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Published on March 4, 2020

13 Essential Personal Qualities for a Successful Life

13 Essential Personal Qualities for a Successful Life

There are a few personal qualities and traits we can all strive to embody to bring more success into our lives. We have to slowly build these traits over time, like a slow-growing, beautiful flower.

These successful traits and personal qualities truly are shared by people from all areas of life. They aren’t something you just stumble onto, and they don’t just happen by chance or luck. They come from small habitual changes we make throughout our lives, one step and one day at a time.

The key lesson here is this: If you live an average lifestyle, don’t be surprised when you only get average results. If you want something more, you need to get out there and earn it! Striving to step out your door as your best self every single day is a great way to point yourself in the right direction. The better you perform every day, the more success will find its way back to you.

Here are some of the personal qualities, traits, and attributes that cultivate success in our daily lives.

1. Resilience

All of us, at some point in our lives, are going to be knocked down. Maybe you saw it coming, maybe you didn’t, but what’s important is that you develop the ability to get back up.

Resilience will help you keep going through difficult times and help you bounce back when people try to push you down.

When we lack resiliency, we run from our problems, avoid admitting mistakes, and shy away from growth. This robs us of chances to develop into someone truly amazing.

2. Drive

You need to be willing to work hard to get to the top of any ladder. That goes without question.

You need that drive to remain disciplined when the going gets tough. You need to understand your “why.” Why are you striving to accomplish this goal? What are you going to gain from it?

The clearer you can be on why you are doing something, the more driven you will remain through the difficult and challenging times that you’ll inevitably face on your journey.

3. Self-reliability

You can depend on yourself. How many times have you told yourself that you’re going to get something done on a particular day, or in a week, or in a month, only to either forget about it or push it off until a later date. Have the strength to shoulder these responsibilities and then hold yourself accountable.

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You need to be able to remain accountable when it comes to your goals and values. Understanding where your strengths and weaknesses are and acting accordingly is a great way to start living a successful life.

4. Patience

This is probably one of the most difficult of the personal qualities on this list to develop. Very little in life happens overnight.

We use the term “overnight success” to describe the people who become successful almost instantaneously. However, we often don’t see that what looks like an overnight success to us was likely years or even decades in the making for the individual.

To achieve true success and happiness in your life, you need to cultivate patience. Only through patience will you gain the clarity required to overcome the problems that you face in life.[1]

Without patience, you’ll likely succumb to the shiny-object syndrome, where you chase around the next big thing continuously but never stick with anything long enough to reach your goals.

5. Courage

Far too often I see people fail to reach their potential because they’re afraid. They aren’t afraid of the growth, but they’re afraid of taking the risk that they might fail at something, especially when it’s in public, at a work place, or on social media.

This fear prevents them from truly committing to and achieving their goals.

When you find yourself fearing failure, remember this phrase:

“Fail forward!”

The most successful people in the world have continuously said that failing, and learning from those failures, is key to success.

Stop fearing what could go wrong and begin focusing on what could go right.

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6. Commitment

“Commitment is key.”

If you’ve never heard this phrase, commit it to memory.

When you commit to your goals, there is another level of determination that your mind develops, and reaching goals becomes that much easier.

If you aren’t committed, chances are you’ll lose focus. Be realistic, but find that balance so that you can commit to the goals you feel you can attain over time through true dedication and commitment.

7. Willpower

“Where there’s a will, there’s a way.”

This is the ability to see things through to the end, a willingness to find solutions and work through the problems and challenges you face along the way. If you can’t work through your problems, it’s likely that you won’t get very far very fast.

The most successful people in the world are often the people who are also the best problem-solvers. These are the people who can work through the challenges that impede their efforts and progress. These people overcome hardships instead of just quitting and moving on.[2]

8. Passion

You need that fire burning inside of you that continually pushes you toward your goals. This is one of the most important personal qualities.

Passion motivates you to take on that next challenge because you know what’s on the other side. Success so often follows passion that it is almost an essential part of the equation.

