A Powerful Pair of Habits Leading to Success

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There is one pair of habits that I see more than any other that I think correlates to the success of the various leaders we have worked with at Bunnell Idea Group.

The first one is setting very clear goals. The research behind this is unbelievable. Edwin Locke did a meta-study of over 110 other psychological studies to see, across all the psychological studies that looked at goal-setting. He looked to see if there is a statistical correlation between goal-setting and higher performance. There was. In 90% of the studies he looked at, there was a very strong statistical correlation between simply writing down a goal and accomplishing more in life. How powerful is that? I cannot think of a better use of a Post-it Note than simply writing down the goal. I see that as the direction.

The other pair of habits that correlate to that is celebrating incremental progress, and having a plan to do so. Theresa Amabile at Harvard has done a ton of research on this. She calls it The Progress Principle, and what she found in her own research is that people that are more successful and happier, I think that is interesting, the more successful and the happier people are ones that celebrated incremental progress on the journey.

Isn’t that interesting, the pair of these together? Locke’s research says setting the direction tells us where we are going to go. Theresa’s research shows that celebrating each little step of the way can lead to more happiness and more success. The pair of these is really powerful.

The first time I ever saw somebody set a goal that was so clear it just struck me was a friend named Doug Parker. Doug was a couple years ahead of me in Delta Tau Delta, the fraternity I was in at Ball State University. He wrote down on a piece of paper “student body president” and stuck it on the ceiling above his bed. When I walked into his room one time and I saw that on his ceiling, I went, “What? Why is that up there?” And he goes, “Oh, I am going to be student body president before I leave Ball State.” Lo and behold, two years later, Doug Parker, out of fifteen or twenty thousand undergraduates, was named student body president. He was a man on a mission. He wrote down and reminded himself of the goal.

The example for celebrating incremental progress is me. Several years ago, I realized on most Fridays I was entering the weekend sad because I did not get this or that done. I would only remember the things in the week I would not get done, so I forced myself into having a weekly little meeting with myself, first it started on Saturdays and then evolved to Friday afternoons, where I forced myself to write down all the progress I made that week. What should I give thanks for? What should I be thankful for?

That little event, that one-time event each week, has been tremendously powerful for me, because instead of entering the weekend worrying about what I did not get done, I just recapped all the things that did get done. Even if there was a couple setbacks, by and large you can always make progress in a week, and I would celebrate that and move into the weekend very happy. Completely changed the way I would look at each week.

I think these two things are powerful, and especially in tandem. Set the goals. Write it down. Figure out where you are going. And then the progress principle, have some kind of method for revisiting that from time to time, I like weekly, and forcing yourself to celebrate all the great things that you have done. When you put these two things together, really, really great things happen. As with all of our videos, we hope this one helps you help your clients succeed.

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