Success, just like happiness and other intangible goals, is entirely self-defined. You may define success differently from how your family members, employees, colleagues, and even role models define it. However, no matter how differently professionals define success, I find that the most successful professionals tend to have the following characteristics in common.

Successful Professionals Enjoy Challenges

Handling challenges skillfully is a core competency of any successful professional. In fact, some of the most successful professionals make it a sport. Successful people enjoy and welcome challenges because they often provide unexpected growth opportunities. Challenges are also useful opportunities to prove yourself in the eyes of others. Continuing to grow your skills, even in areas unrelated to work, helps you to stay involved, aware, and highly engaged in your career. Consider viewing each challenge as a different opportunity to prove yourself, learn a new skill, or otherwise grow as a professional.

Successful Professionals Plan to Feel More in Control

Some degree of planning helps successful professionals to stay on course generally. Successful professionals are also agile. They course correct and calibrate as their career unfolds. After all, over time they learn new information, and their circumstances — personal and professional — may change. Thus, to be successful you must plan carefully, yet also allow, and even welcome, some degree of chance and serendipity. At the end, others won’t make your career happen. You need to put in the majority of the work. This means taking charge and influencing what you can at work and in life daily, but also having the strength and wisdom to embrace what you cannot control.

Successful Professionals Maintain Clear Boundaries

Successful professionals have a strong sense of control and have mastered the art of setting boundaries. How else could they manage a full load of career, family, self-care, and other goals and responsibilities? Successful professionals are open minded, but also stay aware of what they can handle, know their limits, push back strategically, and focus on their long-term goals and values. Practice identifying opportunities that may not be right for you, and learn to mindfully decline them.

Successful Professionals Are Optimistic

While some degree of pessimism may be helpful to evaluate all outcomes and think strategically, optimism helps successful professionals to cope with stress and become resilient. Consider integrating mindfulness into your daily routine, whether through meditation or simply writing down five things you are grateful for. This will help you to remember the positive aspects of life, and bolster your optimism for when difficult situations arise. Another strategy is to consider what could go right, instead of what could go wrong. Whenever you begin worrying about how a situation could go wrong, take a step back to instead picture yourself succeeding.

Successful Professionals Navigate Without Engaging in Office Politics

While it may be helpful to stay aware of office politics to navigate them effectively, stay productive, and be impactful, successful professionals know that that engaging in office politics can also quickly end a career. Not only does engaging in office politics waste a lot of productive resources, it can also burn important professional bridges, carry high reputational costs, and undermine your credibility. As Michelle Obama once said, “When they go low, we go high.” Strive to rise above office politics by focusing on your own goals and strategies. Instead of comparing yourself to others or engaging in negative thinking against certain co-workers or company moves, keep your professional mind focused on positive actions you can take on your own behalf.

Although success can mean different things to different people, these intrinsic habits for achieving success are similar for all professionals. Whether you seek success in terms of achieving a promotion, a career change, a dream project, or even an ideal work-life balance, by following these five steps you can find yourself closer to your goal.


  • Olga V. Mack

    CEO at Parley Pro | ❤ LegalTech | Blockchain Strategist | Author | Speaker | Women's Advocate

    Olga V. Mack is the CEO of Parley Pro, a next-generation contract management company that has pioneered online negotiation technology. Olga embraces legal innovation and had dedicated her career to improving and shaping the future of law. She is convinced that the legal profession will emerge even stronger, more resilient, and more inclusive than before by embracing technology. She shares her views in her columns on the Above the Law, Bloomberg Law, Newsweek, and High Performance Counsel. Olga is also an award-winning general counsel, operations professional, startup advisor, public speaker, adjunct professor, and entrepreneur. Olga co-founded SunLaw, an organization dedicated to preparing women in-house attorneys to become general counsels and legal leaders, and WISE to help female law firm partners become rainmakers. She authored Get on Board: Earning Your Ticket to a Corporate Board Seat and Fundamentals of Smart Contract Security.