Do we become what we want to be, or what we were born to be? This is an age-old question. We could debate it for hours. The best among us get in touch with our innate abilities…our genetic gifts…and then we work our butts off to perfect and apply them.

No matter what gifts we were blessed with, most would agree that what we ultimately become is largely determined by the choices we make. We forge our own character. We develop a belief system to help guide us on our journey.

I’ve made it a hobby to study accomplished people. Those who become the best at what they do exhibit certain traits, aside from those they inherited. Accomplished people share certain common traits that they learned and regularly practice as a matter of choice. I try to practice these traits myself, not always in equal measure, but with a high degree of regularity.

This is my Top 10 list of ‘Must Be’s’ that everyone should learn and practice to become accomplished (in no particular order of importance):

1. Be Optimistic
Accomplished people are upbeat. They believe it’s the most amazing time to be alive in the history of the world. They are cognizant of life’s problems and drudgery; they just don’t allow the negatives to control their attitude or outlook. They see problems as obstacles to overcome, or as opportunities to help solve. They choose to see the best in people and believe the world can be a better place.

2. Be a Life-Long Learner
Accomplished people have an insatiable desire to know everything about what interests them. They know a little about everything and a lot about their thing. They are very well read. They are often experts in their field, but never stop learning about it. They will never say they know it all. They choose to be a student of life.

3. Be Persistent
Accomplished people do not give up easily. When they set their minds to something, they figure out a way of doing it come hell or high water. They commit to it. They nourish a sense of determination that others envy. They often don’t have a timeframe, just a destination. They do something every day that moves them closer to it. They are not dissuaded by the naysayers, nor deterred by their failures. They choose to keep at it until they have achieved it, or exhausted all possibility of its realization.

4. Be Empathetic
Accomplished people are not self-absorbed, despite their drive and focus. They remain approachable. They know that everyone has their story; everyone is on their own journey. They are sensitive to the needs, fears and motivations of others. This is what makes some of them great leaders. The people around them can sense that they care. They choose to delay personal gratification and put the needs of others — the greater good — above their own.

5. Be Persuasive
Accomplished people are very good at making their argument. They have the data…the facts, but they especially have the fire. They are willing to take sides, make a stand, and vigorously defend their ideas, principles and values. Others admire them for this trait, even though it can be annoying. What makes them so persuasive is their confidence in themselves and their position. They choose to pull others along with them, not push them there.

6. Be Trustworthy
Accomplished people earn the trust of others. They can keep a confidence. They are true to their word. In a world full of shady people and double-dealing, they have a reputation for being unimpeachable. They become trustworthy not by their words, but by their deeds. They would choose to lose, perhaps even die, than to betray the trust of others.

7. Be Disciplined
Accomplished people develop good habits. They are consistent. They train themselves to be rigorous adopters of best practices. They are always looking for ways to enhance and refine their skills. They embrace good tools and processes to accelerate their desired outcomes. They hold themselves accountable to high standards. They choose to follow a proven system rather than haphazardly figure things out as they go.

8. Be Fit
Accomplished people are “fit” in both forms of the definition. They work at being as healthy as they can possibly be on all dimensions. They know that proper diet, exercise and preventive care is required for longevity. They stay on top of their game. They stay mentally and emotionally fit. They maintain an edge…a competitive spirit. They also choose to be a good fit and reasonably suitable for the endeavors they decide to undertake.

9. Be Risk-Tolerant
Accomplished people are not afraid of failing. In fact, they see it as a prerequisite to success. They don’t take foolish or uncalculated risks. They figure out how to mitigate the risks, then they act. They can tolerate financial risk. They fortify themselves to withstand emotional risk. They choose to take a leap of faith knowing that failure could be the thing that puts them on the right path.

10. Be Self-Aware
Accomplished people know their strengths and weaknesses. They know their predispositions and personality quirks. They know what they don’t know. They are keenly aware of how they are perceived by others, which gives them an advantage that few people enjoy. They choose to make a unique place for themselves in the world, rather than having their place dictated to them by others.

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This is my list, you probably have your own list. Feel free to add your list of ‘Must Be’s.’ We are what we decide to be. Hopefully, it compliments what we were born to be.

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