Before we talk about that one thing, I think it would help if we first take a look at the meaning of success. Success can be different things to many people. There is no fixed definition, no one size-fits-all because all our wishes, desires and expectations in life are different.
One thing is for sure though. If you want to be successful, you will have to know what success is to you. You have to dig deep and ask yourself, “What do you want to achieve in life?”
An easier way to answer this is to ask yourself what are your long-term goals. It will not be a straightforward answer and you may want to take some time to figure this out.
If you already know or at least have some idea of where you want to be, then moving towards your success will get easier. You can now focus on your effort and time in planning and executing to get there. The journey may still be challenging, requiring lots of efforts, but at least you are making some form of progress, big or small.
So what is this ONE thing that can help you to press towards what you want in life and be more successful?
Align your daily habits with your long-term goals
Sounds simple? You already know this? Well, just how many of us are aware of our daily habits and how these habits are contributing positively towards our long term goals?
Billionaire Warren Buffett, the chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, is 87 years old and has in his wisdom said that chains of habit are too light to be felt until they are too heavy to be broken. He understands that innocent habits which seem trivial in our daily lives can actually make or break us in the long run.
All of us aspire success, but how many of us really take stock of our daily habits? If you take a hard look at what you do and work on daily, you may be surprise to find that unknowingly you are engaging on counterproductive habits. It can be a dread to identify and change these habits, but once you start to replace them with productive habits, positive results will start to follow.
Here are a few counterproductive habits that I find “sneaky” as in you may already be so good at them that you don’t realize they are actually holding you back towards your long-term goals achievement.
1 – Taking it Easy
The number one sneaky demon habit which I face every day is getting comfortable and taking things easy. It is very natural for us to gravitate towards things that make us feel comfortable. After all who in the right frame of mind wants to experience discomfort, uneasiness or pain? It is always easier to play it safe and avoid new challenge that is necessary to take us to the next level.
Like it or not, life’s challenges and hard things are the ones that force us to learn and grow. For example, you cannot build muscles without resistance work or training. Our body is naturally lazy and will only develop enough muscle to deal with the loads placed upon it. So to develop more muscle, you have to work out hard and then let your body repair damaged muscle fibers through a cellular process where it fuses muscle fibers together to form new muscle strands.
If I want to run a marathon convincingly, I cannot just take training easy and run whenever I feel like running or stop whenever I start to sweat. I have to align my daily habits towards the goal of running a 42km race. That means I have to eat correctly, train consistently according to a structured program and rest sufficiently, every day if possible.
Similar with physical growth, we cannot progress effectively in other areas of our life without going through targeted resistances and challenges that are relevant. If I want to build a thriving and profitable stocks portfolio, I have to dig in to analyze financial reports, learn technical analysis and research businesses and markets. It is going to take time and sacrifices from other areas of my life and there is no short cut or easy way to it.
The road to success is often paved with trials, disappointment and even failures. But it is these challenges that will force you to get out of your comfort zones and elevate you to greater heights. So don’t get too comfortable. Move towards your goals daily by keeping an open mind and staying hungry for opportunities that will stretch your limits.
2 – Saying Yes to Everything
We are all guilty of this. We say YES, willingly or unwillingly for a variety of reasons. Fear of offending someone, fear of missing out, try to be everything to everyone, not having our own decisions.
If you are somehow a super being having the ability to cope with everything and everyone’s expectations, then this is not a problem. The reality is that we have limited time and resources. Saying yes to one means you are unwittingly saying no to something else, and that something else may be more important.
Recently I was invited by the Parent-Teacher Association of my son’s school to join their committee. Being human, I felt honoured and was very tempted to say yes to the position thinking I can contribute to help make the school better. They were persuasive and I am always keen on leadership positions.
But after thinking through the offer, I realized that taking up the position will inevitable take up my time with my boys. Serving in the association may help improve the standard of the school my boys are studying in, but it comes with a price of having less time to nurture them personally. Putting it this way, it just makes no sense and I am glad I said no.
Your success lies in your ability to distinguish the tasks that are important to your goals from the ones that screams urgent or non-essential which you can either delay or delegate. Choosing to work on relevant and important tasks will allow you to focus on what is truly essential for your future success.
Warren Buffett is legendary in ways not so much about what he has done; rather it is what he hasn’t done. With all the demands on him every day, Buffett learned a long time ago that the greatest commodity of all is time. He simply mastered the art and practice of setting boundaries for himself. He is famous for saying that the difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.
So, remember, don’t say YES when you really want is to say NO. And it is really ok to say NO.
3 – Repeating same Mistakes
I read somewhere that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different or better result. Don’t laugh. Thank goodness this is not the correct definition or else I should be considered insane for being guilty of making the same mistake many times over.
Why do we keep making the same mistakes over and over? If we are not careful, making the same mistakes repeatedly, no matter how trivial, is a damaging habit that can delay us from achieving our long-term goals.
For a long time I battled with anger issues. I get angry easily and this affected my relationships with my spouse and boys. Sometimes I would snap and get upset with my boys over small things. Whatever reasons I may have, this is not right and I should practice more patience to understand them, instead of letting my mood dictate my temper. I have since identified anger as a problem that I need to address. I cannot afford to repeat the mistake of losing temper because it takes me further away from my goal of building a supportive, caring and loving family.
To stop repeating the same mistakes, we need to be able to identify the underlying problem. What is not going well in your life right now? Are you overeating? Maybe smoking or drinking more than usual? Are you spending too much time at work instead of being there for your family? Are you spending more money than you can afford? Whatever it is, you will need to name it before you can start to deal with it.
Mistakes are the best teachers. Of course it would be better if we can learn from other people’s failures, but it gets seared in more firmly when they are our own. Learning from our mistakes is important, however, we must be careful not to continually dwell on our past mistakes. We can never turn back time and undo what is done. There is no point living in the past so we might well maintain a forward-looking perspective and do better next time.
Treat mistakes as learning experiences that make you stronger and better as a person. Your best successes will come on the heels of failures.
Usain Bolt’s incredible power and speed wouldn’t break the 100m record if he wasn’t sprinting directly towards the finish line. In the same vein, our effort in getting things done will not do us much good if those tasks do not bring us towards our long-term goals. One way to ensure that we work on the right tasks is by aligning our daily habits towards the achievement of what is important to us.
Benjamin Franklin is famous for asking himself every evening, “What good have I done today?” Asking that question does three crucial things. First, it makes you review the actions you have taken and evaluate the effectiveness of it. Secondly, it helps you to realign and resolve to plan better for the next day. Lastly and more importantly, it makes you aware of the progress you’re making towards your long term goals.
The journey towards success is challenging and long. There is no such thing as an overnight success. The secret of success actually lies in the little things that we do regularly. This is where our daily habits count. Align your daily habits to your long-term goals and you will find yourself progressing towards success. Take it one day at a time. It may be slow but you will surely reach where you want to be.