The Habits of Success

by Amechi Chukwujama

Success is a continuous and never-ending process of becoming more, knowing more, learning more, doing more, loving more, giving more, of setting new goals and achieving them (and/or learning more useful lessons in the process); of thinking more; of being healthier; of being happier; of achieving more material and spiritual freedom.

Success is a journey, not a destination. It is never ending. You finish to begin again. It is a dynamic process, a continuous and never-ending improvement. To be truly successful you need to be actualized in every department of your life: physical fitness and vitality; emotional balance and maturity; improved memory; mental alertness and discrimination; clear intuition and perception; spiritual freedom; home; family; social; romance/emotional fulfillment; career and financial fulfillment also.

In practice we find that for most of us we can only be successful in just one or two departments of our life – usually one. A rich guy who has poor health, floundering relationships, a broken home, is over weight, and a poor parent is only successful in the financial department of his life.


In many parts of the world people have the opinion that being successful means having lots of money. That’s false. Having lots of money is fine but it’s only a beginning. It is just one of the many gauges to measure success.

For so long it has been assumed that success comes from where you are born (your nativity or birth place, or where you’re located), what your name is, who you know (or don’t know), how educated you are, and your number (the size of your army and the volume of your resources). True, some of these factors help. It’s better to have them than not to have them. Having them, though, doesn’t automatically make you successful.

So what can make you successful? The right habits. Success is a matter of imbibing and applying the right habits. It depends very little on the factors we mentioned in the preceding paragraph. The basic principles of success are invariant with respect to time, location and conditions. The environment, circumstances and era may change or differ but the same basic principles apply.


The following habits and attitudes will “power assist” you in your drive to the land of success.

See a lesson in every situation: Nothing in life ever happens by chance. Every event, every situation, every circumstance has something to teach you. No matter how insignificant an occurrence, have an attitude that there’s something for you to learn.

Learn detachment: Attachment to results, and to your material and spiritual possessions will always put you into suffering. Attachment to results can be fatal. Let’s say you set a goal and work yourself to death trying to actualize it. Somewhere along the line something fails to turn out as envisaged and your expectations are unmet. You could cry, you could give up. That, of course, is missing the real lessons: the experiences you’ve acquired in the process of pursuing this goal is of the utmost importance. Be grateful for it and start all over again. Yes, I agree that for most of us this is hard, but I’m telling you that without this attitude you will never have peace and happiness.

See all life as partner: Imbibe the attitude of the inverse paranoid. A patient suffering from the mental illness paranoia has a delusion he’s being persecuted by everyone. Everything that happens, no matter how trivial or insignificant, is interpreted as being directed at the patient. Newspapers, to him, contain threats; and he might not want to eat your food because he suspects that it is poisoned.

The concept of the inverse paranoid is an attitude of mind in which you see every event, every situation, every circumstance, every person, every turn of event – favorable or unfavorable – as conspiring to help you fulfil your purpose. The scratch of paper on the walkway contains something that might be of interest to you. The failure of your current project is omen of a bigger deal coming along. Newspapers contain useful information you require to solve your current problem.

The person who imbibes this attitude is the inverse paranoid. St. Paul, an inverse paranoid, in his famous letter to the Romans puts it very beautifully: “And we know that all things work together for good for them that love God, for them who are called according to his purpose.”


Value cooperation above competition: You’ll learn more from life if you’ll constantly search for ways to cooperate with others instead of always trying to compete with them. It makes great sense to cooperate with your adversaries. A very successful pitcher in one of America’s top baseball teams once said, “I see every move made by the opponent as an opportunity for me to score.”

Take Responsibility: Whatever happens take responsibility. You wouldn’t get far in life unless you accept that you’re responsible for any situation you find yourself in.

Voltaire likened life to a game of cards. Each player must accept the cards life deals him or her. But once they’re in hand, he or she alone must decide how to play the cards in order to win the game.

When something happens there’re two possible attitudes you could adopt: One, I’m responsible for correcting the situation or effecting a change. Two, I’m not responsible. Demosthenes was an Athenian orator and statesman who lived in the years 384 to 322 BC. He had a great speech impediment and was subsequently shy and retiring. His father left him a handsome estate that guaranteed him a wealthy life, but according to Greek law at the time he had to establish his right to ownership in debate at a public forum before he could claim his estate. He lost his estate thanks to his speech impediment and shyness. The shock of the loss was overwhelming, nevertheless he was able to gather himself together to make a decision: He was going to do everything he could to correct his speech impediment and develop self-confidence.

