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Four Simple Habits of Top Performers


Tue Feb 18 2020

Four Simple Habits of Top Performers

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For some, success seems to come so easily. Our faulty assumptions tell us the high achievers we envy simply must be luckier than we are—they were in the right place at the right time. Or perhaps they have more natural talent, and nothing we do, say, or try will compensate for our limitations. Maybe we just aren’t cut out for success. We lack that secret something.

Thankfully, VitalSmarts’s latest research confirms we can stop pining away for success and start engineering it. According to our study of more than 1,800 employees, the most important factor to personal and career success isn’t good luck, natural talent, or even decision making . . . it’s habit. That’s right—people’s simple routine behaviors trump all else when it comes to influencing success.


Specifically, our study participants attributed nearly 46 percent of their career success to having the right habits. They said the decisions they made accounted for 22 percent of their success, making habits more than twice as critical. And for those who feel they’re simply not cut out for the job, the good news is that habits also far outweigh natural talent, which came in at just more than 24 percent. Luck fell a distant fourth at only six percent.

What’s even more surprising is that many of the habits people attributed to their success are less heroic than they are simple. For instance, some of the career habits respondents felt made the difference between success and failure include:

  • Think yes before saying no. Be open to new opportunities to grow.

  • Trust your gut. Do your research but stop at 80 percent confidence rather than 110 percent.

  • Be curious. Dedicate time each week to dreaming and researching. Know the dream is free but hustle costs extra.

  • Do the hardest or most important thing on your to-do list first thing in the morning.

While these habits seem small, they trigger a series of other powerful habits. For instance, thinking yes before saying no is likely to create a habit of being less impulsive, more thoughtful, and even more visionary. In fact, many of the good habits successful people have at work carryover into their personal lives.

Instead of counting yourself out because you aren’t as gifted as the next person, freezing when faced with important decisions, or even wearing your lucky tie to work, learn how to create new, simple habits that will jumpstart your performance at work. The skills to learn and adopt new habits are taught in our new training course, The Power of Habit, which is based on the New York Times best-selling book of the same title by Charles Duhigg.

3 Tips to Learning New Career Habits in 2020

1. Spot the Lag: Identify the areas in your career where you’re not getting the results you want and identify the habits that will produce those results. If you can’t see the lag or the desired habits, ask a mentor or manager where you could improve or find other opportunities to identify the skills needed to reach the next level.


2. Make It a Ritual: Create a routine around the new habit by engineering your environment—time of day, place, people, objects, and the like—so that it’s conducive to doing the habit. Set up reminders, or cues, and arrange your world so that doing the behavior comes easier.

3. Reward Yourself: Every time you complete your new routine, immediately reward yourself. Maybe you indulge in a special treat or an activity. This becomes your incentive, not the results you hope for. The results will follow but reward yourself immediately to fire up your motivation in the beginning.

No amount of luck, talent, brains, or good decisions can compensate for your habits and your routines. And that is good news for anyone looking to make changes in 2020. You’re just a few habits away from success. Learn more and get started today.

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