Peggy Marshall

9 Things Successful People Do Differently
By Dr. Peggy Marshall

Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm. ~Winston Churchill

In a recent Harvard Business Review article, Heidi Grant Halvorson, Ph.D. identified nine things that successful people do differently from those who struggle with success. As you read through the list, think about how the suggested actions and activities could lead you to greater success in achieving your goals.

1. Successful people are very specific about their goals. If they want to develop cardiovascular fitness-they set a goal to exercise four days a week for 30 minutes. If they want to find a different job, they send out 15 resumes a week or contact three new organizations about the possibility of a new job. These deliberate and specific actions build momentum towards achieving goals.

2. Plan time for acting on goals. We are all busy people and it is just this busyness that can prevent us from taking action on our goals. Planning ahead for when we will take action provides us with the momentum to act when it’s most important to act and eliminates the possibility that we will get to the end of the day and be out of time to take action on the goal. Getting up each morning and making a list of what action lead us to what matters most helps to create the synergy that connects what matters most to our behaviors.

3. Monitor Progress. Successful people monitor their progress regularly and adjust their activities accordingly to ensure that they continue to stay on track. Many people set goals at the beginning of the year, write them down and then put the goals in a drawer only to be found at a time later in the year. To ensure success determine a process for tracking your success-be it a simple tracking log or some visual that keeps your focus on the goal.

4. Adopt a realistic optimist view point. Shawn Achor in “The Happiness Advantage” asks us to be realistic about the present while maximizing our potential for the future. He adds that positive people set more goals, put more effort into attaining goals, stay more focused in the face of adversity, and overcome adversity more readily. Simply believing we can bring about positive change thus increasing motivation and performance. However, this optimism must be tempered with reality. A good exercise as you work towards your goals is to reflect upon past successes and the actions that delivered those results. What activities lifted you to success and which ones got in your way? Make a plan to address those activities/obstacles as part of formulating your goals so that if and when they occur you are ready for them.

5. Focus on getting better not simply becoming the best. All of the new information on the brain and the development of our talent tells us that we can get better daily as we make new choices. This is a very different concept from what we used to believe about ability and intelligence. Neither one are fixed but we must do the work in order to deliver results. Daily deliberate practices that match our ultimate goal is what will deliver on getting better.

6. Persist. Our brains are wired to return to what we have always done. Persistence means that we can stay with our goals long enough to overcome the obstacles that we face. When faced with obstacles break the goal down into small actions that lead to success. Just doing one action each day towards your goal will build the momentum to keep you going when you want to give up.

7. Strengthen your willpower muscle. Think about how you can put activities that lead to reaching your goal on the path of least resistance. For example, if you want to read more about on a given subject but find watching TV interferes with that reading, take the batteries out of your remote. It will be a gentle reminder that you have made a commitment to learning more what is most important for you. Also, if you want to exercise more as a way of having more energy available for reaching your goal, make sure that you have the equipment and/or clothing visible and ready to wear. This will increase the likelihood that you will engage in the desired behavior.

8. Don’t tempt fate. Our willpower is a limited supply. This is a new twist on willpower. We are not weak when we run out of willpower-it is a matter of fact. Putting activities that demand a ton of willpower early in the day will limit what we have available for the rest of the day. Try to space out the actions that zap your willpower and avoid placing the most taxing willpower draining actions at the end of the day.

9. Focus on the positive. Whenever we think about what we do not want to do, that thought becomes stronger. Our brains do not have capacity to sort through the “nots” of our beliefs. So when we repeat that we are not going to do something, we are actually reinforcing the very thing we are trying to resist. For example, I am not going to eat desert becomes translated into “I am going to eat desert”. A more effective statement is “I am going to eat light and often”. This programs the brain to think of eating less but more frequently, giving you the fuel to accomplish both your daily demands and your goals.

All of us have been successful at something and have accomplished much in our lives. Hopefully, this list will help you reflect on what has led to your success and also give you ideas for how you can create greater success in your life.

To your success,

Dr. Peggy