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7 Common Things The Most Successful People Do

7 Common Things The Most Successful People Do

If you like to say that successful people “have it made,” please stop. Most people are leading a life that is a direct result of their thoughts, behaviors, and actions. And what is “success” anyway? This article isn’t about success in the form of a bulging bank account or sweet ride. It is about doing fulfilling work that makes a positive impact on the lives of others. Keep on reading to discover the 7 common things the most successful people do.

Successful people know their priorities.

The world is full of places to visit and things to do, but unless you are a cyborg that never sleeps or a fortunate recipient of the Fountain of Youth, there is no way you can do ALL THE THINGS. Be ambitious and aim to accomplish whatever makes you happy, but spreading yourself too thin will wreck your focus before you can say “burn-out.” If you’re not sure how to get your priorities straight, ask yourself, “What do I want to be remembered for long after I’m gone?” Think that over for a few days – change your answer as you please (expect to change it a lot as the months and years go on) – and do the thing that makes you happy.  

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Successful people focus with all of their might.

As Ron Swanson said, “Never half-ass two things. Whole-ass one thing.” Multi-tasking is just a slightly more productive version of procrastination. Whereas no work gets done during procrastination, lots of work gets done (but badly) while you multi-task. Every day, give yourself a list of one to three important tasks that you will complete no matter what happens. Focus on the important things, and the rest has a way of falling in place.

Successful people take time to recharge.

I have to confess I’m sometimes guilty of working beyond my limits (I am secretly the Energizer Bunny, shhhh). While the grind makes me feel happy and productive at first, pushing too hard just leaves me exhausted and sick of everything. Your hard work won’t vanish if you walk away for a few minutes, hours or days, so take a breather. You will come back refreshed and ready to succeed. Also, if you are working on a creative task and run face-first into writer’s block or experience a severe drop in brain power, this probably means you need to walk away.

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Successful people put the needs of others first.

You will be hard-pressed to achieve great heights of success without a team of friends and colleagues cheering you on. The best way to build a team of people who want you to succeed is to treat them the way they want to be treated (imagine that!). Connect with like-minded folks in your field to make new friends who you can absorb knowledge from. Offer to help your friends, fans, or followers for cheap or free while you put the finishing touches on the brilliant product or service you plan to offer (and then ask them for testimonials!). And a bit of tough love: a lot of mushy self-help gurus like to say you can succeed doing whatever your heart desires as long as you try hard enough. This is a load of garbage. If you’re not offering something that your target audience finds useful or appealing (or if you couldn’t even tell me who your target audience is), you need to do some soul-searching. Be relevant to people’s needs, or fail.

Successful people adapt to changing scenarios.

Don’t you wish you could predict all of life’s inconveniences, curveballs, and catastrophes? It would be nice to have a heads up about hurdles headed our way so we could brace ourselves for the high jump, but life would get awful boring if it was so scripted all the time. Because I have no crystal ball to offer you, you need to improve your ability to adapt. Life isn’t fair and it never will be fair. But no matter what happens, remember that you (and only you) have full control of your life. Success doesn’t typically come from what you do, but how you react to an ever-changing script.

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Successful people challenge their beliefs.

Your belief is only as strong as your willingness to challenge it. You don’t receive a gold star for being right. Your willingness to be wrong is directly proportionate to your odds of success. I don’t know about you, but I’m quite sure I don’t have it all figured out. The simple act of being wrong (and admitting it) can increase your knowledge, make you humble, expand your perspective, and help you succeed.

Successful people focus on the Big Picture.

The problems you’re facing today seem a lot bigger than they really are. If you’re stressing out about something right now, ask yourself, “Will this be a big deal next week/month/year?” Stop seeing every day as an isolated event but rather a mere piece of the jig-saw puzzle that is your life. All of the pieces might not be perfect. Some of them might even be discolored, torn, and rotten. But the quality of each singular piece is irrelevant. The important thing is the completed puzzle that is your life.

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Successful people do apply what they learn. Are there any takeaways from this article that you’re going to run with? If so, tell us in the comments!

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Daniel Wallen

Daniel is a writer who focuses on blogging about happiness and motivation at Lifehack.

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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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