The 4 meta-habits of highly successful people

In business school, I became obsessed with adopting habits. I trusted the idea that small things done consistently add up to big things in the long run.

Like millions of others interested in self-improvement, I read Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, one of the bestselling books of all time. It gave me some good tools to start with, but it makes a flawed assumption — that there exists an ideal set of habits for success, one that is finite, timeless, and exactly the same for everyone. What I learned through aggressive experimentation — waking up at 5 a.m. for three straight months, quitting caffeine for 100 days and alcohol for two years, taking cold showers, and walking 10,000 steps a day for a year — is that this is simply untrue.

Habits have served me well. I’ve published more than a thousand pieces of writing which have been read by millions of people. I’ve found a line of work I’m proud to be in, and I make a six-figure income with full control over my time and projects. But the big lesson I’ve learned is that success has little to do with any particular set of habits and everything to do with your ability to change your habits when you need to. Successful people aren’t just highly effective, they’re highly adaptable. Instead of one-and-done solutions, they adopt meta-habits — habits that help them manage their habits.

Here are four ways to use meta-habits to manage your growth.

Continuously monitor your habits

Find synergies among your habits

Break habits into smaller pieces

Practice self-awareness around your habits

Niklas Göke writes for dreamers, doers, and unbroken optimists. His writing on self-improvement, philosophy, and productivity has appeared on Business Insider, CNBC, Fast Company, and many more publications. He is also the owner of Four Minute Books, where he’s published over 500 non-fiction book summaries to date.