High-performance habits - 6-steps to self-discipline and better results

I went five years without missing a single day of working out. – Michael Phelps, Olympic Swimmer.

At the age of 12, the most successful Olympian of all time was diagnosed with ADHD – a condition that affects concentration and discipline. Despite this limitation, Phelps won 23 gold medals in the pool.

While few of us have such big ambitions, the obvious lesson we can learn from Phelps is the power of forming great habits and the discipline to practice them religiously. Such world-famous achievement requires tremendous amounts of self-discipline and constantly setting performance goals to work towards. Check out our blog on how to enhance business performance with one simple habit to find out more about the importance of self-discipline.

Probably the most famous book on habits is Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. However, the internet is littered with well-meaning people trying to distil the habits of successful people into soundbites. Generic advice like “be positive” or “be proactive” is somewhat vague. Whilst there is 1 simple habit that claims to make you 30% more productive, some specific ideas like “meditate before breakfast” or “exercise in the morning” don’t suit everyone.

The truth is, our habits should be like our fingerprints – unique to each of us and aligned to our own goals and personal development. This is crucial. Michael Phelps succeeded because he lined up his habits with his vision and set strict performance objectives to achieve. Every time he lacked the motivation to go to the weights room or practice his tumble turns, he thought about his ultimate performance goal, and that gave him the motivation and self-discipline to get the training done.

This process can and will work for you too. If you want to achieve your vision badly enough, you’ll roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty!

A process for setting high-performance habits that stick

So, instead of sharing our list of the top habits of gazillionaires, we’ve designed this step-by-step process for you to create your own new habits – based on your individual vision, that will align with your performance goals.

1. Define your vision, 2. Set goals relating to your vision, 3. Form new habits to meet your goals, 4. New habits make new outcomes, 5. Outcomes help you achieve your goals, 6. Hit your goals and achieve your vision.

So how might this work in practice?

Let’s say, your company vision is to become the market leader in your specialist industry by 2025. To achieve that vision, one of your performance goals could be to become the leading authority in the market.

To achieve that goal, you need to create new habits to ensure you take action. These might include: creating a new piece of content (a blog, podcast or video) every day; setting aside two hours every morning to write or record; setting aside your afternoons for emails, phone calls and meetings; getting up at 6 am to start writing, or working on your social media channels every lunchtime.

By consistently sticking to your new habits, you’ll eventually produce new outcomes (more followers, more customers, more sales).

In turn, you’ll achieve your goals. And eventually, you’ll realise your vision. It’s essential to move into the mindset of goal setting and alignment. Are you learning to reach your goals? Check out our blog for more information on this.

How long does it take for a new habit to stick?

The typical answer to this is 21 days. But this has become an urban myth. The reality backed by science shows a much wider variation – from 18 days to 254 days, depending on what it is you’re trying to change.

There are days you’re not going to want to do it. But it’s what you do on those days that helps you move forward. – Michael Phelps.

We break our habits because we’re not emotionally attached to them. We aren’t connected to the outcome enough, and it’s especially challenging if these habits are going to take 250 days or more to take root. Think about those New Year’s resolutions you gave up after a week. How did ‘Dry January’ go? Not great – most likely because you didn’t have a clearly defined and passionate performance goal at the end of it.

Michael Phelps trained 1,825 days in a row because he wanted to win that gold medal in 2016 more than anything else in the world. His passion underlying his vision and constant performance evaluation gave him the discipline to stick to his habits and make them unbreakable.

So what’s your “gold medal” vision? What are the goals that are going to help you realise your ambition and achieve that vision? And what new habits will you need to start if you’re going to hit your goals?

Your Action Plan

Our top three takeaways are:

  1. Does your vision excite you and dominate your waking hours?
  2. Are you clear about the stepping stones that will get you there?
  3. What new habits do you need to start if you’re going to smash your goals?

Achieving high performance requires immense drive and determination. Having a clear vision provides direction and focus that will facilitate success. For more help on setting and achieving your goals, check out our blog to learn how Milestones help you stick to your big goals and discover 10 goals setting tips, including Warren Buffett’s key to success.

If you are looking to achieve better or faster results in your business, send us a quick email at hello@reclaro.com, and we will be happy to explore ways we can help you grow.

Posted by Pete Wilkinson

Last updated: 3 July 2021

Live masterclass - Using OKRs to align remote teams and grow your business faster

Tuesday 7 December, 8:30 am GMT

Register now

Free Action eBook

Want some super quick actions for you to be more productive?

free action book Get your free action book

Download our 8 free OKR Templates and Examples

Everything you need to get started and implement OKRs in your business.

document icon
Download now

Get started with Reclaro®

Want to dramatically improve business performance, align your teams and focus on what matters most to achieve results? Our award-winning 1-3-5® OKR software and expertise can help.

Book a demo now