There are many mental habits that successful people possess. The most important of these are as follows:
Thomas Edison is counted as the fourth most prolific inventor in human history. He had 1093 America patents registered in his name, as well as numerous patents registered in the United Kingdom, France, and Britain. He used to work eighteen hours a day, and he used to say: “Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.”
However, his wife used to complain: “He has no love life.”
From reading the biographies of successful people from the past and present, I have found that they all share the qualities of patience and perseverance. Success requires fortitude. Successful people are relentless and they keep trying. The good thing is that fortitude is a quality that can be learned and strengthened through practice.
Do not fear. Success does not mean you cannot have a love life, as was the case with Thomas Edison. You can have both.
A friend of mine presented to me an idea he had with great enthusiasm. He acted as if his idea were perfect. After discussing it for awhile, his enthusiasm became more moderate and he was able to consider his idea from a new vantage point. This highlights an important mental habit of successful people: the ability to engage in careful deliberation in dealing with facts and possibilities. This entails the tasks of scrutinizing and re-considering your efforts through trial-and error and an openness to engaging in frank and earnest discussions.
An average person has fifty to sixty thousand original thoughts each day. This means an average of one new thought every second in the course of a typical sixteen-hour day. What do you retain from these thoughts and what do you discard?
3. Listening Skills
When a group of people are having a discussion, it often seems like each participant comes from a different planet with an unbridgeable distance between them. Students spend 55% of their time listening. However, listening skills are rarely taught at school. People need to learn how to listen critically and think actively. Passive listening is not enough. Listening with understanding is the beginning of wisdom. A listener needs to be able to draw forth and examine the ideas embedded in the speaker’s words. This is best accomplished in an atmosphere where the listener shows interest in what the speaker is saying and wins the speaker’s friendship.
A man realized after a very long time that there are many routes he can take to reach his destination. Some routes were quicker, others more scenic, and other safer. Even then, it did not occur to him that there were even more routes that he was still ignorant of. Intellectual flexibility is one of the most difficult mental habits to develop. This is because it demands dealing with things in new and untried ways. It means changing the very way you think to come up with alternatives.
5. Abstract Thinking
Allah says: “So I swear by what you see, and what you do not see.” [Sūrah al-Hāqqah: 38-39]
He also says: “And you have been given of knowledge is but little.” [Sūrah al-Isrā’: 85]
Did you ever ask yourself one day why you do something and not something else? Did you think about the effect that what you do has on others? Does it make them happy? Sad? Doubtful about you?
Abstract thinking gives you the ability to know the limits of your knowledge. It helps you to realize the consequences and effects your actions have on others so you can act to greater advantage.
6. Attention to Detail
An old saying goes: if you make a mistake and don’t fix it, then you’ve made two mistakes. We should have known since we were small that haste causes us to make mistakes and repeat them. Precision and attention to detail are important. When we make a mistake, we often like to save face by refusing to admit it and by concocting elaborate excuses. However, this does not constitute attention to detail. That requires critical thinking and patience. Attention to detail takes time.
Why do fingernails grow faster than toenails? Why do wars rage around the globe? What is more important than the answer to these questions is the ability to ask them and not just take everything at face value. Ibn `Abbās was praised for being: “a young man with a rational heart and a questioning tongue.”
Questioning is a mental skill, more than it is a verbal one. It is the mind’s receptivity to events large and small so that the reasons behind them become an issue that needs to be resolved. Do not belittle any question. It was Newton’s questioning that led him to discover the law of gravity.
8. Learning from Experience
We can stumble over a bump in the road, but we should never stumble over the same bump a second time. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “A believer is not stung from the same hole twice.” [Sahīh al-Bukhārī]
Intelligent people learn from experience, while foolish people repeat their mistakes. We need to learn how to apply our past knowledge to the present situation by deriving transferrable lessons from what happens to us. No two situations are exactly the same, but intelligent people can determine which similarities to past events are critical and therefore avoid a lot of mistakes.
9. Being Observant
Are you one of those people who goes through life oblivious to the world around you with its sights, sounds, and textures? Do you like to get a closer look at things and touch them with your own hands, or do you like to observe things from a distance? We use our senses to increase our knowledge. Being observant is a mental habit we need to develop. We need to use our senses effectively and increase our awareness of the surrounding environment. Instagram can be used as a way to develop this habit.
Whether artistic or technological, creativity begins as a mental image. Then it gets manifested as an invention or work of art. Imagine yourself as a group leader, teacher, or president. What will you do? This is why the prophet asked: “Surāqah, what would you do if you wore Caesar’s robes?” [Sunan al-Bayhaqī] Being able to imagine things and reorganize your thought in creative ways is an important mental habit.