9 Defining Characteristics of Successful People

Characteristics of Successful People

What is it that separates an “average” person who works hard to earn an “average” income, to the super successful who makes millions? Is it upbringing? Circumstances? Opportunity? Network? Personality? Drive? Or is it a mix of the above? Could achieving success perhaps involve more than we might think it does? Does the topic of success seem complicated, confusing, and sometimes overwhelming? It does for many people. While there are many facets of success, here we unpack the aspect of Character and reveal 9 of the most defining characteristics of successful people.

Understanding Character

Although Character has been defined many times in many ways throughout the course of history, the educational nonprofit CITRS (an acronym for Character, Integrity, Trust, Relationships, and Success) really hits the nail on the head with a definition that is both pithy and multifaceted.

“Character,” according to CITRS, “is a pattern of behavior, thoughts, and feelings based on universal principles, moral strength, and integrity — plus the guts to live by those principles every day.” It is the reference to “guts” and “principles” that really sets CITRS’s definition apart. Why? Because guts and principles are essential ingredients to a happy and fulfilling life.

The Link Between Character and Success

CITRS goes on to call character, “the most valuable thing you have” and a “line you never cross.” Character isn’t something that you possess from birth, nor is it something that is easy to acquire. But those who are willing to put in the hard work to build character will reap untold benefits. As CITRS puts it, “character in life is what makes people believe in you and is essential both for individual success and for our society to function successfully.”

Like the term “character,” the term “success” can be difficult to define. This is simply because the very definition of “success” is different for everyone. Thus, it begs the question: What does success mean to you? In an article for Inc., Delphi and founder, CEO Thomas M Koulopoulos acknowledges that “we all have our own definition of success.” But whether you value monetary wealth or other objectives (personal freedom, the ability to help others, etc.), Mr. Koulopoulos has identified a core set of character traits that are common to all successful people.

The Defining Characteristics of Successful People

Forbes contributor Dan Schawbel agrees that most successful people tend to exhibit similar traits. After interviewing more than 1,200 public figures and industry leaders (ranging from politicians and business leaders to authors, celebrities, and even an astronaut), Mr. Schawbel found that, no matter how significantly their success stories may differ, they all shared the following characteristics:

  1. Do more than what’s asked of them.
  2. Set realistic and attainable goals.
  3. Recognize that they make their own luck.
  4. Are willing to fail in order to eventually succeed.
  5. Take accountability for themselves and their actions.
  6. Can communicate their stories in an effective manner.
  7. Aren’t afraid to ask questions and are always eager to learn.
  8. Venture outside their “comfort zone” when necessary.
  9. Have a desire to contribute and give back.

Mr. Schawbel also cites a common tendency to embrace and engender change. Successful people are always making adjustments to capitalize on constantly changing markets and professional environments. Related to this, successful people tend to value each moment in every evolving project or plan. Focusing on building sustainable careers through a combination of hard work, risk evaluation, and raw creativity, success figures are generally more excited about the journey than the destination.

Other Defining Characteristics

As a businessman, Mr. Koulopoulos takes a slightly more practical look at the characteristics of the successful people he has worked with. At the top of his list is a passionate, competitive spirit and a relentless need to win. However, he balances this ruthless drive to win with a capacity to let go of unsuccessful projects and a genuine gratitude towards individuals who have offered support and assistance. Other characteristics of successful people, according to Mr. Koulopoulos, include:

  • A hunger for improvement.
  • Obsessive attention to detail.
  • Maintaining a record of accomplishments.
  • An exceptional ability to network.
  • A strong belief in customer advocacy.
  • Keeping a cool head under pressure.
  • Striving for authenticity and trustworthiness.

See alsoPersonality vs. Character: Are they Really that Different?


Character is Yours to Shape

Now that you have learned some of the key characteristics of successful people, you may recognize some of these same characteristics in yourself. Of course, nobody is born with all the traits they need to truly succeed in life, but that’s perfectly okay! With a little determination and a plan, you too can develop these traits by building your Character. Want to learn how to do just that? Then check out our article on how to build character and strengthen your image. Whatever you choose to do next, I encourage you to use the characteristics we’ve discussed here that makes sense to you to get you moving in the right direction.