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You know that you can shape a piece of clay any way you want.  You can also shape your own character and personality by simply deciding to do so.  I won’t say that it’s easy.  Changing your beliefs and attitudes about yourself is one of the most difficult undertakings you will ever embark upon.  But it is definitely possible and achievable if you’re really determined.  

Great thinkers and philosophers have studied the notion of “success” in human life for at least 2,500 years.

I have personally studied the subject for more than thirty years.  What I’ve found is that the very best people have the very best habits.  I’ve identified seven habits that you need to develop, if you want to perform at your very maximum in everything you do.

The first habit you need to develop for success is Goal Orientation

You need to become a habitual goal setter, and dedicate yourself to working from clear, written goals every day of your life.  All highly successful people are intensely goal-oriented.  They know exactly what they want, they have it written down, they have written plans to accomplish it, and they review and work on their plans every single day.

The second habit you need to develop for success is Results Orientation 

Result orientation is made up of two practices.  The first is the practice of continuously learning, so that you become better at what you do.  The second practice is that of time management, which means setting very clear priorities on what you do and then concentrating single-mindedly on the most valuable use of your time.  All really successful people are intensely results-oriented.

The third habit you need to develop for success is Action Orientation

This is really the most important habit for material success.  It is the ability to get on with the job and get it done fast.  It is your ability to develop and maintain a sense of urgency, a bias for action. Fast tempo in whatever you do is essential to your success.

You need to overcome procrastination, push aside your fears and launch 100% toward
the achievement of your most important goals. Focus in combination of goal orientation, results orientation and action orientation will virtually assure great success.

The fourth habit you need to develop for success is People Orientation

This is where you put relationships in the center of your life – a decision to cultivate within yourself the habits of patience, kindness, compassion, and understanding.  Virtually all of your happiness in life will come from your ability to get along well with other people.

The more you practice being a truly excellent person in your relationships with others, the more you will internalize those qualities and actually become that person.

The fifth habit you need to develop for success is Health Orientation  

This means that you must fastidiously watch your diet, and always eat the right foods in the right proportions.  You must exercise on a regular basis, continually using every muscle and joint of your body to keep it young and fit.  And finally, you must have regular habits of rest and recreation that will enable you, in combination with diet and exercise, to live to be 80 or 90 years old.  Remember, your health is the most important single thing you have, and it is completely subject to the habits that you develop with regard to the way you live.

The sixth habit you need to develop for success is Honesty and Integrity

In the final analysis, the character you develop as you go through life is more important than virtually anything else.  Honesty means that you practice the “reality principle” in everything you do.  You see the world, and yourself, as they are, not as you wish they would be.  This attitude of honesty is critical to enjoying all of the other success habits that you are developing.

The seventh habit, and the one that guarantees all the others, is Self-discipline 

Your ability to discipline yourself – to master yourself, to control yourself – is the single most important quality that you can develop as a person. The habit of self-discipline goes hand in hand with success in every area of life.

My favorite definition of self-discipline comes from Elbert Hubbard.  He said, “Self-discipline is the ability to make yourself do what you should do, when you should do it, whether you feel like it or not.”

You see it’s easy to do the things that you should do when you feel like doing them.  It’s when you don’t feel like getting up in the morning and working harder and staying later, but you do them anyway because they are the price of success, that you develop the kind of character that assures your happiness and high achievement.

Every one of these habits – goal orientation, result orientation, action orientation, people orientation, health orientation, honesty and self-discipline – can be developed. And there is the seven-step method that you can use to internalize any habit or group of habits that you want to make a permanent part of your character and personality.

Step one is to decide clearly on the new habit.

Write it down as a goal.  Make a plan, or a list of activities that you can engage in to learn and practice this new habit.  Write the habit out in the form of
a present tense, personal, positive affirmation.

For example, if you wanted to develop the habit of self-discipline, you would write, “I am an extremely well-disciplined individual in everything I do.”  This goal, in the form of an affirmation, begins to reprogram your subconscious mind and to influence your behavior in all your decisions.

Step two is to continually repeat your affirmation, as often as possible, and with as much enthusiasm and conviction as possible.  The more times you repeat this command to your subconscious mind, the more likely it is that your subconscious mind will ultimately accept it and begin to adjust your thoughts, words and behaviors so that you function consistent with it.

Step three is to visualize and to see yourself as if you have already formed the new habit pattern you chose to develop.  Fantasize and imagine yourself as already being exactly the person that you want to become in the future.  Remember, your subconscious mind is activated and programmed by mental pictures.  All improvement in your life and character begin with an improvement in your mental pictures.  Use visualization on a regular basis in conjunction with your positive affirmations.

Step four is emotionalize the affirmation and visualize it. Create within yourself the feeling that you would have if you already had the new habit pattern of character or behavior that you desire.  Take a few minutes each day to actually feel yourself as if you already were the excellent, outstanding human being that you have decided to become.

Emotions have a powerful effect on your subconscious mind.  When you combine them with affirmations and visualization, and clear written goals, they reinforce and even double and triple the speed at which you develop the new habit patterns of thought and behavior.

Step five is to launch your new habit strongly, and to act as if you already had the characteristic or quality that you decided to develop.  Assume the role, exactly as if you had been hired to perform this role in a movie or a play.  The more you behave exactly as if you already had the characteristics or quality, in conjunction with affirmation, visualization and emotionalization, the more you actually become the person that you desire to be.

Step six is to tell others that you have decided to develop a particular quality or characteristic.  When you tell others, you motivate and encourage yourself.  You also force yourself to act consistent with your new resolution even when occasionally you don’t feel like it, because you know that others are watching.

And step seven is to continually review your progress on a day-to-day basis. Just as Benjamin Franklin did when he developed his own process for character formation, he would review his behavior every single day to see if he was living consistent with the values that he had determined were important. You can do the same thing. At the end of every day, do a brief recap and look at your behavior during the day relative to the values and habits you are trying to develop.  Give yourself points when you are strong, and if from time-to-time, you slip, be patient with yourself.

The most important keys to developing new habit patterns of thought and action are patience, determination and persistence.  When you begin to change yourself, you will find that it is not particularly easy. But it is possible if you continue to work at it.

You are where you are and what you are today because of your habits.  Your habits have been developing, mostly accidentally, from the time you were an infant.  Today you can take complete control over the shaping of your character and personality, and everything that happens to you in the future, by making the decision right now to define and to develop the habits that will lead you to great success.  And when you develop the same habits possessed by other successful people, you must and will enjoy their success as well.  Your future will become unlimited.