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Strategic Discipline Blog

Developing The Success Habit – Your One Thing

Posted by Douglas A Wick on Mon, Jan 4, 2016

“People do not decide their futures, they decide their habits and their habits decide their futures.” —F. M. Alexander

As a Gazelles business coach I’ve personally seen this quote played out over and over with my customers.   When our Positioning Systems customers develop Strategic Discipline it becomes a habit.  These habits breed success.  Choosing your One Thing each year and quarter provides a focus that other businesses, who fail to recognize its power, simply can’t duplicate.  An executive team, meeting every week using  Strategic Discipline's weekly meeting agenda, establishes a success habit.  When this fundamental tool is cascaded throughout the organization it Harnesses the Most Powerful Forces in the Universe: Focus and Compounding.  It’s almost impossible to get out of the way of being successful. 

The_One_Thing_-_Extraordinary_Results-1We’re journeying through The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results by Gary Keller, Jay Papasan.  Why?  Because The One Thing is a fundamental principle we teach in the Positioning Systems Strategic Discipline and in Verne Harnish’s Scaling Up and Rockefeller Habits books. 

Getting extraordinary results, Keller states, is all about creating the domino effect in your life. It starts with The One Thing.  Like toppling dominos, your One Thing sets off a chain reaction of events leading to your ultimate objective.

The key is doing this over time. Success is built sequentially. It’s one thing at a time.

It requires creating a habit of using the right question, to build a sequence of events, to lead you to success.

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” Aristotle

Habits can be hard to break and hard to create.  But, we are unknowingly acquiring new ones all the time.  When we start and continue a way of thinking, or a way of acting, over a long enough period of time, presto, we’ve created a new habit. The choice we face is whether or not we want to form habits to get us what we want from life.  If we do, then the Focusing Question is the most powerful success habit we can have.

In this chapter Keller suggests asking the Focusing Question in every element of your life.  For example:

FOR MY SPIRITUAL LIFE... What’s the ONE Thing I can do to help others... ?  What’s the ONE Thing I can do to improve my relationship with God... ?

FOR MY PHYSICAL HEALTH... What’s the ONE Thing I can do to achieve my diet goals... ?  The_One_Thing_My_Life_and_the_areas_that_matter_most_in_itWhat’s the ONE Thing I can do to ensure that I exercise... ?  What’s the ONE Thing I can do to relieve my stress... ?

FOR MY PERSONAL LIFE... What’s the ONE Thing I can do to improve my skill at ________... ?  What’s the ONE Thing I can do to find time for myself... ?

FOR MY KEY RELATIONSHIPS... What’s the ONE Thing I can do to improve my relationship with my spouse/partner... ?  What’s the ONE Thing I can do to improve my children’s school performance... ?  What’s the ONE Thing I can do to show my appreciation to my parents... ?  What’s the ONE Thing I can do to make my family stronger... ?

FOR MY JOB... What’s the ONE Thing I can do to ensure that I hit my goals... ?  What’s the ONE Thing I can do to improve my skills... ?  What’s the ONE Thing I can do to help my team succeed... ?  What’s the ONE Thing I can do to further my career... ?

You get the idea.  What area of your life do you wish to change?  Which aspect of your life would you like to impact and become better than you ever thought possible?  It requires developing a habit.  The first habit to develop: ask the focusing question on that aspect of your life that you’d most like to see dramatic improvement in 2016.  Then set your dominos up and get ready to achieve brilliant success. 


Here are Keller’s Big Ideas from this chapter.  How do you make The ONE Thing part of your daily routine?  How do you make it strong enough to get extraordinary results at work and in the other areas of your life?  Here’s a starter list drawn from our experience and our work with others.

  1. Understand and believe it. The first step is to understand the concept of The ONE Thing, then to believe that it can make a difference in your life. If you don’t understand and believe, you won’t take action.
  2. Use it. Ask yourself the Focusing Question. Start each day by asking, “What’s the ONE Thing I can do today for [whatever you want] such that by doing it everything else will be easier or even unnecessary?”  When you do this, your direction will become clear. Your work will be more productive and your personal life more rewarding.
  3. Make it a habit. When you make asking the Focusing Question a habit, you fully engage its power to get the extraordinary results you want. It’s a difference maker. Research says this will take about 66 days. Whether it takes you a few weeks or a few months, stick with it until it becomes your routine. If you’re not serious about learning the Success Habit, you’re not serious about getting extraordinary results.
  4. Leverage reminders. Set up ways to remind yourself to use the Focusing Question. One of the best ways to do this is to put up a sign at work that says, “Until my ONE Thing is done—everything else is a distraction.” We designed the back cover of this book to be a trigger —set it on the corner of your desk so that it’s the first thing you see when you get to work. Use notes, screen savers, and calendar cues to keep making the connection between the Success Habit and the results you seek. Put up reminders like, “The ONE Thing = Extraordinary Results” or “The Success Habit Will Get Me to My Goal.”
  5. Recruit support. Research shows that those around you can influence you tremendously. Starting a success support group with some of your work colleagues can help inspire all of you to practice the Success Habit every day. Get your family involved. Share your ONE Thing. Get them on board. Use the Focusing Question around them to show them how the Success Habit can make a difference in their school work, their personal achievements, or any other part of their lives.

If we know anything at all, we know that 2016 will be strewn with challenges.  Obstacles and detours can derail our best efforts to create positive habits.  How can we achieve success despite the many tests we will be confronted with in the year ahead?  We’ll explore this through a story of a tiny creature which only becomes its true magnificent self through struggle. What you can learn from this?

Topics: Strategic Discipline, One Thing, habits, The Power of Habit

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Certified Gazelles Coach

Doug Wick, President

Positioning Systems


The Strategic Discipline Blog focuses on midsize business owners with a ravenous appetite to improve his or her leadership skills and business results.

Our 3 disciplines include:

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- Meeting Rhythms

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