Both Bill Gates and Steve Jobs may have been college dropouts: Gates famously left Harvard to co-found Microsoft and Jobs dropped out of Reed College.
Gates didn’t let the fact that he dropped out of college stop him from learning: he actually sat in on classes that he wasn’t even signed up for.
Similarly, Jobs still stuck around Reed College even though he was enrolled—he slept m on floors—so that he could take classes that interested him.
Most highly successful people who have reached their goals—and then some—usually don’t take the conventional route to fulfill their dreams, but they do have certain qualities in common.
Here are five habits to hone in on.
1) They rise before sunrise
In the spring of 1958, legendary American novelist Ernest Hemingway told the Paris Review in an interview that he was an early bird when it came to achieving his writing goals:
“When I am working on a book or a story, I write every morning as after first light as possible,” he said. “There is no one to disturb you and it is cool or cold and you come to your work and warm as you write.”
It isn’t just writers who wake up with the larks.
In an intriguing study on the habits of highly successful people, accountant and financial planner Tom Corley surveyed 233 wealthy people—most of them are self-made millionaires—on their daily routine.
Corley also surveyed 128 lower-income earners—people who earned $35,000 or less (gross income).
He then compared the responses from both groups.
Nearly 50 percent of the self-made millionaires got out of bed at least three hours before their work day even started, as published on CNBC’s online platform, Make It.
Many of the millionaires used the time to take on personal projects, or plan their day, or for exercise.
“Getting up at five in the morning to tackle the top three things you want to accomplish in your day allows you to regain control of your life,” Corley wrote about his study.
“It gives you a sense of confidence that you, indeed, direct your life.”
2) The first thing they do is have a focus
Many successful people write lists every morning of what they want to accomplish that day. The list doesn’t have to be intensive—maybe one or two things they really want to accomplish that day and then other secondary things that are bonuses but not mandatory.
I certainly don’t claim to be as successful as Bill Gates, but I understand this concept well.
As a journalist, this could mean one important pitch idea I want to tailor to a media outlet I’d like to be published by—in addition to what’s already on my work agenda.
If I get that one goal-oriented take done, I tend to be more relaxed about working towards other goals that day—I’ll even reward myself in a small way.
For me, this usually means chocolate.
Highly successful people also have a daily routine for each part of their day: this ensures that there’s productive time to consistently work towards their goals. They use reminders on their phone or calendar so that they stay on track.
High achievers also schedule time for other things they want to make a habit of: this could include reading all the top stories of the day by esteemed publications, reading for pleasure before bed, going for a jog in the evening, or FaceTiming a loved one.
3) They take time regularly to reflect on their life
We talked about how self-made millionaires often rise early. Corley found in the results of his survey that part of the reason successful people rose early was also so that they could reflect on their life.
This could mean their career and professional goals certainly, but really also what they wanted to accomplish personally.
Sometimes our goals can be focused on our health and well-being—as well as our mental health.
For example, some successful people punctuate every meeting with five minutes of quiet time, say Justin Zorn and Leigh Marz from The Harvard Review. Taking an afternoon to walk in nature to regroup and reflect is also common.
Some go for a more meditative state. Many successful people swear that the deep silence associated with meditation can help to generate new ideas.
“Author J.K. Rowling, biographer Walter Isaacson, and psychiatrist Carl Jung all had disciplined practices for managing information flow and cultivating periods of deep silence,” say Zorn and Marz.
“Ray Dalio, Bill George, California Governor Jerry Brown, and Ohio Congressman Tom Ryan have also described structured periods of silence as important factors in their success.”
4) They invest in themselves
People who always achieve their goals invest in themselves.
Investing in yourself means you’re putting in the time, money, and energy into making your current and future life better, says financial writer Danielle Miura.
“When you focus on improving yourself and reaching your goals, you will notice the positive domino effect on your finances, career, health, and happiness,” she says.
People who are serious about their goals: they know that investing in themselves will gain them the knowledge, skills, and resources they need to reach their dreams.
This could mean setting aside a specific amount of money each month so that they can take their dream trip at the end of the year or saving to start the business they’ve been imagining.
They do everything in their power to stick to their goals and will do without unnecessary things until their goal is achieved.
“They take their focus away [from] things that are less important and [focus] more time on things that make them happy,” says Miura.
They know that even though they may not see the impact of the investment right away, that they will see a huge—even life-changing impact—over time.
“Investing in yourself can build your confidence, broaden your perspective, develop your purpose, and increase your wealth.”
5) They pencil in time for play
People who always achieve their goals make sure to make time for play.
“The point of play is to renew and rejuvenate you. It’s relaxing yet energizing all at once, mostly because you’re giving your brain some creative time and space to think,” says business coach Heather Moulder.
Your brain, body, and spirit need a break from time to time. “When you play, you’re not just having fun. You’re also providing yourself with relief from your daily struggles,” says Moulder.
You’re also giving your subconscious mind a chance to slow down and process everything.
“Playing” can be anything from riding horses, hiking, having a cold beer, traveling, and eating out with friends, adds Entrepreneur.com writer Tracy Tilson.
The point is that play is a mindset and it’s essential that we welcome it into our daily lives, “pencil” it in, and nurture it as much as we can.
Tilson touts the benefits of travel as a form of play. “The more we travel, the more our eyes are opened to the endless naresh of ways to live our one, precious life,” she says.
The beauty about travel is that it doesn’t have to be to another country or continent, it can even be to the next town over.
It’s important not to have guilt surrounding the idea of play, says Tilson.
“In my experience, many high-achievers don’t play because they feel it’s not productive enough or even selfish. But that’s actually backwards. Playing will make you more productive, happier, and hence more successful in both your career and life.”
Speaking of freeing your mind, there could be a few toxic habits that are inhabiting your headspace that you need to get rid of so that there’s more head room to go after your goals.
It could be the need to be positive all the time, or it could be a mistaken spiritual superiority over others.
Even self-help gurus can get it wrong sometimes.
The thing is, if your mind is filled with frequent thoughts like these, you could be doing a disservice to your dreams.
You may even hurt those around you.
In this eye-opening video, the shaman Rudá Iandé explains how so many of us fall into the toxic spirituality trap. He himself went through a similar experience at the start of his journey.
As he talks about in the video, spirituality should be about empowering yourself. Not suppressing emotions, not judging others, but forming a pure connection with who you are at your core.
If this is what you’d like to achieve, click here to watch the free video.
Even if you’re well into your spiritual journey, it’s never too late to unlearn the myths you’ve bought for truth!