Sometimes, passion isn’t always easy to come by. You have to try a few different things before you find something that really gets you going.

However, when you’ve found it, you’ll know. You’ll know because you’ll be excited each and every day to deal with the problems and challenges that face you as a result of that passion. When you feel passion for something, it will make you want to improve and become a better person each and every day.

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9. Connection

This trait is very underrated in our modern world. People lack true connections. We hop online or onto social media and talk to people through our phones and hope that’s enough.[3]

However, humans are social beings by nature. Everyone should take the time to find people with similar goals and values. When you find these people who have similar goals and values, you can support each other through your individual struggles and invest in the relationships.

10. Integrity

Integrity is integral to any life of true purpose, meaning, and success. If you don’t have your integrity, living an honest, successful life may be difficult.

Practice this attribute daily. The best way to cultivate integrity in your life is by being honest, open, and transparent in everything that you do.

Through actions like these, we define our true character, and that character defines who we are and who we eventually develop into.

11. Optimism

Optimism, the “glass half full” mentality, is incredibly important. If you are optimistic about your ability to take on challenges and achieve success, you’ll be more likely to positively approach difficult situations. This will help you keep an open mind and find effective solutions.

If you approach a problem with a closed mind, finding solutions will likely take longer and involve less creativity. If you’ve got a problem and try to force a solution onto that situation rigidly, you will likely struggle. Remain open and optimistic.

Be careful, though, because optimism can be taken too far. If you have blind faith in your abilities or someone else’s, you may end up putting yourself in a difficult situation. Be optimistic, but sprinkle in a little bit of realism as well.

12. Self-confidence

You need to have faith in your abilities. You need to believe that you have what it takes to achieve your goals. Be realistic about how you are, and have confidence that you’re going to use your unique personal qualities to find success.

Creating a support system around you will also help with your self-confidence. When you stumble, you will have the right people around you to help you push through and remind you who you are.

Overall, you need to trust yourself. It truly is that simple. To be successful, you first need to believe you have what it takes to get there. If you don’t, you may not take actions to move forward or invest yourself fully.

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However, if you don’t have this type of self-confidence at this moment, don’t worry. Remember, we don’t all have all of these qualities naturally. The goal is to pick some personal qualities to cultivate over time. You can gain this confidence if you work at it.

13. Communication

Communication is an essential trait that any successful person should have in their arsenal.

If you can’t communicate with people, chances are that you’ll struggle to relate to them. This will make it more difficult to solve problems when they do arise between you and someone else.

If you can’t communicate, you may also struggle to establish and maintain true connections with the other important people in your life.

Communication isn’t just about hearing what someone is saying; it’s also about hearing what they aren’t saying and responding appropriately.

When the proper methods of communication are established between two people, respect and trust follow nearly 100% of the time. This is why communication is so important as it allows you to understand someone else at a deeper level and form a true connection.

Learn more about effective communication: How to Improve Communication Skills for Workplace Success

Final Thoughts

All of the above personal qualities can help you develop success in life.

If you don’t have some of these right now, don’t worry. While some will come more naturally than others, each of these personal qualities can be developed through mindful practice.

Remember, nobody ever plans to be average. Average happens when you fail to strive for something more, when you fail to apply yourself and your skills to become something more.

So begin today.

Identify where your goals are and what steps, skills, and personal qualities will get you from where you are now to where you want to be.

Featured photo credit: Jude Beck via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Rationality and Competition: Longevity and Patience
[2] Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience: Willpower over the life span: decomposing self-regulation
[3] Diana Earl, The University of Queensland: The Healthy Relationships Series: An Untapped Potential for Human Connection

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Mark Lynch

Featured Life-Balance, & Personal Development Author

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Last Updated on September 30, 2020

Why Intrinsic Motivation Is So Powerful (And How to Find It)

Why Intrinsic Motivation Is So Powerful (And How to Find It)

Motivation is one of the main reasons we do things — take an action, go to work (and sometimes overwork ourselves), create goals, exercise our willpower. There are two main, universally agreed upon types of motivation — intrinsic motivation (also known as internal motivation) and extrinsic motivation (external motivation).

