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Successful People Aren’t Luckier Than Everybody Else, They Just Know How to Make Good Decisions

Successful People Aren’t Luckier Than Everybody Else, They Just Know How to Make Good Decisions

What contributes to the difference between the decisions successful people make and all other decisions made around the world on a hourly, daily and even weekly basis. Why do some people consistently make right decisions over and over with little room for failure?

How do we, become better at making decisions in our own work and personal lives to emulate this level of success?

Successful people always identify the problem first

It starts with identifying the problem in front of you. Do you need the new sports car or do you need a new mode of transportation to get to work? Both are completely different problem sets.

The former has an assumptive solution built into it that you need a new car and that this car MUST be a sports car while the latter asks the question how you can get to and from work – which can include a variety of potential solutions – car, train, bus, bike, walk, skip, etc. With any decision it’s important to first frame the problem within the context of the actual problem itself and not within the frame of the solution we are trying to get to.

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When compared to successful innovators, this thinking enables them to go out of the box in their thinking without feeling pushed into a corner before they have started.

They narrow the focus and limit their options

I want to help kids learn versus I want to help kids learn how to be better programmers are two very different focus sets. Both are aimed at helping kids grow, but the latter statement puts the decision making firmly into the decision makers hands – “this is what I am going to focus on, this is where I will be successful” – whereas the former statement leans toward bringing in external consultation as to what the focus should be and takes the decision making process out of our own hands.

Many people become concerned when they narrow their focus for fear that they are minimizing their chances of success by limiting their options to what they could achieve. When in fact, when we narrow our focus, we are actually increasing our chances of success by ensuring that each available option in the decision is one within our proven niche where we have already been successful.

They look at the long-term play instead of the short-term success

Successful decision makers are always looking at the long-term play. Short-term success is fleeting, here today, gone tomorrow but long-term success is everlasting. When we evaluate our decisions for the long-term we look at criteria that are not available today but might be factors for tomorrow that would change the decision we make.

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Buying the sports car today, during the summer, when the weather is hot outside is a great decision for today and the next few months, but come winter it’s value will sharply decrease as other factors will come into play, relegating it to storage over the winter months when it is probably needed the most.

They digest the useful information and ignore the chatter

We live in an information rich society where we are constantly bombarded with information. Look at how best to build something as simple as a wooden box to store firewood and you’ll find hundreds of pictures, articles and possibly even some blogs that are dedicated to their existence, all espousing their incredible features and one upmanship.

How does one decide in the face of so much information?

Ignore it, put it aside, take what you need and move on. At the end of the day, the decision is yours to make and not the world’s. Successful decisions are based on ignoring the chatter and the backroom banter which are aimed at closing ours minds to the potential successful of new ideas. Many innovations that have come before us are based on people consuming what they needed to know, ignoring the chatter and making successful decisions for the simple reason that they ignored this chatter.

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They separate the good from the bad and needs from wants

We’ve alluded to this already but it is worth mentioning on it’s own to drive the point home. Successful decision makers are able to separate the good from the bad, the right from the wrong and the needs from the wants when evaluating their decisions.

A successful decision maker separates their personal ambitions and desires from the decision and looks at the criteria in front of them that will shape the decision and demonstrate what is needed for it to be successful.

In some cases, this involves a complete separation of the decision maker from the decision for a period of time by taking a break and coming back to it to look at the decision with fresh eyes and a different approach to ensure the decision is not being skewed.

When employed correctly, this removes the potential for rash, impulse decisions that can have potentially negative, long-term effects.

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They reflect and evaluate every decision they made

When was the last time you looked at a decision you made and reflected on it? Really reflected on it, not simply – “I should have done this” – but looked at the process for how you came to the decision, the information you gathered, where your focus was, who you listened to, etc, etc?

Very few of us actually do this to the point of critiquing our approach in how we arrived at our decision and what we should do better next time. Perhaps because we have such a strong emotional tie to the decision or because there is no one else to “blame” but ourselves or perhaps because we are still living the impact of that decision.

Whatever the reason, to make successful decisions on a continual basis requires the awareness and afterthought to evaluate what we did wrong, where we went wrong and what checks and balances we must put in place today to make sure that it does not happen tomorrow. Of all the aforementioned steps, evaluating where our decisions went wrong is the best way to ensuring we are successful in our next ones.

Are you making bad decisions today? Or perhaps ones that you wish could be more successful? If so, start with a sampling of what you did, what would you do differently if you had the chance to do it again – how would you better identify the problem or narrow the focus to ensure you are making the right decision against the problem. Are your decisions focused more on short-term gain fueled by chatter and likes or are you too close to it to make a rational decision?

