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What’s the secret to being successful? Is it the ability to function off of minimal sleep? Giving up your social life to spend your entire days pursuing your goal? We all want to be successful—what distinguishes us, though, is that we all have a different definition of success. For some it’s about money, or fame, or the ability to live a quiet, stress-free, secluded life.

Regardless, there’s no such thing as an overnight success. Even an “overnight success” would tell you years of hard work went into getting to where they are today. So, what exactly is the secret to achieving your goals and building a life you’re proud of, and how do the most successful people get there? It’s not just about being good at what you do or knowing the right people (though those thing help).

We’d argue that the road to success begins by building smart, consistent habits. Consistency is key in anything worth doing, whether you’re learning a new language, trying to lose weight or build muscle, or building an empire.

If you have goal but you’re not sure of how to reach it, there are a few ways that you can build the same habits of highly effective people that will lead to a successful life.

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Identify your bad habits

Stop living in blissful ignorance and instead evaluate your bad habits. Once you’re aware of them, figure out a way to resolve them. If you struggle to go to the gym in the morning, lay out your clothes the night before. If you have trouble focusing, start by taking a short break after every ten minutes of work, and progressively work your way up to taking a break every hour. There’s no universal solution to a bad habit, so play around and figure out what works for you. Successful people don’t just deal with their bad habits, they work on them so that they can improve themselves.

Listen to your body

You can’t build effective habits if you’re sick or unaware of your most and least productive times of the day. Pay attention to when you get the most work done and make that your work time. Western society really pushes the 9-5 work schedule, but if you’re most productive at 6am and start to crash at 2 or 3, build your habits around that schedule. It’s one thing to want to push and discipline yourself, but it’s another to ignore what your body is trying to tell you.

Hold yourself accountable

If you fall off the wagon for a day, don’t feel sorry for yourself—get over it and try again tomorrow. When people make mistakes, they often like to use the initial one as an excuse to keep making mistakes. This leads to self-pity and giving themselves a pass.

Successful people don’t blame others or wallow in self-pity. They accept the circumstances, and push through their obstacles. The less you fear failure, the more likely you are to try new things, so you should actually look at your mistakes as benefits in the long run, because the more you make, the more fearless you’ll become.

Give yourself micro goals

It’s good to see the big picture of your dreams. But these big goals can feel daunting at first, and that feeling is what can lead you to use one mistake as an excuse to give up, or to just lose steam when you don’t see results for a while. Try breaking the big picture of your goal into manageable micro goals. Every time you achieve a smaller milestone, your confidence and motivation will increase, and the chances of you giving up will decrease.

Creating micro goals is also a prudent way to move toward your goal because it leaves room for adjustments along the way. Instead of bee-lining to the end, every time you hit a micro goal, stop and take a look at where you’ve come, and evaluate whether you’re still on the best path.

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This is how you can sustain effective habit change

Through our work with researchers from Duke University, we’ve packaged a unique collection of behavioral change insights inspired by elite sports and behavioral economics to help you build effective habits.

Willpower is overrated and you can’t always rely on it to change your habits. This is what you should do instead.

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