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Most people look to success stories like Elon Musk, Barrack Obama – and other larger-than-life figures – and ask themselves, “What are the traits of successful people? Do I have some of these traits myself?”
In this article, we'll take a look at some of the best traits successful people carry, and how you might be able to harness these traits for your own success. It’s never too late to believe and achieve!
What Are Traits of Successful People?
Before we get started listing traits, it's important to define what a successful person is and how their traits relate to their success. For the most part, the traits of successful people will include traits that make a person goal-oriented, determined, and driven to accomplish their goals by any means possible.
These traits of successful people highlight their ability to stand out among the competition and accomplish their career or personal endeavors despite drawbacks and obstacles. Traits such as the ones we’re about to uncover will help you get to where you want to be, whether personally or professionally!
Success Trait #1. Strong Character
You might be surprised that one of the first, and most important traits, of a successful person is having a strong character. But why? What is it about having a strong character that makes people so successful?
According to the research organization Populace, cofounded by Harvard Graduate School of Education professor Todd Rose, recent surveys showed that Americans have a widely varied view on what it means to be successful, with every person having their own definition of “success.”
However, across the board, major factors of success include education, relationships, and character. Those people who have a strong character aren't easily swayed by changing trends, moral values, or the opinions of others.
Having a strong character means being grounded in your truth, and thus living a life that you are totally in control of. Perhaps no other personality trait is as important as being rooted in your character and having the ability to stand up for your beliefs, goals, values, and ultimately, your success.
Success Trait #2. Having a Growth Mindset
Studies have shown, time and time again, that people with growth mindsets have better achievement outcomes in terms of accomplishing goals, gaining new skills, and developing positive changes in their life. Having a growth mindset means being able to approach a situation and ask yourself what you can change to keep your goals on track and on course.
For instance, imagine if you saw your first business fail, and you took this as a sign that you simply could not run a business. Of course, you'd be left to wallow in failure and might never have the courage to open up another venture again.
However, people with growth mindsets can look at failures and identify the need for change. Even with successful businesses or projects, that can ask themselves and truly contemplate what, if any, changes can be made to better their business.
It is this ability to accept and embrace change and growth that makes it one of the most vital traits of successful people.
Success Trait #3. Practicing Self-Control
What does self-control mean to you? Does it mean being disciplined and starving yourself even though there's a giant, warm, chocolate chip cookie in front of you?
To psychologist Walter Michel, that's exactly what it means! He is a behavioral scientist that was made famous by his stellar psychological experiment known as the Marshmallow Test. This test, as some might have guessed, involved asking toddlers to withhold their sweet tooth cravings for just a second and ignore a marshmallow sitting in front of their faces.
These children were told that they could have two marshmallows if they decided to hold off on eating the one in front of them, or they could simply eat the one marshmallow now instead of waiting for the second one to arrive.
Some of the toddlers ate the prized delicacy in front of them, while other children waited for a second round. Michel found that these second set of patient children who had exhibited better self-control had better learning and financial outcomes later on in life.
As someone who is on the path toward success, it's important to remember that there will be ups and downs. You will, at some point, face the tough decision of moving forward or holding off until something better comes along.
Whether it's an investment opportunity, dropping out of college, finding a new job, or new home, you might just have something better waiting for you at the end of the rainbow, and all you need to do to reach it is have a bit of patience and control to hold off!
Success Trait #4. True Grit
You might have already heard the phrase, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” This has never been truer than when speaking about successful people and their plight toward a better future for themselves.
It's no secret that being accomplished and starting a successful career is never easy. From putting up with long hours at the office, to taking a pay cut or even starving just to launch your business off the ground, there's no shortage of obstacles successful people will need to face before they make it.
One of the key traits of successful people is having the grit and perseverance to pursue their goals despite these obstacles. It's more than just about determination. Determination can only get you so far, until you're eating from a ramen noodle cup for the 15th day in a row. Having grit and strength to persevere in the midst of your success journey is crucial for the long run.
