Throughout my life I have had a fascination with what differentiates those who achieve wild success, in either a personal or financial sense, and those who are always just scrapping by. I have mulled through hundreds of articles, dozens of books and documentaries, trying to find what delineates the great from the rest. Is it all in your head; a matter of setting up the right mental paradigm? Are some people just gifted with prodigious intellect and social acumen from birth? Although some of those trite theories might seem to explain the phenomenon of success, I have found that the real answers are convoluted and variable. The factors that come to play for the ascent of a professional athlete might be starkly different then those of a technology mogul. Nonetheless, there is always a confluence of environment, natural aptitude and habits. Natural aptitude is the most static of that group and in many ways is not a particularly compelling factor to evaluate for our purposes here. Your genetics are what your genetics are. Environment is a crucial and complicated variable that is irrefutably significant but a topic for another article. Here I want to focus on the low-hanging fruit. What individuals can do right now to change their trajectory towards success and that revolves around habits.

The reality of life is this: everyone wants to be rich, everyone wants to have great relationships and everyone wants to be healthy and happy. The difference, however, in success, between otherwise seemingly similar people, can often be traced back to habits[1]. The sum of our habits often defines where we end up. An individual who exercises for an hour a day, every day for a year, will find it immeasurably easier to exercise every day in the following year then the individual that goes to the gym sporadically and when he/she can fit it in. The individual who keeps a journal and actively reflects on his work, relationships and happiness with candid introspection will find themselves happier then the individual that doesn’t[2]. The same is true with habits in the business world. Habits may seem small or insubstantial in isolation, but it is the sum of habits that equate to success. So lets take a deeper look at why that is.

Habits are related to the development of skills, be those social or vocational. Success is most often birthed from an individuals ability to do something in an exceptional manner. The better your ability to do something exceptionally, the more value you add to that respective area. One of the most successful people I knew in college was an individual who spent a few hours a day, outside of school or over weekends, working on mobile app design. He had a vision and he developed a daily habit. Something as complex as programming can becoming a habit if nurtured day in and day out until certain aspects become reflexive. He had to be persistent when his habit did not immediately translate to success and allow small victories to keep pushing him forward. That individual went on to get a top paying job straight out of college due to that habit he developed, which translated to the skill set he developed. I hear that story again and again with top actors, athletes, CEO’s, doctors, writers etc.[3]. So if you are interested in making a change in your own personal success, start with your habits. Human’s are prone to burn out so take it slow. If you want to be a writer, practice writing every day. Don’t start at “I’ll write 50 pages every day”. Start at something manageable. If you want to have less debt, practice conscious financial management and planning each week until your situation improves. Create tangible objections, not general ones, and start small. If you want to be a Wall Street millionaire, evaluate the course you need to take to get there and make attainable objectives. Try to read relevant literature, try and get an internship, try and talk and get mentorship from a successful individual in industry. Do not start with, “I want to be a millionaire” or “I want to be a professional athlete”. While those may be your overarching goals, many people hold onto these grandiose ideas without a consistent method of moving towards them. Because of this they get discouraged when their first job has them fall short and they become disillusioned. Instead, the most successful individuals have long-term goals but focus on everyday habits to get there. These small victories through habits will also raise your morale and increase your desire by substantiating your efforts with results.

So this new year, as everyone is making their resolutions, resign to create a plan of action, through habits and attainable short-term goals, to actualize your success. If you want to get a six-pack, start by focusing on eating healthy and doing abs THIS week. You might want to get into a monthly routine, but you will only be able to sustain that goal if you develop the right habits. Start today.

[1] http://www.success.com/article/16-rich-habits

[2] http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/habits-not-hacks/201408/how-writing-makes-you-happier-smarter-and-more-persuasive

[3] http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/11/books/review/the-power-of-habit-by-charles-duhigg.html?pagewanted=all

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