Work ethic is one of the most important factors for any professional's success. Whether you're employed as an entry-level assistant in a giant corporation or you're an entrepreneur running a small business, having the natural inclination to proactively take on new responsibilities and work hard to achieve your goals always results in more progress, more productivity, and eventually, more success.
While there are some indications that your work ethic is partially preset by genetics and the environment in which you're raised, there's just as much evidence to suggest that adults can "learn" to develop their work ethic.
Work ethic functions as a mentality, and that mentality is shaped by your habits. If you engage in more habits that require a strong work ethic, you'll be more likely to transfer that to other areas of your life. Discipline is like a muscle--it can be worn out, but it can also be strengthened over time. If you inject your routine with more everyday tasks that require focus and discipline, you can actively improve your overall work ethic. At the same time, you can take a measure of your current work ethic by examining an element of your routine, such as your morning habits.
How you wake up immediately tells you a bit about your overall work ethic. When your alarm goes off, do you promptly get up, shut off the alarm, and start getting ready for the day, or do you hit the snooze, wake up late, and then frantically scramble to get everything together in time for work? Most people experience both of these scenarios at some point in their lives, but in general, do you experience one more than the other?
Waking up late and scrambling to get ready is an indication of a lower work ethic. It could be that you stay up too late at night, disregarding your responsibility to wake up early. It could be a result of poor sleeping habits, such as watching TV or drinking too much alcohol immediately before bed. It could be a subconscious lack of desire to get up and get moving or a strong preference to remain in bed. Any of these could be an indication of a lack of work ethic, at least on some small scale. Prioritizing the speed and efficiency of your wakeup indicates that you're motivated to tackle the challenges of the day (or at least committed to attempting them).
Once you get up, do you exercise in any form? The go-getters of the world might head to the gym for an hour-long workout, but any exercise you do is an indication of your motivation and commitment to yourself. For example, you might perform a few quick stretches before going out the door, or you might go for a brisk walk before you shower.
It's no surprise that the majority of highly successful people regularly start their days with exercise, from politicians to CEOs. People who are motivated enough to improve their physical bodies and maintain their health are often also motivated enough to improve their skill sets and maintain focus on their long-term goals. It's a correlational example, but having some kind of health-benefiting routine at the start of the day is a good indication of your work ethic, and introducing one can help you find more focus and motivation in other areas of your life.
Do you take the time to make a healthy breakfast or a cup of coffee to enjoy before you leave, or do you try desperately to pick something up on your way to work, only to arrive hungry most days? Hopefully, you know the value of starting the day with a healthy breakfast. But beyond that, making a little extra time to eat a healthy breakfast shows a drive to perform at your very best. Sacrificing breakfast for a short-term gain of a few minutes is an indication of impulsive decision making, rather than a proactive commitment to creating the best possible situation for yourself.
When you get up in the morning, do you check your email or start making phone calls? Do you plan your day in advance? There's some evidence to suggest that these habits may actually interfere with your long-term productivity, but ignoring that, the fact that you're willing to start work first thing in the morning shows your dedication to the job.
Even if you don't like your job or your work responsibilities aren't something you can tackle in the morning, setting your mind toward your day's goals is the important habit here. In some way, your morning should start with an attempt to make yourself more productive for the rest of the day. If you do that, you can consider your work ethic strong.
Of course, there are a few things to keep in mind here. First, we're not all morning people. Some of us naturally perform better in the morning than others, so if you have a chaotic schedule, it could just be an indication of your natural rhythms instead of a reflection of your work ethic. Still, you should be able to examine your habits and routines in any part of your day and determine where you fall. The more work ethic you apply to the little things in your life, the greater work ethic you'll have overall.