In 1989, business guru Stephen R. Covey published the groundbreaking self-help book, The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People.
Decades later, the perennial bestseller is out in its 30th-anniversary edition, and it's sold over 40 million copies worldwide. Covey's genius lay in recognizing that you don't need a comprehensive life plan to be successful.
Instead, you need to build up a strong, core character. A person's character becomes the "true North," a compass that guides their life decisions. And character isn't innate; it must be honed with practice.
However, since the book's first printing, psychologists and business experts have debated Covey's choices. Are his seven character-building habits truly the most important?
It seems that today, the advice could use a bit of an update.
In this guide, discover what thought leaders of today recognize as the most important personal qualities for success. Then, learn the habits today's most successful people use to strengthen these qualities in themselves.
What Are the Top 5 Qualities of Highly Successful People?
The habits of successful people are both internal and relational. Two idiomatic "successful people" quotes are true at once:
- First, "No man is an island." All of our actions affect others, and we are, in turn, affected by others' actions.
- Second, philosopher and author Bryant McGill once wrote, "Within each person is the miracle of a unique consciousness unlike any other in the universe." This miracle can only be truly known and accessed in solitude.
With both introspection and interpersonal wisdom, a person may cultivate a true balance that leads them to success. For many, in practice, this looks like the following five qualities and the strategies employed to obtain them.
Drive is a term for internal (or, intrinsic) motivation. Intrinsic motivation has been long noted as key to academic excellence among students. It's also important in adult life, long after school ends.
Educational researchers at Harvard University have discovered incredible outcomes when students can tap into intrinsic motivation.
Students who are motivated by an internal desire to learn information or master a skill – not by grades, the attention of peers, or the approval of authorities – reap many benefits. They:
- Persist and practice when they come up against challenges while learning,
- Attach their own meaning to their work – often a more profound meaning than what is outlined in a rubric, and
- Voluntarily explore new topics and pursue a greater depth of understanding.
These actions are critical. In part, this is because the degree of practice required to truly master complex skills – like reading college-level material or applying engineering principles – cannot be realistically mandated.
Instead, students have to choose to read for more hours, and to spend time building accurate mental models of information.
For example, one of the best ways to build an accurate mental model is the Feynman Technique.
This technique requires a student to research information, then explain the information in the simplest terms possible to verify their own understanding. When they get stuck, it indicates a knowledge gap.
At that point, learners must pinpoint questions to research, so they can bridge that gap. With a strong mental foundation, the learner can remember new information more easily; they just need to connect it to their existing framework.
But this technique often takes longer than simply memorizing flashcards for a test. It is challenging to require and test students in a way that ensures they use the technique.
Instead, students most often seek out the Feynman Technique due to a genuine, inner desire to actually understand the subject.
To cultivate successful people habits, like drive, you need practice and the right environment.
Cultivating drive requires a person to find their innate passions. Then, they must engage in curiosity, to see the connections between those passions and the work their schools, households, and communities request from them.
One of the best ways to cultivate drive is to develop spaces where you are free to explore interests without pressure or judgment.
Another habit is to use psychology’s therapeutic techniques to tune out external "peer pressure" – or, authority-pleasing motivations.
In therapy, a person can weed out the short-sighted external motivations to make room for true intrinsic desire.
Certain political groups have recently tried to co-opt "self-reliance" as a quality that solely reflects their own ideology and outlook. But, in truth, self-reliance is a quality valued by many across political, religious, and cultural spectrums.
In fact, nearly all of the people creating success for themselves, and those around them, are highly self-reliant.
Self-reliance is an attitude as much as it is a trait. It is a belief, backed by evidence, that you can, in fact, do what you want to be able to do. The barrier standing in your way is surmountable.
Often, that barrier is a lack of information, lack of resources, or lack of skills. Self-reliance doesn't mean pretending that those barriers don't exist.
Instead, it means believing that you can overcome those barriers and recognizing that you have in the past. In a way, self-reliance is the opposite of learned helplessness.
Learned Helplessness vs. Self-Reliance
Learned helplessness is a mindset people sometimes developed when they're trapped in a dangerous or abusive situation for a long time.
Typically, this happens when someone is a child – the age when they literally cannot rely on themselves. The trapped child learns, correctly, that they cannot do anything to escape the bad situation. They just need to endure it.
Then, they are able to escape. Maybe they are rescued by an adult, or maybe they grow older and simply gain more legal rights. But even though they are now free, their mind is still trapped.
Learned helplessness is a mental state that prevents people from using the resources around them to improve their situation. It is a false belief that they are too weak, too stupid, or too isolated to improve.
Self-reliance is the opposite of this mindset. It can be cultivated by practice. A person needs to try to solve their own problems and keep track of their successes – even the "small" ones.
Then, they can internalize the belief that they have the power to get things done.
Ultimately, cultivating self-reliance – and unlearning helplessness – is often achieved through acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT).
This is a therapy that centers on recognizing and grounding yourself in reality. Then, it uses your commitment to your own goals and values to motivate you to pursue resources.
Once you build and recognize your ability to rely on your own resourcefulness, your self-confidence grows naturally.
Patience and willpower are entwined. It isn't surprising that both are among the top ten qualities of successful people.
Patience empowers you to let go of the desire for immediate reward. It helps you persist in actions that take a long time to bear fruit.
One key to patience is an inner sense of calm. Another is cultivating a deep well of empathy for the people and environment around you.
To cultivate patience, try to "detox" psychologically. In this case, a detox involves removing the sources of instant gratification from your daily life for a while.
So many things in our lives – video games, social media feeds, and "bingeable" TV shows – are designed to give us a hit of dopamine instantly, to reward our engagement.
This can trigger addictive behaviors. It can also increase our tolerance to dopamine, the hormone that makes an action feel rewarding. As a result, many day-to-day tasks feel less satisfying and harder to tolerate.
Taking a break from social media, online shopping, and other sources of instant gratification resets your dopamine tolerance. That makes the cultivation of patience feel more rewarding.
Another way to cultivate patience is through empathy. Active listening is a skill shown to build conscious empathy. And anyone can learn with practice.
Active listening lets you hear and understand more people's perspectives. This makes it easier to feel compassion towards others, instead of irritation, when they're doing things slowly.
Integrity is your personal code of ethics. It's what drives a person to do the right thing, even when nobody is watching.
A code of ethics is derived from your own conscience. No two people have an identical conscience, and we are all pulled toward different core values. Fortunately, you can build integrity on many different internal foundations.
Psychologists have created different frameworks for developing integrity. For example, the child psychologist Jean Piaget theorized that integrity is developed over time, ideally in childhood.
Children develop integrity based solely on following their parents’ rules, in an independent ethical sense.
On the way, the ability to reason, the influence of friends and peer relationships, and trust in some systems over others shape our senses of right and wrong.
To develop stronger integrity as an adult, you can look for relationships and social structures that support you in becoming who you want to be.
The influence of relationships on how we think about right and wrong and what we choose to do is demonstrated in recent studies.
People adhere to their identity group's sense of rightness more often than they act rationally based on moral principles. So, choosing groups that value integrity is key.
Foster Success With Business Coaching
You have the power to become the person you want to be. And you can use evidence-based tactics to cultivate the qualities researchers have shown to forge successful people.
With strong core traits, you become well-equipped as a leader to build up character qualities in the people around you. When everyone on a team is driven, self-reliant, patient, and acts with integrity, the whole group thrives.
Professional coaching can help. To learn how a coach can bring forth key traits in you and in your organization today let's set up a time to talk. Brian Tracy USA: 877.433.6225 Email Me