6 High-Performance Habits Only the Most Extraordinary People Share, Backed by Science
by Jeff Haden
Why do some people succeed more quickly than others, and maintain that success over the course of decades? And out of that extremely small subset of people, why do some of them seem miserable, while others live happy lives?
Success and happiness: That’s the combination we all hope to achieve. But the problem is, how do we become more successful and feel more fulfilled?
Brendon Burchard has spent 20 years answering that question, and in High Performance Habits: How Extraordinary People Become That Way, he provides the answers.
Brendon is the author of best-selling books like The Motivation Manifesto and The Millionaire Messenger, is a pioneer in online education (his videos have been viewed more than 100 million times, and more than one million people have taken his online courses), is a Top 100 most followed public figure on Facebook, and is the CEO of High Performance Institute.
Brendon’s findings in High Performance Habits are based on extensive research, but, more important, he lays out practical, real-world ways you can adopt the six habits to use in your professional and personal lives.
I read an advance copy, and I promise it’s one of the best books you’ll read this year. So I spoke with Brendon to get a brief overview, in his words, of the six habits.
Here we go:
1. Seek clarity.
High performers don’t necessarily get clarity. Instead, they seek it more often than other people — so they tend to find it and stay on their true path.
For example, successful people don’t wait until New Year’s to perform a self-evaluation and decide what changes they want to make.
I’ve worked with Oprah, and she starts every meeting by saying, “What is our intention for this meeting? What’s important? What matters?”
High performers constantly seek clarity. That makes them better at sifting out distractions because they constantly refocus on what is important.
A simple approach to seeking clarity is to focus on four things: self, skills, social, and service. How do you want to describe your ideal self? How do you want to behave socially?What skills do you want to develop and demonstrate? What service do you want to provide?
Asking — and answering — those questions more often than other people will definitely give you an edge.
2. Generate energy.
Our research shows, unsurprisingly, that most people lose energy throughout the day. By 2 or 3 p.m. they’re starting to flag, and many finish the day feeling wiped out.
But some people — some extremely busy and productive people — aren’t wiped out.
What we found is that most people bleed out energy and intention in the transitions between tasks, between meetings, etc.
High performers have mastered their transitions. They’re more likely to take a quick break, to close their eyes, to meditate — to give themselves a short psychological break that releases their tension and focus from one activity so they are primed to take on the next.
They recharge themselves throughout the day, between activities — it’s as if they generate energy throughout the day instead of losing it.
If you want to feel more energized and creative and be more effective at work — and leave work with plenty of “oomph” to enjoy your personal life — give your mind and body a break every 45 to 60 minutes. While that can sometimes be tough to do, whenever possible, plan your day in those chunks.
3. Raise necessity.
Before every major activity, high performers raise the psychological necessity regarding why it is important for them to perform well.
I was working with an Olympic gold medal sprinter. One day I said, “When you’re lined up against all these other sprinters, and the difference in winning and losing is hundredths of a second, how do you know who is going to win?”
He said, “I would put my money on the person who says, ‘I’m going to do this for my mom.'”
I’ve had similar conversations hundreds of times with the top 15 percent of high performers, and they all tell themselves why it’s important for them to succeed at whatever they do that day. They all associate a deep sense of identity with performing with excellence. They don’t just find meaning — performing with excellence is so critical to their identity that it’s almost like food and water.
Most people are scared to attach their identity to their performance. High performers are willing to put themselves out there and place their identities on the line. That’s why we call it raising necessity: It’s necessary for them to perform with excellence.
It’s not a passion, it’s not a preference, it’s a necessity.
To raise necessity, always know whom you’re doing it for. Ask yourself, out loud, “Who needs me to be on my A game right now?” When I sit down at the computer, I literally say, “Who needs me on my A game right now?” and it brings my focus back.
It could be your family, your team, your peers, your customers, your end users — whomever it is that you have to perform well for. Speak your “why” to yourself, out loud.
To be a high performer, your job is to prime your mental ability to perform an activity well. To do that, you have to raise the necessity so you enter with a high level of intention, so you perform with excellence.
4. Increase productivity.
High performers increase the outputs that matter. When Jobs came back to Apple, he stripped down the product line. Then he focused on increasing the quality of the products that remained.
That’s what we all have to do: The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.
High performers are also more productive because they see five steps ahead, and align themselves to achieve each of those things.
That finding changed the way I look at almost every project I start. What are the five moves? What are the five major needle-moving moves that will get me there — and what are not the major moves, so I know the distractions to avoid? What key skills do I have to develop to accomplish those moves?
For example, before I started developing online courses I didn’t know anything about video. Technology wasn’t a strength, speaking wasn’t a strength, but I identified those skills as necessary for my long-term success, and I obsessively worked to develop them.
What’s interesting is that many high performers didn’t know they were thinking in five moves; they did it unconsciously. They didn’t realize they consistently identified the absolute must-have skills for long-term success and became obsessed about gaining those skills. They just did it.
But you know, and now you can.
5. Develop influence.
High performers develop influence by teaching people how to think and challenging them to grow.
Teach people how to think and you change their lives. High performers say things like, “Think of it this way” or “What if we approached it this way?” or “What do you think about this?” Over time, they train the people around them how to think — because when you impact someone else’s thoughts in a positive way, you have influence.
But that’s not all they do. Think of an influential person in your life. Maybe a parent, a caregiver, a teacher — choose someone who impacted you. They taught you how to think about yourself, or about others, or about the world, and they also challenged you to grow.
Why was this person so influential? They inspired you. How? They pushed you. How did they push you? They always told you to be your best.
High performers challenge the people they care about to grow. That’s what makes the most difference where influence is concerned.
6. Demonstrate courage.
We did a tremendous amount of research on courage, and we found that in the face of risk, hardship, judgment, the unknown, or even fear, high performers tend to do a couple of things.
First, they speak up for themselves. They share their truth and ambitions more often than other people do. They also speak up for other people more often than others do. In short, high performers are willing to share the truth about themselves.
Just as important, they “honor the struggle.” They know struggling is a natural part of the process. That makes them more courageous, because they enter into a pursuit knowing it will be hard. They can handle the struggle because they expect it.
Sometimes they use different language to describe the phenomena. Some say they are “patient through the process.” Others say they’re “OK with other people doubting or judging them.” But each of them has an almost reverence for the hardship: They honor the struggle as necessary to forge the kind of character that will help them deserve the outcome they desire.
Many people complain about the struggle. High performers don’t. They’re fine being in the weeds, getting muddy. They know that showing up, even when they’re tired, will help make them the best.
Knowing that the process will be hard — not just accepting that it will be hard but appreciating that working through the tough times is necessary for success — makes them less afraid.
High performers have also identified someone to fight for. Early on, I assumed courage would come from, say, a mission to change the world — from a broad-stroke purpose or meaning.
That’s not the case. Courage comes from wanting to serve one person or one unit: wife, husband, family, a small group of people. The will to work through uncertainty or fear comes from wanting to serve someone who needs help.
If you want the courage to stay the course, to overcome obstacles, to honor the struggle, don’t focus on changing the world. Decide who you’re doing it for, and then work hard for them.
That will give you all the courage you need.