How can I create habits that will help me be successful?

Answer: Identify the key success-generating habits you wish to establish, remind yourself of these habits at the start of each day, and review your progress at the end of each day.

Stephen Covey, in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People ( p 147), offers these two questions to help you identify your key success-generating habits:

Q1: What one thing could you do (you aren’t doing now) that, if you did on a regular basis, would make a tremendous positive difference in your personal life?

Q2: What one thing in your business or professional life would bring similar results?

Print off these two questions and your answers and place somewhere prominent such as on the wall in front of your desk.  At the start of each day, read these questions and your answers to keep these habits in the your mind during the day.

Then, at the end of each day,  review the things you did during the day to strengthen these habits.

Here’s a worked example:

Step 1: Answer these two questions:

Q 1: What one thing could I do that I’m not doing now that if I did on a regular basis, would make a tremendous positive difference in my personal life?

A 1: Try hard to accurately understand and “feel” others.

Q2: What one thing in my work life would bring similar results?

A1: Create my website just  the way I have envisioned it in my mind.

Step 2: Type up  the questions and my answers and place on the wall in front of my work desk.

Step 3: Create two new goals on my daily goal-tracker program:

  1. Into the breakfast routine category:  “Read  Q & A habit printout.”
  2. Into the end-of-day routine category: “Review habit progress for the day.”

I use my goal-tracker program every day. Once I’ve included these habit goals onto my goal-tracker, I won’t have to worry about remembering to do them.

Step 4:  At the start of each day, read the Q & A printout to keep these sought-after habits prominent in my mind during the day.

Step 5: At the end of each day, answer these two review questions:

Q 1:  What specific things did I do today to “try  hard to deeply understand and “feel” other people”?

A 1:  I listened very attentively to Mary when she was telling me about her problem with her son. I successfully resisted jumping in offering my advice, but instead  practised some awesome empathy (for me!). Afterwards I tried hard seeing things from her perspective, even though it was hard for me to understand why she reacted the way she did. I thought of a better way I could have said something during the conversation ( re-scripting).

Q  2: What specific things did I do today to  “create my website just the way I have envisioned it in my mind”?

A  2: I wrote up two more articles, I wrote down a couple of clever ideas that perhaps I can ask the web designer to create for me, and I proof-read and edited three old articles.

Have a go!

To create a habit, we need focus, monitoring and lots of repetition. That’s what this strategy offers.  Why not give it a go for 30 ticks on the goal tracker and see what happens?

What is the single, underlying secret of successful people?

Answer: Successful people have “formed the habit of doing things that failures don’t like to do,” according to Albert E.N. Gray.

Albert Gray wrote up his “discovery” in 1940 in this six-page essay The Common Denominator of Success.

Here is how Gray’s essay opens:

The Common Denominator of Success

by Albert E.N. Gray

Several years ago I was brought face to face with the very disturbing realization that I
was trying to supervise and direct the efforts of a large number of men who were trying
to achieve success, without knowing myself what the secret of success really was. And
that, naturally, brought me face to face with the further realization that regardless of what
other knowledge I might have brought to my job, I was definitely lacking in the most
important knowledge of all.

Of course, like most of us, I had been brought up on the popular belief that the secret of
success is hard work, but I had seen so many men work hard without succeeding and so
many men succeed without working hard that I had become convinced that hard work
was not the real secret even though in most cases it might be one of the requirements.

And so I set out on a voyage of discovery which carried me through biographies and
autobiographies and all sorts of dissertations on success and the lives of successful men
until I finally reached a point at which I realized that the secret I was trying to discover
lay not only in what men did, but also in what made them do it.

I realized further that the secret for which I was searching must not only apply to every
definition of success, but since it must apply to everyone to whom it was offered, it must
also apply to everyone who had ever been successful. In short, I was looking for the
common denominator of success.

And because that is exactly what I was looking for, that is exactly what I found.

But this common denominator of success is so big, so powerful, and so vitally important
to your future and mine that I’m not going to make a speech about it. I’m just going to
“lay it on the line” in words of one syllable, so simple that everyone can understand them.

The common denominator of success — the secret of success of every man who has ever
been successful — lies in the fact that he formed the habit of doing things that failures
don’t like to do.

It’s just as true as it sounds and it’s just as simple as it seems. You can hold it up to the
light, you can put it to the acid test, and you can kick it around until it’s worn out, but
when you are all through with it, it will still be the common denominator of success,
whether you like it or not.

It will still explain why men have come into this business of ours with every apparent
qualification for success and given us our most disappointing failures, while others have
come in and achieved outstanding success in spite of many obvious and discouraging
handicaps. And since it will also explain your future, it would seem to be a mighty good
idea for you to use it in determining just what sort of a future you are going to have. In
other words, let’s take this big, all-embracing secret and boil it down to fit the individual

If the secret of success lies in forming the habit of doing things that failures don’t like to
do, let’s start the boiling-down process by determining what are the things that failures
don’t like to do. The things that failures don’t like to do are the very things that you and I
and other human beings, including successful men, naturally don’t like to do. In other
words, we’ve got to realize right from the start that success is something which is
achieved by the minority of men, and is therefore unnatural and not to be achieved by
following our natural likes and dislikes nor by being guided by our natural preferences
and prejudices.

Click here to read the whole article.

Of course, whether Gray’s answer is the definitive answer can’t be proven, but his idea sure gets a lot of support from other great thinkers:

Men’s natures are alike. It is their habits that carry them far apart. (Confucius)

Success is the sum of small habits, repeated day in and day out. (Robert Collier)

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act but a habit. (Aristotle)

Watch your thoughts; they become words. Watch your words; they become actions. Watch your actions; they become habits. Watch your habits; they become character. Watch your character; it becomes your destiny. (Lao-Tzu)