The top 10 personality traits that predict success

Despite what you might think, success is less about intelligence, luck, and connections, and more about perseverance, consistency, and hard work.

Plenty of personality traits predict success, and in this article, I’m going to go through the top 10.

Let’s take a look.

1. Optimism: The Power of Positive Thinking

“Positive thinking will let you do everything better than negative thinking will.” – Zig Ziglar

Optimism is the foundation of courage.

It gives us the confidence and motivation to take action and preserve even in the face of challenges and setbacks.

This is why successful people aren’t easily discouraged. They keep trying and learning from their failures which sets them up for success

It helps them see the potential in themselves and in the opportunities that come their way.

The bottom line is this: 

Without optimism, we are more likely to give up when things get difficult, which prevents us from achieving our goals.

In fact:

study found that students that were optimistic achieved higher scores than those who were pessimistic.

Now let me be clear:

Optimism doesn’t mean you ignore reality. 

Being optimistic means you approach hardship in a more productive way.

You don’t waste time dwelling on the negative.

Instead, you look to what you can learn from negative situations and how they can help you in the future.

This leads us to our next point…

2. Ability to Embrace Failure: Turning Setbacks into Stepping Stones

On everyone’s journey to success, failure is inevitable. You can’t avoid it.

But successful people embrace failure and use it as a learning opportunity.

They don’t see it as a setback. Instead, they understand that every failure is a stepping stone to success.


Embracing failure can also help build resilience and grit.

If you’re not easily discouraged by setbacks, you’re less likely to give up when things don’t go as planned.

This willingness to stick at it is also what’s called the “growth mindset”.

According to Dweck in her book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, there are two basic types of people in this world, those with a fixed mindset and those with a growth mindset.

The category that you fall into can have drastic effects on the course of success you will experience in your life.

“When people are in a fixed mindset they believe their basic qualities, their talents, abilities, intelligence are just fixed traits, they have a certain amount and that’s it. When they’re in this mindset they often become concerned with how much they have. “If I do this will I look smart? Will I feel smart? Will people think I’m talented or not?”

“When people are in a growth mindset, they look at their talent and abilities as things that can be developed through hard work, good strategies, or help and input from others. They’re more willing to jump in, take a challenge, and roll with the punches because they’re not seeing everything as reflecting on their deep permanent ability.”

3. Proactive, not Reactive: Taking Control of Your Destiny

Some of us are so reactive in life that we never actually create progress.

We only act in response to change, rather than taking action to make a change.

The most successful and productive people don’t “merely react”. They focus on making things happen.

You can’t wait around for good things to magically happen. You need to take action. Barack Obama said it best:

“The best way to not feel hopeless is to get up and do something. Don’t wait for good things to happen to you. If you go out and make some good things happen, you will fill the world with hope, you will fill yourself with hope.”

A successful person creates a plan and understands what tasks will move the needle forward and they focus exclusively on them.

A successful person knows that most of us get 80% of results from 20% of the work we do.

This is why they figure out what tasks actually matter and they prioritize them.

They’re one-eyed and focused on achieving progress rather than treading water.

4. Discipline: The Key to Consistent Progress

Discipline is an underrated trait that is crucial for success.

Discipline enables us to stay focused and to consistently take action toward our goals.

Without discipline, it’s easy to get sidetracked or lose motivation.

This is also an important trait in today’s modern world. 

We live in an interruption-based culture that can be really damaging to productivity. N

Notifications from electronic devices only add to the distractions.

But distraction and multitasking can hurt your performance and affect your discipline. 

To be productive and achieve your goals, you simply must get rid of distractions.

American poet Maya Angelou had a routine that she followed in order to get as much focused work done as she can.

After waking up at 5:30 AM and having her morning coffee, she locks herself in a small hotel room from 7 AM onwards to work.

The only things she would bring were a bible, a dictionary, a deck of cards, and a bottle of sherry.

In those hours spent alone, she wrote with all her energy.

She was serious about her work, which was why she did all she could to avoid any distractions.

Being shut out from the world and able to focus helped her maintain a level of productivity that would make her one of the most iconic authors in American literature.

Sunday Adelaja in How To Become Great Through Time Conversion affirmed that you must understand the value of spending time without distractions:

“You must understand that your creativity comes alive when you spend time alone focusing on your projects without distractions…When you understand the value of time, the resource and the wealth of time, you will be running away from the crowd, you will be running away from distractions.”

5. Intrinsic Motivation: Finding Fulfillment and Purpose in What You Do

To remain disciplined and focused, you need to be intrinsically driven.

What does this mean?

This means being motivated by internal factors or rewards rather than by external factors.

It means we are motivated to do something because it is personally fulfilling or rewarding, rather than because of the external rewards or recognition that we may receive.

This is a powerful type of motivation because it allows us to stay focused and committed to our goals, even when faced with challenges or obstacles.

Drive and inspiration come from within. It is not about achieving fame, money, or anything material. Rather, it is about how they do things that make them feel great. To know whether or not you are on the same track, ask yourself these questions.

  • Does it make you happy?
  • Are you serving others?
  • Is your effort serving a purpose?

If your answer is yes, keep on doing them. But if they aren’t, stop doing it. Successful and happy people know their enthusiasm and joy because of what they are doing. They know that their lives inspire others.

The drive is from within and they feel that nothing is impossible to achieve.

