5 Common Habits of Highly Successful People

5 Common Habits of Highly Successful People_Photo of Anna Wintour, Barack Obama, Oprah, Bill Gates_Astronaut Abby_The Mars Generation

When thinking about your dream, who do you look up to? They may be an outstanding inventor or a pioneer in their field. Whoever this person is for you, think about their story. Ask yourself: how did they accomplish their dream, and how can you follow in their footsteps?

The answer has to do with habits. In Chapter 3 of my book, Dream Big! How to Reach for Your Stars, I break down just how powerful habits can be. They may seem small, but our daily actions have the potential to be turned into great success. Our role models knew this, and they spent the time to form habits that led them to where they are today. They figured out what worked best for them and how they could consistently incorporate those actions into their daily schedule.

These habits don’t come from anywhere, either. Science has backed them up and shown that certain habits have numerous benefits on our physical and mental wellbeing. These benefits have led some of the most successful people to accomplishing great things–and they can lead you too! Keep reading to learn the five most common habits of highly successful people.

Habit 1 of Successful People: They Wake Up Early

For many people, the chime of an alarm clock early in the morning may be an unwelcoming sound. It may be tough to roll out of the warmth of your bed and begin your day. However, research suggests that people who wake up and work in the morning will be better set up for career success, as opposed to those who wait to work until  night. This is because people who get their work done in the morning tend to be more proactive.

Still not convinced?  Try imagining this:

Your neighborhood is quiet; everyone else is still fast asleep. Outside your window, you can see the sun beginning to peek over the horizon, decorating your room in warm, golden light. You make yourself your favorite drink and sit down at your desk. With nowhere to go and no one to worry about, this is your time to do whatever you want!

The Benefits of Waking Up Early

When you put it like that, waking up early doesn’t sound too bad! There are many benefits to taking on this habit. First, we can prioritize what we want and ensure time for personal projects. Often, our daily requirements – like taking care of kids or going to work – get in the way of our goals and dreams. When we wake up early, these things no longer conflict! You can start your day doing something you love, and by the time everyone else is starting to wake up, you’ll already have  put aside time towards what you care about and feel more accomplished.

Being proactive and completing your work in the morning can better set you up for career success as well, according to an interview with biologist Christoph Randler. Randler says that morning people tend to perform better in school. This, in turn, gets them into better colleges and better job opportunities. While I’m sure this isn’t a hard-fast rule and there are plenty of productive night owls as well, it’s interesting to hear what scientific evidence suggests.

A second benefit is the effects on your mood. Not too many people are keen on waking up at 5:00 AM (I can’t say I can’t imagine why! ), and for those who are, they aren’t exactly racing around. Early in the morning, there is a certain ambiance of tranquility. Things are peaceful, and you’re able to start your day more relaxed, focused, and fulfilled. Research finds that your mood is directly correlated with your productivity and performance. By starting your day in a good mood, you’re setting yourself up for a successful day ahead!

Proven Results of Waking Up Early

Many successful CEOs, athletes, and entrepreneurs are known for waking up early. One of the most famous is Apple CEO, Tim Cook. He gets up before 4:00 AM every morning to get coffee, respond to emails, and go to the gym. He says doing so keeps his stress at bay and allows him to focus on the important tasks at hand. Other well-known names include former First Lady Michelle Obama and the co-founder of Twitter, Jack Dorsey.

In general, the most common hour for successful early-risers to wake up is 6:00 AM. They are able to stick to this habit by working it into their lifestyles. Remember, remaining consistent with your habits is key to turning daily actions into successful outcomes. No matter the time, pick an hour that works best for you, incorporate it into your schedule, and you’ll be on your way to accomplishing your dreams.

Habit 2 of Successful People: They Exercise Regularly

It may come as no surprise that exercise is beneficial for both our physical and mental health. With so many options, it’s also hard not to find something you enjoy as well! You could go on a run through a wooded trail, join an online Zumba class, do jumping jacks in place, yoga online, take the dog for a walk, or dance all night. There are more ways to exercise and move your body than I could list here in this post, but no matter your niche, simply moving your body for at least 60 minutes each day has been shown to reduce stress, boost mood and improve productivity, according to the US Department of Health and Human Services.

President Obama, for instance, worked out six days a week at 6 am for 45 minutes during his time in office. When asked about the former-President’s daily routine, Jim Cauley, who managed Obama’s Senate campaign, said, “’His logic was always, ‘The rest of my time will be more productive if you give me my workout time.'” Even though he was insanely busy, he still knew the benefits of exercise and that he would be more productive because of it!

How I Incorporated Exercise into my Routine

You don’t have to have been an athlete to start exercising daily! Truly you’re never too late to start. Personally, I started exercising daily after I stopped diving competitively in college, I found I needed something to keep me moving every day. From what initially was a small lifestyle change at first turned to me unexpectedly falling in love with running! I even decided to train for my first marathon (which I can say I happily completed in 2017)! . In the beginning, it was tough pushing through miles and miles every day. However, I had a goal to complete those 26.2 miles, and I wasn’t going to give up easily.

Abby Running a Marathon_Astronaut Abby_The Mars Generation

Photo Credit: Mike Seeley

I made a training plan filled with both small and large goals. The smaller goals were more accessible, and each time I accomplished one, I felt motivated to continue. As time went on, training became easier. I got in better shape, and I began to look forward to those long runs. After completing the marathon, I reflected on my journey. I was taken aback by how much running had benefited my wellbeing. I felt more energetic, focused, and productive.

