6 habits of successful people who always seem to move forward in life

Some years back in Miami, I interviewed Nadja Swarovski, of the Swarovski crystal family empire. 

Nadja is credited with tripling her family business’ sales and bringing the brand to the forefront of fashion and high design. The company developed a complicated cutting-edge innovation called crystal mesh—an intricate and fluid metal mesh integrated with Swarovski crystals. 

When British fashion designer Alexander McQueen implemented crystal mesh in his Spring-Summer 1999 collection, it exploded: suddenly every fashion designer from Karl Lagerfeld to Louis Vuitton began incorporating it into their collections. 

I asked Nadja the secret to the then 115-year-old company’s success, and how it was able to reinvent itself and keep itself relevant to the times. 

Her response was interesting. 

She said, “We keep our eye on the pulse of the trend.” In other words, they keep their attention focused on the end goal—and they prepare. 

I think this is what all highly successful people do—no matter what their field. 

They don’t put it off, they don’t get distracted, they don’t do what everyone else is doing, and they definitely don’t tell themselves it can’t be done. 

Then when they reach the goal, they go for the best one, and the next one. 

Here are six habits they hone in to keep forging their way forward. 

1) They give themselves the freedom to fail

Success lies in our ability to rise from the depths of failure, says the team at The Success Manual

“You can’t do this when you’re living in the past. When you live in the past, you stop believing in your ability to succeed. Thus your past becomes your present, preventing you from moving forward.”

Going back to my Swarovski example. Nadja told me the company made many mistakes as it tried to get into the fashion jewelry space.

In her own words, she said the first Swarovski collection (launched in 1977) was “rather unremarkable. It was really just a bunch of gold metal pieces and a lot of crystal that was clear and very large.

Unfortunately, it did fit the crystal stereotype of imitation jewelry. It wasn’t popular,” she told me.

It took the company another decade to move in the right direction. They overhauled their design style. “We decided we needed a better variety of the color of the stones, we needed to better the application of the stones. Basically we changed our entire product approach,” she says. 

My point of relating this story is that even a conglomerate like Swarovski has had many failures and started from scratch. 

But they learned from them, redirected themselves, and continued on. They also had faith that it would work out.

2) They prioritize instead of procrastinate

If I allowed myself to succumb to it, I would probably win the title for the world’s number one procrastinator. 

But because I’m striving to be at the top of my game, I don’t even entertain that thought. I prioritize what’s important and do things in that order. 

Successful people not only prioritize and focus on what’s important, they invest their energy on tasks that bring the most value and avoid wasting time on trivial matters, says philanthropist and award-winning celebrity humorist speaker, Linda Edgecombe.

It takes some figuring out a routine or system that works for you, and it has to be changed frequently as other things in life come up, but planning ahead is key. 

I think Sunday nights when you’re relaxing is a good time to do this.

Loosely plan what is important that week and figure out when the best time to do it.

And then stick to it while being flexible because who knows what might need priority over the priority. Such is life and you can only do your best.

But you have to do your best. 

3) They don’t allow the opinions of others to hold them back 

Nobody knows your needs and desires the way you do. Nobody knows what’s in your highest good but you. Nobody also knows what you’re capable of but you. 

We’re often figuring out these things ourselves so can someone else know better what’s good for us? 

Sometimes we get taken in by others’ opinions of us because we’re not on solid ground with who we are ourselves. 

“Impressing those that matter to us in life feels good, but when it takes away from who we authentically are, then that becomes a problem,” says Kanwer S. Mahl aka Humble the Poet

For a lot of people, that can be living up to family expectation, while for others it’s the society or cultural edict of how we should conduct our lives, he says. “For others, it’s an invisible bunch of strangers on the Internet who have the power to say you’re canceled—whatever that means.”

Other people’s opinions can sometimes seem like the be-all and end-all, because it’s how we better understand ourselves, says Mahl. 

