Your morning cup of coffee: habit. Bedtime stories for your kids: habit. Daily perusal of favorite websites: habit. Early morning jog: habit. Success in life: habit.
Wait a minute. What? Yes, you heard right: Success is a habit, just like all those other routines. Sure, it takes a little more work to cultivate this one than, say, filing your paperwork before it overwhelms your desk; but nonetheless, if you train yourself right, you can experience that “I did it!” feeling over and over again.
Robert Ringer, author of Million Dollar Habits, explains it well: “The world is saturated with intelligent, highly educated, extraordinarily skilled people who experience ongoing frustration because of their lack of success. Millions of others spend their lives working hard, long hours only to die broke.… Success is a matter of understanding and religiously practicing specific, simple habits that always lead to success.”
The secret to your success can be found in your daily agenda. Let’s look at five tendencies you need to become a habitual winner.
1. Winners are passionate about what they do.
OK, I’m fudging my definition a little bit. I’m not sure passion is a “habit,” but I have to start there because it’s the cornerstone for everything else. Passion is the fuel and energy of life. It is the catalyst for self-discipline. It puts the fun in working. It’s impossible to succeed without it.
Here’s the common mistake: People look for outside influences to motivate them and fuel their passions. People ask me all the time, “John, who motivates you?” It’s the wrong question. They should ask what motivates me.
If you have to wait for someone else to motivate you, you’ll spend a lot of time waiting. What gets you excited? What fires you up so much you have a hard time sleeping? What can you do that uniquely adds value to the world?
So why, then, do so many of us ignore our passions and chase money? Money isn’t a motivator for most people, no matter how often we equate achievement with wealth.
I remember taking a job at a church in San Diego. I was there about a week and a half when the comptroller came to me and said, “I’m bothered by something. You don’t know how much money you’re making.” I didn’t know and it didn’t matter. I went to that church because I had a passion for the job, not for the money I’d earn.
If your work matches your passion, then it isn’t work at all. I like to say I’m a “workafrolic,” not a workaholic. It’s true—I can hardly distinguish work time from playtime. You can become one, too. If you make money at it, great; if not, then at least you’ve dedicated your life to something meaningful.
2. Winners value the process of winning.
People in the habit of losing overvalue victories and undervalue the process required to win. They want the thrill of the breakthrough, not the toil that comes before it. People in the habit of winning are the opposite: They find value and satisfaction in the preparation process.
Several years ago I led a group of friends and donors on a two-week trip to South and Central America. At the time I was working on my book Talent Is Never Enough. Since I knew I would spend many hours on the plane, I made copies of the outline and asked everyone for his or her input. We discussed what worked, what didn’t, and what could be improved.
When we got home, one friend said, “John, we worked for you this entire trip! It was a lot of fun discussing ideas and contributing to your book. But more than that, I learned something important.”
“What’s that?” I asked.
“You got all the work done because you were prepared. I’m never going on a trip again without having a plan.”
3. Winners focus on their strengths and not their weaknesses.
If you want to be successful, you’ve got to work on your weaknesses, right?
Wrong! If you want to develop a habit of winning, you need to cultivate your strengths. Everybody does a lot of things badly, but everyone can be the world’s best at something. The trick is to find that something.
Now, there is one important question you must ask: What weakness is blocking my potential? Focus on the traits you can correct, such as developing a positive attitude, improving self-discipline or acting with more integrity.
When it comes to skills, you don’t have much say—you’re naturally good at some things and not others. So focus on your strengths and stop obsessing over your weaknesses. Otherwise, you will be clawing your way up to average. Nobody pays for average. Nobody wins with average.
4. Winners focus on winning on the inside more than the outside.
If you want to win, you need to work on the inner you, not the exterior self you show the world. Remember this: If your inner core is weak, your outer self will eventually crumble, too. If it’s strong, that inner fortitude will shine through.
You can start by developing these three attributes:
Trustworthiness: You cannot win without earning the trust of those around you.
Discipline: The greatest competition you’ll ever experience will be between your disciplined and undisciplined minds.
Attitude: Believe you will win and you make it possible to win. Believe you will lose and you make it impossible to win. (Read more about John C. Maxwell's thoughts on attitude in his piece The 'Big 5' Challenges People Face.)
5. Winners persist on their path toward success.
Quit, and you’re guaranteed to lose. Persist, and you’re on your way to finding success. You have to persist on the right path, however. If you refuse to quit that high-salary, low-satisfaction job, well, we’ve already addressed that mistake.
I remember the first time I spoke before an audience. It was 1966 and I was 19 years old. I knew right away that speaking was one of my strengths—I could tell people liked me and there was a good chemistry, but I had a long way to go to become good.
So I worked at improving. I withstood my critics. I moved past rejection. I learned from my fumbles and failures. And when I found something that worked, I focused on improving it. How long did it take me to nail the art of public speaking? Ten years!
We seem to love stories of overnight successes, but the truth is there aren’t any. If you want to be a consistent winner, you’ve got to work at it every day. Success comes from developing the habits of winning.