Successful people make great decisions because they apply the criteria in front of them differently when identifying a their options which in turn increases the probability of their success. But there is no reason why we cannot apply that same criteria to making our own successful decisions.

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Greg Thomas

Software Architect

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Last Updated on March 21, 2019

11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits

11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits

Most gurus talk about habits in a way that doesn’t help you:

You need to push yourself more. You can’t be lazy. You need to wake up at 5 am. You need more motivation. You can never fail…blah blah “insert more gibberish here.”

But let me share with you the unconventional truths I found out:

To build and change habits, you don’t need motivation or wake up at 5 am. Heck, you can fail multiple times, be lazy, have no motivation and still pull it off with ease.

It’s quite simple and easy to do, especially with the following list I’m going to show to you. But remember, Jim Rohn used to say,

“What is simple and easy to do is also simple and easy not to do.”

The important things to remember when changing your habits are both simple and easy, just don’t think that they don’t make any difference because they do.

In fact, they are the only things that make a difference.

Let’s see what those small things are, shall we?

1. Start Small

The biggest mistake I see people doing with habits is by going big. You don’t go big…ever. You start small with your habits.

Want to grow a book reading habit? Don’t start reading a book a day. Start with 10 pages a day.

Want to become a writer? Don’t start writing 10,000 words a day. Start with 300 words.

Want to lose weight? Don’t stop eating ice cream. Eat one less ball of it.

Whatever it is, you need to start small. Starting big always leads to failure. It has to, because it’s not sustainable.

Start small. How small? The amount needs to be in your comfort zone. So if you think that reading 20 pages of a book is a bit too much, start with 10 or 5.

It needs to appear easy and be easy to do.

Do less today to do more in a year.

2. Stay Small

There is a notion of Kaizen which means continuous improvement. They use this notion in habits where they tell you to start with reading 1 page of a book a day and then gradually increase the amount you do over time.

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But the problem with this approach is the end line — where the “improvement” stops.

If I go from reading 1 page of a book a day and gradually reach 75 and 100, when do I stop? When I reach 1 book a day? That is just absurd.

When you start a habit, stay at it in the intensity you have decided. Don’t push yourself for more.

I started reading 20 pages of a book a day. It’s been more than 2 years now and I’ve read 101 books in that period. There is no way I will increase the number in the future.

Why?

Because reading 40 to 50 books a year is enough.

The same thing applies to every other habit out there.

Pick a (small) number and stay at it.

3. Bad Days Are 100 Percent Occurrence

No matter how great you are, you will have bad days where you won’t do your habit. Period.

There is no way of going around this. So it’s better to prepare yourself for when that happens instead of thinking that it won’t ever happen.

What I do when I miss a day of my habit(s) is that I try to bounce back the next day while trying to do habits for both of those days.

Example for that is if I read 20 pages of a book a day and I miss a day, the next day I will have to read 40 pages of a book. If I miss writing 500 words, the next day I need to write 1000.

This is a really important point we will discuss later on rewards and punishments.

This is how I prepare for the bad days when I skip my habit(s) and it’s a model you should take as well.

4. Those Who Track It, Hack It

When you track an activity, you can objectively tell what you did in the past days, weeks, months, and years. If you don’t track, you will for sure forget everything you did.

There are many different ways you can track your activities today, from Habitica to a simple Excel sheet that I use, to even a Whatsapp Tracker.

Peter Drucker said,

“What you track is what you do.”

So track it to do it — it really helps.

But tracking is accompanied by one more easy activity — measuring.

5. Measure Once, Do Twice

Peter Drucker also said,

“What you measure is what you improve.”

So alongside my tracker, I have numbers with which I measure doses of daily activities:

For reading, it’s 20 pages.
For writing, it’s 500 words.
For the gym, it’s 1 (I went) or 0 (didn’t go).
For budgeting, it’s writing down the incomes and expenses.

Tracking and measuring go hand in hand, they take less than 20 seconds a day but they create so much momentum that it’s unbelievable.

6. All Days Make a Difference

Will one day in the gym make you fit? It won’t.

Will two? They won’t.

Will three? They won’t.

Which means that a single gym session won’t make you fit. But after 100 gym sessions, you will look and feel fit.

What happened? Which one made you fit?

The answer to this (Sorites paradox)[1] is that no single gym session made you fit, they all did.

