The unstoppable mindset: 5 habits of high achievers who never let anything stand in their way

Here’s a story of a woman who went against all the odds to realize her dream. 

Dr. Peggy Whitson is a biochemist who used to work at NASA. Her most fervent desire was to become an astronaut. She applied to the program over and over again for a full decade. 

She was rejected every time.

Most people would take this as a sign that their dream wasn’t meant to be. 

But instead of giving up, Whitson asked herself this question: 

“What strategy have I not thought of yet?”

Whitson leveraged what she learned working at NASA so that she could be competitive as an astronaut applicant. 

The strategy worked. 

Whitson would go on to become the first female commander of the international space station—a role that she held twice. 

She also spent more days in space than any American astronaut of any gender, and ultimately became NASA’s chief astronaut. 

Whitson was unstoppable in her mindset that she would achieve her dreams, no matter what her three-dimensional reality was showing her for the first ten years of her journey. 

What are some habits of high achievers who never let anything stand in their way like Whitson?

Here are five to take note of. 

1) They make it a point not to procrastinate 

High achievers don’t put off anything big or small. 

Most people will put a bill down, save an email, or put off a conversation to be had and keep putting it off, says the team at Coach Foundation.

High achievers don’t see the point of saying something like, “I’ll get back to that,” because they want to take care of things in the moment. They also know that later on their energy will be focused on something else. 

If you know you’re prone to procrastination, get it taken care of right away. 

“If you can’t act on it, delegate it. It could save you time and money! Sure, everyone procrastinates from time to time. But successful people don’t make excuses, they come up with strategies and actionable ideas to break away from any potential mental barriers to stay productive to their goals.”

2) They sharpen their skill set every day, no matter how long they’ve been in the game

Ruth Gotian is a social scientist who studies high achievers so that she can learn about what makes them tick, their mindset, and their practices. 

She’s the recipient of the Thinkers50 RADAR Award which recognizes her as the world’s foremost emerging management thinker.

In her book, The Success Factor: Developing the Mindset and Skill Set for Peak Business Performance, Gotian interviewed high achievers from every field: Olympic champions, astronauts, Nobel laureates—you name it. 

She learned that one key to a high achiever’s success was making sure their skill set was at peak performance. This meant practice, practice, practice—whether they were an athlete or a writer. 

“Ask an NBA star,” she Gotian says.

“Kobe Bryant was notorious for practicing his lay-ups and his free throws before sunrise. That’s what you have to do. He doesn’t say, ‘Oh, I’ve played for so long, I don’t need to practice anymore.’ Any musician, the first thing they do is they practice their skills, they do their warmup. And it’s the same thing in every field.”

I’ve mentioned in other articles about how I recently interviewed CNN Anchor Kaitlan Collins. Here’s one anecdote from my conversation with the former Chief White House correspondent I haven’t shared. 

When Collins was promoted from entertainment reporter to White House correspondent for conservative news website, The Daily Caller in 2017 (long before her CNN days), the Trump administration had just come to power. 

The Daily Caller didn’t even have a designated seat in the White House Briefing Room, so really, there was no reason for Collins to be the . Did that stop her? Absolutely not.

“I would arrive at the Briefing Room three hours early when no one else was there and hope that the person whose seat I was in wouldn’t show up,” she told me. 

She would sit there alone and prepare, prepare, prepare her questions. Then she would prepare some more

Collins’ work ethic paid off. CNN took note of her rigorous questioning style of then-Press Secretary Sean Spicer (this, despite her being from a conservative-leaning news outlet). 

CNN began inviting Collins to make appearances on the network, and she eventually became their White House correspondent. 

Collins was in Helsinki for President Trump’s sit-down with Russian President Vladimir Putin as part of his Press Corps. She also traveled with the President to Singapore when he met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. 

Even though she’s something of a seasoned reporter and now anchors her own primetime show on CNN, Collins told me that preparation is the reason she never gets nervous. 

She wasn’t nervous when she sat down with Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu and she wasn’t nervous when she did the Trump Town Hall last year in front of more than three million viewers.

It’s because she’s always on-the-ready. 

3) They invest in themselves 

want to keep improving self The unstoppable mindset: 5 habits of high achievers who never let anything stand in their way

Personal development is a life-long journey and driven high achievers know this, says Claire Rich, who is a high-performance mindset coach. 

“They consider investing in themselves a no-brainer and essential to maximize their performance, well-being, and success.”

As a freelance journalist, from time to time, I will sit down with a writer I know who has written more than a hundred stories for The New York Times. She is also a writing coach and she’s great at guiding me on how to evolve and perfect my pitches so that I have a better chance of getting into my dream publications. 

The money spent on investing in myself is well worth it (I can also use it as a tax write-off). I get ideas and tips that I never would have thought of, and it’s nice to brainstorm with someone who knows the journalism game inside and out. 

Personal development is a major time-saver, says self-development author Brian Tracy who wrote the book, The Power of Self-Discipline

“The better you become, the less time it takes you to achieve your goals.” 

Rich’s take-home advice: “Invest in yourself if you want to be the best you can be, and never ever stop learning and having a growth mindset.”

4) They aren’t afraid to collaborate

Team players solicit input from others, says Dr. Mimi Hull, a workplace psychologist and leadership consultant. 

A high achiever shouldn’t just rely on themselves and discount other people’s ideas. “An effective team member understands that with collaboration comes creativity, problem-solving, and innovation.”

Effective collaboration can create breakthroughs and make leaders shine, says Kevin Daum, from Inc. Magazine, a business media platform. 

Of course, they have to choose who they collaborate with, carefully. They also remove what Daum calls “quiet politeness”.

“What good is working with a bunch of smart people if they won’t be honest and sharing?” he asks.

“People need to be willing to open themselves and be challenged. Creative conflict is powerful and productive…Real groundbreaking ideas only surface when people go all in and get vulnerable.”

5) They nurture their support network 

High achievers are certainly independent and highly competent on their own, but even most of them know that they need a support system in place for their own mental and emotional well-being.

High achieving individuals are intimately acquainted with the unyielding pursuit to constantly achieve more, acquire more, and become more, says Curt Steinhorst from FocusWise who is a frequent contributor to Forbes on leadership strategies. 

“While this innate drive has been responsible for remarkable progress throughout history, it also carries a significant toll,” he says. 

It’s important to regularly check in with yourself and reassess your goals and priorities…and nurture relationships that provide support and inspiration. 

“By prioritizing both achievement and personal well-being, you can pave the way for a fulfilling and joyful journey as a high achiever.”

When you’re armed with people who have your back, nothing can stand in the way of accomplishing your dreams. 

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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