What Separates The Successful From The Unsuccessful?
The concept of success can be somewhat subjective. After all, what you define as “success” in your career or personal relationships, for example, can be quite different from what I deem to be successful. But in general, there are some conventional characteristics that we can generally attribute to successful people: a strong sense of self-awareness, a desire to improve, and an¬†ability to delay gratification, to name a few. These characteristics are innate in some, but like most skills, can also be learned or honed.¬†But inevitably, these are what separates the successful from the unsuccessful.
Strong Sense Of Self-Awareness
Before all the over-parented, highly self-confident millennials get too excited here, let me preface this a little bit.¬†A strong sense of awareness isn’t the same thing as having a high self-esteem. You may have received a trophy every time you took a step towards First Base in Little League or ribbon for showing up to swim lessons, but that doesn’t always¬†mean you’re destined for success.
Successful people have a strong sense of self-awareness: the capacity for introspection and the ability to recognize themselves as an individual separate from their environment and from other individuals.¬†This characteristic goes hand in hand with other traits of successful people but may be one of the most obvious differentiators.
A strong sense of self-awareness provides a framework from which to work. A self-aware person is considerate of their own personal impact on the world and cognizant of their ability to make change in the world. They can identify and appreciate their inabilities and limitations and strive to change them, where possible.
Alternatively, unsuccessful people have a more single-minded view of themselves and their role in the world. They may be extremely confident and want to facilitate change in the world or their own life, but their focus is more self-centered and personally motivated. Their “big picture” vision just isn’t quite big¬†enough.
A Desire To Improve
Another difference between successful and unsuccessful people is the work of successful people towards improvement: improving¬†themselves, their lifestyle, their community, the world.
Unsuccessful people generally are risk-adverse or feel “safer” staying in the same place. They are most comfortable doing what they know best, whether or not it’s actually working for them. Sometimes, this works out just fine and, in their own eyes, they are quite successful.
Whether they seek to grow personally, or in their careers, successful people take action to make positive changes. For some, it may ¬†mean simply keeping in shape or eating healthy on a daily basis. For others, it’s a religious commitment to marathon training. Some read books to expand their perspective on the world while others research topics extensively in order to write¬†books. Regardless of the level of the attempt to improve and, somewhat surprisingly, regardless of the actual results, this is a major difference between successful and unsuccessful people.
The desire to improve creates challenges, gives purpose and fortunes change.¬†Even failed attempts to improve will create opportunities or challenges that are almost always more positive than total inaction.
Ability To Delay Gratification
Successful people also have a higher threshold of patience, an ability to delay their own gratification. Take a law student who spends an entire four-month semester studying for one final exam that determines his entire grade. Or an entrepreneur who starts a business and has to work for two years without a paycheck in order to keep his business afloat. These are not the behaviors of instant-gratification types.
The ability to work hard to accomplish a goal or result that won’t be achieved for some time is difficult. It takes a plethora of skills that unsuccessful people lack or haven’t practiced. These include planning for the future, organization, self-confidence and patience. Unsuccessful people generally can’t see the forest through the trees. Meaning that the details or individual steps towards the end goal become overwhelming and thus entirely unattainable.
The difference between what makes someone successful versus unsuccessful is difficult to truly pinpoint. Not only is the identification itself often subjective, but it can sometimes be based on totally uncontrollable factors, the “I was in the right place at the right time” situation. But, more often than not, successful people exhibit characteristics that propel them towards their goals and ultimately success. And if you don’t naturally possess these traits, all is not lost. Just get practicing.