By Kara Mason

9 Real Habits of Successful People


There isn't a secret formula; it's all about how you work.

“Honor your calling. Everyone has one. Trust your heart, and success will come to you.” — Oprah Winfrey

It's safe to say that a lot of us would follow in Oprah Winfrey's successful footsteps if we could. So what makes her such a wild success? What does she do that is so different from everybody else?

The thing about success is that it’s very individual, and the habits of one person are not always easily applied to someone else's life. 

However, when you look at the world's most successful people, you start to notice that they all have a few things in common. 

So let’s dive into some habits successful people seem to share.  

You may find that some of the things on this list work better for you than others, and that’s okay! Success is about finding a rhythm, trusting your gut and following your heart. Those aren’t always easy things to do. 

Your path to success will be your own. But it never hurts to learn what the pros are doing, right? Here are 9 habits of successful people that you can try out in your own life.

1. Embrace learning 

Warren Buffet says he spends about five hours a day reading news or reports. 

Buffet, like other successful people, sees learning as an investment. Just like putting money into a business, they put time into learning something new every day. This is how they stay ahead of the curve and continue to grow their success.

Keeping up on the news, taking an online course, or talking to colleagues about their work are all ways you can embrace learning and make it work to your advantage.

The best thing about learning is that you’re never done with it. No matter how successful you become, there’s always something new to learn. If you are constantly open to the idea of growth, you will take more of the opportunities that arise.

2. Prep and reflect

The most successful people start every day with a plan. When you know what needs to get done, you don't waste time.

By figuring out in advance what you need to work on each day, you eliminate the need to make those choices during your busy day. You have focus and direction. You can only do so much in a day, so narrowing down your options to a few top priorities is essential. 

And when the day is done, successful people reflect on how everything went. What went well? Where did they struggle? How could they do better tomorrow, and beyond?

Being intentional in planning and reflecting is how successful people do the fine-tuning that is required for exceptional performance. 

3. Say no wisely

Becoming successful means saying “yes” to a lot of things, especially things that might seem out of your comfort zone. But saying “no” is just as important.

Becoming overwhelmed and stretched too thin can mean you lose track of assignments, miss deadlines, or don’t complete a task as well as you might have because you’re focusing on so much. When you're trying to do a million things, you'll do none of them particularly well.

Successful people know when to say “no" to things that don't move them in the direction they want to go.

Here are a few tips for figuring out when you should say no: 

  • Keep your end goal in mind. Does this task help you meet that? Is there potential for skill growth? Or is this a distraction? Does this put you on someone else's timeline?
  • Postpone, don't cancel. There is such a thing as bad timing. Saying “no” doesn’t have to mean never. Be open to something coming back around.
  • Check in with your priorities. Maybe you want to say yes to a new opportunity, but aren't sure you have the bandwidth. A personal decision-making process can help. Where are your resources going right now? Can that or should that change?

4. Practice gratitude 

Work is hard. Driving towards your goals is not always very rewarding, when you're tired and feeling the growing pains of achievement.

Checking in with the things you are grateful for can often help you see the positives along the way. It's easy to miss the little things -- the friendly note your boss sent you, or the way your desk makes you smile when it's all tidied up-- and that can make life seem much harder and more discouraging.

Keeping a gratitude practice can make it all feel much easier. Take a few moments each day to really think through what you’re thankful for; studies show that having such a practice can keep you grounded and even improve your mental health. When you're in a more positive state of mind, you'll have much more stamina for the hard work ahead.

5. Make lists that help you focus

Keeping lists seems to be another commonality among successful people. They aren't just keeping to-do lists, either. Goal lists, expense lists, and contact lists are all ways successful people stay organized and focused. 

Here’s why: writing something down means you’re more likely to actually see it through. Studies have shown that students who take notes by hand, as opposed to taking notes by computer, understand and remember the information far better. Writing things down triggers their importance in your brain. In this way, taking lists is sort of like manifesting your success. 

6. Learn to unplug when you're done (or not)

Taking some time away from technology is an important part of success, but make sure you find a way that works for you. For some top CEOs, unplugging means not checking email first thing in the morning. For others, it means finding some time to meditate every day. 

However unplugging works best for you, make sure you savor it. Don't set unplugging as a finish line that you can never reach; make it a part of your daily routine, whether or not you hit the milestone you had hoped to hit. 

Being constantly "on" can accelerate burnout and ultimately hinder success. That's why it's better to take a break, even if you're not completely done with something; you need fuel in order to keep going.

7. Play to your strengths 

What are you good at? Oftentimes we see successful people as people who are naturally good at lots of things, but they have a secret: they only make it look that way. They’re actually just playing to their strengths and relying on others to fill in the gaps. 

Anybody’s success is really, at some point, a team effort. So don’t get down about the things you aren’t good at. Realizing what you're not good at is a gift; it's your chance to delegate that task and focus your time on the things you do best.

Whether it’s hiring people who are great at what they do or learning from them so you can improve your skills, remember that you’re only as successful as the people you surround yourself with. 

8. Focus on short-term goals

With success comes more meetings, more tasks, and more deadlines. That's a lot of daily work that can make your finish line feel very far away. While big picture goals are what we usually associate with highly successful people, it's often the short term goals they set along the way that move them closer to their big vision. 

Enter: Ink+Volt’s three-month goal planner. It comes undated so you can start it whenever it works best for you. It’s designed to help keep you accountable and keep track of progress, while always checking in with the big picture goals that are driving your work.

9. Ask questions and stay open to new ideas

We tend to believe that once we reach a certain point in our career (whether that be a title or salary) we should be experts and have all of the answers. Asking questions, however, can open so many more doors than we realize.

Often, curiosity leads to innovation and more efficient ways of doing things. We can teach ourselves things by asking questions and we can be better team leaders by encouraging others to ask questions, too. 

A lot of successful people live by the saying “there are no stupid questions.” That’s probably because even simple questions can make a big difference.

Embrace not always knowing the answer. You may be surprised where it leads you.