What trait do high-achievers have in common?


Author of the bestselling book ‘Change Your Habits, Change Your Life’ Tom Corley surveyed over 177 self-made millionaires to understand their daily habits. He found a number of traits they had in common. By taking the time to delve into these, you and your employees could learn valuable habits that breed success.

In his research, Corley found that the world’s most successful business-owners and entrepreneurs shared several significant habits, such as surrounding themselves with successful people, wasting as little time as possible, reading a lot, and carving time out every day for focused thinking.

He also found that all these successful business leaders ensured they got plenty of sleep, and that 76% of them exercised for at least 30 minutes a day – a statistic that Dr Noluthando Nematswerani, Head of Centre for Clinical Excellence at Discovery Health, finds highly credible.

Exercise can give high-achievers the edge

“Research has shown that regular exercise is associated with improvements in memory, concentration, and mental sharpness,” she says. “Exercise can give high-achievers the edge over their competitors and keep them on top of their game.”

“It’s absolutely plausible that self-made millionaires exercise regularly,” adds Dinesh Govender, CEO of Discovery Vitality. “We all know two things about exercise: firstly, it’s really, really good for you - in terms of physical and emotional health benefits, and secondly, it’s not as easy to get into as a slab of chocolate. Successful entrepreneurs have proven that they have the dedication to do what others find hard to – sacrifice in the short term to achieve something greater in the long term.”

Of course, simply being disciplined at exercise won’t necessarily make any self-starter rich. But there does seem to be a link. Many high-achievers credit the substantial role health and fitness plays in their success.

High-achievers credit the role of exercise in their success

President Cyril Ramaphosa (whose aptitude as a businessman is renowned) often wakes up early to walk. Other CEOs reported to rise before 5am to exercise include founder of the Virgin Group Sir Richard Branson, Apple CEO Tim Cook, PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi and Disney CEO Bob Iger.

Barry Swartzberg, CEO of the Vitality Group, also gets up to exercise first thing in the morning, a habit which he claims will “set you up” for the rest of the day. “My mother was a dance teacher and she ensured that all her children were active. So I have exercised all my life, and I do believe it makes me better at my job. I find that it increases my focus, and makes me feel better about myself and more positive about the future.”

Discovery Health CEO Dr Jonathan Broomberg agrees: “Exercise makes me better at all aspects of my life, and certainly my job. It offers increased energy which I can sustain over extended periods, as well as increased resilience to stress, at work and outside of work. It also makes me a happier and more relaxed person, which again is good for both work and family life.”

Research proves the many holistic benefits of regular exercise

The science backs up their experiences. Research shows that regular exercise improves mood, memory and cognitive skills, as well as helps to manage anxiety. It also increases endurance levels and improves symptoms of fatigue by as much as 65% – valuable benefits for anyone faced with the pressures of owning or managing a business.

Broomberg adds, “Regular exercise increases physical energy and attention, and also enhances your intellectual ability – particularly when working under stress. It is a very powerful stress reliever and assists in managing the often emotional challenges faced by entrepreneurs. Regular exercise also develops and contributes to discipline.”

This last point touches on the fact that, while the physical and cognitive benefits of exercise are undeniable, the emotional aspects that exercise helps to build – such as determination, resilience and perseverance – are all qualities that successful entrepreneurs possess.

How do you and your employees get more active, when it feels like you don’t have the time?

Commit to making exercise a priority, says Broomberg, who claims it is “quite manageable, if one has a disciplined and structured routine.” His weekly workouts (which average around 50 minutes a day, seven days a week) entail four runs, two strength and flexibility sessions, and yoga over the weekend.

“Think of exercise as the most important engagement of your working week,’ he says. “Schedule it into your calendar and never move it except for emergencies or the most critical priorities. When you are forced to miss a session, catch it up on the same day or the next day, but not later.”

Govender suggests a more flexible route, but agrees that fitting it in somehow is key: “Exercise has become a critical part of my life, and I’m blessed to be able to blend it into the other important aspects of my life, whether it’s playing tennis with my family, or going for a run. Exercise has definitely helped me at work and play, by giving me the energy and good health to more fully engage in and enjoy whatever life offers.”

In encouraging others to get moving more often, he suggests, “Figure out how to add more steps to your day in a fashion that you enjoy, be it a stationary bike in front of the TV, blasting music through your earphones at the gym, or going walking with a loved one. What works to keep me disciplined and motivated is resolving each week to reach my personal fitness goal,” he says.

So, whether you or your employees have set your sights on becoming self-made millionaires or whether you just want to become more focused, capable and successful in your careers – if these results and Tom Corley’s high-flyers are anything to go by, it’s clear that making exercise a part of your daily routine can help get you there.

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