What do high achievers have in common? -Part 2

10. Routine, your habits are what define your outcomes.

An individual’s habits and routine are defined as the things we do on a daily basis without thinking, which is so inbuilt into our psyche that we can sometimes do it and not even realise we have started doing it because we go into an auto-pilot mode set by persistent repetition. The auto-pilot feature of our brain, plays a very significant role in our lives; once we learn a particular behaviour or become familiar with doing something, we no longer need to expel too much energy by having to think through the entire process every time, it free’s us to be able to think about other things. For instance, once a person becomes competent at driving they are no longer completely fixated on the mechanism of driving and can concern themselves with the navigation and direction of which they are going, rather than be in a constant state of complete thought about what the foot needs to do to accelerate and how much the steering wheel should be turned to manoeuvre the car.

So knowing that this is an important function of the human mind, how do we develop habits and can we change them? Most people say they are helpless when it comes to a habit, there is nothing they can do to change it because they are not even aware most of the time they are doing it. However, we all set those habits in the first place, therefore, it is always possible to re-set a habit but it does take effort, persistence and will power. Scientist have found that a habit can generally be formed or broken if it is done or replaced consistently for a period of at least approximately 30 days. So if one sticks to a particular routine for that period of time eventually it will become engrained as a habit.

But why is it important to even be vigilant about our habits? Every high achiever has habits and routines for success, because it is the little things we do constantly that add up to one big reward or a lifetime of rewards. If we look at the habits of a high achiever in the field of athletics compared with a person on the opposite end of the spectrum such as a person suffering from obesity. They have two different habits and daily routines in their lives and it is a result of those constant routines that determine whether they have a fit and strong athletic body or one that is severely overweight and unhealthy. An athlete will have the habit of constantly staying active throughout the day, from the time they awaken they will tend to go straight into some of exercise then prepare a meal that is highly nutritious and low in processed sugar and trans fats. They will take great care in the type of food they purchase, their routine would be to prepare meals that will fuel and nourish their bodies, avoid having junk food in their homes and incorporate a work out regime and consistently do physical activity throughout their day. A person who is severely overweight, on the other hand, will more than likely have a highly processed sugar diet, not take too much care in food labels, nutrition or limit the amount of junk foods they keep in their homes or the portion sizes of their meals. They will aim to always park closest to the place they need to go and avoid stairs as often as possible to keep from doing too much walking, and have a constant habit of enjoying their time engaging in actives that require little or no physical activity. One mind is on auto-pilot for constant movement, care in nutrition and to hone their physical abilities and athletic skills through practice, the second auto-pilot is set to comfort and persistent indulgence. I am not trying to make any harsh criticism of certain individuals, or promote one as better than another, we all have our issues and our good qualities. But it is important to realise that if we want something in our lives, or if we feel there is an aspect of our life that is not how we would prefer it to be then we must start by examining our habits and routines because they are what add up and define where we are in life currently. All it takes to change our life is to start by changing our habits.

11. They have a high aptitude for attention to detail and high standard of work

When Michael Jordan, one of America’s well known and arguably best basketball player in history was asked during the peak of his career whether the secret to his skill on the basketball court was due to his competitive nature with fellow players, he very eloquently explained that the only person he competes with is himself, he is always trying to do better than his personal best, if he competed and compared himself to the other players he would be lowering his own standards. He understood the value of setting a high bar for himself and constantly aiming for his best, rather than allowing himself to just follow the lead of others because if that is how we measure our success in life we will be spending our entire lives just trying to keep up with others and one upping each other rather than being brave enough to set our own path.

During my experience working with some of the best people in the field of law and martial arts I have noticed one very predominant theme in their work ethic which is what sets them apart from others. Their high attention to detail and the exceptionally high standard for excellence. I recall starting my first full time job and working for my former boss who was incredibly particular about the detail of all my work. He constantly stressed the importance of drafting all my documents and being fully across every single term of my work, for instance, in my former role I was required to issue statutory notices requiring the production of documents from individual business owners. It was common practice in my field to just complete a standard form template that was authorised by a manager, however, I was required by my boss to always go into any situation fully prepared, and that meant that I drafted my own statutory notice from scratch with a complete understanding of the scope of my legal authority. This practice eventually proved to be incredibly beneficial, I had read many articles in the newspaper of prosecution cases having their evidence thrown out of court due to minor or avoidable errors such as obtaining evidence that was not within the scope of their legal documents or identifying the incorrect entity on warrants. I have personally witnessed legal cases in the court room, being tossed out due to similar reasons, and I have found that most of the time they could have all been prevented if there was more careful attention to the details of their work.