If you had told me a few years ago that I would eventually love running, I would’ve probably laughed. But, you never truly know what you like until you try it…really try it. Running has become part of my daily routine. Each morning, I run 4 miles to work, and each evening I run those 4 miles back home. It’s actually one of my favorite parts of my day! Not only do I get to spend time outside and enjoy the beautiful sights of nature, I also use it as important alone time to think and reflect. I highly recommend trying something new, challenging yourself, and getting out and moving as well!

Habit 3 of Successful People: They Read A Lot

Many of the most successful people are avid readers. They take up informational books–from  business, history, self-help, and more–and learn from them. They learn all about their fields and the stories of pioneers. They understand what has worked in the past and what hasn’t, and then expand upon these ideas.

Take it from Warren Buffett himself:

“Read 500 pages like this every day. That’s how knowledge works. It builds up, like compound interest. All of you can do it, but I guarantee not many of you will.”

While not everybody can read 500 pages a day, it is common among highly successful people to have a habit of reading.

Take After Bill Gates: Reading Vacations?

Bill Gates, the co-founder of Microsoft and the third richest person in the world, reads 50 books a year (that’s roughly a book a week!). He also goes to the woods twice a year, each time for a week, to solely focusing on reading and thinking called his “think weeks.” He never goes anywhere without a book and says reading is how he learns new things. This acquisition has brought Gates great success. After developing Microsoft and revolutionizing the computing world, he created the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to combat global economic, education, and health problems. He created his blog, www.gatesnotes.com, where he writes reviews and recommends books he has read.

Finding the Time for Yourself

Fitting time in your busy schedule to sit down and pick up a book can be difficult. I advise you to start small and set realistic goals. You don’t have to read a book a week like Bill Gates. Instead, start with a chapter, or maybe a dozen pages. If you can’t get your hands on a book, pick up a magazine or newspaper. Read anything you have. There is always more to learn, and you’ll never know where you’ll find your next great idea.

My Book Recommendations to Start With Reading!

For Adults: Educated by Tara Westover (loved by Bill Gates!)
For Teens: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
For Preteens: A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
For 5-10: Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls by Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo

Habit 4 of Successful People: They Get Enough Sleep

While waking up early is a good habit to set, so is getting enough sleep! Research from Harvard Medical School shows that the amount we sleep is linked to our memory and immune system. When we sleep, our immune systems release proteins called cytokine. When we have an infection or are under stress, these proteins need to increase, but when we’re sleep-deprived, that isn’t possible. Sleep deprivation also doesn’t allow our bodies to produce infection-fighting antibodies and cells at optimum rates. Moreso, after a restless night of sleep, it can be challenging to concentrate and take in new information the next day.

But what is enough sleep? For every person, “enough” is defined differently. According to the National Sleep Foundation, adults should get between 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night. Children need more rest, anywhere between 8 to 11 hours, for their growth and development. Getting the right amount of sleep significantly improves our physical, mental, and emotional health and sets us up for success!

Set a Bedtime

By knowing how many hours of sleep you need per night and what time you need to wake up the next morning, you can set a realistic and sustainable bedtime! Giving yourself a bedtime creates structure and ensures you can have the optimum hours of sleep needed for success. Getting the right amount of sleep will also improve both your mental and physical health, and give you the boost you need to do your best and achieve your goals.

Take Anna Wintour, for example. Wintour, the Editor-in-Chief of Vogue, is religious about her bedtime, which she sets to be 10:00 PM every night. She even leaves business functions early to stick to this bedtime! The next morning, she wakes up at 5:00 AM, well-rested after 7 hours of sleep and ready to take on the day.

Habit 5 of Successful People: They See Value in Meditation

The last habit of successful people is taking time to meditate. Meditation is a simple way to reduce stress and improve your mood, and you can do it nearly anywhere. By taking a few minutes to close your eyes, quiet your mind, and focus on your breathing, you’ll be more focused and ready to go after your dreams.

Advice From Entrepreneurs

If you’re anything like me, you may be skeptical of this at first. Can something as simple as breathing create such a world of difference? The answer is yes, and successful entrepreneur Oprah Winfrey is proof. Winfrey has amassed a $2.5 billion net worth through The Oprah Winfrey Show, The Oprah Winfrey magazine, and other media endeavors – and she says she wouldn’t be where she is today without meditation.

Winfrey is a big advocate for formal meditation. On her blog, oprah.com, she writes, “The outside world is constantly trying to convince you you’re not enough. But you don’t have to take the bait. Meditation, in whatever form you choose, helps you resist.” She advises people to start small. Just pause for a moment, wherever you are, and be with your surroundings. Focus on what you can hear, touch, and smell. Doing this small thing can create such a world of difference.

There’s Science Behind Meditation

It’s not surprising so many successful people swear by meditation and mindfulness. Studies have shown just how greatly meditation impacts our emotions. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), scientists monitored people’s brain activity and found that after meditating, their amygdala changed. (The amygdala is the part of the brain that is involved with experiencing emotions.) Then, scientists realized that this change held constant when the people were no longer meditating. This just goes to show how much of an impact meditation has on our brains!

Following in Their Footsteps

There you have it! These five habits make up the success formula for many accomplished people. By waking up early, exercising regularly, reading, getting enough sleep, and meditating, you can get on a path towards being your best self! These habits will benefit both your mental and physical health, making you ready to chase after your dream!.

If you want to learn more about developing habits to accomplish your dreams, check out my new book, “Dream Big!: How to Reach for Your Stars,” here. In Chapter 3, “When Rubber Hits the Road: Making a Plan – and Sticking to It,” I talk more about why habits like these are so important and why you should consistently implement them in your day. The evidence is outstanding, so be sure to check it out!


  1. Lanie says

    These are really informing, and I’m planning to use them in my daily life! While I also want to be the first person on Mars, I sincerely hope you reach all your dreams (and maybe I’ll be there with you, who knows)!


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