Successful people are different from everyone else, but not in the ways you might think. It's not because they were born into a previously successful family. It's not because they happened to be born with certain physical or mental traits. It certainly isn't because they "got lucky" in their lives. Instead, it's because they have certain tendencies, both natural and developed, that help them make better choices.

These mental habits are common in the highest echelons of successful people, and all of them can be adopted with a simple shift in attitude and perspective:

1. They think long-term. Too many people focus on the "right now" decisions--they indulge in the easy path rather than taking a longer or harder path with a better eventual payoff. They react to situations instead of preparing in advance for them. Exceptionally successful people, on the other hand, are always thinking several moves ahead--they see the potential outcomes of their decisions not just in terms of days, but in terms of weeks, months, and years. Renowned theoretical physicist Michio Kaku calls this trait "delayed gratification" and has called it the "hallmark of human intelligence." The classic analogy here is chess--to be victorious, it's not enough to set yourself up for a good position next turn. The further ahead you think, the greater chance you have at eventually winning.

2. They don't dwell on the past. The past is the past. People who focus on the present and future have a better chance at actually doing something productive. Since the past can't be changed, spending time and energy on it is a waste, and successful people have intrinsically realized this. When successful people fail, they take a moment to learn what went wrong and take that knowledge forward; rather than dwelling on that past failure and sulking, they take this new information and start applying it to the present and future--which can be altered.

3. They focus on actions and decisions. Successful people pay attention to situations, circumstances, and variables, but they spend far more time focusing on potential actions and potential decisions. Situations and variables are environmental factors, which exist outside yourself. Actions and decisions are all personal factors, which you have full control over. Successful people evaluate the quality and potential outcome of each of these actions and decisions, and, as such, make better choices than their situationally concerned counterparts. For example, if you spend more time considering the logical advantages and disadvantages of buying a specific stock than you spend worrying about market trends and company news, you'll generally make a better final decision.

4. They ignore what they can't control. By "ignore" here, I don't mean ignore entirely, but I do mean that they de-prioritize those events and circumstances compared to what they can control. For example, they tend to spend little energy fretting about technological malfunctions or team members missing work for personal reasons; these are events beyond the reach of anyone's control. Instead of pouring energy into anger or resentment, they pour energy into solutions and alternatives. Instead of complaining about the lack of manpower, they come up with temporary action plans. Instead of freaking out about being late for a meeting, they come up with a checklist of things to do next and start executing.

5. They consider alternatives. Successful people tend to have open minds about everything. They consider every idea, even if it seems ridiculous at first. They listen to every person's opinion, they embrace all forms of new experiences, and they try to avoid judging things until they've actually experienced them. Because of this mental disposition, these people tend to have more ideas, more experiences, and more opportunities--which naturally lead them to more success.

6. They see the positive side. Success isn't just about the mathematical accumulation of money or power--it's about perspective. Truly successful people are happy and satisfied with their lives, which many of us find as a hard position to acquire. Some of us will meet all our goals and become millionaires and still not be happy with the way things turn out--others of us will have modest accomplishments, but will feel great about them. The truly successful people in this world are ones that are able to see the positive side of everything--even the terrible, unfortunate circumstances that life occasionally throws our way.

7. They don't care what others think. Well, to a certain extent. Successful people do care what others think when it comes to gaining feedback on ideas or learning new perspectives, but they never let a stringent outside opinion have too much of an effect over their own decisions. They aren't afraid to take risks, and they aren't afraid to follow their passions--even if other people seem to think they're crazy for doing so. They follow their own paths and own instincts in life, and put other people's opinions below their own in importance.

Adopt these mental habits into your own life, and you'll start to notice certain changes--you'll start thinking harder and more clearly about your station in life, you'll learn to embrace more opportunities, and you'll feel better about all the decisions and actions you direct. Choosing to follow these habits can't make anyone an overnight success, but put into practice regularly, they can help you find and create more opportunities for personal growth.

Further reading:

Climbing the Corporate Ladder: Career Hacks for Modern Professionals

Published on: Jan 21, 2016