This point is even more significant in the field of martial arts, where the detail of every movement and response can mean the difference between being effective in controlling the other person physically or leaving an unexpected opening to the opponent and making yourself vulnerable. When I started training with my current Sensei, the one aspect about his teaching method that stood out to me the most was his eye for detail in our movements, he is able to see the most subtle of mistakes such as whether the angle of the hip is slightly out or whether an individual is a millimetre off from having the most effective strike or block. It was through his keenness for detail and vigilance for excellence that his standard for his students have produced amazing results. It is important for any high achiever to fully embrace and value the importance of these characteristics because they can be what separates the high achievers from the average.

12. Constantly vigilant about expanding knowledge

Martial arts is described by Bruce Lee, one of Holywood’s most well known martial artist and actor’s, as the expression of oneself through the body, a process of learning about oneself. During the peak of his movie career and popularity Bruce Lee formed his own martial technique he called Jeet Kune do in 1967, which did not follow a certain style of martial arts. The concept of Jeet Kune Do was founded on the philosophy of a martial art “using no way as way” and “having no limitation as limitation”. Bruce was adamant that he did not want to crystallise himself to a singular technique but felt it was important to allow himself to constantly evolve as a human being, expanding his knowledge about the art by not setting limitations or barriers created through one style or following strict dogma. He was known for mixing styles, he was adept at using the Japanese Ninjitsu weapon nunchucks, he had a core training of Chinese Kung fu and worked on expanding his fitness, through strength training and learning other forms of martial arts to expand his repertoire of martial knowledge. He would watch repetitively for hundreds of hours boxing footage of Mohammad Ali to learn the techniques and strategies implemented in boxing, how to duck and weave and overwhelm an opponent through strategy. He wanted to be able to fight with freedom in his style by learning about all the different types of martial arts and it also helped him to develop an ability to fight and defend against various techniques, not leaving him restricted and our of his depth. There is no greater example for this point than him, someone who was revered as one of the most knowledgeable in the field of martial arts and through his fame was able to share his wisdom with many. He was deeply philosophical about his practice and felt it was important for ones personal development and growth towards mastery to constantly evolve and learn, describing the process of learning as a process of self realisation. One is never done evolving and developing, and it is when we decide we are at a stage where we can learn no more that we have created a potentially debilitating limit on ourselves, and cause our development to be stunted at that level.

13. They go the extra mile even when nobody is looking.

This is an essential characteristic of a high achiever, those who are willing to put in more effort and perform at their best, not because it is required of them but because they are a type of person that is always doing their best. A high achiever knows that even though they may not receive an immediate reward for their efforts or recognition for their action, the consistent practice of their best will mean that when an unexpected opportunity arises they are ready and when they least expect it someone could be watching while they are displaying their best. There is nothing more inspiring for an employer or potential employer, than to see a person going above and beyond what is necessary of them in circumstances where they believe nobody is watching. This goes to the core of a persons values and character.

When I was working full time in a competitive legal role, I was a new junior member of the team amongst a large number of other junior staff. There were very limited opportunities for promotion and the environment between juniors was competitive. I decided not to let myself get too caught up in the competitiveness of the environment and instead focused on developing my skills and as I was still very inexperienced I was keen to learn more about the job. Other junior members were more concerned with completing their assigned files and avoid having to do too much else, the predominant theme was to do what was required and develop a better social connection to their senior colleagues. However, in order to further increase my knowledge about my workplace, I worked on my own files and volunteered extra time to assist some of the senior staff with tasks such as proof reading their drafts, obtaining photocopies from court file, legal research and so forth. I found that proof reading their drafts was incredibly beneficial in understanding the type of work the senior staff were required to do, and it inadvertently improved my legal drafting skills. After a couple of years of assistance I became very familiar with a lot of their work, my technical skills improved significantly and I was able to work on senior matters independently. Because I was willing to put in the extra effort without any expectation of immediate reward or recognition, I was able to gain valuable experience and within a few years I was promoted to a management role.

