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How to Improve on the 12 Traits You Need to Succeed

Updated: Oct 14, 2020

You already have the traits, but you can maximize them

12 Traits You Need to Be Successful

1) Vision

Successful people are visionaries. They start with an idea of what they want to accomplish, but in the day-to-day battle for survival, that vision gets blurry. It pays to revisit it periodically. Maybe you’re closer than you think. Maybe your idea of accomplishment has changed. You’ve got to know where you’re going to know when you’ve arrived. Think about the next six months. Consider what you want to achieve and how you’re going to do it.

How to get better vision: It’s not by going to the eye doctor. It’s by setting goals and writing them down. Write down your vision of success in as much detail as possible because, as Mark Murphy of Forbes, notes,

Vividly describing your goals in written form is strongly associated with goal success, and people who very vividly describe or picture their goals are anywhere from 1.2 to 1.4 times more likely to successfully accomplish their goals

2) Drive

Energy, enthusiasm, and focus combine into drive: “an innate, biologically determined urge to attain a goal or satisfy a need.” You know those people who constantly strive to achieve, to move forward? The ones who are at the forefront of their profession? They have “drive.”

Improve your inherent drive with these simple techniques:

  • Take action. Don’t sit still. Completing one to two simple tasks per day motivates you to complete others. The more you accomplish, the more you’ll want to do tomorrow.

  • Focus on your accomplishments instead of your never-ending to-do list. Recognize that you are moving ahead. Self-awareness of your progress is a motivator.

  • Start a new, positive habit, and keep it going. The more you do it, the more natural an activity becomes because your brain is cutting new pathways through the forest of neurons, a path that makes it faster and easier to succeed in that activity. Going to the gym? Getting up early to have more time? Public speaking? The more habitually you do it, the easier it gets.

  • Be grateful and generous. Thinking about how much you’ve already accomplished, how much you have, and how to give back spurs you to keep going and enhances your drive.

3) Authenticity

Being authentic means being the “real you,” the unique, interesting, warts-and-all person who is going after what you want and not what other people think you should strive for. To quote Hamlet: “To thine own self be true, and it must follow as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.”

Be more authentic by doing this:

  • Examine your values and beliefs. Be willing to stand up for what you believe.

  • Tell the truth, tactfully.

  • Listen to your “gut.”

  • Don’t put on airs.

  • Do some self-assessment to determine where, when, and why you can’t be authentic. Once you know that, you can face your fears and inhibitions.

4) Persistence

There’s a difference between being discouraged and giving up. Successful people are persistent. They keep going no matter what. They know that the only way to fail is to quit trying. Being persistent doesn’t mean that you never feel down, but it does mean that even when you feel discouraged, you keep trying. One of my favorite quotes is “Nevertheless, she persisted!”

Bolster your persistence:

  • Remind yourself that the only way to fail is to quit trying.

  • Don’t compare yourself to anyone else. You are on your own on the quest to succeed, and each person’s journey is different.

  • Be a problem-solver, not a complainer.

5) Intensity

Make each day count. I once knew a woman with a brain tumor. Her motto was not to live each day as if it were her last but to live each day as if it were her ONLY day. (Changes your perspective entirely, doesn’t it?) Successful entrepreneurs are more likely to be intense than laid-back.

Too much intensity is intimidating and can be self-serving. But if you’re low on the intensity scale, amp it up by making these mental adjustments:

  • Recognize that time is fleeting. You never know how much you have left, so no day should be wasted.

  • Focus on moving forward every day. Continually accomplish simple tasks. Purposely move toward long-term goals

6) Thirst for knowledge

Never stop learning. The more you know, the better you’ll be. Successful people don’t master one skill and quit; they learn more. In the words of Mahatma Gandhi:

“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.”
  • Read all kinds of material whenever you can. When you read something you find interesting, follow it. You never know what fascinating places a tidbit of knowledge will lead you.