Demosthenes had other ways he could have reacted after losing his father’s estate. He could have said he wasn’t responsible for effecting a remedy and blame the law, the devil, the Athenian society, the government, the stars or the gods, Zeus, his dead father, himself, his enemies, or witches and wizards.

Observation: Take more interest in people and things around you. Make a deliberate effort to live in the here-and-now. The present is all there is. Is the sky cloudy or clear? Listen to the sound of the winds, the birds of the air, watch more carefully…What are people saying, wearing, doing? Read the signpost: What is it saying? Be curious about events and happenings, and the causes and motives behind them.


Attention and concentration: Wherever your attention is, that’s where you are. Your attention is either directed from within or attracted from without. If your attention is always attracted from without, you’ll be perpetually at the mercy of circumstances. More of your attention could be directed from within. Concentrate each time on the task at hand.

Be flexible: Compromise if necessary. Don’t be attached to particular solutions. Create an array of alternatives in the event that something goes wrong. The more alternatives you have to a decision, the better.

Don’t procrastinate: If you feel like doing something, by all means do it, don’t hesitate or procrastinate. And don’t kill it with your mental processes or doubt.

Dare your fear: Do what you fear. Courage is not the absence of fear; it is the control of fear. Go boldly and directly against your fear. Do things that frighten you once in a while.

Study the pattern: Take time to unearth the underlying pattern of events in your life. If things are not working the way you want them, take time to study the wave pattern; once you discover the cycle, wave band and frequency, break it. No negative cycle goes on forever. Once you discover the cracked groove that allows it to keep repeating itself you can break it. Said Charlie Chaplin, “A period of continuous bad luck is as improbable as always staying on the straight path of virtue. In both cases, there will be eventually a curve.” When things are getting too comfortable – a pattern goes on for so long, even a good one – try to find out what’s happening.

Marry short- and long-term goals: Find a way of rolling complex and easy things, short – and long-term projects at the same time. Solving the very pressing issues but mixing it with ones that might get bad in say one week, one month, one year if nothing at all is done now.


Caveat: Don’t fall into the urgency trap. Many people spend all their time answering the phone and such urgent and pressing tasks. The really important things are forgotten. For a detailed discussion on this, see Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People In each of these cases there is no need for hurry, worry, pressure, loss of vigor or vitality.

Do the right thing now: Focus attention on getting the right things done now with the resources immediately present without wasting time.

Focus on priorities: Cut out activities that do not fall into your priority list. Time is limited. You can’t be everywhere. You can’t be engaged in everything. Weed out some things.

See problems as opportunities: Said Henry J. Kaiser, “Problems are opportunities in work clothes “. See problems as challenges.

Make a conscious effort to salvage something from every setback: Have a kind of pollyannish attitude. Pollyanna, heroine of the book of the same title by Eleanor Porter, exudes irrepressible optimism and has a tendency to see good in everything. Napolean Hill says, “Every adversity holds within it the seed of an equivalent or greater reward.”


Listen: Listen to yourself and to others. Talk less, listen more.

Ask questions: When you run into a problem, don’t ask, “What do I do?” Rather ask, “What do I understand?” Understanding leads to doing.

Stop labeling things as good or bad: Stop labeling things as good or bad, favorable or unfavorable. They’re all outcomes. Says Shakespeare, “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”

Persist and persevere: Don’t give up. Keep on keeping on. Said a sage, when you think you’ve tried enough, think again, you haven’t. Let me give you a powerful metaphor for consistency. “Life,” says Claude Pepper, “is like riding a bicycle; you don’t fall off unless you stop pedaling.”

I’d like to stop here. Before you started reading this piece you had an excuse why life was not working your way. What’s your excuse now?

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Anonymous July 7, 2005 - 8:44 pm

It contains good sound advice. It also leaves us room to interpret what it is that we can do to improve ourselves. The principles discussed here give us cause to reflect and improve ourselves. Our attention is kept by encouraging us to questions ourselves and our goals, if we have any.

Anonymous June 28, 2005 - 4:05 am

It gives good realist precedents


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