Education & Career Trends: 7 Psychological Habits of Highly Successful People

6 min read

Edition: February 8th, 2022
Curated by the Knowledge Team of ICS Career GPS

Having the right mindset is the key to success. (Image Credit: Stock Adobe)
  • Excerpts from article by Nick Wignall, published on

Successful people tend to have good relationships with their minds. When you get to know people who have been successful — it seems that many of them have an uncommonly positive relationship with themselves.

Of course, there are plenty of people who are very successful despite not having a great relationship with themselves. But the exception doesn’t prove the rule.

When you look carefully at people who have achieved and maintained some amount of meaningful success in their life, one of the hidden variables behind that success is that they don’t get sabotaged and derailed by their own thoughts, beliefs, and emotions.

It’s a lot easier to be successful when you have a good relationship with your own mind.

Here are 7 psychological habits observed in highly successful people that we can all learn from — whatever your definition of success is:

1. They acknowledge their emotions early.

  • It’s hard to be successful in any part of life if you constantly get overwhelmed by painful emotions.
  • It’s easier to manage difficult emotions when you catch them early.
  • Most people get overwhelmed by painful emotions because they ignore them or distract themselves when those emotions are small.
  • While this feels good in the short term, it usually leads to those feelings getting much bigger and more intense over time.
  • If you can get in the habit of acknowledging your emotions when they first show up — and then understanding them instead of trying to get rid of them — you stand a much better chance of staying emotionally balanced and getting on with your most important work and goals.

2. They think about their thinking process.

  • Aside from ignoring your emotions when they first show up, the other reason they end up ballooning into giant, overwhelming feelings is because we unintentionally feed them.
  • Specifically, patterns of thinking like chronic worry or negative self-talk lead to much stronger and longer lasting harmful emotions.
  • If you want to control your emotions, you must learn to manage your thinking.
  • Most people are not very aware of their mental patterns. As a result, they find themselves at the mercy of all the emotions those thought patterns lead to.
  • On the other hand, successful people often have a habit of reflecting on and paying attention to their own thoughts.
  • They’re aware of the role their thoughts play in initiating or maintaining unhelpful mental patterns; and as a result, are better at regulating those thoughts patterns and the emotions that follow.

3. They practise self-compassion.

  • There are really two types of successful people –
    1. One type is externally very successful, but miserable on the inside.
    2. The other type is externally successful and also calm and confident inside.
  • And while there are many factors that could lead to this difference, here’s the major one: It’s hard to be sustainably successful when you beat the hell out of yourself every time you slip up.
  • The externally successful and internally miserable types often have a pretty intense habit of self-judgment after mistakes.
  • But the ones whose external success is matched by internal calm almost always have a strong habit of self-compassion.
  • They reflect on their mistakes and try to learn from them. But they don’t dwell on them or generalise them to what they mean about them as people.

4. They listen to their emotions (but rarely trust them).

  • Most people’s relationship with their emotions falls into one of two extremes:
    1. They’re dismissive and avoidant of their emotions. As a result, they don’t know much about them or how much those emotions influence them outside of their awareness.
    2. They’re obsessed with and overly-focused on their emotions. As a result, they frequently get lost in their feelings and are overly emotion-driven in their decision-making and choices.
  • On the other hand, people who tend to be successful often have a middle ground approach to their emotions: They’re aware of and sensitive to their emotions but don’t put blind trust in them either.
  • Instead, they see emotions as a source of potentially useful information, but not gospel truth.
  • And when push comes to shove, they tend to use values rather than emotions to make big decisions.

5. They update their expectations frequently.

  • Expectations are powerful beliefs about the future or what you believe should happen.
  • If you insist on having expectations, you should insist on having realistic ones.
  • A lot of people end up falling into patterns of self-sabotage and bad habits because they’re still operating according to old expectations.
  • Successful people understand that to continue to make good decisions in an ever-changing environment you need to be regularly examining and updating your expectations so that they actually adhere to reality.
  • Your expectations should move you toward your goals and aspirations rather than away from them.

6. They’re serious about self-care.

  • Success depends on a healthy mind. And a healthy mind depends on healthy habits.
  • The term self-care has been hijacked to mean superficial acts of comfort and pleasure.
  • But in reality, self-care means establishing and maintaining habits and routines that support your emotional health and wellbeing.
  • Successful people understand that doing your best work depends on being emotionally strong and mentally sharp.
  • But more importantly, they know that those things require time and investment.
  • If you want your mind to work for you, you need to work for your mind.

7. They’re willing to be emotionally vulnerable.

  • Emotional vulnerability is another one of those terms like self-care that seems silly and superficial and not worth even thinking much about. But that’s only because most people don’t really understand what it means.
  • To be emotionally vulnerable means that, when appropriate, you are able and willing to talk about how you feel — especially when it’s tough.
  • Not only is this important for your own emotional health and wellbeing, but it’s vital if you want to maintain healthy and effective relationships — on which almost all forms of success depend.
  • From business to parenting, a successful journey depends on all parties feeling confident that they can talk about how they really feel.
  • Successful people understand that by modelling their own emotional vulnerability and being honest about how they feel, they’re empowering others to do the same.

If you want to be more successful in any area of life, it’s important to cultivate a healthy relationship with your own mind.


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(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the article mentioned above are those of the author(s). They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of ICS Career GPS or its staff.)

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