you as breathing. By following a proven goal setting process, you will increase the likelihood of achieving your goals by as much as ten times, by 1000% or more. This is just not a theory; it has been proven and demonstrated on a national basis.

In February 2003, USA Today reported on a study of people who had set New Year’s Resolutions the year before. They found of the people who had set New Year’s Resolutions, but not in writing, only 4% had followed through. But of those people who had written down their New Year’s Resolutions, fully 46% had carried them out. This is a difference in success rates of more than 1100%!

9. The Habit of Thinking About Excellent Performance

An important habit of thinking developed by optimists is the habit of “excellence orientation.”

The fact is that, to achieve something you have never achieved before, you will have to develop and master one or more skills that you have never had before. By the Law of Correspondence, your external environment will always be a reflection of your internal environment. If you want to change something in your external environment, or achieve a goal that you have never achieved in the past, you are going to have to change your in internal environment in some way. Almost invariably, this requires the acquisition of a new skill or set of skills. Here is the good news. A skill is the same as a habit of performance, and like habits, all skills are learnable. You can learn any skill you need to learn to achieve any goal that you can set for yourself. If anyone else around you has developed a key skill that has enabled him or her to be more successful, that is proof in itself that you too can learn and develop this skill. It is simply a matter of practice and repetition.

10. The Habit of Identifying Your Key Skills

Excellence orientation requires that you make a list of the key skills that are essential for success in your field. There are usually only about 5-7 skills, or key result areas, that determine most of the success that one achieves in any field of endeavor. Your first job is to identify these key skills and write them down.

Here is an interesting discovery. You have achieved some level of success in your field today because of your talent and ability in certain key areas. But at the same time, you are being held back by your weaknesses in other areas. The rule is that your weakest key skill determines the height of your results, and your income. In other words, you could be excellent at six out of seven key result areas, but your weakness in the seventh area will determine your overall results and rewards in that job or field.

You therefore ask yourself this question, ”What one skill, if I developed and did it consistently in an excellent fashion, would have the greatest positive impact on my career?”

This is one of the most important questions that you ask and answer throughout your career. You must develop the habit of continually identifying and working on your weakest key skill. Bringing up your ability in this one area will usually have a greater and more immediate impact on your results than anything else you can do.

If you do not know the answer to this question (and most people don’t), go to your boss or your co-workers and ask them, “What one skill, if I developed and did it in an excellent fashion would help me the most in my job?”

11. The Habit of Pursuing Masteries

The reason that many people underachieve in their careers is because they do not realize how long it takes to achieve mastery in any field. Extensive research in this area suggests that it requires about five to seven years of hard work for you to move to the top of your field. This means five to seven years of focused, concentrated, determined work on yourself to get better and better in the key result areas that are responsible for your results and rewards. And there are no short cuts.

Sometimes people say, “Five to seven years is too long a long time to achieve mastery in my field.” This is true. But then they forget also that whether they commit themselves to doing something within that time frame or not, “The time is going to pass anyway.”

This is very important. The biggest regret that many people report is that “they did not start early enough.” But the time is going to pass anyway. Five to seven years from now, five years would pass away and the seventh year will also follow suit and equally pass away.

The only question is, “Where are you going to be five to seven years from now in your field?” The good news is that, if you set it as a goal, make a plan, and work on it every day, five to seven years from now you are going to be in the top 10% of people in your field. You are going to be one of the highest paid and most respected people in your career. You are going to be enjoying the great results and rewards of the top performers in your business.

Remember this that, nobody is better than you and nobody is smarter than you. If someone is doing better than you, it just means that they started work on themselves in a certain way earlier than you did. And whatever anyone else has done, you can do as well. There are no limits except the limits you place on yourself with your own thinking. The very fact that others have been able to excel in a field, having started off in that field with no experience or skills, is proof that you can excel in that field as well. Your job is to put your head down, get busy, and go to work on yourself. Resolve today to develop the habit of personal excellence, and focus all your energies on joining the top 10% of professionals in your field. Once you do that, your entire future will open up in front of you. You will become unstoppable.

12. The Habit of Commitment to Lifelong Learning

Another key habit of thinking and acting practiced by top people is growth orientation. It is the high road to excellent performance and essential to developing the habit of optimism. This method of thinking and living is the foundation of excellence orientation, and is essential for you to develop if you want to move into the top 10% of your field.

Growth orientation requires that you develop the habit of continuous learning, the habit of continuous personal and professional development. Just as you exercise physically on a regular basis to remain fit and healthy, you must exercise mentally on a daily basis to become better and better in your chosen field.


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    • profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago

      Thank you Princess for making time to visit my pages. I was also thrilled by your article on "The 10 Best Things About Being a Teacher". That was great, thanks.

    • prairieprincess profile image

      Sharilee Swaity 

      7 years ago from Canada

      This is excellent! I am so pleased to have seen your pages, and look forward to reading more.

      The book, "The Talent Code," talks about how so much time is needed to master any skill, and that is very good to remember when pursuing success.

    • ramkkasturi profile image


      8 years ago from India

      I agree hundred percent that these are very good habits.

      Nice and well done. I wish I had half of them!!



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