9 habits of highly successful people, from a man who spent 5 years studying them
Building wealth takes years of smart decisions, both professionally and financially. But according to according to one man who interviewed hundreds of self-made millionaires, getting rich also means keeping certain lifestyle habits.
Tom Corley, an accountant and financial planner, surveyed 233 wealthy individuals, mostly self-made millionaires, on their daily habits. He compared those answers to responses from 128 lower-earning individuals, or those with less than $35,000 in annual gross income.
In his best-selling book “Change Your Habits, Change Your Life,” Corley explains that wealthy people set themselves up for success in a few specific ways. Here are the habits they have in common:
1. They get up early
Nearly 50 percent of the self-made millionaires in Corley’s research got out of bed at least three hours before their workday actually started. Many of them use the free time to tackle personal projects, plan their day, or make time for exercise.
“Getting up at five in the morning to tackle the top three things you want to accomplish in your day allows you to regain control of your life,” he writes. “It gives you a sense of confidence that you, indeed, direct your life.”
2. They read, a lot
A whopping 88 percent of Corley’s wealthy respondents say they devote 30 minutes or more each day to education or self-improvement through reading.
Most do not read for entertainment; they prefer biographies, history, and self-help books.
If you enjoy a good novel, that can help you too. Science shows that reading for pleasure can also boost your career. And Corley’s point holds for many kinds of narratives. “There are important life lessons to be learned in biographies of people with rags-to-riches stories,” he writes.
Legendary investor and self-made billionaire Warren Buffett says that reading has been the most crucial habit he’s developed. If you’re looking to pick up a new book, check out the business classics Buffett and other leaders love.
3. They spend 15 to 30 minutes each day on focused thinking
Many of the self-made millionaires Corley interviewed said they make time to process everything that’s going on in their lives.
“The rich tend to think in isolation, in the mornings,” he writes “and for at least 15 minutes every day.”
Often they’ll reflect on their career, their health and their personal relationships. Having quiet time to analyze your thoughts is associated with stress reduction.
In fact, taking two minutes at work to focus on nothing but your breathe will help you relax, a Harvard-trained doctor tells CNBC.
4. They make exercise a priority
Working out regularly clears your head and makes you feel more motivated, studies show.
According to Corley, 76 percent of his survey respondents carve out 30 minutes or more for aerobic exercise like jogging, biking or walking each day.
Many successful business leaders make sure to workout. Billionaire Richard Branson, for example, says that his morning routine of waking up at 5 am to play tennis or bike, has doubled his productivity.
5. They spend time with people who inspire them
“You are only as successful as those you frequently associate with,” Corley says.
If you don’t have highly-motivated people in your personal network yet, fear not. Self-made millionaires volunteer, which is a great way to meet other positive, motivated individuals. You could also join groups for people who share your same career or personal interests, Corley suggests. Then develop the relationship by keeping in touch.
And be choosy about who you spend your time with. “[Successful people] also make a point to limit their exposure to toxic, negative people,” says Corley.
6. They pursue their own goals
Most self-made millionaires plan to get rich and then make it happen, Corley’s research finds.
Eighty percent of the wealthy are “obsessed with pursuing goals,” he writes. They refer to both daily and long-term goals regularly.
“I’m here to tell you to avoid putting your ladder on someone else’s wall and then spending the best years of your life climbing it,” Corley says. “Find your own wall, your own dreams, and your own goals, and pursue them.”
7. They get enough sleep
Albert Einstein reportedly preferred to get at least ten hours of sleep a night. If you too function best when you’re well-rested, Corley has some good news.
An overwhelming 89 percent of self-made millionaire sleep seven or eight hours each night or more.
“Sleep is critical to success,” he writes, citing its effects on memory function and creative thinking.
8. They have multiple incomes
“Self-made millionaires do not rely on one singular source of income,” Corley says. “They develop multiple streams.”
So how many sources of income do they have?
“Sixty-five percent had at least three streams of income that they created prior to making their first million dollars,” Corley says, such as a side-business or income generating investments like REITs or real estate.
“Diversifying sources of income allows you to weather the economic downturns that inevitably occur,” he writes.
9. They avoid time-wasters
Money isn’t the only important resource for wealthy people. Time is crucial too.
“When we invest our time in anything, it’s lost forever,” Corley writes.
Be choosy about the apps you spend your time with, too, instead of spending hours on end watching Netflix or scrolling through Instagram.
“When you see time as the greatest risk of all, it will force you to become more aware of exactly how to invest your time,” says Corley.
This article was written by Marguerite Ward, a reporter at CNBC who covered entrepreneurship, career and money news for CNBC Make It. Previously, she covered breaking news for CNBC.
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