Is there a simple formula for success?

In 2011, motivational psychologist Heidi Grant Halvorson published: “Nine Things Successful People Do Differently.” Scientifically proven, these 9 strategies provide a useful framework for both setting and reaching challenging goals. Let’s quickly run through them in a checklist fashion to see how you might apply them:

1. Get Specific

With the amount of information each one of us processes daily, it’s easy to get overwhelmed, diluted, or thrown off-course.

So it’s vital we gain a crystal-clear idea of exactly what success will look like once we achieve it (whatever “it” may be).

We starve our distractions by feeding our focus. Form a clear intention around your ultimate desired outcome and why you want it so much.

Then, divide your day into chunks and stick to your game plan. The principle here is that the brain works best when we give it dedicated (though limited) time to focus on the tasks we need to complete

2. Seize the Moment to Act on Your Goals

It’s a mistake to try to figure out in advance every detail of the “how”. Overthinking it or believing the time is on your side leads to procrastination.

Yes, have a rough idea of what you will do, in addition to when and where, but take the first step immediately, however, small that step may be.

“He who dares, wins” and all that! Because the antidote to fear is to get excited. You’ve got this!

3. Know Exactly How Far You Have Left to Go

The key here is to know both your starting point and end point (know the gap). Be sure to measure (and guarantee) your progress by testing, tracking, and tweaking as you go.

4. Be a Realistic Optimist

We can argue forever about the merits of being an optimist or a pessimist. Ultimately, however, it doesn’t matter if the glass is half full or half empty. What matters is that we see the pitcher beside the glass. In other words, we have the capacity to refill the glass, to change our outlook or to ask for help. It’s easy to get too focused on ourselves and what’s inside the glass — our possessions, moods, failures, triumphs — instead of setting up our environment to become constantly motivated to take constructive action.

Begin building a more proactive outlook by asking yourself these type of questions:

How can I reach out and better connect with others?

What am I proud of accomplishing today?

What assumptions am I making? How true are they?

Success Principles5. Focus on What You Will Do, Not What You Won’t Do

Instead of focusing on what’s wrong, it’s more effective to focus on what’s right or what’s working.

Instead of focusing on bad habits, it’s more effective to replace them with better ones.

You don’t need to change (as such), you simply need to keep moving forward!

6. Grit (Persistence Is Key)

How many people would blame their failures on “not hanging in there long enough”?! Persistence can be learned according to Grit expert Angela Duckworth. There is also the 10,000-hour practice rule made popular by Malcolm Gladwell.

The key point here is that improvement is possible when you know where you’re going wrong and brainstorm what you can do about it.

7. Build Your Willpower Muscle

Giving up quickly becomes a habit. So whether willpower is a limited resource or not, you can get more willpower by learning to build willpower Look to stretch yourself that extra 1-4% daily!

8. Don’t Tempt Fate

No one has excess willpower, so don’t push your luck! Allow necessary downtime to allow your brain and body to renew and refresh. Harness positive relationships with people whom you genuinely like. Focus on what you need. Block time in your calendar.

9. Focus On Getting Better – Rather Than Being Good (or Perfect)

Rather than seeking to prove yourself (e.g. perfection), approach your goals as opportunities to improve (e.g. progress). Aspire to be “your smartest, wisest, most creative self.” Strive to be in a constant state of flux, growing, and evolving!

Bonus Tip:

‘Success is liking you, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.’ – Maya Angelou

Adopt a growth mindset but factor in self-compassion. Mistakes are simply a signal you are expanding your comfort zone. Plus, if you are not passionate about your work, you will quickly become out-trumped by someone who is. The best way to stand out today is to inject your personality, your passion, and to be persistently good at what you do.

To deepen your understanding of these 9 principles, in pursuit of your own personal and professional goals, check out Heidi’s free, online questionnaire:

And don’t forget to educate your clients on “The Science of Goal-Setting” too!

Noel Lyons

Noel Lyons

Noel Lyons is a Masters & Wellcoaches certified Health Coach with 27 years experience in the health & fitness industry. An Ironman, he has also competed for GB (age-group) at 5 World Triathlon Championships.
Noel Lyons


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