Nine Secrets of Successful People


It’s human nature to compare ourselves to other people. I call this the “comparing” trap. It’s when we look at someone who’s prettier, skinnier, wealthier, funnier or any other “-ier.” Most of the time, we compare upwards, to people who we think are better off and this can make us feel inadequate. We ask, “Why is that person so lucky?,” “What does she/he have that I don’t?,” or “If only I were (stronger, had more willpower, worked harder, or fill in the blank:_______), then I could have that too.” Fortunately, there is a recipe for success. In Nine Things Successful People Do Differently, Heidi Halvorson summarizes decades of research showing that successful people reach their goals, not because they were born with certain talents (although in some fields, talent helps but doesn’t explain success) but because they do things differently. Below are nine skills that can increase your chances of success with any goal. Note these are learnable skills and within anyone’s capacity to learn.

  1. Be Specific. When setting a goal, spell out exactly what the results will look like. Have you heard of SMART goals? This stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timely. Saying I want to start exercising is not specific enough. Instead, a SMART goal would be: “I will begin walking three times a week for 30 minutes between 8 and 8:30 am on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. This is important to me because I want to reduce my cholesterol before my doctor tries to put me on medication.”
  2. Act on your Goals. How many times do you set goals and then do absolutely nothing to achieve them? The more you set SMART goals where you visualize exactly what you will do, the more you’ll be motivated to act on them. Research indicates that planning ahead (what you’ll do and how to handle obstacles) can increase your chances of success by 30%.
  3. Monitor your Progress. Research shows that the mere act of writing down a goal and tracking your progress actually creates success. Why? First, just paying attention to a goal and your habits around it will cause you to start tweaking them. Second, if you know how well you are doing, what accounted for the success so far and how much further you want to go, it’s easier to continue doing what works and changing what doesn’t.
  4. Be a Realistic Optimist. Reaching most important life goals requires time, planning, effort and persistence. If you think it will be easy and then you hit a road bump, you are more likely to get discouraged and give up. On the other hand, being as positive as possible and celebrating small steps toward your goal helps maintain motivation.
  5. Focus on Getting Better, rather than Being Good. Having a flexible, learning mindset is important because it enables you to develop and acquire new skills. Focusing on improving and learning from experience also helps minimize procrastination and self-sabotage due to perfectionism and fear of failure. Remember that life is a journey!
  6. Have Grit. Grit is the skill of learning to persist in the face of challenges and obstacles. When times get tough, you’ll be more motivated to persist if you set SMART goals that really matter and you develop a realistically optimistic attitude and a learning mindset.
  7. Flex your willpower muscles with CBTBuild your Willpower Muscle. Building willpower is also a skill you can develop. To build willpower, pick a baby step toward a moderately challenging goal and make a plan using the steps in this article to start practicing. As you prove to yourself that you do have willpower, you’ll be building your willpower muscle and it’ll be easier to flex for more challenging goals.
  8. Don’t Tempt Fate. Your willpower supply is limited so don’t put yourself in situations that are too tempting, at least not in the beginning. Work on one challenging goal at a time before moving on. Don’t make the goal harder to achieve by doing things that self-sabotage.
  9. Focus on What You Will Do, not What You Won’t Do. Figure out what good new habits you want to develop. Habits work like this: a trigger stimulates a craving and then you engage in a  series of familiar behaviors to fulfill the craving. If you want to develop a new habit, first you need to understand what you are really craving. Second, experiment with new ways to respond to the trigger that will satisfy the real craving. Third, continue practicing the new behaviors to strengthen the new habit loop.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Good luck reaching your goals this year. Make 2013 the year of small goals with big results.


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