7 secret habits of self-made millionaires

6 Minute Read | Author: Sarah Berry

If we become what we repeatedly do, poor habits can make us poor while "rich habits" can lead to wealth.

This is the premise of a new book by best-selling author Thomas Corley, who spent five years studying the habits of both self-made millionaires and poor people.

Interestingly, when he asked whether daily habits are critical to financial success in life, 52 per cent of the wealthy people he studied agreed compared with 3 per cent of the poor.

"Wealthy people think that bad habits create detrimental luck and that good habits create 'opportunity luck,' meaning they create the opportunities for people to make their own luck," . "When I looked at luck, a lot of rich people said they were lucky and a lot of poor people said they were unlucky."

Luckily, bad habits can be changed with a little effort. Start by setting the bar really low with a healthy "micro-habit", suggests Maneesh Sethi, author of Hack the System.

A micro-habit might be eating frozen berries instead of ice cream when you sit on the couch to watch TV or it might be simply swiping your gym card at the gym each day before leaving. You don't even have to workout.

Instead of overwhelming yourself with a complete habit overhaul where, for instance, you decide to go from nought to 100 and start working out every day, the micro-habit creates a cue and habits are created from cues.

"So how does merely swiping your card at the gym result in forming the habit of working out," Sethi asks.

"This ridiculously simple, seemingly dumb action is actually initiating a bunch of highly sophisticated psychological triggers behind the scenes:

  1. Setting the bar so low that it literally requires NO effort to complete a task means that according to the BJ Fogg Behaviour Model, your ability to complete the task goes WAY up.
  2. By intentionally setting a super easy goal, you're purposely creating an environment that's structured to give you consistent success and positive feedback on a daily basis.
  3. MOST IMPORTANTLY: Intentionally setting a ridiculously simple goal and achieving it over and over again begins to agitate your brain after a while. It eventually becomes impossible NOT to follow through with the entire habit, since the tiny action has already set the entire process in motion."

Now that we know how to create healthy new habits, we can practice the "rich habits" of millionaires.

1. They practise passion

"Do you care about what you're doing?" University of Houston research professor Brene Brown asked 650 business executives and entrepreneursat a Sydney conference last month.

"I don't think you can have great leadership when people have no sense of purpose about what they're doing."

Purpose and passion are more important for success than a focus on money, says Corley.

"Passion makes work fun," writes Corley. "Passion gives you the energy, persistence, and focus needed to overcome failures, mistakes, and rejection."

2. They read

No Fifty Shades of Grey around here: millionaires prefer to read the newspaper or books about self-help, personal development, history or biographies on other successful people, according to Corley.

"Eighty-eight percent of the rich devote 30 minutes or more each day to self-education or self-improvement reading," he writes in his new bookChange Your Habits, Change Your Life. "Most did not read for entertainment ... The rich read to acquire or maintain knowledge."

3. They workout

Before Barack Obama began running five kilometres six days a week, he was a casual drug user and underachiever, he says in his autobiography,Dreams From My Father.

He's not alone. Richard Branson says he exercises daily – anything from yoga to rock climbing, running to weightlifting – in order to improve his mental performance and productivity.

"I can achieve twice as much in a day by keeping fit," Branson has said.

"Seventy-six percent of the rich aerobically exercise 30 minutes or more every day," Corley writes. "Cardio is not only good for the body, but it's good for the brain. It grows the neurons (brain cells) in the brain ... Exercise also increases the production of glucose. Glucose is brain fuel."

4. They save

Corley says an 80/20 rule (live off 80 per cent of your income and save 20 per cent) is a "rich habit".

"Being wealthy is not just making a lot of money," he explains. "It's saving a lot, and accumulating wealth. Many of the people I studied aren't wealthy because they made a lot, but because they saved a lot."

In fact, 88 per cent of those he studied said saving money was incredibly important to their success.

5. They have mentors and mentor others

Just because someone is successful doesn't mean they don't need help. Mark Zuckerberg has one, Bill Gates has one as does Richard Branson.

"Understandably there's a lot of ego, nervous energy and parental pride involved, especially with one- or two-person start-ups," Branson has said. "Going it alone is an admirable, but foolhardy and highly flawed approach to taking on the world."

Adds Corley: "Finding a mentor puts you on the fast track to wealth accumulation... They share with you valuable life lessons they learned either from their own mentors or from the school of hard knocks."

Millionaires also recognise that helping others empowers everyone.

"No one realises success without a team of other success-minded people," Corley says. "The best way to create your team is to offer help to other success-minded people first."

6. They pay attention to their relationships

Not only do our relationships the greatest influence on our health and longevity, 88 per cent of the surveyed millionaires believed "relationships are critical to financial success".

Only 17 per cent of the poor participants agreed with this statement.

Good relationships make us happier, provide support, motivation and often lead to opportunities. Corley suggests culling the negative people from our lives.

"Negative, destructive criticism will derail you from pursuing success," he says.

7. They make time to stop

"Meditation more than anything in my life was the biggest ingredient of whatever success I've had," said Ray Dalio, the billionaire founder of the world's largest hedge fund firm, Bridgewater Associates.

Oprah and Rupert Murdoch are among other executives who meditate.

But, they also make time each day to stop and reflect. "Thinking is key to their success," Corley says, noting the millionaires he followed spent between 15 and 30 minutes brainstorming and contemplating whether they were on track with their health, exercise, relationships and work and what they could improve on.

This time-out also involves noticing their own attitude, says Corley, adding that a positive mental outlook is a hallmark of success. "If you stop to listen to your thoughts, to be aware of them, you'd find most of them are negative.

"But you only realise you are having these negative thoughts when you force yourself to be aware of them. Awareness is the key."