We all have goals and aspirations for our lives. We work hard toward the attainment of those goals and dreams we have.
Far too often what is lacking are the necessary character traits needed to move us to our intended destination. Like skills, your character often determines whether you can make the sometimes tough decisions that go along with getting to where you want to be. For example, without strong character you might end up making a decision that might help you in the short-term, such as telling a lie or some other moral failure, yet ends up hurting you in the long-run. Put simply, your skills will put you on the path to where you want to go, but your character plays an equal role in the way you navigate your personal success journey, as well as how likely you are to stay there once you’ve “arrived.”
In the same way I believe great leadership can be taught, there are countless examples that illustrate this to be true. So too, do I believe great character can be instilled in any person that’s willing to commit to it in themselves. It’s worth noting that everyone has moments and times in life where they don’t live up to their best, so don’t beat yourself up when this happens. Instead, course correct and use the ideas below to get yourself back on track.
Before we cover the character traits that will help you, let’s first define character. The Merriam-Webster dictionary says it this way, “one of the attributes or features that make up and distinguish an individual.” As you run through the traits below, and explore how you can integrate them into who you are, keep the definition in mind.
7 Character Traits to Cultivate for Success
1. Optimism – Optimism is critical because your success ultimately relies on your willingness to believe you can accomplish what you set out to do. A lack of optimism has held far too many a person from achieving what they would otherwise have accomplished had they been willing to get started and see their goals and dreams through to completion.
2. Integrity – In its simplest form, integrity is being honest and being a person that can be counted on to do what they say and say what they mean. It’s also having a set of morals that helps to keep you clear on what’s right and wrong as you move through life. Those with integrity, in the long run, tend to be highly successful because those with opportunities seek out and want to surround themselves with people who have high integrity. People with integrity have a strong sense of what’s right and wrong, and aren’t easily swayed by short term thinking or quick gains. You may have heard sayings like, “His word is his bond”, or “If she says something, you can take it to the bank” to describe those with integrity.
If you have ever seen someone experience an ethical failure which led to a setback in their career or personal life, it is often the result of a breakdown somewhere in their integrity. In today’s culture this is one of the most important character traits you can cultivate if you want to succeed for the long term.
3. Passion – The ability to focus in on something and give your all to it will differentiate you among your peers, many of whom barely show up for the task or job at hand. Over the years I’ve found that you don’t have to be specifically passionate about the particular task or project you’re working on to deliver great results. That said, you do want to be passionate, and excited about being the type of person who gives their best to whatever they pursue. There’s a distinction worth noting in what I just said. For example, let’s say you are in sales. You may very well not enjoy the paperwork which can sometimes go along with a career in sales. However, you love the interaction with your clients and customers. In order to be the best you can be, and do the part you’re most passionate about, client interaction well, you know it’s going to require doing the paperwork part too. Keeping the example in mind will help you to keep an overall passion for what you do, even when the small details that are often required of you are points of frustration. Here’s something worth considering. You don’t have to be passionate about every single aspect of your life, to lead a truly passionate life. That may sound funny, but it’s true. For example, say your passion is found in helping others. You may not wake up each day to a career that’s directly built around that, yet the job you do have can very well be a means to fund that passion of yours. Think about it. If you didn’t have the job you have, whether you love the day to day of it or not, you wouldn’t be able to fulfill what you do love… the serving of others.
4. Honesty – People’s ability to trust what you say will be critical to how many opportunities come your way in life. Remember that opportunity, especially in the area of a career comes through referral from other people. Keep in mind that when you are being referred for a job or anything else, the person who suggested you is putting their own credibility on the line for you. Knowing that, it should be clear why being honest is an all important characteristic to develop if you wish to live a more fulfilling life. It’s also just easier and will greatly reduce any drama you would otherwise experience if you can avoid letting untold truths lay dormant. When people see you as someone that’s trustworthy even when it isn’t the easiest option, it will pay great dividends throughout your life.
5. Loyalty – The importance of this character trait can’t be overstated. When people feel as though you’re on their side, and can trust you they will gravitate towards you. This trust allows us to develop deeper connections which in turn puts us in a position for greater career opportunities, and or stronger person relationships. Loyalty can’t be faked, and there will be times that you’ll be tested. Being loyal doesn’t mean losing your integrity. You may occasionally find yourself in a position where someone, or even an organization you want to be loyal to, is in the wrong in some way. In these instances, you can still remain loyal without sacrificing your integrity at the same time. If someone has done something wrong, one way to remain loyal, and keep your integrity intact is to address the challenge directly with the person and work through whatever the issue is with them. Where it is warranted, tactfully stick up for those whom you want to show loyalty to. At times loyalty will require placing the needs of others above yourself and your own needs. As you show loyalty to your friends, family, clients & customers, and work colleagues you will grow your reputation as being seen as someone that others can count on.
6. Respectful – An ability to show respect for others, regardless of their perceived position is something you want to be known for. Growing up, my father used to say “Josh, you’ve got to be the type of person that is as comfortable sitting on a porch swing in a pair of overalls, as you are at a banquet, wearing a tuxedo.” To this day, I’m not a big fan of tuxedos or overalls, but that wasn’t really the point of what he was saying. What he meant was, that I needed to treat everyone, regardless of their position, or place with the respect and appreciation they deserved. In short, it taught me to never judge a book by its cover.
Over the years I have benefited greatly from this advice. If you judge people or circumstances without taking the time to fully understand them or get to know them, you’re likely to miss out. I can remember once, years ago working in our family business when a man came to the office wearing a work shirt and worn out pants. I didn’t judge him, but suffice it say I was quite surprised later when my father explained to me that he was an old friend of his, and he was there to discuss refinancing some rental houses and an apartment complex that he owned. You just can’t judge a book by its cover! The real lesson is to treat everyone as though they are priceless, because as human beings they are.
7. Self-discipline / Persistent – There will be times when you are faced with the feeling of quitting. It can happen either personally, or professionally. It can happen for any number of reasons. In those moments, your willingness to persevere will allow you to stand out above your peers, many of whom will quit. This isn’t to say there won’t be times where you need to course correct or adjust in order to get where you want to go. That’s different than allowing yourself to quit. When people know you will stick to whatever tasks you’ve been assigned, you will be given more responsibility over time. Self disciplined people, those who can see a task or project through, are a rare commodity in life. As you become someone others can count on you will grow in influence and attract great opportunities in life. Sometimes you’re just not going to feel like doing something. Do it anyway… Your ability to do the things others won’t will differentiate you and make you stand out among those who only do the easy things.
In summary, as you cultivate the important character traits above into your daily life you will begin to see greater success unfold.
It’s Your Life, LIVE BIG
Josh Hinds is the author of It’s Your Life, LIVE BIG, a book about how to develop personal leadership skills and experience life’s rewards that come from doing so.