The conventional wisdom of success that relies on willpower, motivation, and forcing ourselves to change tends to be ineffective at best and downright wrong at worst. Instead, what if you could move towards your goals with small, simple habits designed to make you successful every day?
The great news is that you can.
While most of us are taught to use willpower to achieve goals, research by Roy Baumeister of Florida State deemed it to be a finite resource. In other words, it runs out surprisingly quickly.((University of Washington: Ego Depletion: Is The Active Self A Limited Resource?))
However, humans are designed to combat our limited willpower through habit formation. By doing so, you can start today by incorporating small, simple habits that are easy to do. In this article, you’re going to learn 15 simple habits that will make you successful and create momentum in your life.
If you use these long enough, they will transition into something you barely have to think about doing and instead are naturally compelled to. Let’s dive into these simple habits of success.
The first successful habit on this list is gratitude, We hear about gratitude all the time—but science backs it up. Those who express gratitude increase well-being, can focus more on what’s working, and overcome challenges at a faster pace.((Greater Good Magazine: How Gratitude Changes You and Your Brain))
By shifting from our problem-seeking monkey mind to what’s working in our lives, we shift our emotions and set the tone for the day.
Write three things you’re grateful for in the morning, and start your day empowered.
2. Airplane Mode
In a world of endless distraction, protecting your most prized real estate of attention has to be a priority. Instead of immediately grabbing the phone and starting the day off being reactive, choose to take control and start the day on your terms.
To do so, start the day on airplane mode for at least 15 minutes and work your way up to 60 minutes or more.
3. Physical Movement
Physical movement is vital for our health, it but may be even more important for our mindset and neurochemistry.
John Ratey MD, who wrote Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, found countless research to support that physical movement is crucial to creativity, motivation, and mental performance.((High Performance Attitude: Build a Better Brain with Exercise))
Start simple: time yourself doing one activity for at least 10 minutes.
4. Creative Work
Remember that creative activity you used to do but then life got in the way? We all have one thing we love doing that makes us feel better. Creative work is an often ignored successful habit.
Doing something creative every day flexes a much-needed muscle, which translates into other projects you’re working on. Set aside at least twenty minutes every day to work on something creative.
When was the last time you received a handwritten note or a video on your phone from someone expressing their appreciation for you?
Become the person who sends these messages—and watch how they not only deepen connection but make you feel better, too.
This is the old “helper’s high” at work here—lifting others is a key source of happiness.((Greater Good Magazine: The Helper’s High)) Send at least one appreciation message every single day.
6. Focused Time
Who would you imagine to be more productive—someone who works 55-hours a week or someone who works 70?
If you guessed the latter, you’d be incorrect. Research done by Stanford showed that productivity diminishes after 40 hours and falls off a cliff after 55.((CNBC: Stanford professor: Working this many hours a week is basically pointless. Here’s how to get more done—by doing less)) In essence, those extra fifteen hours are a total waste of time.
In other words, less is more. To make focus a habit, start with 25-minute Pomodoro sessions at least once a day, and build your habit of focused time from there.
The habit of mindfulness through meditation is shown to increase well-being, boost creativity, and provide some much-needed perspective.
However, many people complicate this habit and think they are “doing it wrong” if they have a particularly tough meditation. Nothing could be further from the truth—meditation is simply a practice.
Spend at least five minutes being aware of your breath, in silence, or using a guided meditation.
Writing things down in a journal doesn’t only create clarity, it also amplifies meaning and allows you to recognize patterns of thinking and behavior.
Journaling can be used in various ways—to deconstruct success, to work through difficult emotions, or to reflect on our day to day experiences. Either way, it is a potent tool for self-discovery and reflection.
Make it a habit to journal once a day for at least five minutes by reflecting on your day, asking open-ended questions, or exploring emotions.
9. Learn Daily
Anyone can have above-average expertise in nearly any field through learning for at least ten minutes a day. Sounds crazy, right?
Think of it this way: ten pages of reading a day amounts to an average of 18 books per year! If you do this for three years, you’ve read 54 books on one topic—more than enough to make you skilled and sought after.
Constant learning and education is a successful habit shared by many successful people. Set a marker for learning every day—whether ten pages a day or a specific time you’re blocking out.
10. Close Open Loops
You likely don’t hear about this one much, but here’s why this matters: right now, you likely have “open loops” in your brain that you haven’t closed.
An “open loop” can be a message to respond to, a decision you must make, or anything that is pending. By keeping these “open”, you drain your energy and willpower and limit your ability to focus. Make it a habit to close at least three open loops every day to create clarity and practice the skill of decision making.
11. Set Boundaries
We tend to respect people who set boundaries and are willing to say “no” to requests that aren’t aligned with their priorities, but we’re not skilled at doing this ourselves.
Setting boundaries is a habit and could mean to create a calendar every week and sticking to it. It could mean having a conversation with someone about our current focus. Or, it could simply mean saying no.
To make setting boundaries a habit, find one way every week to ensure you protect your time, energy, and attention.
12. Seek Novelty
Another successful habit you should practice is seeking novelty. While morning routines, focused time, and mindfulness are all important habits, even the best activities need a boost. Enter novelty, which is the simple act of experiencing something new to provide a spark of ideas, insight, or perspective.
For example, changing your workout routine, reading a book in a genre you would otherwise discount, or even taking a new route home from work. All of these are simple ways to introduce novelty. Add in a weekly dose of novelty to your schedule and make it a habit.
13. Celebrate Wins
We’re often the worst people to see and recognize our own growth, especially those who consider themselves high performers. However, there is immense value in owning and celebrating wins by taking a step back and reflecting on how far we’ve come.
By doing so, you’ll focus on what is working, harness progress, and drown out the part of you that relies on pointing out how you could be further along. Celebrate three wins every day by writing them down.
14. Prioritize White Space
Creating pockets of white space in life is setting time aside to unplug, recharge, and get some much-needed downtime in a world full of stimuli.
Many tend to treat this time as “wasteful” or when they do use it, it’s scrolling through social media or other distractions. Instead, use this time to be with yourself and the people you love.
Carve out daily white space as a habit and remember that it’s much less about quantity than it is about quality.
15. Shutdown Routine
The last successful habit on this list is having a shutdown routine. The personal growth space is littered with morning rituals for success, which are no doubt powerful—but what about shutting it off?
In a remote-work world, we can find ourselves more “on” than ever. Instead, create a simple shut down routine at night by reducing electronic use, celebrating wins, and doing anything that signals to your brain that it’s time to rest.
This habit is one you create. For example, a shutdown ritual could be closing the laptop, cleaning the home office, and putting the phone away to be with family.
Success Is Not a Trait, It’s a Habit
We tend to think of success as a set of traits or genetic make-up someone else has, but it’s not true—success is about the actions we regularly take that turn into habits.
Think of your habits as the auto-pilot mechanism on the cross country flight. The pilots do the heavy lifting for take-off and landing and then step back and do maintenance during the flight.
You can do the same for your life by making your success and growth a habit instead of using willpower or discipline.
Start small, keep it simple—and watch the magic happen.
More Articles About Successful Habits
- 11 Essential Habits for Success
- 15 High Performance Habits That Will Make You Successful
- 50 Habits of Highly Successful People You Should Learn