Setting big, audacious goals and completing them requires a significant amount of self-discipline. This means doing what you need to do before doing what you want to do. It also means knowing when to say yes and when to say no.
Each person’s nonnegotiable rules are what ultimately define their trajectory through life. Achieving success requires you to figure out what you value and fundamentally care about. Without this anchor, it can be all too easy to bounce aimlessly from one distraction to the next.
Without an inner code of guidelines to follow, you will struggle to keep a laser focus on your goals and set aside the time to work toward them. External circumstances will decide your day-to-day routine. And while there is a need to remain open to spontaneity, you need to remember that achieving greatness requires deliberate action.
In order to take action, you need to live your life accordingly. Here are 11 rules to follow.
1. Tackle Your Most Difficult Challenges First
What’s that big item on your to-do list that you know you’ll spend a chunk of your day working on? What’s the thing you’re most hesitant to dive into? If you can tackle the most challenging thing first, everything else you do for the rest of the day will seem easier in comparison.
Furthermore, accomplishing something you had dreaded will give you momentum to keep plugging away for that sense of achievement.
Diving into your most challenging project first will also keep you from procrastinating. Chances are, the rest of your day will feel like a piece of cake.
2. Put Your Priorities Ahead Of Everyone Else’s
Most people live their lives trying to please other people. Too often our sense of obligation to others means that we are quick to abandon our goals or priorities. We tend to everyone else’s needs before our own. This is one of the fastest routes to failure, and will leave you feeling unfulfilled.
But you must remember that no one can accomplish your dreams for you. Your goals are your responsibility. You have to find ways of drawing boundaries and making sure that you don’t constantly allow others to pull you away from your priorities and suck up all of your energy.
It is good to give, and there is real value in helping others out. But if all you do is accommodate others, you will have nothing left for yourself.
3. Protect Your Time Ferociously
Time is your most valuable resource. It is the one thing we all want more of, and the one thing no amount of money can buy. And yet so many of us end up giving it away. Achieving anything great in life requires a time commitment. Unless you are willing to use your time wisely, you will find days, weeks and even months of your life vanishing before your eyes.
The key is to only say yes to things that provide value in the direction you want to go, either personally or professionally. That includes the time it takes to maintain positive relationships with people close to you.
It also means carving out time to focus on the projects and goals you want to fulfill. Be aware of how you use your time. Otherwise, you will find it slipping through your fingers without you even realizing it.
4. Don’t Compare Yourself To Others. Run Your Race
It’s not fair to compare yourself to others. Each person has their own journey. Making comparisons will always be a losing battle because there will always be someone who has accomplished more or succeeded at things you are still working toward. Instead of idealizing what someone has done, remember that they’re human and have made mistakes as well. You are seeking to be the best version of you — not them.
Give yourself emotional distance when looking at the accomplishments of others. See if there are valuable lessons that you can extract from other people’s experiences. Are there things others have done that you can apply to your own journey, either to avoid or to reproduce in your own way?
Keep in mind that what worked for them may not work for you. Stay focused on how you can continue to improve, and don’t allow yourself to become consumed with resentment or envy. Chances are, they may feel the same about you.
5. Listen More Than You Speak
Ever notice how the people who move the fastest are also the ones who are obsessed with learning? They care less about proving themselves than about listening, learning and refining their craft.
Knowledge is power, and the more you listen, the more you learn. High achievers are masters of the learning process, and they know there is more value in being the quietest person in the room than the loudest.
You may be surprised by what you can learn if you sit back and listen to others instead of jumping in. Let a quiet moment linger, and see what others say to fill the void. Then, when you do speak, others will be more inclined to listen to you.
6. Measure Success And Track Progress Obsessively
How are you supposed to know if you’re moving in the right direction when you don’t track your own goals? It’s important to establish metrics — or a way to measure your progress — so that you can see how you are doing on both a large and small scale. Tracking your progress is key to your ultimate success because it allows you to see where you have made gains and where you have struggled.
Ideally, you should have multiple metrics tracking everything from your small day-to-day goals all the way up to your annual goals. Did you improve production? Great! But are your overhead costs skyrocketing at the same time? Details are important.
You should be checking your progress on a regular basis so that you can spot a downturn in trends and make corrections if necessary. Whether you do this before bed each night, or at the end of each week, month or quarter, what matters is that you’re always keeping an eye on the direction you’re going.
7. Only Surround Yourself With Positive People
High achievers tend to be exclusive about who they spend their time with — and rightfully so. They don’t let negative people infiltrate their inner circle, because they know how impactful a supportive network of people can be on their own success.
A pessimistic person can weigh you down and leave you feeling stressed, discouraged and demoralized. A positive person creates a space where you feel bolstered, energized and determined to keep moving forward.
This doesn’t mean that a positive person only tells you cheerful and pleasant things. You can be positive and still be realistic. All it means is that they don’t look at the world through a lens of negativity. An upbeat person still sees when things are going south, and works to change it. Don’t be afraid to change friend groups or distance yourself from people who are constantly gloomy or cynical. Look for people who add value to your life. Chances are, you will add value to theirs.
8. Don’t Compromise Your Personal Health
As obsessive as high achievers might be about their goals, those who succeed over the long term are also adept at taking care of themselves along the way. They know that life is a marathon, not a sprint. They eat healthily, get a good night’s rest and make time to step away from their work in order to clear their heads.
Healthy habits help you maintain your energy and productivity. If you are exhausted, poorly nourished and out of shape, it’s hard to have the stamina needed to put in time and effort for long-haul success. Studies have also shown that even moderate exercise gives your creativity and confidence a boost, as well as giving you a shot of stress-relieving endorphins. That’s a win-win!
9. Do What You Say You’re Going To Do
Nothing speaks louder than your actions. High achievers are extremely intentional when they give their word. If they say they’re going to do something, they do it.
This is why they end up building such powerful networks and attracting such big opportunities: people know that they’ll follow through. After all, you can’t build trust if you don’t keep your word.
As well as following through on promises to others, you must hold true to the commitments you’ve made to yourself. If you are constantly putting off your own undertakings or responsibilities, how are you ever going to see things through to the end? Keep your word. Follow through in pursuing your ideas, dreams and goals.
10. Wake Up When You Say You’re Going To Wake Up
The alarm goes off like an angry banshee waaaaay too early in the morning. How is it even possible that you planned on getting up at this hour? But whatever you do, don’t give in to temptation and hit the snooze button. Although catching a few more z’s may sound enticing, hitting snooze will mess with your sleep rhythm. You will likely wake up feeling even more groggy and grumpy the second time around.
In addition, you will be starting the day by going back on an obligation you made to yourself, namely, that you would get up at a certain time and get going. By hitting snooze, you’ve just started the day on the wrong foot.
So now you’re grumpy, running late, not following through on your promises and practicing the bad habit of allowing yourself to renege on your promises. Whether you realize it or not, this bad habit will end up creeping into other aspects of your life. Do yourself a favor: go to bed on time and get up when the alarm goes off.
11. Collaborating And Working With Others
Successful people don’t climb the mountain of achievement on their own. Those serious about achieving their goals know they can’t do it alone and they understand the value of asking for help and collaborating with other people who can help them move faster.
Anyone aspiring to be successful has to learn the art of “knowing what you don’t know.” By surrounding yourself with people who can fill your gaps, you can accomplish more on your own and collectively.
Working with others allows you to combine your resources and experiences with those of others, and allows for more dynamic problem solving. This may also be a wonderful opportunity to leverage your differences with colleagues and create complementary work relationships.