“But when push comes to shove, we have to remember that we’re the only ones living our lives, and if we’re not honoring who we are, then who will? There’s no honor in sacrificing your being to keep others happy.”

Only when you aspire to your own authentic path will you be truly successful and will your life take flight. 

4) They don’t believe in being wishy-washy and they definitely don’t engage in excuses

seemingly innocent phrases that are actually loaded with judgment 6 habits of successful people who always seem to move forward in life

This doesn’t mean that anything you choose to do should be set in stone—successful people are successful for a reason: they’re able to reassess and reroute whenever necessary.

But they also make a commitment to something and stick to it. You can take them at their word. They’re reliable and dependable.

The main thing is when they’re passionate about something they’re all in—body, mind, and soul. 

They also eliminate excuses from their vocabulary. 

According to Forbes here are a few excuses that successful people are in the habit of not using: 

I don’t have time.

If you truly want something, you’ll find the time to do it.

This could mean waking up at 5:00 am, writing a book on your lunch break (true story: I saw an Instagram post about a woman who actually did this over the course of a couple of years), or giving up some Netflix nights to take an evening course. 

I’m not good enough. 

If you don’t think you’re good enough, who will? Work on your self-concept while you’re going for it.

I’ll fail.

See Point 1 of this blog. Enough said. 

The timing isn’t right. 

“The best time to plant a tree was yesterday; the second-best time is right now,” quotes Forbes contributor Jodie Cook of an old proverb. “An obsession with timing is behind many of the ships that didn’t set sail. The masterpieces that never made it. The manuscripts that sit on dusty hard drives.” 

The thing is, the time will probably never be right. “Serena Williams won the Australian Open whilst she was pregnant with her first baby. Sara Blakely was selling fax machines full time when she created Spanx, so she worked nights writing patents and finding manufacturers.”

The perfect time is always right now. 

5) They get out and get busy

Dale Carnegie famously said that inaction breeds doubt and fear and it keeps you stuck. 

“Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.”

Taking action is crucial to building momentum and moving forward.

You also have to meet people. 

19th-century American poet Emily Dickinson is a legend of poetry but she never knew fame during her lifetime. Less than a dozen of her poems were published during her lifetime. 

Historians say that even though Dickinson could be considered a failure during her lifetime, that it was likely her reluctance to meet and correspond with many people about her work that inhibited notoriety.

It wasn’t until her sister discovered her poems after her death—there were said to be more than 1800 poems—that Dickinson’s work was published and lauded with acclaim. 

Don’t be like Dickinson in that respect. Get comfortable with getting your passion out there. 

6) They’re also dedicated to their downtime

Success doesn’t mean it’s all hustle and bustle. Not only is it imperative to take the time for relaxation and self-care, but your downtime is often where inspiration lives.

I often find that some of my best ideas and motivation bursts come to me when I’ve been dancing to Bhangra (my favorite type of music), gone out for a long walk by the river, or traveled and met someone new.

I was actually on a flight to Copenhagen a couple of months ago and the lady next to me was from Atlanta, Georgia—where the headquarters of CNN is located. 

We got to talking about politics and how CNN was covering it and our conversation gave me the idea to try and get an interview with someone who was making waves on the network (I’m being purposefully vague because the article doesn’t come out for another few weeks so I can’t say too much on it just yet). 

When I pitched it to a high media outlet, they were really excited about it. Getting this interview was quite a coup if I do say so myself. The media outlet even put together a photo shoot. All this came from a conversation I had with someone I never would have otherwise come across.

That’s why I think travel is so magical. Or any other thing you’re passionate about. That passion seeps into other parts of your life and it manifests as inspiration and imagination. 

Changing up the energy is the secret to success. 

Picture of Wendy Kaur

Wendy Kaur

Wendy Kaur is a Toronto-based journalist whose work has been published by The Globe & Mail, ELLE USA, ELLE Canada, British Vogue, Town & Country, and others.

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