A lot of people seem to turn to the stock market as much for entertainment as way to make money. But smart investors know that you don't have to have an exciting ride in order to get rich -- and often, the better road to riches is one where you can just set the cruise control, sit back, and enjoy a nice smooth ride.

Hitting the lottery
The slow-but-steady philosophy isn't one you hear much about, though. Investing for the long haul is a tough thing to wrap your mind around, especially when you get daily distractions with plenty of news affecting hundreds of companies. Even here at the Fool, we track stocks that move up or down by 10% or more in a single day. We feel that those stocks tend to be the ones tied to newsmaking events that sometimes have implications for your long-term investing strategy, but many people follow them in the hopes of making a quick score.

A lot of the time, though, the stocks that end up getting the most attention don't actually make a huge amount of progress over the long run. For instance, Sirius XM Radio (Nasdaq: SIRI) has seen huge gains over the past two years, as the company survived near-bankruptcy to build on its position as the pioneer in satellite radio, luring new subscribers and forging partnerships with car companies to keep that subscriber flow coming. It may be a reasonable buy now, but long-term shareholders -- those who've held the stock for years -- have largely seen losses from the company. The stock still trades at less than half of its first-day closing price of $4.63 in September 1994.

Staying in the shadows
In contrast, not every strongly performing stock demands a place in the limelight. Plenty of businesses are virtually unknown among ordinary investors, but that doesn't mean they haven't been successful. By putting together decades of consistent results with reasonable growth, companies can reward their shareholders without necessarily getting a lot of attention.

Perhaps the best example comes from dividend stocks. Sure, right now, most dividend investors gravitate toward high-yielding powerhouse stocks like mortgage REIT Annaly Capital (NYSE: NLY) and Cheniere Energy Partners (AMEX: CQP). By paying off shareholders now, they provide the immediate gratification that so many investors want. Yet the same factors that have driven their short-term success -- interest rates in the case of Annaly and energy demand for Cheniere -- could easily reverse themselves in the future, making their long-term prospects a lot less certain.

By contrast, you can find companies that have managed not only to be successful but to increase their payouts to shareholders for 50 years. Think about it: That's an eternity in the business world, with these stocks having survived through multiple crises and bear markets to emerge stronger. Here are six of the 10 stocks with the longest current streaks of raising their dividend annually:

Stock

Dividend Yield

Consecutive Dividend Increases

Diebold 3.4% 58 years
American States Water 3.3% 57 years
Genuine Parts (NYSE: GPC) 3.2% 55 years
Procter & Gamble (NYSE: PG) 3.1% 55 years
Emerson Electric (NYSE: EMR) 2.6% 54 years
3M (NYSE: MMM) 2.3% 53 years

Sources: DriP Investing Resource Center, Yahoo! Finance.

Most people have heard of Procter & Gamble's consumer products and Post-It maker 3M. But with the others -- ranging from a business equipment maker and a water utility to an auto parts manufacturer and an electrical equipment producer -- their long-term success has gone almost unnoticed by many.

Moreover, not all of these stocks have the super-high current yields that impatient investors want. But even without a big payout pushing them forward, their returns over the decades have been solid, with all but Diebold easily beating the 10% average annual return mark since 1991 (and Diebold weighing in at 9.8%).

Think ahead
Whether it's high-yield dividend wonders or high-growth phenom stocks, plenty of investors gravitate to the most exciting parts of the market. If what's truly most important to you is total return, though, don't shortchange their less glamorous counterparts. Often, boring stocks will be the ones that best get the job done for your portfolio.

To get some more great ideas for stocks that get the job done, click here to see 13 dividend stocks worth buying today. It's absolutely free.

Fool contributor Dan Caplinger thinks boring is beautiful. He doesn't own shares of the companies mentioned in this article. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended Emerson Electric, 3M, and Procter & Gamble. The Motley Fool owns shares of Annaly Capital Management. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Fool's disclosure policy is as boring as it ought to be.