The intrinsic kind is, by inference, when you do something because it’s internally fulfilling, interesting or enjoyable — without an expectation of a reward or recognition from others. Extrinsic motivation is driven by exactly the opposite — externalities, such as the promise of more money, a good grade, positive feedback, or a promotion.

And of course, we all know about the big debate about money. It’s surely an external driver, but is it possible that it can sometimes make us enjoy what we do more? A meta-analysis that reviewed 120 years of research found a weak link between job satisfaction and money[1].

And what’s more — there is some evidence to suggest that more money can actually have an adverse effect on your intrinsic motivation.

Regardless of its type, motivation is still important to get you moving, to improve, excel, and put that extra effort when you feel like you don’t have a single drop of energy left to keep going.

So, let’s see some of the best things you can do to keep the fire going, even when you’d rather just indulge in pleasant idleness.

Why Intrinsic Motivation Tops Extrinsic Motivation

“To be motivated means to be moved to do something.”[2]

Generally speaking, we all need motivation.

An avalanche of research, though, shows that when it comes to finding the lasting drive to “do something,” internal incentives are much more powerful than extrinsic rewards.

Why? It’s simple.

There is a great difference when you engage in something because “I want to,” as opposed to “I must.” Just think about the most obvious example there is: work.

If you go to work every day, dragging your feet and dreading the day ahead of you, how much enjoyment will you get from your job? What about productivity and results? Quality of work?

Yep, that’s right, you definitely won’t be topping the Employee of the Month list anytime soon.

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The thing with external motivation is that it doesn’t last. It’s susceptible to something psychologists call Hedonic Adaptation[3]. It’s a fancy way of saying that external rewards are not a sustainable source of happiness and satisfaction.

When you put in 100-hour weeks in order to get promoted, and you finally are, how long does your “high” last? The walking-on-a-cloud feelings wear off quickly, research tells us, making you want more. Therefore, you are stuck on a never-ending “hedonic treadmill,” i.e. you can progressively only become motivated by bigger and shinier things, just to find out that they don’t bring you the satisfaction you hoped for, when you finally get them.

Or, as the journalist and author Oliver Burkeman wonderfully puts it[4]:

“Write every day” won’t work unless you want to write. And no exercise regime will last long if you don’t at least slightly enjoy what you’re doing.

If you want to find out more about the different types of motivation, take a look at this article: 9 Types of Motivation That Make It Possible to Reach Your Dreams

Benefits of Intrinsic Motivation

If you are still unconvinced that doing things solely for kudos and brownie points is not going to keep you going forever, nor make you like what you do, here is some additional proof:

Studies tell us that intrinsic motivation is a generally stronger predictor of job performance over the long run than extrinsic motivation[5].

One reason is that when we are internally driven to do something, we do it simply for the enjoyment of the activity. So, we keep going, day in and out, because we feel inspired, driven, happy, and satisfied with ourselves.

Another reason has to do with the fact that increasing intrinsic motivation is intertwined with things such as higher purpose, contributing to a cause, or doing things for the sake of something bigger than ourselves or our own benefit. A famous study done by the organizational psychologist Adam Grant is case in point[6].

By showing university fundraisers how the money donated by alumni can help financially struggling students to graduate from college, their productivity increased by 400% a week! The callers also showed an average increase of 142% in time spent on the phone and 171% increase in money raised.

Internal motivation has been found to be very helpful when it comes to academia, too. Research confirms that the use of external motivators, such as praise, undermine students’ internal motivation, and, in the long-run, it results in “slower acquisition of skills and more errors in the learning process.”[7]

In contrast, when children are internally driven, they are more involved in the task at hand, enjoy it more, and intentionally seek out challenges.

