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Published on December 18, 2020

Getting Ahead in Life: Top 7 Secrets of High Achievers

Getting Ahead in Life: Top 7 Secrets of High Achievers

The year 2021 is almost here. The new year will be a chance to start over after a tumultuous 2020 and reach new heights. Starting the year on the right foot will set the tone for your personal growth and great achievements and getting ahead in life.

To help you on your personal journey in 2021, look at those who have gone before you. These 7 secrets from high achievers lay out a blueprint you can follow to chase your own goals and start getting ahead come January.

1. Organize Your Efforts

The first step to great achievement is organizing your efforts. Every high achiever has their methods to concentrate their efforts, lay out goals, and execute plans. Poor organization, on the other hand, won’t get you nearly as far.

Getting organized in the first place is typically the most challenging part. Here are a couple of organizational methods you can try to help you get started:

Time Boxing

Organizing your time is incredibly important in your quest for success. By laying out your daily schedule, you ensure that you’re dedicating enough time to tasks and responsibilities that keep your life in order and help you reach your goals.

To implement time boxing, you need a calendar or planner. Digital options are quicker to update and adjust, but using paper will also work if that’s what you prefer. For each day, lay out the tasks and assignments you have. Dedicate a box of time for each one.

For example, you can start your day with some exercise. Create a time box from 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. During this time, you focus on nothing but the task at hand until the box is over. In this case, you would focus completely on exercise without giving in to distractions until the clock strikes 8.

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Do this for your entire day and you’ll be able to create an efficient schedule that’s perfectly organized for your needs, responsibilities, and personal goals. Tweak it as you go along until you find the perfect personalized formula.

Pomodoro Technique

This time management technique puts a spin on time boxing. It focuses more on how you expend your energy while still being effective. It was developed by a man named Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s and is still used frequently today.

The Pomodoro technique works similarly to time boxing, but the time slots are smaller. You take a task that needs to be completed, like a term paper for your college English course. Set a time for 25 minutes (this is the recommended time, but you can change it how you’d like). Once the timer goes off, take a five-minute break, and then start again. After four cycles or Pomodoros, take a longer (10 minutes) break.

Adding breaks in intervals helps you focus on the task in front of you for those 25 minutes without distractions or interruptions. The extra focus helps you to work more effectively while still allowing for rest that prevents you from getting burnt out.

Daily Routines

Getting into your groove each morning sets the tone for a successful day. A proper morning routine followed by a nightly routine to wind down promotes steadiness and consistency, which aid you in your achievement efforts.

For example, a morning routine can consist of a regularly set alarm, workout regimen, and structured breakfast. Your nightly routine can include a personal activity to help you relax after the day’s labor and goals to promote productivity, such as staying off your phone right before bed.

As you settle into routines, you’ll improve your productivity habits in between. Your routines act like two strong bookends that keep the rest of the day in place. Getting ahead begins as soon as your alarm goes off.

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2. Know When to Give Up

You can’t win them all, and you shouldn’t expect to. You can learn a lot from missing the mark, but the important skill here is knowing when to throw in the towel. You can exert a lot of time and energy that would be better spent doing something else.

An example can be found in the form of musicians. Songwriters go through dozens of song ideas trying to find the perfect tune. Not all of them will make the cut. If they focus for too long on a project that’s going nowhere, their productivity will hit a wall and they won’t be able to release any new music.

By knowing when to give up, you open yourself to new opportunities to move forward. You prevent yourself from falling into a rut that stops you from becoming a high achiever.

3. Focus on Strengths

Even the most successful people aren’t good at everything. Each individual has their own strengths and weaknesses to take into account. Maximizing your strengths while overcoming your weaknesses is a balancing act required for high achievers.[1]

Too many people get hung up on their weaknesses that they fail to capitalize on their strengths. Stick with what you’re good at and allow those skills and talents to lift you and help you get ahead.

Take professional athletes for example. Not every athlete can perform each facet of their sport at the highest level. Many of them became professionals because they focused on their strengths for the benefit of the team. Their teammates in turn cover their weaknesses with their own strengths, which is also what happens in families, work teams, and other organizations you’ll be a part of in life.

4. Ask for Help

You don’t have to do it all alone. You can still be labeled a high achiever even when you ask for help from others. This isn’t a sign of weakness. Asking for help is simply you recognizing that you can do more and go further with the help of others than you could on your own.

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You can ask for help in a variety of ways from a myriad of people. You can network with business professionals who can give you career advice or ask your family and friends to support you with a new business.[2] Getting ahead by yourself is unnecessarily difficult when there are people who can help you.

