Survey shows people think this one factor is most critical to their success

Survey respondents placed more than twice the value on their routine behaviours than they did on their decision making and natural talent. And, of course, they believe luck had nothing to do with it.

If you want to be more successful in 2020, try changing your habits.

A new survey shows that people attribute their career success to having the right habits over decision making and natural talent. The survey of 1808 workers was conducted by Leadership training company VitalSmarts.

Respondents believe that habits are critical to success and placed more than twice the value on their routine behaviours than they did on their decision making and natural talent.

Asked to rate their own success and estimate what contributed to it

The study asked people to rate their success in five different life areas: career success, economic success, physical success, inner success and parental success. They were then asked to estimate how much of an impact habits, talent, decisions and luck had in contributing to their success.

Respondents credited habits as an influential factor in every area of life. On average, respondents attributed around 50% of their overall success to having the “right habits,” and the more successful a person rated themselves, the more they attributed their success to good habits. Habits were followed by the decisions they make (24.7%) and their talents (19.5%). Naturally, only 5.8% credited luck as a factor.

Studies show people think they’re responsible for their own success

This last is no surprise and doesn’t at all mean that luck doesn’t play a role. While we still haven’t figured out the answer to the age old question of whether life success is earned or can be put down to luck (spoiler: we’ll probably eventually discover it’s both), past research has shown that, even when luck plays a clear role, people dismiss it as a factor. We tend to give ourselves all the credit for our achievements and to blame our failures on outside forces.

It’s also noteworthy that the survey is entirely based on self reporting and we don’t actually know how “successful” anyone actually is. People may rate themselves as more or less successful based on any number of factors that include life experience and self concept.

That being said, research also suggests that habits do play a vital role in success. Regularly getting up early, going for a run, making your bed, eating a healthy breakfast, and getting down to work is going to yield better results than regularly sleeping until noon then sitting in front of the TV with a cold pizza and a beer for the next three hours. Obviously.

“When it comes to success, nothing trumps good habits,” Emily Gregory, lead researcher and VP of Product Development at VitalSmarts, said in a media release. “No amount of luck, talent, brains or good decisions can compensate for your habits and your routines. And that is good news for anyone looking to make changes in 2020. Ultimately, you’re just a few habits away from success.”

Which habits are critical to success

The habits respondents listed as having made a difference between success and failure include:

  • Thinking yes before saying no. Being open to opportunities to grow and expand outside of your comfort zone.
  • Being curious. Dedicating time each week to dreaming and researching.
  • Doing the hardest or most important thing on your to-do list first thing in the morning.

“A lot of these habits are what we call Trigger Habits,” says Gregory. “While they seem small, they actually trigger a series of other powerful habits. For instance, ‘Thinking yes before saying no,’ is likely to create a habit of being less impulsive, more thoughtful, and even more visionary and creative. In fact, many of the good habits successful people have at work carry over into their personal life.”

How to create new habits

The people at VitalSmarts recommend creating new, simple habits to jump start your workplace performance in the new year. They provide the following three tips to learning new habits in 2020:

Spot the lag: Identify the areas in your career where you’re not getting the results you want, then identify the habits that will produce those results.

Make it a ritual: Create a ritual around the new habit by engineering your environment to be conducive to doing the habit. Set up reminders, or cues, and arrange your world so that doing the behaviour comes easier.

Reward yourself: Every time you complete your new routine, reward yourself immediately. Indulge in a special treat, for example.

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