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How Geniuses Live Their Lives Every Day

How Geniuses Live Their Lives Every Day

People often think of geniuses as unique thinkers that stand out from the crowd. Displaying exceptional intellectual ability, creativity, or originality, they are known to lead movements or discoveries.

As a society molded upon the work of geniuses such as Einstein, Jobs, Plato, and Freud, we gain inspiration from them to achieve our own creative feats. Although studies prove that geniuses and gifted people display some similar traits and have high IQs, what we forget is how much focus and hard work they put into delivering their achievements—which is something we can all choose to do!

In my early elementary school days, I was a few years ahead of my peers in Math and English and had difficulty relating to them. I therefore spent a lot of time in solitude and taught myself how to read music and play the piano. Although the academic side came naturally to me, I put in a lot of work to developing my creative talents.

Although some child prodigies who master chess, math, or musical instruments at a young age do exist, studies show that not all geniuses are born that way. Einstein was slow to speak as a child and Steve Jobs dropped out of college.

Clinical psychologist Dr. Alfred Barrious, who studied geniuses such as Edison, Socrates, Da Vinci, and Shakespeare, discovered that all had 24 personality characteristics in common—which all of us can develop at any time.

Here are some everyday genius traits and habits you can master to maximize your creative abilities and live an exceptional life.

They are independent thinkers.

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    Geniuses don’t see the world through the same lens as the rest of society. They are not always accepting of the way things are. They question rules and challenge authority in order to explore all sides of a situation. It was only in challenging one of Newton’s theories that Einstein stumbled upon the theory of relativity.

    By looking beyond the status quo, you can discover and create beyond your wildest imagination. By acting like the rest of society, you won’t succeed or innovative past society. To achieve big, you need to think big. If greatness doesn’t already exist in an area you’re passionate about, discover it!

    Steve Jobs said he never performed market research before launching the Macintosh because the public had no idea what it wanted. Now, Apple is one of the most valuable companies on the planet. Innovation requires combining problem solving with logic and creativity. When you are presented with a so-called fact, start asking why and see if you can pull apart the reasoning.

    They take risks!

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      Vast success and growth comes from taking risks, whereas staying in your comfort zone causes you to stay stagnant. No great success or innovation came from not taking action or a risk to create something, go somewhere, or speak up. If Christopher Columbus didn’t take the risk to navigate across the Atlantic Ocean, he never would have began the colonization of the Americas.

      Hone in on your values and passions to determine what is worth taking a risk for. Then use logic, reason, and creativity to evaluate the level of risk and determine how to proceed.

      Part of being an independent thinker and taking risks requires you to speak up for what you truly believe in, even if it may cause some friction. The Greek philosopher Aristotle argued in his writings that the Earth was spherical, because of the circular shadow it cast on the Moon during a lunar eclipse, even when everyone believed the earth was flat.

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      They set high standards for themselves.

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        Successful people and geniuses don’t believe in just trying their best, they set deliberate goals and are determined to achieve their best, then continue to go beyond that. Average results are not acceptable! This mindset has led to some of the greatest discoveries in history, such as Isaac Newtown’s law of gravity and Alexander Bell’s invention of the telephone.

        Mimicking what others around you do does not lead to innovation. Pave your own path by deciding that average is not an option. Come up with a realistic plan to achieve your exceptional goals. Combining your passions with your talents, then deciding what areas you want to excel in, enables you to achieve whatever you set your mind to.

        When I first started competing in triathlons, I had a few months to train for my first Olympic-distance race. Although everyone around me said the average person does it in around 3 hours, I knew I excelled at the sport and decided I didn’t want to be average. So I calculated my pace in each leg and came up with realistic training goals to achieve a time that was appropriate and challenging for me. When race day came, I achieved my above-average time goal.

        By setting high standards for yourself in different areas of your life, you really can achieve excellence and lead a life you are proud of.

        They strive for perfection.

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          Geniuses create their own definition of perfection and don’t accept anything less than that. They take society’s definition of perfect to the next level by adding their own creative stamp to it. When others stop and are satisfied enough with what they have created, a genius will continue on to the next level. This leads to innovation and advancements beyond what has previously been achieved.

