Just about any topic the Harvard Business Review considers becomes golden as soon as it hits HBR’s website. The site’s most popular reads this week, for example, include “How to Let Your Purpose Find You,” “If You’re Too Busy to Meditate, Read This” and “The Presentation Mistake You Don’t Know You’re Making.”
Here’s another case in point: “Nine Things Successful People Do Differently,” written by experimental social psychologist Heidi Grant Halvorson for the Harvard Business Review‘s blog network, continues to receive comments and make the rounds on Twitter even though it was published on Feb. 25, 2011.
Why is Halvorson’s advice so popular? Because as it turns out, even smart people with successful careers need occasional inspiration to stay motivated. Or, as Halvorson phrases it, “even brilliant, highly accomplished people are pretty lousy when it comes to understanding why they succeed or fail.”
That said, Halvorson lays out what decades of research on achievement has proven, namely, that people are successful not just because of who they are, but also because of what they do. These are the rules for “doing” that work, according to Halvorson:
1. Be specific. “Lose five pounds” is a better goal than “lose weight,” because it’s specific. “Knowing exactly what you want to achieve keeps you motivated until you get there,” Halvorson writes.
2. Seize the moment. “Did you really have no time to work out today?” Halvorson asks. “No chance at any point to return that phone call? Achieving your goal means grabbing hold of these opportunities before they slip through your fingers.”
3. Know exactly how far you have to go. An honest and regular accounting of your progress will help you achieve your goal, writes Heidi Grant Halvorson in “Nine Things Successful People Do Differently.” “If you don’t know how well you are doing, you can’t adjust your behavior or your strategies accordingly. Check your progress frequently—weekly, or even daily.”