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3 Ways to Create Successful Habits Time to stop lamenting what you "should" have done.

By Stacey Hanke

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Luis Alvarez | Getty Images

"I should lose some weight."

"I should spend time focusing on that project."

"I should be able to speak and have others want to listen."

How much time do you spend "should"-ing your way through life? It's easy to internalize goals and dreams, but following through is often unattainable. Why? We want more from our lives, our careers and our influence, but many fall short of our goals. It's not that we don't truly want to reach them, but rather that we aren't willing to raise our standards enough to create real, lasting change.

When we commit to raising our standards, we begin to expect more from ourselves. We demand better outcomes and become willing to do the hard work. By raising our expectations, we form new habits. When we turn our "should" into "must," and our "maybe" into "absolute," real change occurs. Accountability requires persistent follow-through, ultimately creating new habits. It goes beyond talk and pushes us into action.

This change isn't easy. Old habits die hard, and new habits are even harder to form. When we finally expect more from ourselves, we commit to hard work that leads to permanent habits. Those habits cut through the noise, become noticed and command respect. Those habits generate influence and create credibility among those who surround you.

Any professional athlete will tell you that skill isn't enough. There are plenty of athletes with incredible abilities, but without the dedication to creating new and improved habits through daily practice and accountability, skill isn't enough. They will testify that success comes from the ongoing desire for better habits, coupled with daily practice and execution that create momentum.

Related: 8 Habits of Highly Effective Entrepreneurs

I work with many leaders who believe the skills needed to achieve success and influence today are all that's required to achieve success in the future. They reach out to me in confusion — desperation even — because they don't have the credibility among peers, decision-makers or even their team to rise higher. Their skills as good communicators are the very things holding them back from creating new habits necessary to become great communicators. The higher they rise, the higher everyone else's expectations. The only difference is that they fail to raise their standards and get real with what needs to be changed.

Imagine what would change in your life if you held yourself to a higher standard, demanded more from your work and remained accountable to the efforts needed to create new habits. Here are three ways to begin changing your momentum to create better success.

1. Adjust your attitude

Saying, "I should go to the gym" won't get the weight off. Saying, "I must go to the gym" will. Saying, "I should figure out why no one acts on my work-related ideas" won't get you that promotion. Saying, "I must discover what I lack in communication skills" will.

Changing your mindset begins with your attitude. Change occurs the moment you stop hoping for it and start taking steps to make it a reality. Take responsibility for where you are versus where you want to be. Decide what needs to change and stop blaming others for your lack of progress. Ownership is about attitude. Attitude changes action.

2. Own your mistakes

You may lack respect in the workplace because you are always late. Or perhaps it's because you are always distracted. Maybe you lack influence because you don't consistently follow through on commitments, or perhaps you lack the communication skills needed to inspire others to act.

It's critical to identify and own your mistakes so you have a clear idea of what needs changing. Seek feedback from others you trust or get guidance from a coach or mentor. Either way, it's essential to hear their input and own it. Only then will you be open to the changes necessary to create new habits.

3. It's a marathon, not a sprint

We've long been led to believe that new habits form in 21 days. In reality, that inaccurate fact came from a medical study in which a plastic surgeon determined it takes a minimum of 21 days for patients to comprehend their physical changes after undergoing plastic surgery. Did you hear that? A minimum of 21 days. Over the years, we have heard the short and condensed version of this so many times that we believe 21 days is all that it takes. Wrong.

Realistically speaking, it takes 66 days for habits to become second nature, becoming hardwired into our behavior. Habits form from the consistent execution of the same action. Creating new habits requires a steadfast commitment to practice.

Related: 28 Best Habits to Have in Business

When you raise your standards and expect more from yourself, your attitude shifts. Blame becomes ownership, which motivates you to change. Influence and respect leads to pay raises and promotions. If you want more for yourself and your career, raise your bar. Change your attitude and recognize that skill alone isn't enough. Own your current habits and understand where improvements are needed. Commit to change by showing up and doing the hard work each day. Only then will you earn the influence necessary to experience real success.

Stacey Hanke

CEO of Stacey Hanke Inc.

Stacey Hanke is author of "Influence Redefined…Be the Leader You Were Meant to Be, Monday to Monday." She is the founder of Stacey Hanke Inc. and has presented to Coca-Cola, FedEx, Nationwide, Fannie Mae and McDonald’s. She has been featured on The New York Times, Forbes and SmartMoney.

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