Therefore, all the research seems to allude to one major revelation: intrinsic motivation is a must-have if you want to save yourself the drudgery we all sometimes feel when contemplating the things we should do or must do.

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6 Ways to Enhance Your Intrinsic Motivation

So, how does one get more of the good stuff — that is, how do you become internally motivated?

There are many things you can do to become more driven. Here are the ones that top the list.

1. Self-Efficacy

The theory of self-efficacy was developed by the American-Canadian psychologist Albert Bandura in 1982[8]. Efficacy is our own belief in whether we can achieve the goals we set for ourselves. In other words, it’s whether we think we “got what it takes” to be successful at what we do[9].

Find intrinsic motivation with self-efficacy.

    It’s not hard to see the link of self-efficacy to higher self-esteem, better performance, and, of course, enhanced motivation. People with high self-efficacy are more likely to put extra effort in what they do, to self-set more challenging goals, and be more driven to improve their skills[10].

    Therefore, the belief that we can accomplish something serves as a self-fulfilling prophecy — it motivates us to try harder to prove to ourselves that we can do it.

    You can learn more about self-efficacy in this article: What Is Self Efficacy and How to Improve Yours

    2. Link Your Actions to a Greater Purpose

    Finding your “why” in life is incredibly important. This means that you need to be clear with yourself on why you do what you do and what drives you. What is intrinsically rewarding for you? 

    And no matter how mundane a task may be, it can always be linked to something bigger and better. Psychologists call this “reframing your narrative.”

    Remember the famous story of John F. Kennedy visiting NASA in 1961? As it goes, he met a janitor there and asked him what he did at NASA. The answer was:

    “I’m helping to put a man on the Moon.”

    Inspirational, isn’t it?

    Re-phrasing how your actions can help others and leave a mark in the universe can be a powerful driver and a meaning-creator.

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    3. Volunteer

    Volunteering is a great way to give back to the world. It can also help boost your internal motivation by making you feel important in supporting the less fortunate, learning new skills, feeling good about yourself, or linking to some of your inner values, such as kindness and humanitarianism[11].

    When you remove any external reward expectations and do something for the pure joy and fulfilment of improving others’ lives, then you are truly intrinsically motivated.

    4. Don’t Wait Until You “Feel Like It” to Do Something

    A great piece in the Harvard Business Review points out that when we say things as “I can’t make myself go to the gym” or “I can’t get up early,” what we actually mean is that we don’t feel like it[12]. There is nothing that psychically prevents us from doing those things, apart from our laziness.

    But here’s the thing: You don’t have to “feel like it” in order to take action.

    Sometimes, it so happens that you may not want to do something in the beginning, but once you start, you get into the flow and find your intrinsic motivation.

    For instance, you don’t feel like going to the gym after a long day at work. Rather than debating in your head for hours “for and against” it, just go. Tell yourself that you will think about it later. Once in the gym, surrounded by similar souls, you suddenly won’t fee that tired or uninspired.

    Another way to overcome procrastination is to create routines and follow them. Once the habit sets in, suddenly getting up at 6 am for work or writing for an hour every day won’t be so dreadful.

    5. Self-Determination, or the CAR Model (As I Call It)

    The Self-Determination theory was created by two professors of psychology from the University of Rochester in the mid-80s—Richard Ryan and Edward Deci[13]. The theory is one of the most popular ones in the field of motivation[14]. It focuses on the different drivers behind our behavior—i.e. the intrinsic and extrinsic motivators.

    There are three main needs, the theory further states, that can help us meet our need for growth. These are also the things which Profs. Deci and Ryan believed to be the main ways to enhance our intrinsic motivation—Competence, Autonomy, and Relatedness (CAR).

    If our jobs allow us to learn and grow, and if we have enough autonomy to do things our way and be creative, then we will be more driven to give our best, and our performance will soar. In addition, as humans are social beings, we also need to feel connected to others and respected.