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          When Jobs was first working on the iPod, his idea of perfection was that that it would only take three clicks to get to any song in the iPod library. He told his engineering team, “Don’t show it to me until you can get it in three clicks.”

          Create your own definition of perfection and strive to achieve it, even if the solution is not apparent in the beginning. Perfectionism is constantly evolving. Master an area in your life that is important to you and continue to grow and create updated versions of perfection.

          They inspire others to also reach their greatness.

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            Geniuses often have teams around them to support them when achieving their feats and discoveries. Their team members believe in their vision and are inspired to bring out their own greatness to support this mission.

            Job’s didn’t build all of Apple’s products alone—he had engineering and product teams that believed in and supported his vision. When employees or colleagues claimed that a task was impossible, Jobs would just stare at them and say, “Don’t be afraid. You can do it.”

            The best way to teach and inspire others is by your behavior and achievements. Going after what is important to you in your life in a consistent and determined way will encourage your peers around you to do the same. Focus on reaching your greatness by directing dynamic energy and optimism towards your goals. Then, get others to believe in your vision and achieve their own greatness by communicating your ideas to them in a persuasive way.

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            They foster focus and drive.

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              Geniuses focus on one problem at a time without many distractions. Goal-driven individuals know the more intensely you concentrate your thoughts and attention and are emotionally involved with a problem or goal, the more likely it is that your mind will respond with the kind of creative ideas that you need.

              To successfully foster focus, a lot of geniuses choose to spend more time in solitude than the average person. A study lead by PhD candidate Darya Zabelina showed that people who were less able to ignore distractions and had to spend more time in solitude were more likely to do great creative work. Sensitivity to noise and stimuli, so the argument goes, drives creative achievement. So don’t ignore the urge to spend time working in solitude to achieve your goals.

              With their fast-thinking minds, curiosity, and desire to know, most geniuses have a lot of energy and drive. They dedicate this energy towards the projects they are passionate about achieving success in.

              You are born with your own unique set of gifts and talents. You are also born with a certain amount of energy. By combining your gifts with your passions and focusing your drive and energy in this area, you can achieve phenomenal results. Try it!

              They are persistent.

              Geniuses and successful people don’t believe in the word impossible or that something can’t be done. In fact, they come up with creative ways to prove naysayers wrong. If you can dream it, you can create it. This attitude leaves no room for limitations, fear, or accepting failure. A lot of great success stories began with many failures. Henry Ford’s first two car businesses folded before he achieved success with the Ford Motor Company. Geniuses look at failures as ways to grow, learn, and move forward.

              By continuing to work towards what you believe in and want to achieve, even if you have to pick yourself back up after falling, is what will lead to long-term success. To keep up the momentum, stay devoted to your goals and take control of your life and schedule. Start by planning something specific to accomplish each day. Remember a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

              Featured photo credit: Barn Images via flickr.com

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              Kelly Weiss

              Purpose-driven business + lifestyle coach

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              Last Updated on April 23, 2019

              How to Set Stretch Goals and Keep Your Team Motivated

              How to Set Stretch Goals and Keep Your Team Motivated

              Stretch goals are a lot like physical fitness. When you adopt a physical sport such as running, continual practice leads to increased stamina, growth and progress.

              While commitment to the sport improves performance, true growth happens when you are stretched beyond your comfort zone. I know this from personal experience.

              For years, I was an avid runner. I ran with a variety of running groups in the Washington, D.C., area and in Columbus, Ohio, where I lived prior to moving to the nation’s capital in 2011.

              While I was initially fearful about slacking off on my exercise habit when I moved to D.C., running enthusiasts in the area provided continual motivation, inspiring me to lace up my shoes day after day. Much to my surprise, many of the area’s running stores (including Pacers and Potomac River Running) boasted running groups that met in the mornings and evenings. So, it was relatively easy for a newcomer like me to connect with like-minded peers.