Success Trait #5. Strong Communication Skills
Did you know that one of the best traits of leaders is having the ability to communicate not just often, but also freely? In addition, communicating expectations clearly is also one of the most important traits of successful people and leaders.
If you've ever been employed by a company or even been a student, you know just how crucial communication is for success. From being able to tell your business partners what you need, to being able to share vital changes and strategies you'd like to see implemented, communication is a vital part of being successful.
Unfortunately, many people think communication can only be used for people already in leadership positions. However, without communication, you won't be able to express your views to potential investors, employees, even your peers. It's never too late to start polishing your communication skills so you can continue to pursue your business or other endeavors with ease.
Success Trait #6. Intrinsically Motivated
For many people that want to be successful, success is a matter of showing off wealth and riches to other people. You might want to be successful only to show off that new Bugatti, or to say that you're the head of a major company and have been promoted to CEO.
While there's nothing wrong with wanting the respect and admiration of others, what is wrong is to rely on this solely for your success. Doing so creates an air of arrogance and is something that can quickly lead to your downfall. For instance, you might be highly successful in your debate team, and might (with the right refining of skills) turn this into a successful career as a lawyer.
But what if everyone in your college thinks you're a “nerd” for being part of the debate team? What if your motivation was external? This scenario repeats itself in many different ways and shows just how vital it is to be intrinsically motivated rather than depend on external factors for motivation.
Being intrinsically motivated means having the inner motivation to succeed and do things you find pleasurable and meaningful. For instance, you might love being in the debate team despite what anyone thinks, leading to a successful career in litigation.
Remember that of all the traits of successful people, being intrinsically motivated is perhaps the easiest to harness and one of the most crucial. It allows you to keep persevering and follow your goals despite what others think, say, or do.
Success Trait #7. Passionate
Similar to being intrinsically motivated, it's also crucial to have a passion and spark for your work. Passion is one of the key traits of successful people, since it allows them to approach their work and never get bored of what they do.
Picture Bill Gates, working toward launching Windows and the PC for every home. Bill Gates is the epitome of passion, as is Steve Jobs for Apple and Warren Buffet for investing.
Having passion can be one of the best motivating factors for successful people in the midst of a challenge. When all others ask, “Why do you do it?” or “What if you fail?”, your passion can help propel you toward success.
If you're struggling with finding the motivation to continue your work, examine your passions for a second. For instance, maybe you're in the middle of a research project for a medical device that can stimulate brain functioning. You might feel underwhelmed and as if this project does nothing for you. But what is the underlying passion?
You might find it's a desire to help people. This passion can then lead you to another career choice, such as being a medical doctor or nurse, and one that can help lead you to success. Thinking about your underlying passion or “Why” and using that to propel you forward is one of the easiest ways to launch a successful business or career.
Success Trait #8. Accountable
Accountability is something that is, unfortunately, all too rare nowadays. Most people and businesses that make a mistake want to shift the blame on to others, despite having played a part.
How can you ever grow and be successful when, instead of learning from your mistakes, you quickly try to ignore and move on from them? And, even worse, how can you rise to higher positions or launch a business successfully when you can't take responsibility for your actions?
It's essential that you are accountable for your mistakes. This means accepting them without question and understanding why they occurred. When you make a mistake, it's important to use it as a learning experience. This can then help you create better decision-making in the future, and help you grow as a successful person or entrepreneur.
While accountability is somewhat difficult to practice, it allows you to become more reliable and dependable due to your ability to accept responsibility for your actions. Being accountable is one of the few traits of successful people that might seem counterintuitive but is vital for your longevity.
Success Trait #9. Self-Aware
When it comes to being successful, another important trait is self-awareness. This means having an understanding and knowledge of yourself, your strengths, and your weaknesses. Knowing where you stand in different areas of life is essential for success, since it allows you to focus on the areas that need improvement and continue to grow as a person.
