Behavioral Science

5 Habits You Think Will Make You Successful— and 5 Habits That Actually Will

by . December 11th, 2014

By Kate Wilson

Kate Wilson works at JetFeeds and writes about small business and marketing.



When it comes to success, we’re often confused or misled about the habits and attitudes that lead to success. Think you’ve got it all figured out? Take a look at the following five things people think will make them successful.

Find any of your favorite ideas there?

Spoiler Alert: these habits are actually detrimental to success.

 5.) Ignoring negativity

People love to cite famous success stories where the individual ignored countless rejections and eventually “showed” everyone by becoming successful despite negative feedback. It’s clear that to become successful, you have to ignore criticism and negative feedback.

 What actually makes you successful:  Embracing criticism


While there’s something to be said for ignoring truly hateful or destructive comments, there is a lot to be gained by taking the time to listen to, evaluate and act upon criticism.

Start by considering the source. Your great aunt Ida may have a lot of negative things to say about your social media strategy, but with no knowledge or experience with social media, her criticism can probably be ignored.

However, if the criticism is coming from clients, peers, business partners, employees or similar sources, you will likely be well-served by taking the time to consider the critique.

Critiques are never fun to receive or pleasant to hear, but while constructive criticism may hurt for a moment, it is truly meant to help in the long run. Sure, don’t let rejection or criticisms get you down, but don’t ignore the opportunity for improvement either.


4.)  Investing in luxury

Fake it ‘til you make it, right? You have to look the part in order to become successful, so be sure to immediately buy the latest expensive gadgets, high-end clothes and accessories, and be sure to drive a luxury car.

What actually makes you successful:  Prioritizing your finances


Look, there’s no reason why you can’t enjoy the reward of a luxury once success has been reached, but luxury items are better saved for just that: rewards. Luxury items may give the appearance of success, but they don’t actually contribute to it.

In fact, pouring too much of your money and resources into keeping up the appearance of success will only guarantee that you have less and less left to invest in items or ventures that can further your business’s growth.

Before you shell out the cash for big ticket items, ask yourself if the return is really worth it.

 3.) Always saying yes

Everyone knows that you must say yes to every opportunity, every job, every investor and every project. Saying “no” to an opportunity or investor may mean that you never get the same or equal chance again. Turning down a client or project will only earn you labels like “lazy” and drive off other potential work.

What actually makes you successful:  Saying no


Actually, saying yes to everything is apt to do more harm than good. If you say yes to every networking event, you’ll soon find your schedule so overcrowded that you don’t have the proper time to devote to the actual day-to-day needs of your business or the needs of your clients.

If you say yes to every project, regardless of whether you’re the right fit, have the right skills, or have the time, the work you turn out will be subpar, negatively affecting your reputation more than a few “no’s” ever could.

You might even find it in your best interest to say “no” to some of those offers from investors or potential business partners. If they don’t share your vision, want too much control in exchange for their investment, or are aligned with ideologies that directly contradict the core values of your business, you may find greater success by waiting for a better match.

2.) Being perfect

To be successful you have to be knowledgeable, well-rounded, infinitely skilled and without flaws, right? You think that those who “make it” are all knowing, all powerful islands unto themselves; to achieve the same success, you too must become an expert in every aspect of your field, perfecting yourself to the point where you never need help.

What actually makes you successful:  Embracing your shortcomings


“No man is an island.” That phrase has become a cliché because it is true. No one is perfect, no one can be an expert in everything, and no success story comes without numerous tales of the countless people who helped make it all possible.

Everyone has his or her weak points and while there is much to be said for never becoming complacent and always seeking to learn and improve, there’s also a lot to be said for seeking out partners and employees whose strengths pair well with your weaknesses.

An “I have to do it all by myself” attitude will not do you, your business, or your future any favors. Instead, balance a drive for life-long self-improvement with a healthy appreciation for teamwork.

 1.) Using other successful people as a benchmark

How better to measure your success than to see how you stack up compared to famous success stories or the career trajectory of your idols? Your success can best be measured by whether you achieve the same things within the same amount of time, or whether you reach the same level of fame, or whether you receive the same recognition and awards.

What actually makes you successful:  Measuring your own success


While it is all well and good to have others to look up to and feel inspired by, it is not good to expect or try to force your journey to match theirs step for step. Success will look different for everyone.

You may greatly admire someone, but that doesn’t mean that your goals or trajectory will completely align with theirs. Business idols and success stories are best used for inspiration, not a road map.

Instead, take the time to measure out your goals and figure out what success will look like for you, not someone else.


 Love this article? Hate it?  What habits that actually make you successful can you share? Tell us in the comments below!

About the author

Kate-WilsonSome might call me a digital wordsmith.  Okay, I might call me a digital wordsmith.  I write things on the internet to motivate people to be the best version of themselves.  Follow me on Twitter @kateowilson for more on writing and inspirational words of wisdom.


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