This quote from Steve Jobs emphasizes the importance of intrinsic motivation for achieving success and fulfillment:

“The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.” – Steve Jobs

6. The Ability to Let Go: Moving On from the Past and Embracing the Future

We all face challenges in life. Nothing works out 100% of the time.

A successful person knows that if they are going to succeed, they have to overcome adversity and adapt.

This is why successful people are able to let go. They are OK when things don’t go as they planned.

They simply dig their heels in and try again using a different approach.

If they can’t let go of past mistakes and failures, then they’ll never be able to move forward.

When we let go of the past, we are able to free ourselves from negative emotions and thoughts that can hold us back and prevent us from making progress and achieving our goals.

As the great Chinese philosopher, Lao Tzu said, “If I let go of who I am I become who I might be.”

If you’re struggling to let go, Bill Burnett has some good advice.

In his best-selling book, Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life, he says the key to letting go is to move on and put your attention on something else:

“That’s the problem with letting go—it’s more of an inaction than an action, and your brain just hates that, the same way nature abhors a vacuum. So the key to letting go is to move on and grab something else. Put your attention on something—not off something.”

This ability to adapt and be flexible can be crucial for achieving success in a changing and unpredictable world.

7. Grateful: The Secret to Happiness and Success

An often overlooked trait of successful people, but it’s important to acknowledge the good things in life.

A successful person takes stock of all the positive things in their life.

This is what keeps them positive and happy.

Practicing gratitude will help you when times are tough. It will keep you from giving up in the face of hardship and spiraling further into disorder.

Furthermore, being grateful is scientifically really good for you. There are all kinds of positive benefits, both mental and physical.

Showing gratitude helps a successful person make positive decisions and be proactive (not reactive) through every step of life.

They understand that they’re probably a lot luckier than a lot of people in the world, and they appreciate all the blessings they have received.

Changing your perspective to be more positive is crucial to moving forward through challenging situations in life.

James Clear in his book Atomic Habits explained it well:

“I once heard a story about a man who uses a wheelchair. When asked if it was difficult being confined, he responded, “I’m not confined to my wheelchair—I am liberated by it. If it wasn’t for my wheelchair, I would be bed-bound and never able to leave my house.” This shift in perspective completely transformed how he lived each day.”

This is why a successful person is always focusing on what they do have, rather than what they don’t.

James E. Faust says that gratitude is a successful mode of living:

“As with all commandments, gratitude is a description of a successful mode of living. The thankful heart opens our eyes to a multitude of blessings that continually surround us.”

8. Action Oriented: Making Things Happen

Successful people understand that the only way to achieve their goals and dreams is by acting on them.

No amount of thinking is going to get them to ace their final exams. Actions towards goals don’t have to be large. It can be as manageable as “Organize notes for one lecture”

Large projects broken down into small tasks become less daunting, and thus, more actionable.

When you tick off each small task, it can be like a small victory for you.

This helps motivate you to keep going and keep up your progress towards even your largest goals.

This is why successful people focus on taking action, and they make sure to be consistent in their actions every day. 

According to James Clear, author of Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones, all big things come from small beginnings, and it’s really your habits every day that determines where you’re going:

“All big things come from small beginnings. The seed of every habit is a single, tiny decision. But as that decision is repeated, a habit sprouts and grows stronger. Roots entrench themselves and branches grow. The task of breaking a bad habit is like uprooting a powerful oak within us. And the task of building a good habit is like cultivating a delicate flower one day at a time.”

9. Selfless: Putting Others Before Yourself

A successful person knows they aren’t the center of the universe.

They appreciate the luck they have found in life and they try to give back and help others as much as they can.

Life is more meaningful when you help others.

As Gandhi said, “you find yourself in the service of others”.

Their actions might be small. Perhaps they hold the door for a stranger. They smile and say hello to people who pass them by. They listen to their friends when they ask them how they are.

A successful person is simply focused on others and not themselves. They want to make life better for other people, and that will, in turn, make life better for them.

And this is why they are living a fulfilling life.

10. Honesty: The Foundation of Trust and Integrity

One of the key habits of ridiculously successful people we can all learn from is brutal honesty.

Now I’m not saying to tell your boss at the bank that he’s a jerk when he makes a rude joke.

You could lose your job.

But brutal honesty involves putting the truth above people-pleasing, and this is actually a vital habit.

A successful person doesn’t hide what they feel and think just to placate those around them.

If they see something substandard they mention it, or better yet they try to resolve it themselves.

Being honest means always telling the truth, no matter how uncomfortable the situation or outcome may make you feel.

But more than that, honesty also means adhering to your morals and principles.

It’s having the courage to stand up for what you think is right and defending your choices and decisions.

Honesty is important for success because it allows us to build trust and integrity, which are crucial for building strong relationships and achieving our goals.

When we are honest, we are able to earn the trust and respect of others, which can open up new opportunities and help us to achieve success

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Lachlan Brown

I’m Lachlan Brown, the founder, and editor of Hack Spirit. I love writing practical articles that help others live a mindful and better life. I have a graduate degree in Psychology and I’ve spent the last 15 years reading and studying all I can about human psychology and practical ways to hack our mindsets. Check out my latest book on the Hidden Secrets of Buddhism and How it Saved My Life. If you want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Facebook or Twitter.

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