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Using the Winning Habits of Top Athletes to Fuel Your Success Developing a daily routine is a key to athletic success and it can also help your business.

By Lisa Evans Edited by Dan Bova

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You may not think competitive athletes have anything in common with entrepreneurs, but it turns out the same strategies top athletes use to win are the same strategies used to win in business. Dr. Jason Selk helped the St. Louis Cardinals win two World Series while serving as director of mental training. His new book, Organize Tomorrow Today. applies those same winning strategies he used with athletes to the business world.

Ritualize Your Habits

Selk says the key to success is to ritualize winning habits. "Ritualizing is doing the same habit at the same time each day," says Selk. Baseball players, he says, will often do their strength training and conditioning program at the same time every day. "They know at 8:30 this is what they do. They don't have to think about what time they have to wake up, what they will eat, they don't think about it because they've already thought it through once and developed the plan," he says.

Developing a daily routine can also help your business. If you know your ritual is to pick up the phone at 9am to make your first sales call, you know what time you will need to get to the office in order to make that happen. Ritualizing takes away the energy required to make those decisions every day, giving you more energy for other important things.

Related: 10 Powerful Habits That Will Make You a Millionaire

How to Form Your Key Habits

Selk identifies three steps of habit formation: the honeymoon phase, the fight-thru phase and the "in the groove" phase. During the "honeymoon phase", which typically follows a motivational event, the habit is easy to do. You're so inspired to make three sales calls a day, it's actually fun to do.

The second phase, however, is not so much fun. The "fight-thru" phase happens when doing the habit becomes hard. Making those calls now feels like a challenge you want to sweep under the rug and forget about. In order to continue the habit, though, Selk says you need to win these "fight-thrus". Some of the ways to win are to:

Ritualize: Do these habits at the same time every day.

Add emotion: Ask yourself how you will feel if you win the fight-thru and how you will feel if you lose it. "Emotion promotes action," says Selk. Ask yourself how you will feel in the next year or five years if you win these fight-thrus. What will your life look like if you continue to make those three sales calls a day? What will your life or your business look like if you stop making those calls?

Prioritize habits: "One of the most under-rated skills among the highly successful is the ability to prioritize," says Selk. The most successful individuals and athletes, he says, don't always get everything on their to-do-list done, but they get the most important thing done.

Related: The 7 Seemingly Innocent Habits Holding You Back From Success

Start the Day Early: In order to get the most important priorities done first, Selk says, the most successful individuals adopt the approach of "winning the day early". If you identify the most important activity on your to-do-list and you get that one thing done as early as possible, you'll be able to ensure you don't get caught up in other distractions. "The later in the day, the more distractions and the less energy you have," says Selk.

If you win these fight-thrus, Selk says, you'll be in the third phase of habit formation which he calls "in the groove". This is the best position to be in – where the habit becomes second nature, something you do every day without really thinking about it.

Taking Habits Off Course

Life is great when you're "in the groove", but Selk says there are a number of things that can push you back to being back in the fight. Discouragement occurs when you're doing the habit but aren't seeing the results. Disruptions, such as vacations or illnesses, that cause a break in the normal routine can also throw you back into the "fight-thru" phase. Entrepreneurs will often fall off the wagon thanks to the "seduction of success.". This happens when the habit has been working so well, you convince yourself that you don't need to do it anymore. You've been making three sales calls a day for three months and business is booming. You think you can stop the habit now, but three months later, your business slows down because you didn't realize the business you got last month was a result of calls you made two months prior. Time to start those winning habits all over again and get back on track!

Related: 7 Destructive Characteristics Entrepreneurs Should Shed in Order to Move Up

Lisa Evans is a health and lifestyle freelance journalist from Toronto.

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