14. They are accountable, able to recognise mistakes and learn from them.

Temporary failures and mistakes are an unavoidable part of life, but they can be some of the most valuable and educational occurrences if we draw from them as learning opportunities rather than take them to closely to heart and give up. A high achiever knows the importance of owning their mistakes and recognising aspects of their character that may need to be improved or changed. A person is who continually growing and moving forward is one that will ultimately enjoy the rewards of progress. As difficult as this may be for some people, it is a crucial point to fully grasp. Many people who find it difficult to account for their weaknesses or misgivings generally suffer from a severely low self esteem or issues relating to insecurity. A highly secure and confident person is not afraid to ask questions and take the blame when they have made a mistake. When I was working for a large private corporation I had developed a reputation for the quality of my work and doing things strictly by the book and as thoroughly as possible. One particular day, I was on call answering client calls and had over 30 overdue files to complete by that afternoon. I was fairly rushed and unintentionally disclosed a private internal contact number of a manager. Later, my supervisor sent an email stating that a mistake had been made and one of the managers had been contacted by a customer on their direct line. I immediately notified my supervisor and apologised immensely for the mistake. She was satisfied it was a mistake and because she knew I was generally a fairly competent employee and was glad that I was forthcoming with my mistake, she just brushed off the incident as an accident. However, one of my co-worker’s was known for cutting corners and making a large number of unnecessary errors, she also made a similar mistake, and instead of immediately coming forth with her error she tried to deny her mistake until her supervisor had confirmation she was responsible. As a result, she was placed on probation for her behaviour. The supervisor later said that had she owned up to the mistake it would not have been dealt with so harshly. It was due to her attempt at avoiding accountability that triggered the need for punitive action.

15. Don’t allow their emotions to get the better of them (excellent control of emotions and dealing with problems).

It is important that our emotions do not overshadow our ability to think clearly and make rational decisions, we can all think of moments in our lives where we have said something hurtful to a loved one or done something regrettable in the heat of our rage and only had to pay for the consequences later, when the entire thing could have been avoided had we just kept a cool head about it. A high achiever is someone who has mastered their emotions under intense stress and is able to channel the nervous energy into intense focus and sharp action. I was watching a cooking competition show recently and it was down to the final two cooks. Within 10 minutes of the cooks final test I could already sense who would win the competition, and it was not the better cook. It was the cook that was able to stay in control of their emotions and not allow the stress and pressure of the final round to overwhelm them to the point of not being able to think clearly. The winning cook was incredibly focused and when the task for the final round was set she flew off with a confident plan of what she wanted to do, she performed her final task with precision, care and organisation. The other cook conversely, had far more superior cooking skills but allowed herself to panic, she became flustered and hurried in her movements, she paced back and forth the ingredients section uncertain what dish to prepare. In her haste she grabbed whatever ingredient she could get her hands on quickly and rushed to her cooking station. She had food scattered all over, started burning things and dropping her pots. This increased her levels of stress and panic. Her emotions erupted and she was inconsolable and not functioning. When asked what she was cooking she was not able to provide a clear answer as she still hadn’t fully decided. In the end her final dish was disappointing and mediocre, a far cry from what she was truly capable of. The other competitor astonished the judges with a dish they did not think she was capable of and she won the competition. While it is important to be aware of our emotions and not to ignore them or try to repress them, we need to be able to control how our emotions affect us when the time comes for us to perform. One of the most helpful mantra’s I have discovered and I repeat to myself in times where I am required to be at my best is “So what? So what? So what?” The reason I find this mantra is so effective is because it takes away the pressure I impose on myself and brings me back down to earth, and it helps shakes my perception of the moment to remember that it is just one aspect of my life and so what if I don’t get what I want, life goes on and so will I.

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