What do Warren Buffett (investor), Angela Merkel (chancellor), Barack Obama (president) and Winston Churchill (prime minister) have in common? What is the thread that ties together Jack Dorsey (entrepreneur), Maya Angelou (author), Benjamin Franklin (founding father), Claudia Chan (leadership expert) and Shama Hyder (social media guru)? The obvious answers are success, prominence and impact. The not-so-obvious answer is a daily routine.
A significant body of research and profound real-life experience suggest that having impact and experiencing success are all about our daily routines. Daily routines define our moments, and the accumulation of moments determines the course of our entire lives. As Mike Murdock said, “The secret of your future is hidden in your daily routine.”
The word routine, borrowed from French in the sixteenth century, is derived from route, “a direction, road or path.” A routine is a regularly performed set of actions.
People who make the greatest impact, personally or professionally, always follow a route or a routine. The things we do every day matter more than the things we do once in a while. In The Story of Philosophy, Will Durant sums up Aristotle’s thoughts on habit: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” In the words of William James, humans are “mere walking bundles of habits,” and so our impact and success are crystallized by the things that make up our bundles.
The following six daily routines tend to populate the habit bundles of people who are most successful and have the highest impact, and they can also elevate your impact:
Internalize. We live in a fast-paced world where externals consistently scream for our attention. To play on the field of high impact, we need to be comfortable with the externals, but we also need to internalize: to withdraw and be alone for a period of time each day. People who make a large impact are equally comfortable in the internal and external realms. They understand that if we operate exclusively in the external and don’t spend daily time in the internal, our outflow will far exceed our inflow, and our output will soon surpass our capacity. High-impact people take time to be with themselves, and in this place they find centring and focus.
Energize. People with a high level of impact understand inherently that self-care is perhaps the smartest investment we can make because it keeps us energized, and energy leads to productivity. Investments with the highest return are in the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual realms. Energizing physically generally involves sufficient sleep, nutrition and exercise. Energizing mentally and emotionally can include continual learning and development, healthy relationships, visualization and affirmations. Energizing spiritually can include meditation, prayer, journalling and communing with nature. The most efficient people on the planet take time to rest, replenish, recharge and re-energize. Productive people are energetic people.
Prioritize. Prioritization is simple in concept, yet can be difficult in application. Prioritization flows when we first internalize and energize, because when we take time to centre and focus and to rest and replenish, we become much clearer on our priorities. If your priorities are unclear, this could indicate that you need time to internalize and energize. At its core, prioritization is simply about deciding what to say yes to and what to say no to—and sticking to it. So much potential is wasted when we say yes to what we should say no to and when we say no to what we should say yes to. The daily routine of high-impact people includes time to sort out the yeses from the noes, and the primary criterion they use is this: What is the most valuable use of my time in order to achieve my long-term goals? This alone separates the yeses from the noes and separates high-impact people from minimal-impact people.
Strategize. Strategy flows from priority. The definition of strategy is simply a plan of action to fulfill an objective. So, priorities determine objectives, while strategies determine plans. High-impact people never strategize without taking time to prioritize. Likewise, they do not just prioritize; they always strategize as well. Strategy involves the notions of planning and efficiency, incorporates tactics and logistics and includes the nuances of interpersonal and professional relationships. Strategy takes time and effort, but is well worth it. Though our days rarely go exactly according to plan, success is seldom accidental. Planning positions you for success in a way that the lack of planning never can. Often the critical difference between high-potential people who don’t perform and high-performance people is simple: strategy and its execution.
Visualize. As part of their daily routine, high-impact people visualize mobilizing their strategy successfully. Do you see yourself succeeding in your goal, or do you see yourself failing and not achieving? I cannot overstate the importance of visualization. Albert Einstein has been credited with saying, “Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.” Before any major goal can be achieved, it must first become a reality in the subconscious mind. When we learn how to use our imagination and then imagine ourselves achieving a goal—so much that our feelings about the goal are the same as if we have already achieved it—then that goal will become a reality. Your expectations determine your whole life: You are thinking, feeling, experiencing and doing what your expectations allow. You are creating, growing, building and dreaming what your expectations permit. Mahatma Ghandi said, “If I have the belief that I can do it, I shall surely acquire the capacity to do it even if I may not have it at the beginning.” And about two thousand years earlier, Jesus said, “All things are possible to him that believes.” Learning new visualizations, expectations and beliefs often requires breaking free of our stresses and fears. To learn more about this, visit www.breakingfreeoffear.com.
Verbalize. There is power in our proclamation. Words can light a fire in our minds, they can calm a storm in our hearts, they can pull tears from our eyes and they can inspire energy and passion in our soul. Words can carry a message of confidence and conquest, healing and hope, or they can carry a message of failure and fear, regret and reversal. The words we speak powerfully ripple through our lives, setting our course. High-impact people verbalize their passions, their possibilities and their path, shouting out empowerment through their proclamation.
One final thought: Become a high-impact person, because those closest to you and the world need you to do so. Collectively, we need the gifts, treasures and aspirations that lie within you. But as you do, pay close attention to your daily routines. Confucius said, “Men’s natures are alike; it is their habits that separate them.” People who make the greatest impact have a daily routine.
Abe Brown is the “coach’s coach,” the founder of Momentum Coaching (www.momentumcoaching.ca) and the president of the Certified Coaches Federation (www.certifiedcoachesfederation.com). The CCF has trained and certified over 9,500 life and executive coaches. Reach Abe at firstname.lastname@example.org.