How Successful People Think

Two daily reflection journals on a white desk, one open to a page with handwritten notes and a gold pen.

Want to know how successful people achieved their success? You’ll want to start by studying how successful people think.

Successful people seem superhuman. To us mere mortals, these CEOs, authors, and professional athletes seem like they’ve been blessed with an extraordinary amount of talent and luck to excel in their field. But it’s just not talent that has helped successful people achieve great things. You’d be surprised to learn that the world’s most successful people share a common, attainable trait: they all have a successful mindset. 

Whether it’s goal-setting or learning to persevere after a setback, successful people have cultivated the right mindset to help them get big results.

Here’s how you can start developing the right mindset to succeed. 

Mindset #1: Take smart risks

Successful people know that nothing will be handed to them. If they want to reach their goals, they need to put themselves out there and take risks. But rather than just taking impulsive risks such as spending their entire life savings or suddenly quitting their jobs, they assess and take smart risks

Smart risk-taking might sound like an oxymoron, but it’s about laying the groundwork so that you can confidently take that leap. Smart risk-taking involves doing your homework and research so that you’re better prepared to make those bold moves.

If you’re usually risk-adverse, don’t worry. You don’t have to be as audacious as Richard Branson right out the gate. Smart small and then gradually work your way up into taking bigger risks. Reach out to a peer you admire and invite them for coffee. Sign up for a writing class. Cold-email a potential client. 

Once you start strengthening your “risk muscle” you’ll feel a lot more comfortable with taking on bigger risks. 

Mindset #2: Set goals

Successful people know what they want and work hard to get it. They have a goal-oriented mindset to give their lives focus and clarity. It doesn’t matter how big or impossible the goal might seem. They know that as long as they keep chipping away at their goal, it will turn into reality over time.

You can cultivate a goal-oriented mindset by taking some time to think about what you really want to achieve. Don’t be afraid to think big and don’t censor yourself. Do you want to own a home? Get paid for traveling around the world? Write a novel? 

Use your goal as your north star and find ways to continuously move forward in that direction. You don’t have to finish your novel right away, but if you write 1,000 words a day, you’ll have a draft after a few months. You may not have enough in the bank right now for a house but you can start small by setting up a savings account or signing up for a personal finance newsletter or brainstorming a potential side gig to bring in more income.

By regularly setting goals and working at them, you will increase the odds of your success. 

Mindset #3: Embrace problem-solving

Successful people know that setting goals and solving problems go hand in hand. When they see that their goals are stalling or that their action plans aren’t working, they reassess and figure out a solution.

Take time at the end of the week to reflect on your goal’s progress. What went well? What didn’t go so well? What can you do differently to maximize your chance at success? 

For instance, let’s say your goal is to exercise 3x a week, but you noticed you’ve been skipping your workouts. Take a look at when you’ve been scheduling your workouts. If you see that you’ve been skipping evening workouts, then try scheduling them in the morning or afternoon when you have more energy. 

Successful people know that sometimes it’s the minor adjustments that can make a big difference.

Mindset #4: Be a jack of all trades

In his book Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World, author David Epstein makes the case for exploring your interests and changing lanes.

From Roger Federer to Vincent van Gogh, Epstein found that successful people had a multi-faceted background that they could tap into to help them problem solve and make big breakthroughs.

While it’s definitely important to have a specific career niche or professional expertise, it’s also valuable to explore your curiosities and interests. 

If you’re a copywriter, take a graphic design class to better align words with images. 

If you’re a small business owner, join a team sport to improve your teamwork and communication skills. 

Mindset #5: Know thyself

Successful people take the time to better understand themselves. They make self-reflection a regular practice and use it as an opportunity to assess their thoughts and behavior. 

In David Gergen’s book Hearts Touched With Fire, the former presidential adviser examines the qualities and traits of great leaders. And he found that one key trait that great leaders possessed was their self-awareness. 

Through self-reflection, great leaders were able to develop self-awareness, learn important lessons, and move forward in the face of adversity. Before they could lead others, great leaders had to first understand themselves.

Whether it’s at the end of the day or week, make it a habit to sit down and check-in with yourself. How are you feeling? How is your health? Social life? By getting to know yourself better, you will have the keys to having a better life. 

While self-reflection is a lifelong exercise, it’s one that will bring you continuous growth and insight.

Mindset #6: Believe in yourself

Successful people have inner self-belief. Deep down they know that they have what it takes to do great things. Of course, successful people are human beings, just like the rest of us, and they wrestle with the same fear and insecurity and self-doubt. But they do the internal work to combat limiting beliefs, expand their mindset, and surround themselves with a strong support system. 

You can do journal writing to help you identify and reframe limiting beliefs. Or use mantras to help shift your thinking and empower your beliefs. 

Feeling inspired? Set a mini challenge for yourself to work on a mindset a month. 

Maybe you can use one month to explore your goals. Or another month to create a self-reflection routine. Before you know it, you will adopt the right attitude and mindset for a successful life. 

Written by JiJi Lee.

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