5. Learn the Importance of Hard Work

You can’t reach world fame simply by having a great idea or possessing incredible raw talent. Behind every genius, top-charting musician, and professional athlete is a person who spends hours each day perfecting their craft and putting in the work to succeed.

Unfortunately, you won’t wake up one day as a high achiever. Behind every success story, you’ll find countless hours of blood, sweat, and tears that led high achievers to where they stand today. To reach their level, you must be willing to put in that same effort.

Take a look at the Olympics held every four years. During these events is probably the first time you’ve seen or heard of any of the athletes competing. However, each one spent years practicing their sport to be able to perform on the largest stage of the competition.[3]

6. Take Care of Your Body

Another key to getting ahead in life is taking care of your body. You might look at high achievers and notice their net worth, brilliant minds, or trophy cases. What you might not notice immediately is that most, if not all of them, also take the time to care for their bodies.

As important as it is to pursue education, master skills, and attempt new things, none of that will matter as much if your body is falling apart. Proper diet, exercise, and sleep are all crucial for a well-maintained body.

Look at some of the greatest CEOs, and you’ll notice that many of them make sure they set aside time for daily exercise and do their best to get a good night’s sleep. Given how busy they are all the time, it should make quite a statement that they deem these things to be of utmost importance.

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Some people are born with or develop physical limitations that make it more difficult to maintain their bodies, needing medication, physical therapy, or other extra assistance than others. Don’t let this slow you down.

Look at some of these high achievers for inspiration:

  • Stephen Hawking – one of history’s most brilliant minds and world-class physicist who was confined to a wheelchair with limited mobility for most of his life
  • Stevie Wonder – a brilliant musician and performer without sight
  • Franklin D. Roosevelt – served as President of the United States despite difficulties with polio

These are just some of many motivating examples you can find of humankind becoming high achievers regardless of their limitations.

7. Make Sacrifices

You can’t reach the top without making sacrifices along the way. You have to give up those guilty pleasures every once in a while, like fast food, sleeping in, and those extra episodes of late-night binge-watching. High achievers drop these conveniences to accomplish their lofty goals.

While sacrifices will need to be made, don’t neglect yourself of life’s joys entirely. You should still maintain happiness and mental well-being on your journey to becoming a high achiever. So while you may need to cut back on some things, a few TV shows and large fries here and there can be justified.

Final Thoughts

There you have it—the 7 secrets of high-achievers. You can use these tips so you can start getting ahead in your life. Ready to achieve your highest potential? The secrets are out. Now it’s up to you to put in the effort and make your dreams a reality.

More Tips on Getting Ahead in Life

Featured photo credit: Emma Simpson via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Kimberly Zhang

Kimberly Zhang is the Chief Editor of Under30CEO and has a passion for educating the next generation of leaders to be successful.

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Last Updated on January 21, 2021

10 Willpower Hacks to Help Achieve Your Goals

10 Willpower Hacks to Help Achieve Your Goals

“Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.” – Mahatma Gandhi

“Willpower is essential to the accomplishment of anything worthwhile.” – Brian Tracy

“Just do it.” – Nike

The most important and satisfying things in life usually aren’t the easiest ones.

The good news: In today’s hyper-connected world, we have access to all the information we could want to help us achieve our future goals. We know what foods will make us healthier (would kale or quinoa be as popular without the internet and Dr. Oz? I think not). We can also estimate for ourselves the benefits of starting retirement savings early – and the implications for the lifestyles of our future selves (that boat at 65 means fewer vacations in your 20’s).

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We almost always know what we should do thanks to endless knowledge at our fingertips. But actually doing it is an entirely different kind of challenge. Most of us can relate to that feeling of inertia at the start of a big project, or the struggle to consistently make good, long-term choices for our health, or saving for the future. This mental tug-of-war we experience has evolutionary roots. While knowing this might bring comfort, it doesn’t help solve the problem at hand:

How can we flex our willpower to become better, faster, smarter, and stronger?

The bad news: you can’t Google your way out of this one.

Or can you? A fascinating body of research (much of which you can turn up online through popular press and academic articles) sheds light on how to hack your willpower for better, easier results in all areas of your life. The Willpower Instinct, a great book by Stanford prof Kelly McGonigal, provides a deep dive into these and more topics for anyone keenly interested.

