I study highly successful people for a living. Here are 11 little habits they practice every day

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We often celebrate gifted kids in school, natural athletes in sports, and child prodigies in music. But you don't have to be a wunderkind to achieve success.

As an organizational psychologist, I've spent much of my career studying the forces that fuel our progress. I've found that the learning process isn't finished when we acquire knowledge. It's complete when we consistently apply that knowledge.

Here are 11 little life changes that highly successful people practice every day:

1. They seek discomfort.

Instead of just striving to learn, aim to feel uncomfortable. Pursuing discomfort sets you on a faster path to growth. If you want to get it right, it has to feel wrong first.

2. They set a mistake budget.

To encourage trial and error, set a goal for the minimum number of mistakes you want to make per day or per week. When you expect to stumble, you ruminate about it less — and improve more.

3. They ask for advice, not feedback.

Feedback is backward-looking — it leads people to criticize you or cheer for you. Advice is forward-looking — it leads people to coach you.

You can get your critics and cheerleaders to act more like coaches by asking a simple question: "What's one thing I can do better next time?"

4. They figure out which sources to trust.

Decide what information is worth absorbing — and which should be filtered out. Listen to the coaches who have relevant expertise (credibility), know you well (familiarity), and want what's best for you (care).

5. They strive for excellence, not perfection.

Progress comes from maintaining high standards, not eliminating every flaw. Identify some shortcomings that you can accept. Consider where you truly need the best and where you can settle for good enough.

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At the end of the day, ask yourself: Did you make yourself better? Did you make someone else better?

6. They are their own last judge.

It's better to disappoint others than to disappoint yourself. Before you release something into the world, assess whether it represents you well. If this was the only work people saw of yours, would you be proud of it?

7. They turn the daily grind into a source of daily joy.

To maintain harmonious passion, design practice around deliberate play. Set up fun skill-building challenges — like Steph Curry trying to score 21 points in a minute, or medical residents honing their nonverbal communication skills by using nonsense words in improv comedy games.

8. When they're stuck, they back up to move forward.

When you hit a dead-end, it might be time to turn around and find a new path. It feels like regressing, but it's often the only way to find a route to progress.

9. They teach what they want to learn.

The best way to learn something is to teach it. You understand it better after you explain it — and you remember it better after you take the time to recall it. You can do this in groups, with each member teaching a distinct skill or slice of information.

10. They open doors for people who are underrated and overlooked.

Create systems that invest in and create opportunities for all — not just gifted students or high-potential employees. A good system gives underdogs and late bloomers the chance to show how far they've come.

11. They engage in mental time travel. 

When you're struggling to appreciate your progress, consider how your past self would view your current achievements. If you knew five years ago what you'd accomplish now, how proud would you have been?

Adam Grant is an organizational psychologist and professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He is also the bestselling author of "Think Again," "Give and Take," "Originals," "Option B" and "Power Moves." Adam received his B.A. from Harvard University and his Ph.D. from the University of Michigan.

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