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Top 15 Traits of Successful People

And What Traits Are Lacking That Will Make Them Happier

Everyone wants to be successful. For most people being successful means having financial freedom. Who doesn't want to have their own personal assistant or go to a car dealership and purchase a car without borrowing from the bank?

So, what are the most common traits of highly successful people?

The top 15 traits are listed below:

#1. They Don't Complain Much

#2. They Don't Look for Shortcuts

#3. They Tend to Start Working Early

#4. They Plan Their Day

#5. They Typically Show Humility

#6. They Workout
#7. They Take Care of Themselves
#8. They Network
#9. They Are Goal Oriented

#10. They Get Sufficient Sleep Most of the Time
#11. They Develop Multiple Sources of Income

#12. They Make Mistakes and Learn from Them

#13. They Stay Positive

#14. They Pay Attention to Details

#15. They are Confident in Their Abilities

For most people, financial wellness is needed to be happy. Going from living paycheck to paycheck to having enough money saved to cover your expenses for 3-6 months will result in a happier person. However, several studies have shown that once individuals earn more than a certain amount (in the US between $80,000 to $100,000), earning more money does not increase their happiness.

While many successful people are happy, a significant proportion of successful people are unhappy. Why are people who have enough money unhappy? Let's look at one of the largest studies conducted to determine if being generous is essential for happiness. In 2013, a multicounty study involving 136 countries (including poor and rich countries) and over 200,000 participants (1) was conducted and revealed:

  • Being generous positively affects happiness in 120 of the 136 countries (93%).

  • Canadian and South African participants randomly assigned to purchase items for charity had greater positive effect levels than the participants who bought the same things for themselves.

This idea that generosity is an integral part of well-being is summed up best by Winston Churchill.

"We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give."

- Winston Churchill

Now, you may be thinking, successful people are generous and donate lots of money to the poor. You read about it online and in the newspapers: Billionaire X gives 10 million to a Worthy Cause. However, if you inspect carefully, you will find that rich people are less generous when you look at the % of their salary that they donate each year. Wealthy people tend to be isolated due to psychological and physical reasons as wealth often brings more lawsuits and "fake" friends.

A UCLA researcher found that as people got more prosperous, they became more individualistic, having fewer family and community ties (2). This was partly based on an analysis of 1 million books published between 1800 to 2000 in the US. As the US became richer, the frequency of words like "give" and "belong" decreased, while the frequency of individualistic words like "unique", "self", and "individual" increased.

We also can't be happy if we don't have at least one meaningful relationship (3). We all need to love ourselves and be loved by someone.

What traits should be added to help unhappy successful people become happier?

#16. Be Generous

"For it is in giving that we receive."

- St. Francis of Assisi

#17. Be Kind

"Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible."

- Dalai Lama

#18. Be Grateful and Show Gratitude

"He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has."

- Epictetus

#19. Give and Receive Love

"You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection."

- Buddha

#20. Smile Often

"Let us always meet each other with smile, for the smile is the beginning of love."

- Mother Teresa

So, now you can set your goals and become successful and happy. Don't forget to share your happiness widely.

Written by Aldrin V. Gomes, PhD, FCVS, FAHA


(1) Aknin, LB et al. (2013) Prosocial Spending and Well-Being: Cross-Cultural Evidence for a Psychological Universal. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 104 (4): 635– 652.

(2) Greenfield, PM. (2013) The Changing Psychology of Culture From 1800 Through 2000. Psychol Sci 24(9):1722-31.

(3) Diener E, Seligman, MEP. (2002) Very Happy People. Psychol Sci. 13(1):81-4.

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