Success means very different things to different people. But whether your idea of the good life is a big house and a fast car, making the world a better place, or producing work of lasting value in your discipline, are there any common habits that will help get you there? What behaviors and beliefs significantly increase your chance of success, no matter how you define it?
That's what one curious questioner wanted to know on Q&A site Quora. This person's simple query -- What are the habits of highly successful people? -- led to an outpouring of advice that cited experts ranging from Stephen Covey and Abraham Lincoln to Bollywood stars and Lifehack.
I sorted through the flood of answers to find a few principles that many respondents agreed would give you a leg up if you're aiming to achieve incredible things. Here are eight habits the crowd on Quora claims sets the super successful apart from the rest of us:
1. They define success.
The first step to being successful is defining success. "Search your soul as to what it looks like in your mind's eye to feel successful," advises video producer Patty Mooney. "What helped me in my personal journey was working on myself via Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way. And then Vein of Gold. I was able to dig down into what I really wanted to be and do in life. Success naturally followed."
I couldn't agree more, personally. Entrepreneur Janis Butevics also concurred in his answer. "They have identified their core values and they do their best to live a life which is reflective of those values," he writes.
2. They talk to themselves.
We think of talking to yourself as something crazy people do, but it's actually a hallmark of the super successful, suggest several respondents.
"Many top performers, especially in sports, focus on self talk more than on techniques or skills. At the highest level of professional sports they consider skills and techniques a given. You can't reach that level without them. What allows them to beat their opponents is not more time spent honing their skills, but more focus on perfecting their internal dialog," notes author Micha Stawicki, for example.
3. They write it down.
Want to be super successful? "Start a notebook/journal labelled for whatever it is you want to achieve. In it record any experience, book, quote, TV show, words of wisdom, ideas, contacts, and etc. that relate to or could help you with achieving your goal. Write something in it every day," suggests activist Roger Hawcroft.
He's not the only person recommending writing out your thoughts and dreams in some way. "Journaling seems to be the most common method of self-analysis among successful people," claims Stawicki. Don't get hung up on details of how to journal, as long as you're getting your thoughts out on paper, you should see benefits.
4. They meditate.
If you bring a mindfulness practice into your life, you'll be in good company. "Many successful people practice meditation: Clint Eastwood, Paul McCartney, Oprah Winfrey, Jane Fonda, Sting, Mick Jagger ... Did you know that Kobe Bryant meditates to stay at the top of his game?" asks Stawicki.
5. They read A LOT.
"Bill Gates is one of the richest people in the world," writes sociologist Waqar Ahmed, stating the obvious. But did you know he's also a voracious reader, Ahmed goes on to ask. So are a great many other business icons. With so many super accomplished people crediting their success at least in part to their reading habit, the rest of us should probably take note and read more. (Here are some tips on getting started if you feel like you just don't have the time.)
6. They design their days.
Routine and ritual take a lot of guesswork and indecision out of your days. It's a truth the highly successful understand and leverage to their advantage, according to entrepreneur Andrew Barrett. "The most successful entrepreneurs are highly dependent on their daily rituals and habits. They have designed their day perfectly for themselves. They understand their bodies and what they need. The find out how to get into the zone and stay in the zone to do high quality work quickly," he writes.
According to student Amey Yeole this is particularly important in the morning and evening. The super successful "have specific routines and rituals set for the start and end of every day," she insists.
7. They avoid negativity.
The super successful "do not waste their energy in complaining," notes process engineer Himani Kapoor. He wasn't the only respondent to make the point that positivity and success generally go hand in hand. "They rarely complain (waste of energy). All complaining does is put the complainer in a negative and unproductive state," concurs Butevics. Science agrees.
8. They manage their emotions.
The super successful might seem superhuman but, like the rest of the us, they have emotions -- sometimes troublesome ones. "They also have feelings like fear, boredom and they also have to fight resistance. The difference between us and them is that, they take action," comments Ahmed.
He's not the only one to note that the highly accomplished are better than the average bear at handling problematic emotions. "They are more effective than most at managing their emotions. They feel like we all do but they are not slaves to their emotions," agrees Butevics.