We all define career success in different ways — some of us are determined to climb the ladder, while others want to forge their own path. No matter what success looks like to you, there are a few factors that are part of most definitions: happiness, satisfaction and recognition.

In order to gain insight into what it takes to sustain a great career, it makes sense to study the habits of those who have transcended mediocrity to become famous for how happy and successful they are.


Though we consider traits important in our executive coaching practice, becoming successful has more to do with practice than innate talent. The well-known saying, “Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration,” is well known for a reason. Habits are behaviors we can all learn. It takes discipline to adopt a new habit, but we can can all get there.

executive coaching chicago 5 habits of people with great careers Learning a habit starts by understanding how much influence our desires have over our actions. Do we want to get in shape enough to get out of bed and go to the gym when the alarm rings, or do we value our sleep more? You know what is more important by whether or not you hit the snooze button. Remember, there is no one-size-fits-all list. While all five of these habits may not be for you, pick a few that fit with your current desires and goals and practice them.

5 executive coaching HABITS to boost your success

  1. Thinking positively: Having a positive outlook on life has wide-ranging benefits, but is especially helpful for those who want to have great careers. Positive thinkers see opportunities rather than failures and can rally their peers more easily. Jeff Bezos, when faced with rather lackluster earnings reports when first launching Amazon, famously said, “It is Day One of the Internet.” His positive attitude still inspires stockholders with confidence.
  2. Being open to criticism: If you are confident enough to listen to criticism without taking it personally, you will have a much easier time in your career. Reacting defensively to criticism means that you could miss valuable insights. Consider Abraham Lincoln, who was so famous for surrounding himself with critics that he assembled a “team of rivals” as his closest advisors. If you feel a critic is incorrect in their assessment of you, ask someone you trust and be open to their response. It’s a lot to ask of someone to be honest, so take their willingness to tell you how they feel as a reflection of the respect they have for you.
  3. chicago coaching executives to practice 5 habits of people with great careersKeeping open time: Scheduling every moment of the day may seem productive, but it exhausts your mental processes. To develop ideas and insights, your brain needs space to think. As we recommend to our executive coaching clients, try to cut back on non-essential meetings (and think about your definition of essential) in order to give yourself some headspace. Bill Gates and Warren Buffet practice the habit of keeping their calendars as empty as possible so that they can focus on what is important.
  4. Learning constantly: Never stop growing. Whether this means taking a class or learning new software at work, you can expand your mind in small ways all the time. And your growth doesn’t have to be related to work. Being curious about the world around you can always offer new insights regarding what you are doing in your career. Steve Jobs, a stickler for design, learned the basics in a calligraphy class he audited during college.
  5. Practicing forgiveness: When you hold grudges and carry resentment, you tie up valuable emotional and mental resources. Forgiving can be difficult, but it is one of the most liberating habits you can practice. Though not many CEOs talk about this, as executive coaches, we believe forgiveness is of paramount importance; letting go of what you feel others have done to you frees up time and space to focus on being proactive.


Think of a habit that you have mastered. It might be drinking eight glasses of water a day or going to the gym three times a week. How did you get there? Chances are, it was through a dedication to small steps. Set small goals to accomplish: Try to keep one hour per week on your calendar wide open — no matter what, or strive to read one non-fiction book a quarter to learn about an interesting topic outside of your industry, as a couple of examples. With work and dedication, you can establish these habits and reap their powerful rewards.

What habits do you think are crucial for those who want to have great careers?