Consider, for instance, someone who wants to be a social worker. You might have an idealized fantasy of being a social worker, including helping others and uniting families. But what about those cases where you see the ill effects of poverty, crime, and other societal ills? Are you ready to handle this?
Being self-aware means being honest with yourself and knowing where your weaknesses lie. In the case of our social worker, it means knowing that you might struggle with certain areas of your job, and that's okay.
Being aware of your pitfalls, both professionally and personally, is the first step in being successful. It allows you to focus on honing those skills and becoming a more well-rounded and ultimately successful person. Knowing your strengths, weaknesses, passions, and motivations will help drive you forward and make success that much easier.
Success Trait #10. Flexible
The world of business and entrepreneurship can be fast-paced and ever-changing. You have to be ready for anything that comes your way, including failed attempts or unexpected surprises.
For instance, let's say you plan on launching a store opening and have considerable press lined up ready to cover your grand opening. Suddenly, there is an unexpected weather event, a bigger story such as the death of a celebrity, or anything in between.
Are you able to make changes in your plans at the drop of a dime? Or does it take you a while to get adjusted? If you're someone who is constantly lagging behind or finds it hard to veer away from your schedule, you'll need to work on your flexibility if you want to be successful.
Being successful in terms of changing plans, working around different scenarios, and adapting to unexpected surprises is a must-have trait for successful people. The most successful entrepreneurs can adjust quickly and know how to manage their time effectively (even when their schedules face major changes and obstacles) while still meeting their goals.
Success Trait #11. Creative
Being creative doesn't necessarily mean being an artist. There are many different ways to showcase your artistry and creative skills as a successful person. The most successful people have creative solutions for their worst disasters. Think about the scientists in Chernobyl, who successfully contained what could have been a disastrous nuclear fallout with the help of creative solutions.
Being successful is more about finding creative solutions, and less about following the beaten path. Creative thinking and problem-solving is one of the main traits of successful people, and it allows them to see solutions where other people cannot.
From marketing strategies to creative designs that can help drive company growth, being creative enables you to think outside of the box and come up with innovative solutions for your problems.
Success Trait #12. Resilient
Resiliency is often confused with drive or determination. However, it literally means how fast you can recover after a setback and keep going. Unlike drive and determination, which might already be ingrained in your personality, resiliency can be developed. It's not just about how long you persist in the face of adversity, but also how quickly you get back on your feet after a fall.
Successful people know how to pick themselves up and keep going no matter what life throws at them. They know that the more time they waste in self-pity or in anger, the less time they have to devote themselves to the task at hand. They understand that defeats are part of life and that it's their own responsibility to keep moving forward, and to do so as quickly as possible.
Success Trait #13. Optimistic
Finally, being optimistic is an essential trait for success. Having a positive outlook and believing in yourself can help you get through tough times, stay motivated and enjoy the journey. People who are successful don't always expect things to go their way – they recognize that failures can happen if they don’t take risks or push themselves out of their comfort zones.
However, they don’t let those potential failures stop them. Instead, they focus on the positive and plan for success.
By looking at their goals with an optimistic outlook, successful people are better able to move forward even when times are tough and take risks that will lead to bigger rewards in the future. Similar to gratitude, being optimistic allows people to feel encouraged and foster a culture of growth and change, which is essential for any successful business.
Final Thoughts on Traits of Successful People
These traits of successful people are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to success. There are many other traits – such as curiosity, organization, and focus – that will also contribute to your success.
It's up to you to decide which of these traits you already have, and which you can work on, to better improve your chances of a successful and fulfilling life. Success is anyone’s for the taking, but it requires determination and self-discipline.
And since there will likely be a few hurdles along the way, it’s important to take time for self-care, to recharge and regroup. You don’t want to burn out before your flame can burn its brightest!
Finally, if you want to take your goal-setting efforts to the next level, check out this FREE printable worksheet and a step-by-step process that will help you set effective SMART goals.