7 Character Traits Every Young Adult Needs to Succeed

Character traits are distinguishing qualities or attributes which describe an individual. They are the essence of personality. They are manifest in a person’s attitudes, and they influence a person’s behavior.

We all have positive and negative character traits. While some traits may appear to be genetically inherited, we all possess the power to overcome negative traits and cultivate positive ones.

Parents can have a meaningful influence over which traits a child develops.  While parental impact tends to be greater in the early years, parents can continue to help children develop constructive traits well into adulthood. You can be your child’s best ally in becoming the person they want to be.

Below is a list of seven attributes which are associated with success and well-being.  They are a great place to start whether you’re helping an adult child transition to independence or just hoping to help your kids achieve their full potential no matter what their age.


Of all the character traits a person can develop, self-discipline is perhaps most closely tied to success and happiness. We all have things we want to achieve and habits we want to develop, but many people struggle to bring those desires to fruition. Often the reason is a lack of self-discipline.

Self-discipline is an inner strength that allows us to control our thoughts, actions, and reactions. It’s what gives a person the power to stick to decisions and see them through, even when doing so requires tremendous effort.

The value of self-discipline extends to all aspects of life. It affects our physical, mental, emotional and social well-being, all of which impact our success academically and professionally. Self-discipline is the thing that allows us to push through challenges, fulfill responsibilities, and strive for excellence. What better preparation could a parent offer to a child who is venturing forth into the world than to instill self-discipline? 

While self-discipline may not come naturally to most of us, it can be developed. In his article 10 Powerful Ways to Master Self-Discipline, Deep Patel offers some simple, but effective methods for developing greater self-discipline.  

Hard Work

One of the greatest character traits a young person can develop is the ability and inclination to work hard. While there will always be those who are looking for the easy way around things, employers appreciate a good solid work ethic. What’s more, hard work brings many of its own rewards.

Hard work is satisfying and bolsters self-respect and self-worth. Hard work is energizing. It gets a person noticed, promotes success and develops character.

Teaching a young person to work hard can be challenging (as they are often resistant), but it can also be a bonding experience. Where there is shared suffering and shared accomplishment a bond is often formed.

Hard work doesn’t have to be boring or disagreeable. It can be fun! Practice modeling a positive attitude about work and look for ways to make it enjoyable. Help the young person in your life recognize the advantages and benefits of working hard. For some insights into what those benefits are, read Thomas Oppong’s article: Hard Work is the Single Greatest Competitive Advantage.


Self-awareness is the ability to see yourself as you really are. It’s about recognizing and accepting your thoughts, feelings, values and motivations and being able to evaluate them and their impact on you.

How does being self-aware help a person to succeed? Most people struggle with making their actions consistent with their values and goals. For instance, we may know and accept that exercise is vital to good health, but many of us make excuses and behave inconsistently with regard to this tenant. In our hearts and minds our kids may be our number one priority, but in reality we often let other, less important pursuits sap our energy and monopolize our time.

Understanding your emotions, personality and behavior allows you to better control them and to make the changes you desire in your life.

Young people who possess this character trait have the power to make informed decisions, set attainable goals, and direct their future in a manner that will bring them true satisfaction and success. 

Positive Thinking

Henry Ford is credited with saying, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t - you’re right.”

He’s right. Our thoughts have a powerful impact on our behavior. Negative thoughts tend to restrict us. They prevent us from achieving what we are capable of by convincing us that we shouldn’t even try and limiting our ability to imagine our options.

Positive thoughts, on the other hand, are expansive and encouraging. They make us believe in our ability to succeed and give us the motivation to try. According to the Mayo Clinic positive thinking results in a variety of physical as well as emotional health benefits. See Positive Thinking: Stop Negative Self-Talk to Reduce Stress.

In his article, How Positive Thinking Builds Your Skills, Boosts Your Health, and Improves Your Work, James Clear outlines the science behind the power of positive thinking and identifies some things each of us can do to develop this rewarding character trait. 

Critical Thinking

Critical thinking is, well…critical to informed decision making, and don’t we all want to raise good decision makers? Critical thinking involves examining different sources of information and deciding which are relevant and which are not. Critical thinkers are able to filter, organize and analyze information in order to make sense of it and understand how it all relates. They can identify patterns and assumptions and solve problems creatively.

Adults use critical thinking skills to make a variety of decisions across all aspects of their lives.  While all thinking is influenced by perception and personal experience, the better a person’s critical thinking skills, the more opened minded that person tends to be.

The ability to think critically is a skill that can be cultivated, and it’s tremendously valuable to young adults preparing for independence. 


Someone who is efficient approaches tasks and challenges in a well-organized and competent manner. Efficient people are able to achieve a maximum level of productivity with minimal wasted effort or expense. In other words, they are good managers of both time and resources. What a valuable character trait to possess!

Efficient people are able to prioritize effectively. What’s more, they stick to their priorities and block out distractions. They are productive. They are also somewhat rare.

Let’s face it, distractions are the bane of the modern world. A person who can resist distraction and remain focused is a rare treasure. 

Here are two articles on improving personal efficiency by Dr. Travis Bradberry:   11 Things Organized and Productive People Do Every Day, and 6 Easy Tricks That Will Make You Way More Productive.


Of all the character traits a young person might aspire to, perhaps the most beneficial to self and others is kindness. In a world where building a network is critical to success, the surest path to making lasting connections is kindness.

Kindness breaks down barriers. It lifts both the giver and the receiver. It infuses our brains with feel good chemicals that increase our happiness and sense of well-being. Kindness gets a person noticed, and remembered, and appreciated. There is even evidence to suggest that it has long term health benefits.

Being kind doesn’t require any more effort than being selfish and inconsiderate, but it leaves you feeling a whole lot better about yourself and the world around you. The world needs more kind-hearted people who have the power to influence others for good. 

Final Thoughts on the Importance of Character Traits

The seven character traits discussed here are associated with success and well-being. Each of these attributes is worthwhile on its own. When combined, they form a person who is personable, practical, and productive - someone who works and plays well with others. In short, someone we'd all like to know. Cultivating them can help a young adult to achieve his or her full potential. 

Recommended Reading

Whether you have a high-schooler preparing to head off to college or a college graduate hanging out at home, there are many ways for parents to help adult children prepare for the transition to life on their own. Click on the icons below for more information on this topic.

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