    All of these sources of intrinsic motivation, separately and in combination, can become powerful instigators to keep us thriving, even when we feel uninspired and unmotivated .

    6. Tap Into a Deeper Reason

    Some interesting research done in 2016 sought answers to how high-performing employees remain driven when their company can’t or won’t engage in ways to motivate them—intrinsically or extrinsically[15].

    The study tracked workers in a Mexican factory, where they did exactly the same tasks every day, with virtually zero chances for learning new skills, developing professionally, or being promoted. Everyone was paid the same, regardless of performance. So there was no extrinsic motivation at all, other than keeping one’s job.

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    A third kind of motivation was then discovered, which scientists called “family motivation.” Workers who agreed more with statements such as “I care about supporting my family” or “It is important for me to do good for my family” were more energized and performed better, although they didn’t have any additional external or internal incentive to do so.

    The great thing about this kind of driver is that it’s independent of the company one works for or the situation. It taps into something even deeper—if you don’t want to do something for your own sake, then do it for the people you care for.

    And this is a powerful motive, as many can probably attest to this.

    Final Thoughts

    Frederick Herzberg, the American psychologist who developed what’s perhaps still today the most famous theory of motivation, in his renowned article from 1968 (which sold a modest 1.2 million reprints and it the most requested article from Harvard Business Review One More Time, How Do You Motivate Employees? wrote:[16]

    “If I kick my dog, he will move. And when I want him to move again, what must I do? I must kick him again. Similarly, I can charge a person’s battery, and then recharge it, and recharge it again. But it is only when one has a generator of one’s own that we can talk about motivation. One then needs no outside stimulation. One wants to do it.”

    Herzberg further explains that the so-called “hygiene factors” (salary, job security, benefits, vacation time, work conditions) don’t lead to fulfillment, nor motivation. What does, though, are the “motivators”—challenging work, opportunities for growth, achievement, greater responsibility, recognition, the work itself.

    Herzberg realized it long ago…intrinsic motivation tips the scales when it comes to finding long-term happiness and satisfaction in everything we do, and to improving our overall well-being.

    In the end, the next time when you need to give yourself a bit of a kick to get something done, remember to link it to a goal bigger than yourself, and preferably one that has non-material benefit.

    And no, don’t say that you tried but it’s just impossible to find internal motivation. Remember the janitor at NASA?

    Because once you find your internal generator, you will be truly unstoppable.

    More Tips to Boost Motivation

    Featured photo credit: Juan Ramos via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] Harvard Business Review: Does Money Really Affect Motivation? A Review of the Research
    [2] Contemporary Educational Psychology: Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivations: Classic Definitions and New Directions
    [3] Scientific American: The Science of Lasting Happiness
    [4] The Guardian: Is the secret of productivity really just doing what you enjoy?
    [5] European Journal of Business and Management: Impact of Employee Motivation on Employee Performance
    [6] Adam Grant : Impact and the Art of Motivation Maintenance: The Effects of Contact With Beneficiaries on Persistence Behavior
    [7] Grand Valley State University: The Effect of Rewards and Motivation on Student Achievement
    [8] Encyclopedia Britannica: Albert Bandura
    [9] Pinterest: Self-Efficacy Theory
    [10] Educational Psychologist: Goal Setting and Self-Efficacy During Self-Regulated Learning
    [11] University of Minnesota: The Motivations to Volunteer: Theoretical and Practical Considerations
    [12] Harvard Business Review: How to Make Yourself Work When You Just Don’t Want To
    [13] Richard Ryan and Edward Deci: Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivations: Classic Definitions and New Directions
    [14] Richard Ryan and Edward Deci: Self-Determination Theory and the Facilitation of Intrinsic Motivation, Social Development, and Well-Being
    [15] Nick Tasler: How some people stay motivated and energized at work—even when they don’t love their jobs
    [16] Harvard Business Review: One More Time: How Do You Motivate Employees?

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