Here’s the short version: we can make the most of our willpower through two types of hacks. First, there are ways to turbo boost your willpower. Second, there are ways to hack the system so you make the best use of whatever (sometimes infinitely modest) willpower you have.

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The following 10 tips draw on both of these toolkits.

1. Slow the heck down.

Most regrettable decisions (the splurge at the mall, the procrastination on the project, the snacks in the break room) happen when one part of our brain effectively hijacks the other. We go into automatic pilot (and unfortunately the pilot in question has a penchant for shoes, Facebook and cookies!). Researchers suggest that we can override this system by charging up the other. That is, slow down and focus on the moment at hand. Think about your breathing. Bring yourself back to this moment in time, feel the compulsion but don’t act on it yet. Try telling yourself, “If this feeling is still just as uncomfortable in 10 minutes, I’ll act on it.” Take a little time to be mindful – then make your decision.

2. Dream of ‘done.’

Imagine yourself handing in the big project, soaking up the appreciation from your colleagues or boss. Or crossing the finish line for the half-marathon you’ve always wanted to run. The rush, the aliveness, the wind on your face, the medal …

That’s a lot more fun and motivating to think about than how much work it is to get out of bed for your long, Sunday morning run!

Re-orient your brain by summoning more motivating feelings than just “not running this morning is more enjoyable than running this morning.” If your goals are meaningful, this will help.

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3. Make your toughest choices first.

Scientists have found that willpower is like a full bathtub that’s drained throughout the day. So, why not start your toughest challenges when you have a full reserve? Get that project started or fit that workout in before you even check your email or have breakfast. Bonus: the high you’ll get from crossing off your hardest ‘to-do’ will help you sail through the rest of your day.

4. Progress = commitment, not a license to backslide.

A lot of times people will ‘cheat’ right after taking positive steps towards their goals. (A common version of this trap is, “I worked out three days in a row, so I deserve this cookie.”) Most of us can relate to this thinking – but it’s totally irrational! We’ll often trick ourselves into setbacks because we think we deserve them, even if we don’t really want them and deep down we know they’ll work against us in the long-run.

How can you counteract this effect? Research finds that if you use your positive streak to recommit (“If I worked out three days this week, I must be really committed to my health and fitness goal!”) rather than an excuse for wiggle room, we don’t take the same cheat options. Cool, right?

5. Meditate.

Meditation is an expressway to better willpower. Bringing your attention to your breathing for 15 minutes, or even five, flexes your willpower muscles by applying discipline to your thinking. It does this by working two mental ‘muscle groups’: first, the set of muscles that notice when your attention is drifting, and second, the set of muscles that bring you back to your task at hand. Over time, even small amounts of meditation will help you build the discipline to easily do what was once hard – like pushing through a long stretch at work.

6. Set mini-goals.

Which seems more doable: committing to three 20 minute runs this week or a half-marathon? Mini-goals are brilliant because they’re easier to achieve and boost your commitment to continuing. When we size them up, we see them as achievable rather than daunting. Each time you succeed at one, it boosts your sense of efficacy and personal integrity: not only are you capable of doing what you set out to do, but you followed through on it. Nice.

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The beauty of mini-goals is that over time, mini-goals – and the momentum you’ve built by doing them – can quickly turn into super-goals. So that half marathon might be more likely to happen, and sooner and more easily than you think!

7. Eat.

Low blood sugar decreases your ability to make tough decisions. If you’re running on empty physically, you’ll also be running on empty mentally. (Yes, this one’s somewhat ironic if your goal involves changing food patterns – but even so, letting your blood sugar drop too far will only sabotage you over time.)

8. Sleep.

Research shows people who don’t get enough sleep have a tough time exercising their willpower. Sleep is critical for a healthy brain – along with just about everything else. So to optimize your willpower muscle, make sure you’re catching your zzz’s.

9. Nix the self-sabotage.

Making yourself feel bad hurts, rather than helps, your willpower efforts. Researchers have found that compassion is a far better strategy than tough love – telling yourself “It’s OK, everyone has setbacks sometimes,” will help you bounce back more quickly than negative self-talk.

10. Take the first hard step.

As a new behavior becomes a habit, it is more natural. You have to use less and less willpower to ‘make it so.’ When you’re starting a new pattern that feels hard, remind yourself that the first steps are truly the hardest. It will probably never feel harder than it does in those first few choices. In the case of repeated behaviors, like exercise or saving money, it takes weeks for new habits to take hold. By that point, the habit will be so ingrained, you’d have to try hard not to do it.

Featured photo credit: Kym Ellis via unsplash.com

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