I have been privileged to meet a few truly successful people over the years. In each of these, I have noticed that they have several things in common.

At their core, successful people are guided by a strong belief system. Whether it is their faith in God, or some other code or set of beliefs – such as belief in science, being a great parent, social concern, animal rights, theatre, adherence to a code of conduct, or any number of other possibilities – the truly successful people are driven by their core beliefs and values.

Their belief system provides an anchor to their overall life. In the parlance of some modern authors, it might be described as their personal mission or major purpose. It guides the decisions that they make and provides an overall direction to their day-to-day life. Their belief system functions as a compass. And it’s because of that compass that they always know where their true north is.

The second thing I have noticed about successful people is that their definition of success is unique to them. They are not trying to be someone else. They have spent time figuring out their own definition of success and they have established a plan to achieve their goals.

Truly successful people are internally motivated. They don’t seek the recognition of others. They know that the opinions of others are fickle and that living for the approval and recognition of others creates only the illusion of success, not real success. Successful people know personally – deep down – when they are really successful. They don’t need their success validated through recognition by others or even by their own possessions.

They have paid a price for their success. They won’t share with you their experiences initially because they don’t like to talk about themselves. However, if you draw close to them, you will learn that there has been a cost for their success. It has not come without sacrifice. They have often intentionally denied the pleasures of life in their early years. Instead, they have invested their time in learning and growing so that they are prepared when opportunities arise.

Additionally, they have made good choices. They have not been impulsive. They take time to make important decisions. They seek the counsel of advisers who they respect and to whom they will listen. Often, successful people have a mentor who they have turned to for guidance along the way.

They are not lucky. They learned things early in their lives that prepared them for their later success. In fact, my favorite definition of luck is when preparation meets opportunity.

They have determined what skills they have that can make them uniquely successful. They recognize where they are genuinely talented and also areas where they are clearly not talented. They understand that it is impossible to be successful in an area where you do not have talent. They have matched their personal mission and purpose to their talents.

Successful people also are passionate about what they do. They are interested in it. They enjoy it. In fact, they find it difficult to avoid it. Much of their ability to be successful is driven by their passion about their vision. In addition, their passion matches their talent. They are totally committed which is not difficult since they are able to use their talent and their passion together.

Finally, they have balance in their lives. If they are married, they are fully committed to their marriage, not just their work. If they are a parent, they are all in. They have friends with whom they are close. Their lives are rich in their chosen profession as well as in their personal lives.

We can learn a lot from successful people.

In summary, they are internally driven by a set of core beliefs. They have invested early in their lives and paid a price for their later success. They have intentionally taken the time necessary to make good decisions. They value their family and friends.

And they enjoy both their work and their personal life more than most people. They are truly happy.