The psychology of success: 6 behavior traits of highly successful people

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Whenever I meet someone I admire, I wonder what makes them tick.

Were they born with a secret success gene? 

Did they sell their soul to a yellow-eyed demon?

Is there a spell for unlimited energy that only requires ingredients you have around the house?

Jokes aside, achieving success might look like magic, but involves hard work.

More often than not, all it takes to flourish is a mindset shift.

Here are 6 behavior traits of highly successful people.

Luck and dark magic will only take you so far.

1) They figure out what success means to them

If you Google success, the primary definition is “the accomplishment of an aim or purpose.”

Immediately under, there’s a secondary definition – “the attainment of fame, wealth, or social status.”

The problem is that a lot of people use the secondary definition to measure how successful they are.

This makes them feel “less than” their peers, even if they don’t necessarily want fame, wealth, or social status.

In other words, it’s easy to fall into the trap of assessing success based on external metrics like bank balance or job title.

However, pursuing outer benchmarks leads to a hollow sense of accomplishment.

Instead, we are better off prioritizing inner measures of success, like personal growth or happiness.

This way, we can create a more satisfying and meaningful life.

For instance, being famous would probably ruin my life, as I’m self-conscious and introverted.

Wealth I want, but not the obscene Jeff Bezos kind. The kind where I can afford to live comfortably, travel, and not worry about making it from one month to the next.

And social status? I couldn’t care less about that.

For me, success means living a quiet life surrounded by a few people I like and a whole lot of animals. Writing every day. Affording to buy all the books and vinyl records I want.

What does success look like for you?

It might well be becoming famous, wielding power, or building a fortune.

It might be having a secure job, a loving family, and a sturdy roof over your head.

Or it might be traveling the world, helping people in need, or buying a cabin in the woods and rarely interacting with another person.

Bottom line: once you zone in on your own idea of success, working to achieve it will feel less like a grind and more like an adventure.

It’s why highly successful people rarely hit the snooze button.

They’re genuinely excited to get out of bed and craft their dream life.

2) They let passion take the wheel

This second point is directly correlated to the first.

Once you stop relying on what society dictates you should want and start focusing on what you actually want, working toward your goals becomes… easier?

When you’re deeply passionate about something – your career, a project, a cause, a hobby – you’re more likely to stay committed to pursuing it over the long term.

Passion fuels motivation and leads to innovative thinking.

As a freelance content writer, people frequently ask me how fast I write.

How many pages can you write in an hour, they inquire with curiosity, and proceed to roll their eyes when they hear my answer. “It depends.”

Overlooking the fact that pages/hour is a weird metric, how many words I write varies based on various factors.

The list includes my knowledge of the subject, my mood, whether my head hurts, and how many snacks I had that day.

I know for a fact, though, that I’m more productive when I’m passionate about the things I write about.

In the past, I had to take on projects that didn’t excite me to make rent.

When that happened, I wrote slower and had to put in more effort to spice up the copy so it wasn’t overly dry.

When I’m into the topic at hand, the world around me blurs, and the words come pouring out of me. 

You see my point.

Highly successful people are generally passionate about what they do, so going after what they want doesn’t feel like a chore.

It feels like they’re fulfilling their destiny.

3) They rely on discipline

That said, there are days when even the most passionate person in the world has zero desire to get stuff done.

That’s where discipline comes in.

A crucial thing I’ve learned since being an adult in the world is that motivation only takes you so far. Discipline pushes you over the finish line.

Those projects that didn’t excite me? I still wrote the words. Sent the emails. Met my deadlines.

I built a habit of starting to write whenever I sit down at my desk and play the Succession theme song on repeat.

It’s a ritual that tells my brain to enter work more. Regardless of how unmotivated I feel, I type.

If I’m particularly apathetic, it’s nonsense. But I persevere, and the nonsense eventually turns into something coherent.

Discipline ensures that you consistently work toward your goals.

Even on days when you feel no drive or when obstacles arise.

Even when tasks seem unappealing.

Even when the universe sends all sorts of temptations your way.

It’s the backbone of goal achievement. Any highly successful person will confirm.

4) They put up with being uncomfortable

A famous saying goes, “Find a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”

While the quote carries a positive message about the importance of finding passion in your work (please refer to the second point on the list), it’s misleading and potentially harmful when taken literally.

Even in a dream job, there will be moments of frustration and tedium.

I love writing, and I still occasionally feel like I’ll throw up if I have to write another word.

The harsh truth is that nothing worth having is 100% effortless and enjoyable.

Highly successful people put up with the bad.

If you want to run a marathon and are in bad shape, those first few days of training will be excruciating.

If you want to become an entrepreneur, you need to navigate risk and uncertainty, which not everyone finds to be a breeze.

If you want to find a compatible long-term partner, you have to sit through bad dates and expose your vulnerable side.

Improving your life involves stepping out of your comfort zone.

What are you willing to struggle for?

5) They keep the promises they make to themselves

Nothing crashes your confidence more than breaking the promises you make to yourself.

“I need to eat better, so I’ll make a healthy meal plan and go grocery shopping this weekend.”

The weekend comes, and you spend it lounging and scrolling social media.

“I want to learn this skill, so I’ll devote at least one hour daily to it.”

But days go by, and you’re always too tired to commit to acquiring this new ability.

When you do this, you’re telling yourself you’re not worth the effort.

In contrast, following through on commitments to yourself builds self-trust

Self-trust is the foundation of confidence. It reinforces the belief that you can rely on your word and your competence, which is essential for achieving success in any area of life.

Plus, you get a series of fringe benefits. Keeping the promises you make to yourself:

  • Makes it easier to overcome setbacks on your path to success
  • Fosters accountability, a vital trait of successful individuals
  • Boosts inner satisfaction, contributing to your overall well-being
  • Helps you cultivate a growth mindset, which is key to leveling up

Highly successful people know they can depend on themselves come hell or high water.

Follow in their footsteps.

6) They recharge

You can’t be proactive 24/7.

No matter how badly you want to become successful, power down every once in a while.

Overworking negatively affects your health, relationships, and quality of life.

Highly successful people take breaks. Go on vacation. Get enough sleep.

Their willingness to recharge keeps their productivity up and sustains long-term success.

It’s tempting to work non-stop in the hopes that you’ll achieve your goals faster, but the opposite usually occurs.

Strive to develop a somewhat healthy work-life balance.

Otherwise, you’ll burn out before you get to enjoy the tasty fruits of your labor.

Final thoughts

Success isn’t a mythical achievement reserved for the select few.

Regardless of how miserable your circumstances might be right now, you write your own future.

Focus on developing the behavior traits above.

You’ll be one step closer to seeing your wildest ambitions come true.

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