7 Character Traits of People Who Make a Positive Difference

While success can encompass all of these descriptions, a major ingredient that should be included in any definition of real success is making a positive difference in the lives of others
03/18/2016 02:07 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017


Many definitions are attached to the word "success." Some would include making it to the top of your profession, earning a truckload of money, becoming famous, winning awards, or gaining power and influence.

While success can encompass all of these descriptions, a major ingredient that should be included in any definition of real success is making a positive difference in the lives of others. As speaker Joe Martin once told me, "I want to do well for myself in my career and finances while doing good for others." This sounds like a winning success strategy to me!

Here are seven character traits of successful people who do well in their careers and finances while also making a positive difference in the lives of others.

1. Hard (and Smart) Worker. There is no such thing as easy change, easy impact, or easy success. Making a difference takes a lot of hard (and smart) work. If you're not willing to roll up your sleeves and dig in, the likelihood of you doing well for yourself or making a positive impact in the lives of others is slim.

2. Perseverance. How many life-changing stories are never written because people simply give up too soon? Success comes to those who consistently work hard over the long haul. This is why veteran teachers, business people, coaches, and leaders can tell story after story of how they have seen peoples' lives changed for the better. They've been around the block a few times, and their stick-to-it-tiveness has been a catalyst that brings about positive change.

3. People-Person. This is not to say introverts cannot be successful or make a difference in people's lives--THEY CAN. In fact, some of the most dynamic difference-makers I've met are much shier than I am. But while our styles differ, we are passionate about the same thing--seeing positive change in the lives of others. Simply put, how can you make a difference in someone's life if you are not interested in that someone?

4. Truth-Teller. Everyone struggles sharing hard truths with others, but difference-makers are willing to say the tough stuff because they know truth, spoken clearly and compassionately, leads to change and growth. At the same time, difference-makers know how to balance directness with gentleness because they also know boiling water can harden eggs or soften carrots, so they are careful with how they communicate hard truths to others.

5. Problem-Solver. Problems are a fact of life, but instead of complaining about them, successful people seek answers and fixes. They view problems as opportunities looking for solutions, and this mindset empowers them to the run at problems instead of running away from them.

6. Lifelong Learner. Successful people who make a positive difference are always looking to add new crayons to their crayon box. Why? To use another analogy, they realize when they think they are ripe, they rot...but as long as they stay humble and green, they grow.

7. Over Deliver on Value. A business is successful when it over delivers on value. In the same way, difference-makers gain success by seeking to over deliver in their relationships through active listening, encouraging others, and looking for ways to serve. 

Questions: Which trait stands out most to you? How have you seen it make a difference in the lives of others?