              I was never a particularly fast runner, but I enjoyed the afterglow of the sport: being completely drained but feeling a sense of accomplishment; setting and reaching goals; buying and wearing out new tennis shoes. The sound of throngs of feet pounding the pavement in semi-unison is still enough to bring tears to my eyes. Yes, I sometimes tear up at the start of races.

              Of all the groups I ran with, the Pacers Store group that met on Monday nights in Logan Circle boasted the fastest runners. I met up with the group week after week only to be the slowest runner. It was difficult to muster the courage to get up every week and meet the group knowing what was waiting for me: sweating and watching the backs of fellow runners.

              Each time I joined the group, I was stretching myself without even realizing it. Instead of feeling like I was transitioning into a better running, for a long time I felt I was torturing myself.

              Then something remarkable happened. I went for a run with a different set of runners and noticed my time had improved. I was running at a faster pace and doing so with ease. What was once uncomfortable for me I now handled with ease.

              The reason I was becoming a better runner was because I was taking myself out of my comfort zone and challenging myself physically and mentally. This example illustrates the process of growth.

              Fortunately, we can create situations that stretch us in our personal and professional lives.

              What Is a Stretch Goal?

              A stretch goal – as authors Sim B. Sitkin, C. Chet Miller and Kelly E. See detail an article “The Stretch Goal Paradox” in Harvard Business Review[1] – is something that is extremely difficult and novel. It is something that not everyone does, and it’s sometimes considered impossible.

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              In general, you establish stretch goals by doing things that are difficult or temporarily challenging.

              For instance, when I was first promoted to a senior communications management role, I knew I needed to beef up my relationships with media personalities. I set a goal to once a month book a day of media interviews in New York City – which is home to many media outlets, including SiriusXM radio, CNN, NBC News, HuffPost, VIBE.

              This was a huge goal because it meant not only identifying the right people to meet with but convincing them to meet with me and my team. While I didn’t end up meeting the goal of doing a full day of media interviews in New York City, I met more people than I would have met had I not established the goal and instead stayed in the comfort of my D.C. office.

              It is important to note that just because you establish a stretch goal doesn’t mean you’ll achieve the goal each time. However, the process of trying is guaranteed to provide some level of growth.

              The Importance of Creating Stretch Goals

              The beginning of the year is a perfect time to assess where you are excelling and where there is room for you to grow. I typically start the year by creating a yearlong strategic plan for myself.

              I think about the things that are necessary to do and things that would be cool to do. I assess the people I should know and think through how to meet them. Then I ask myself if the goals are realistic and what would need to happen for me to achieve them.

              Over time, I have learned that there are five things I can do to set stretch goals:

              1. Get Outside of Your Head

              If I exist within the confines of my imagination, I imperil my own growth and creativity.

              If I examine my accomplishments and celebrate them in isolation of others’ accomplishments, my vantage point is limited.

              I want to be comfortable with what I accomplish, but I also want to be motivated by watching others. In some respects, stretching is about expanding your network of friends, associates and mentors. These are the people who will propel or slow your growth and development.

              Since two are better than one, I always value being able to share my progress with others, seek feedback and then map a plan for success.

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              2. Focus on a Couple Areas at a Time

              When setting goals, it is important to focus on a couple of areas at a time. Most of us are only able to focus on a few things at a time, and if you feel you are unable to tackle all that is before you, you may simply disengage.

              I see this in so many areas of life:

              When people get in debt, if they believe the debt is insurmountable, they refuse to look at incoming bills for fear of facing down the debt. Unfortunately, many businesses go awry when setting stretch goals.

              In “The Stretch Goal Paradox,” Sitkin, Miller and See note:

              “Our research suggests that though the use of stretch goals is quite common, successful use is not. And many executives set far too many stretch goals. In the past five years, for example, Tesla failed to meet more than 20 of founder Elon Musk’s ambitious projections and missed half of them by nearly a year, according to the Wall Street Journal.”

              Goal-setting is like a marathon, not a sprint. It doesn’t all need to happen at the same time, and pacing is extremely important if you want to get to the finish line. It is better to focus on a couple goals at a time, master them and then move on to the next thing.

