There are reasons memoirs and biographies of great men and women sell like hotcakes, with their lives intensely scrutinised.
After all, are there things that successful people do differently to make them who they are?
An entire industry seems to think so, churning out books, workshops, and podcasts, each promising to help us attain a modicum of success that vaguely resembles the one per cent.
Curious to test out the theories, I decided to try out three frequently-cited habits of successful people to see how they would improve my life and pave the path to success.
1. Read more
According to Tom Corley, author of Rich Habits: The Daily Success Habits of Wealthy Individuals, many successful people are not just voracious readers. They are also selective about what they read, opting to read for self-improvement rather than entertainment.
Maybe this explains why I am not wealthy since I fall into the latter category.
Instead of bettering myself with real-world current affairs, I would scroll through the Daily Mail for my daily dose of celebrity gossip. Rather than picking up a book, my nighttime routine involves Netflix and a big glass of wine. Without effort, my brain has turned into a human sponge of triviality.
Not wanting the last thing I read to be the menu from the Chinese takeaway, I vowed to change my reading habits. Not only will I dedicate more time to reading, but the books should also help me learn something new and broaden my mind.
And so it began. For a week, I stopped myself from scrolling mindlessly through social media on the bus or watching another box set until I fell asleep. I pretended there was no internet, limited myself to tabloids once a day, and read before falling asleep.
After making a conscious decision to make reading a habit, I completed reading Unorthodox, a memoir by Deborah Feldman, and learnt something new about Hasidic Jews.
In fact, the accomplishment I felt from finishing a book far outweighs the joy of binge-watching the latest season of Bling Empire. While it is impossible to reap the rewards of reading within a week, this is a habit I am determined to continue if I want to become a more insightful and knowledgeable person.
2. Wake up super early
The morning habits of successful people have long been reported widely. Tim Cook starts his day at 3.45am to go through his emails, Michelle Obama gets up at 4.30am to work out, and so does Richard Branson, who thankfully wakes up at a more humane hour of 5.45am.
I ought to be ashamed because these individuals are getting more done before I can even finish snoring.
But that is all about to change, and psychologically, I was raring to go. Instead of waking up at the usual 7.30am, which is late by the standards of early risers, I intend to start my day at 6am.
On the first day, I hit the snooze button on my alarm five times and did not get out of bed until 6.40 am. The experiment failed before I even got started. So, the next day, I placed my alarm away from my bed, forcing myself to get up and turn it off. The desire to wiggle back under the covers was strong, and I had to summon all my willpower to resist that urge.
Over a week, I drank enough coffee to be on the brink of a caffeine overdose. Yet, my brain remains incapacitated in the early hours of the day. Simply put, the extra time gained from waking up earlier did not translate into getting more work done. I ended up staring blankly at my computer, feeling too groggy and uninspired to write anything.
Verdict: Not for me
Given the abundance of literature espousing the benefits of waking up early, I had high hopes that my productivity could go into overdrive. Instead, I end up more tired than usual, having to munch on Custard Creams in the late afternoon to keep my energy levels up.
While I can see the appeal of waking up uber early for people with a demanding life, I believe everybody has their own unique sleep habits and preferences. Ultimately, it is more important to find a routine that suits you rather than mindlessly following someone else’s way of life. For now, I am sticking to my 7.30am alarm.
3. Practice gratitude
It sounds simple enough. Taking the time to meditate and express your appreciation towards life can lead to greater happiness. And happy people are more motivated to achieve their goals and be successful in life.
Personally, it felt like a load of new-age nonsense, akin to a rainmaking ritual for success and almost as ridiculous as manifestation. But there must be some truth in it, right? Why else would there be such a demand for people looking for ways to express their gratitude?
Armed with a sceptical heart, I downloaded a simple gratitude template where I would jot down what I am grateful for at the start and end of the day.
I started off not knowing what to write or be thankful for. It probably feels easier for people like Oprah, who have millions in the bank and Harry and Meghan as neighbours. Those felt like actual things to be thankful for.
In the end, I wrote things like, “My boyfriend made me breakfast”, “It did not rain today” and “Putin has not pressed the nuke button”. It felt mundane, or maybe that is the whole point of expressing gratitude, to see the positives hidden from our lives, perhaps?
Admittedly, I felt stupid and awkward practicing gratitude because I felt like I have little to be grateful for. But as I looked at the list of things I wrote at the end of the week, I smiled at the simple and innocuous things that brought me joy. Things I have seemingly disregarded because I am blinded by what I do not have instead of appreciating the things I do.
Retracting my earlier cries of cynicism over the practice, I find it incredible how a simple exercise of gratitude can bring about a change in mentality and outlook. This is a habit I plan on continuing, and as additional motivation, I even bought a journal for this purpose.
Featured Image Credit: Bill Gates / Getty Images / CNBC / Andrew Kelly / Getty Images / Sky News