There are seventeen chapters in my latest book which are about how to maximise career potential, based on my own knowledge, experience and insights. Over my own professional career, I have had many opportunities to observe many successful and fulfilled high achievers who excelled in their careers. These were people who seem well-balanced, affable but focused and determined. Most had common recognisable traits which can help us understand why such people are usually more successful than others. Perhaps, we can learn from them and thereby enhance our own careers
High achievers are more than doers; they are “completors” who make things happen and achieve success. They will turn goals into accomplishments because they are self-disciplined, motivated, determined, and show initiative. They know where they want to go and can set out a clear pathway to their desired destination. This can-do attitude sets them apart from dreamers.
Many of us may be able to tick off some of these boxes. We may be determined, focused and motivated, but there are other important attributes that are worthy of our attention if we want to maximise our potential and accomplish our goals. Maintaining a positive mental attitude has to be a priority. A “can-d0” mindset and a positive attitude can open up possibilities in life and career. As Helen Keller once said: Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement, and this is so true. Achievers are optimists and their optimism, when rooted in reality, can attract others to them and their mission. No pessimist ever discovered the secret of the stars, or sailed to an uncharted land, or opened a new doorway for the human spirit- Helen Keller.
Many high achievers are also authentic and reliable. They are not fakes-what you see is what you get. This is important because in our careers we do need the support of others. For people to have an affinity with us we need to show that we are genuinely interested in others. When we show we care we make genuine connections. We show our integrity when we treat others with respect. Careerists who excel in their careers will certainly have secured the support and respect of others.
Most high achievers make others feel good about themselves. They smile easily and listen carefully. Having good emotional intelligence generally makes them likable and trusted. As is the case with good leaders, they understand that to genuinely know and connect with others they must first have connected with their inner self and have true self-awareness. As Aristotle reminds us, knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom. When you know yourself, your strengths, and your weaknesses, you will give purpose and direction to your life. Not knowing yourself is like a ship with no compass. To make an impact on others, you first need to know who you really are. Successful achievers will have learned to monitor and manage their feelings and how they react in varying circumstances. They tend not to waste time on negativity.
High achievers will have a true sense of self-worth and will radiate energy and confidence, but will be careful not to appear arrogant. Confidence is a characteristic of a positive attitude and tends to be contagious. It springs from a belief in oneself and one’s innate abilities. By radiating genuine positivity and confidence high achievers tend to excel at fostering relationships, creating networks and building collaborative teams.
High achievers also know that success is underpinned by hard work and discipline. No one is a born achiever: it’s all in attitude. Every great achiever knows the power of motivation. They are resolute about achieving goals, driven by determination, and forge ahead with perseverance. They have a vision or blueprint about their career trajectory: they dream big but follow a strategy for success. Obstacles are seen as challenges to be overcome and failures are opportunities for learning. For them, every event is a learning opportunity.
They know that knowledge is the backbone of success. They know that lifelong learning enhances performance and promotes flexible and adaptive behaviour. Because they have a growth mindset they constantly learn and adapt to new circumstances. The future is always a learning curve.
Ambition. self-belief, competency, discipline and likeability are core attributes of high achievers. The lesson for us can seem fairly simple; know what you want and have a strategy to achieve it. Don’t fear failure, don’t rely on excuses and don’t let others manage your life or decide your future. Avoid procrastination, find your passion, and stay connected to it.
Career advancement is much easier and more fulfilling when you are passionate about what you do. It took me three decades and three job changes to find what I was looking for, a leadership and development role in the education and training sector in Ireland. When you are positive and passionate about what you do, your creativity is released, your confidence is boosted and you will significantly enhance your career potential.
Learning from others, having mentors, or having support structures in our professional lives can be very beneficial, but only if we have learned to know and manage ourselves. Too often, we forget that the most crucial work we can do to enhance our careers is to know our personal and professional strengths and weaknesses. Sometimes we try to protect our self-esteem by glossing over this vital part of personal and career development. Self-examination is the key to insight and is a voyage we all need to take. Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom-Lao Tzu.
Learning to know our real selves and learning from others will help us to live authentically and enhance our career prospects. If we have the motivation to drive forward then we must have an action plan. What we learn from those who have excelled in their careers will be an integral part of our strategy to achieve more than we ever thought possible. Belief comes before performance.
(Featured photo by Anna Wong on Unsplash)