              3. Set Aside Time Each Year to Focus on Goal-Setting

              When I was a managing director for communications for the Advancement Project, I spent the first part of every year facilitating a communications planning meeting.

              The planning meeting began with the team members assessing the goals the team had established in the preceding year, and whether those goals were realistic or not. If we failed to meet certain goals, we broke down why that happened. From there, we brainstormed about possibilities for the current year.

              For instance, one year we set a goal of pitching and getting 24 opinion essays published. This was audacious because no one on the eight-person team had the luxury of focusing exclusively on editing and pitching opinion essays to publications around the world. We would need to focus on pitching in between the rest of our work.

              We hit this goal within the first eight months of the year. Remarkably, in total, we ended up getting 40 opinion essays published that year, which was an indication that our original goal was too low. We upped the goal to 41 the next year, and amazingly, we hit 42 published opinion essays or guest columns.

              From this experience, we not only learned what was feasible, we also learned the power of focus.

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              When we focused as a team on getting the commentary on our issues out in the public domain, we were successful. The key in all of this is that there was a ton of discussion around which goal we’d pursue and why.

              Equally important, as a manager, I didn’t set the goals alone; the team members and I established the goals collaboratively. This ensured buy-in from each individual.

              4. Use the S.M.A.R.T. Goal Model to Set Realistic Goals

              S.M.A.R.T.

              is a synonym for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound. For the sake of this article, the realistic portion of the acronym is most important.

              While you want to set audacious goals, you want to ensure that they are realistic as well. No one is served by setting a goal that is impossible to accomplish.

              Failing to meet goals can be demoralizing for teams, so it’s important to be sober-eyed about what is possible. Additionally, the purpose of setting goals is to advance and grow, not depress morale.

              For instance, my team would have been discouraged had I begun the year asking it to pitch and place 40 opinion essays if we didn’t already have a track record of placing close to two dozen essays.

              By using the S.M.A.R.T. formula, we were able to achieve all that we set out to do.

              5. Break the Goal up into Small Digestible Parts

              I am a recovering perfectionist. As a writer, being a perfectionist can be counterproductive because I can fail to start if I don’t see a clear pathway to victory.

              The same is true with goal-setting. That’s why I join Lifehack’s fellow contributor Deb Knobelman, Ph.D., in noting that it is critically important to break goals into bite-sized chunks.

              When I had a goal of doing daylong media meetings in New York City, I had to think through all the barriers to achieving that goal and all the steps required to meet the goal.

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              One step was identifying which reporters, producers and hosts to engage. Another step was writing a pitch or meeting invitation that would capture their attention. Another step was thinking through the program areas I wanted to highlight and the new angles I could offer to different reporters.

              Since reporters want to cover stories that no one else has written, I needed to come up with fresh angles for each of the reporters I was engaging. An additional step was thinking through who from my team I’d take with me to the various meetings.

              I was clear that, as a talking head, as public relations reps are sometimes called, I needed the right spokesperson in order to land repeated meetings with different outlets.

              A final step was thinking through what I needed to bring to each meeting and which reports, videos and testimonials would buttress our claims and be of interest to media figures.

              As I walked through what was needed to bring my goal of doing daylong meetings to reality, I realized that not only was the idea within reach, but I was excited to tackle the challenge.

              From that point until now, I have learned to break down goals into smaller parts and tackle the smaller parts on the path to knocking the goal out of the park.

              The Bottom Line

              These are my recommendations for setting stretch goals, and there are a ton of other resources to support you in the workplace and in your community.

              For instance, LinkedIn’s Lynda.com platform has a wonderful suite of leadership development videos, including ones on establishing stretch goals. This is a paid resource but may be worth the investment if you lead a team or want to invest in tools for your own growth and development.

              Featured photo credit: Avatar of user Isaac Smith Isaac Smith @isaacmsmith Isaac Smith via unsplash.com

              Reference

              [1] Harvard Business Review: The Stretch Goal Paradox

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