These habits aren't "ingrained", or "genetic"; they are habits that anyone like you and me can cultivate. Just like Stephen Covey's 7 habits will help anyone become highly effective, these 7 habits of highly excellent people will help anyone become excellent. I find that as long as anyone practices these habits, excellence is always a given. And I'm more happy to share with you these habits. Here they are:
- Have the end in mind.
This is the same habit as Stephen Covey's 1st habit, and with good reason. Everything starts with the end - the goal or the vision you want to fulfill. If you don't know what the end is, then there's no way of getting there, is there? Imagine getting into a cab. What do you first do when you get into the cab? Maybe you say hi to the taxi driver, then what? You tell the driver where you want to go, so that he can take you there. Similarly, you need to know what is the end you want to reach in order to get there.
Hence, it's critical that you form clear goals of what exactly you want. What do you want? What is the end you envision? What are your personal goals and dreams for yourself? Personally, I have a vision board beside my bed where I have my dreams plastered over it. These dreams include developing The Personal Excellence Blog into one of the top personal development blogs, running my international personal excellence school, speaking to tens and thousands of people in seminars, achieving world peace, finding my soul mate, hitting the best seller's list with my books, and so on. These dreams remind me of what exactly I want and drive me forward every day.
- Do what you love.
When you do something you love, it's like you have unlimited fuel that keeps you going- day after day. The hunger to excel in it is just greater than if you do anything else. Every day, I'm endlessly driven to build and write at my blog, because it's for a cause I believe in. Helping people grow and live their best life is the one thing I know I want to be doing for the rest of my life.
I have a coaching client who has tried to start 4-5 different ventures before (one at a time), and he was never able to succeed in any of them. Why was this the case? It wasn't that he was stupid, or that he was lazy. Ultimately, the reason was because he wasn't passionate about the things he was pursuing - he was just chasing money. The nature of the business didn't appeal to him emotionally. This is not to say starting businesses because you want to earn money is bad - all I'm saying is it's important that you love what you want to do first and foremost.
What is it you love to do? If you are not sure what your passion is yet, then what is something you are most eager to try at the moment? If you can choose to do anything, what will it be? Your love and interest are fuels that will drive you towards excellence.
- Work harder than anyone else.
I don't know of anyone who has achieved excellent results who hasn't worked hard for them. A big component of excellence is hard work. Sheer, unadulterated hard work. We can streamline processes, choose effective strategies and steps, but ultimately the hard work will still have to come in. Fortunately, if you are doing what you love (step #2), work wouldn't even be work at all.
In the past year since I set up The Personal Excellence Blog, I have spent countless hours, including weekends, building up the blog and writing high quality articles for readers out there. All these have paid off in their own way. I'm not saying you should abandon all social life because that defeats the purpose, but you will have to dedicate yourself to making your business a success. This year in 2010, I intend to increase my efforts even more compared to 2009, and I know it's going to pay off.
- Make use of every moment.
Every moment counts. Excellent people know that time is highly valuable. There's this quote by Donald Trump which I read in one of his books, and I absolutely love it. He said that time is more precious than money, because you can earn back money, but you can't get back time. That is absolutely true.
Hence, I'm always making sure that I'm maximizing every moment. If I'm commuting over a distance, I'll pick up a book or listen to a podcast. If I'm out waiting for a friend, I'll take the chance to do something meaningful for the time being. If there are some pockets of time, I'll take out my laptop and do some work.
Note that this habit doesn't mean working like a hog, 24x7. That wouldn't be a true application of this habit. Making use of every moment also refers to knowing when to rest and rejuvenate when it's needed, because this will help us walk the longer mile on the path of excellence.
- Take action to achieve your results.
Living a life of excellence means being a proponent of action. Many people often say "The sky is the limit". My personal philosophy is the sky isn't the limit; we are the limit. Whatever we do or don't do will determine how much we can grow or achieve. If we want to grow and achieve great results, we need to take the equivalent actions to reach the results we want.
For example, many people agree that having press and media feature their business can greatly benefit them, but they believe it only happens when you are prominent enough. While that's usually true, I refuse to let that stop me. I took proactive steps to reach out to the press, writing my own press release and creating a strong story angle so the press would want to feature me. To date, I've been featured in the press for almost 20 times. To read more about how to be featured by the press, you can check out my guest post at Problogger: How To Get Featured By the Press (Repeatedly) Even If Your Blog is New.
- Continuously upgrade yourself.
Learning never stops. There is always something we can do to become better. We may have great skills and knowledge today, but no matter how great they may be, our skills need to be continuously developed. Excellent people are always learning, reading, exposing themselves to new knowledge, new people, new contexts and developing their skills. If you have played role-playing games or RPGs before, you would know that the characters need to be leveled up to get stronger and progress to the next level. Likewise, we need to always be leveling ourselves up to achieve excellence.
- Ask for feedback.
No matter how much we try to improve, we will have blind spots. Blind spots are things about ourselves that we don't know about, and we can't improve on things that we are blind to. Asking for feedback is one of the fastest and most effective ways to improve.
For everything I do, I make it a point to gather feedback. For example, when I was in my previous job, I would often ask my manager and peers for feedback on how I could improve. With my friends, sometimes I would have a random feedback session with them on how I can do things better. As I run The Personal Excellence Blog, I would invite my readers to send in their feedback, either through comments, emails or private messages. Sometimes the feedback is predictable, sometimes it's not and many times it leads to an epiphany on some level.
- Strive for #1 in what you do.
... Wait, you didn't think that there would just be 7 habits in achieving excellence, did you?
There's 1 final habit to become a highly excellent person - that is, to strive for #1 in what you do. No one's going to achieve excellence if they aim for average, or mediocrity. Excellence comes from aiming for the top - being #1. This #1 should be better than whoever is #1 at the moment, because it will spur you on to work even harder. You will only achieve great results when you set high standards for yourself.