When you think about the most successful, happy, fulfilled people you know, you could probably identify some characteristics these people have in common. If we were sitting together, I’m sure we could build a nice list of these characteristics, attributes, habits and attitudes.
Several years ago, when thinking about that question, I identified several things that those people shared that I wanted to incorporate into my habits more consistently. These things have made and continue to make a difference for my own personal and professional development.
These five things are truly universal – these five habits could make all of us more productive. After applying them more diligently in my life, I had them printed on the back of my business cards. That version of cards has since been replaced, but when one of those cards came across my desk, I was pleased with the ideas as I read them again, and decided I would describe them in this article.
Following then are the five actions I identified. When these actions are taken more often, they will become habits that will greatly impact our performance – in all parts of our life.
Read More. The statistics are horrible and sad. As a whole, Americans don’t read very much. Given that reading is one of the best ways for us to learn new ideas, techniques, skills and approaches, it only makes sense that reading is a key to our education, learning and growth. If you want to advance in any part of your life, make reading a part of your daily routine. Reading an average of 30 minutes a day will allow you to read one book per month in an area of interest or professional growth. That’s 12 books a year. How much of a difference could that make in your performance?
Listen More. Listening gives us the chance to learn something. When you listen more intently you build the other person’s confidence and show, through your actions, that you value both them and their information. Really good active listening is a skill we all have –when the person or the topic is highly important to us we can listen very effectively. The challenge for us is to listen more intently, more of the time.
Ask “Why?" More. Exercise your curiosity! Asking why helps us determine the causes of problems (making it easier for us to solve them. ) Asking why helps us learn about anything, when we ask it. Asking why can help us see things from a fresh perspective. As kids we ask this question incessantly. As adults we too often forget to ask it. Ask it already!
Smile More. If I could tell you that there is something you could do that takes almost no energy, costs you nothing and is guaranteed to improve your emotional health, and at the same time helps other people feel better too, you’d be interested in that wouldn’t you? Just smile. You will feel better when you do. And a smile is contagious – in a good way. It spreads good feelings and positive emotions. It reduces conflict and stress. Smiling more is perhaps the easiest of these habits to implement. And you can start right now.
Say “Thank You" More. It is one of the first interpersonal skills we teach children. We do it because we know that it is important. Saying thank you is the right thing to do. Say in person, say it in a handwritten note. Say it on the phone, say it in email. When you focus on a spirit of gratitude, it becomes easier. Like smiling, this one is easy to start right away.
These habits aid us in two major ways – they help us become more consistent and successful learners and they help us build better relationships by improving our interpersonal skills. Reading, listening, and exercising our curiosity certainly help us learn more about whatever we choose to learn about. And listening to others (really listening) is one of the best ways to improve relationships. Of course, smiling and saying thank you also make us more pleasant to be around, and encourage others to want to build relationships with us too!
Kevin Eikenberry is a leadership expert and the Chief Potential Officer of The Kevin Eikenberry Group (http://KevinEikenberry.com ), a learning consulting company. To receive a free Special Report on leadership that includes resources, ideas, and advice go to http://www.kevineikenberry.com/leadership.asp or call us at (317) 387-1424 or 888. LEARNER.