  • Network with other people in your field. Find out what they’re working on. Ask questions. You’ll more and have a bigger basin of facts to fish from when you’re looking for ideas.

  • Browse bookstores. Titles and book cover-art may tweak a thought and pull out a creative idea.

  • Research questions. If you’ve always wondered about something, do research. Successful people understand that you can never know enough.

7) Willingness to practice your craft

If you’ve read Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers, you know about the 10,000-hour rule. This theory suggests that “deliberate practice” is needed and that “10,000 hours is the magic number of greatness.” You have to be willing to practice that much. One study has debunked some of what Gladwell says. Turns out, practice creates only a 12% variation in achievement. That doesn’t mean you don’t have to practice. It just means that even with deliberate practice, there may be other factors that influence your success.

  • Create a comfortable environment.

  • Warm up before diving into the main project. If you’re a musician, that might mean doing scales, flexing fingers, or doing breathing exercises. If you’re a writer, you might jot down thoughts, make a sketch, or create an outline. Get geared up for the project ahead.

  • Locate your problem area and then address that specific issue. Figure out possible solutions and try each one. Once you find a good alternative, put it into practice. Literally.

8) Patience

When I was a little girl, my mother assigned a special word to each of her three daughters. Mine was “patience.” Even at a young age, I wanted it NOW, and I got mad when I didn’t get it. Success does not usually come overnight. Be in it for the long-haul, moving step by step to your goal.

How to develop patience:

  • Don’t expect instant gratification. Most “success” comes from building a body of work, not a single project. Think of Thomas Edison. William Shakespeare. Ben Franklin.

  • Set realistic goals and ignore stories about instant successes or overnight millionaires.

  • Understand that it’s okay to be uncomfortable. Anger, irritation, frustration, and pain are temporary conditions and push us toward finding solutions.

9) Productivity

To achieve success, you have to keep coming up with new ideas and new projects over and over.

“Successful people engage in project after project after project. They don’t just count their winnings; they buy more lottery tickets. They keep producing.”

Cultivate your productivity with these techniques:

Changing tasks more than 10 times a day drops your IQ an average of 10 points.”

10) Integrity

Ever known a fervent, talented, creative person who just can’t meet deadlines or follow through with specific instructions? Don’t be one of those. Build trust with your clients. Say what you’re going to do, then do it. When people can count on your word, they believe in your work.

Showcase your integrity:

  • Don’t miss deadlines.

  • Follow instructions.

  • Be honest.

  • Exemplify the principles of the best-in-the-business industry gurus. Network, read, listen to podcasts, and assimilate the best practices.

11) Self-Confidence

You have to believe in yourself because if you don’t, no one else will. People with self-confidence are successful because they have improved relationships, more resilience, less fear and anxiety, increased authenticity, and greater motivation.

Gain self-confidence with these techniques:

  • Square your shoulders. Body language demonstrates strength and leadership.

  • Look ’em in the eye. Direct eye contact indicates a lack of fear, willingness to connect, and attentive listening.

  • Visualize yourself standing in front of a crowd and being in complete control. Imagine yourself relaxed, but strong and approachable.

12) Optimism

Optimism and an upbeat approach is a trait of successful people. How many people steeped in negativity make it to the top? Optimistic people believe that every problem has a solution. Even with setbacks, optimists believe that they will make it to the top. Faith in the future works wonders.

  • Accept that there will be disappointments along the way.

  • Put things in perspective. What seems like a huge crisis at the moment may work out to be an advantage in six months. A great way to put things in perspective is to ask yourself “What’s the absolute worst thing that could happen?” You’ll probably realize that even the “worst” thing is not all that bad.

  • Smile. Smile often. It’s scientifically proven that smiling is a mood-boosting, stress-reliever.

A simple smile can trigger the release of neural communication boosting neuropeptides as well as mood-boosting neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin. Think of smiling like a natural anti-depressant.

You’ve already got the traits you need to succeed. Just power them up, rev your motor, and speed your way to success.

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