No single day makes a difference, but when combined, they all do. So trust the process and keep on going (small).

7. They Are Never Fully Automated

Gurus tell you that habits become automatic. And yes, some of them do, like showering a certain way of brushing your teeth.

But some habits don’t become automatic, they become a lifestyle.

What I mean by that is that you won’t automatically “wake up” in the gym and wonder how you got there.

It will just become a part of your lifestyle.

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The difference is that you do the first one automatically, without conscious thought, while the other is a part of how you live your life.

It’s not automatic, but it’s a decision you don’t ponder on or think about — you simply do it.

It will become easy at a certain point, but they will never become fully automated.

8. What Got You Here Won’t Get You There

Marshall Goldsmith has a great book with the same title to it. The phrase means that sometimes, you will need to ditch certain habits to make room for other ones which will bring you to the next step.

Don’t be afraid to evolve your habits when you sense that they don’t bring you where you want to go.

When I started reading, it was about reading business and tactic books. But two years into it, I switched to philosophy books which don’t teach me anything “applicable,” but instead teach me how to think.

The most important ability of the 21st century is the ability to learn, unlearn, and relearn. The strongest tree is the willow tree – not because it has the strongest root or biggest trunk, but because it is flexible enough to endure and sustain anything.

Be like a willow, adapting to the new ways of doing things.

9. Set a Goal and Then Forget It

The most successful of us know what they want to achieve, but they don’t focus on it.

Sounds paradoxical? You’re right, it does. But here is the logic behind it.

You need to have a goal of doing something – “I want to become a healthy individual” – and then, you need to reverse engineer how to get there with your habits- “I will go to the gym four times a week.”

But once you have your goal, you need to “forget” about it and only focus on the process. Because you are working on the process of becoming healthy and it’s always in the making. You will only be as healthy as you take care of your body.

So you have a goal which isn’t static but keeps on moving.

If you went to the gym 150 times year and you hit your goal, what would you do then? You would stop going to the gym.

This is why goal-oriented people experience yo-yo effect[2] and why process-oriented people don’t.

The difference between process-oriented and goal-oriented people is that the first focus on daily actions while others only focus on the reward at the finish line.

Set a goal but then forget about it and reap massive awards.

10. Punish Yourself

Last two sections are pure Pavlovian – you need to punish bad behavior and reward good behavior. You are the only person who decides what is good and what is bad for you, but when you do, you need to rigorously follow that.

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I’ve told you in point #3 about bad days and how after one occurs, I do double the work on the next day. That is one of my forms of punishments.

It’s the need to tell your brain that certain behaviors are unacceptable and that they lead to bad outcomes. That’s what punishments are for.

You want to tell your brain that there are real consequences to missing your daily habits.[3]

No favorite food to eat or favorite show to watch or going to the cinema for a new Marvel movie- none, zero, zilch.

The brain will remember these bad feelings and will try to avoid the behaviors that led to them as much as possible.

But don’t forget the other side of the same coin.

11. Reward Yourself

When you follow and execute on your plan, reward yourself. It’s how the brain knows that you did something good.

Whenever I finish one of my habits for the day, I open my tracker (who am I kidding, I always keep it open on my desktop) and fill it with a number. As soon as I finish reading 20 pages of a book a day (or a bit more), I open the tracker and write the number down.

The cell becomes green and gives me an instant boost of endorphin – a great success for the day. Then, it becomes all about not breaking the chain and having as many green fields as possible.

After 100 days, I crunch some numbers and see how I did.

If I have less than 10 cheat days, I reward myself with a great meal in a restaurant. You can create your own rewards and they can be daily, weekly, monthly or any arbitrary time table that you create.

Primoz Bozic, a productivity coach, has gold, silver, and bronze medals as his reward system.[4]

If you’re having problems creating a system which works for you, contact me via email and we can discuss specifics.

In the End, It Matters

What you do matters not only to you but to the people around you.

When you increase the quality of your life, you indirectly increase the quality of life of people around you. And sometimes, that is all the “motivation” we need to start.

And that’s the best quote for the end of this article:

“Motivation gets you started, but habits keep you going.”

Keep going.

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More Resources to Help You Build Habits

Featured photo credit: Anete Lūsiņa via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Sorites paradox
[2] Muscle Zone: What causes yo-yo effect and how to avoid it?
[3] Growth Habits: 5 Missteps That Cause You To Quit Building A Habit
[4] Primoz Bozic: The Lean Review: How to Plan Your 2019 in 20 Minutes

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