Success doesn't happen overnight. It's the product of years, and sometimes a lifetime, of habits that accumulate and drive a person toward his/her goals. Though "successful" can have multiple definitions, we can agree upon a generally accepted one--a person is successful when he/she leads others to success, meets his/her personal and professional goals, creates something useful and innovative, and makes a lot of money while making a lot of people happy at the same time. Most of us would be happy with any one of those elements of success.

To get to that level, you have to learn from the habits of the people who came before you. Take, for instance, these seven common habits, which have come to define some of the most successful people in the world:

1. They Invest in Themselves. You can invest in a car, invest in a stock, or even invest in tonight's entertainment. There's only one investment that really matters, however, and it's the one that's going to stick with you for the rest of your life: it's you. Investing in yourself is crucial if you want to be successful, and that means prioritizing your own development over the development of things outside yourself. For example, education is rarely a poor investment, either in time or in money. Reading the news regularly and attending free online classes is often more than enough to develop your mind and perspective. No matter what you do or how you do it, it's in your best interest to regularly and consistently enable yourself to grow, whether that means learning new information, acquiring new skills, or reshaping yourself as a person.

2. They Aren't Held Back by Failure. The road to success is rarely straight. In fact, most successful people have only found success after enduring, and overcoming, the foul taste of failure in their own lives. Take, for example, Bill Gates, whose first business, Traf-o-Data was a complete and utter failure. Rather than give up and take a normal job somewhere else, Gates went on to create Microsoft, and we all know how that story ended. Failures come in all shapes and sizes, from embarrassing social mistakes to critical business collapses. Successful people make it a habit to prevent these failures from getting to them. Instead, they're focused on continuing to move forward.

3. They Think in the Long Term. Successful people tend to make long-term decisions, rather than decisions that make sense in the moment; this is called delayed gratification, and it was the subject of my article titled "This Personality Trait Leads to Wealth And Happiness; Do You Have It?". They would rather have $100 a month from now than $50 right now, and they have no problem making a temporary sacrifice if it means improving something in the long-term. Take, for example, billionaire investor Warren Buffet, who frequently insists that patience is the key to everything. He doesn't make impromptu decisions, nor does he jump ship the instant something looks like it might be going wrong. Instead, he takes his time making great decisions, and isn't afraid to stick with them for the long haul. He's a man who weathers the storm, every time.

4. They Aren't Afraid to Move Forward. Sometimes, the only difference between successful people and ordinary people is that successful people made a decision to move forward. Ordinary people are frequently crippled by fear, uncertainty, and hesitation, but successful people are able to move past that and move forward despite those feelings. Richard Branson, famed serial entrepreneur, always started things before he felt truly ready, and his gumption to make progress drove him to greater success.

5. They Stay Focused. Focus is critical for success, but creating and maintaining focus is a hard habit to start. Distractions are everywhere in our lives, from the small scale (with emails, phones, and the lure of the Internet) to the large scale (with competing offers, other projects, and "easier" routes). Staying true to your most important goals is important if you want to eventually achieve those goals. Each moment you spend doing something unrelated to those goals can be considered a moment wasted.

6. They Stay Positive. It's hard to be positive in the face of an overwhelming project, or after a crushing blow to your long-term plans, but successful people are able to do it. Rather than focusing on the negative, they focus on the positive. They turn challenges into opportunities. They express gratitude for what they do have instead of longing or grief for what they don't. They use self-talk positively instead of negatively, and they look to the future instead of the past.

7. They Understand the Meaning of Work-Life Balance. Hard work is imperative. Without a strong work ethic and a commitment to executing that work properly, it's almost impossible to ever become successful. However, working hard doesn't mean abandoning the important parts of your personal life. Rest, relaxation, and time spent with your family and friends are all critically important for your mental wellbeing. Taking time off of work every once in a while and preserving a healthy work-life balance is important, and is preserved even by the hardest-working, most successful people on the planet.

Don't feel like you need to embody all seven of these habits in order to be successful. One of the greatest things about success is that it's defined subjectively, and can be achieved via any number of different paths. Still, learning from and adopting these habits can help you become more successful in your own life, no matter how you choose to define that success. As you work your way up the ladder to success, you may find the insights in my eBook helpful: Climbing the Corporate Ladder: Career Hacks for Modern Professionals.

Published on: Oct 27, 2015