People who thrive during tough times have these 8 unique traits

You’ve probably heard about how Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson only had $7 in his wallet before he had his big break. Or how JK Rowling was a struggling single mother who faced a lot of rejection before finally securing a publishing deal for Harry Potter. 

My personal favorite is Gary Vaynerchuk, an American businessman and author, who was a self-proclaimed ‘nobody’ working in his father’s wine business until he was 34 years old. Today he’s CEO and co-founder of Vaynermedia, a four-time New York Times best-selling author with an estimated net worth of $200 million. 

Ever notice how so many of the successful people we know today, endured tough times before making it big? 

Coincidence? Maybe not. They all have something in common. 

Today we’re talking about 8 unique traits of people who thrive during tough times. 

How many of these traits do you see in yourself? 

Let’s jump in. 

1) They’re determined and persistent

Andy Murray, the British tennis player, first played Wimbledon, the most prestigious tennis tournament of all, in 2005. Plagued by injury and defeat, Murray had to wait 8 years before finally coming out on top against his rival Novak Djokovic in 2013.

Murray is a great example of someone who is determined and persistent. This is a common trait among people who thrive during tough times

Just like Murray, they don’t easily accept defeat as the end but instead, they learn a tough lesson that they know will only make them better. 

If you’ve ever stayed determined and persistent even in the face of failure then you can be sure you already have this unique trait.

2) They have a positive outlook 

My friend Sarah is one of those people who has a positive outlook on life no matter what. She’s the adventurous kind, hiking, biking and sea-swimming at every opportunity. Unphased by bad weather her motto is “There’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing”.

Some people are inherently positive and this is especially powerful during tough times. People with a positive outlook are sometimes accused of being unrealistic or naive. 

But the truth is: They see the good and the bad in every situation but they choose to focus on the good. Having a positive outlook like this helps them to stay on top when things get hard. 

Do you have anyone in your life who just oozes positivity when things look pretty grim to everyone else? 

3) They’re patient

Guess how old Ray Kroc was when he first bought McDonald’s? 


Kroc was a businessman, working in real estate, selling paper cups and distributing milkshake mixing machines. He didn’t find true success until he was in his 50s. Despite this, he never gave up. He had patience and trusted the process. 

One of the most important traits of people who thrive during tough times is patience. As the saying goes “Tough times don’t last but tough people do”.

Maybe you’ve been working on something for a while? Is it taking longer than you’d like for it to be successful? But you are being patient and trusting the process? 

It’s always good to remind ourselves: sometimes tough times can last longer than we’d like. The people who thrive in that time have patience and trust the process just like Ray. 

4) They have a growth mindset

Having a growth mindset is about being able to take challenges and see them as opportunities. And then believing you have what it takes to be successful. This is crucial for people who thrive during tough times.

Mark Cuban, American businessman, billionaire and owner of the Dallas Mavericks, is a perfect example. When he was 25 he worked as a PC software salesman. He was fired for disobeying his boss. 

In his own words “Being fired from that job was the determining factor in my business life. I decided then and there to start my own company”

Mark didn’t run back to his boss, say sorry and beg for his job back. Instead, his growth mindset kicked in and he saw this setback as an opportunity. This is a unique trait of someone who thrives during tough times. 

Have you found yourself in a difficult situation and noticed your growth mindset kick in? 

You could’ve been going through a break-up. Or maybe you’d lost your job. Whatever it was, you found yourself looking for the silver lining. If so, you probably have a growth mindset. 

pic1883 People who thrive during tough times have these 8 unique traits

5) They have a sense of purpose

Have you ever wondered why some people seem to excel during tough times and others, just don’t?

Turns out, it could be down to an individual’s sense of purpose (or lack of). 

As outlined by Kendall Cotton Bronk, Professor of Psychology in Psychology Today “Being inspired by a personally meaningful goal that is larger than the self serves to keep individuals committed to long-term aims, despite challenges and setbacks”

Here’s the thing: during tough times it’s easy to get caught up with what’s going on. Focusing too much on the challenge you’re facing, you can lose perspective on the wider situation. 

People who have a sense of purpose can see the bigger picture. They find it easier than most to take a step back and consider everything. By doing this, it’s easier to figure out what’s important and what’s not. 

Your sense of purpose helps to guide you through tough times instead of allowing you to fall apart when it all feels too much. If this sounds familiar you’re sense of purpose is probably helping you to handle setbacks already. 

6) They have high EQ 

Daniel Goleman, Psychologist and author defines Emotional Intelligence as “understanding and managing your own emotions and influencing the emotions of others” in his book with the same title. He talks about several traits that someone needs to have to be emotionally intelligent;

  • Empathy 
  • Self-regulation 
  • Self-awareness
  • Motivation
  • Social skills

In a nutshell: emotionally intelligent people manage their own emotions and the emotions of those around them by being able to put themselves in others’ shoes. Then they communicate in a way that people can relate to. 

Only 36% of people can identify their emotions as they occur which means being emotionally intelligent is quite a unique trait.

Sound like you?

“If you’re high in EQ, you can use your emotions to guide yourself through these difficulties” as noted by Psychology Today.

7) They’re proactive

My first job out of university was as a sales assistant at a sports retailer. I loved sports but I didn’t love dealing with rude customers, overly controlling managers and working holidays and weekends. I wasn’t happy – I decided to do something about it. 

We received a letter from one of the leading sports brands that we stocked, telling us that the previous Managing Director was retiring and introducing us to the new MD (with his email address). I saw this as an opportunity to nab my dream job and jumped at it. 

I wrote to him to see if they were hiring. Long story short, I got the job and never looked back. This was the first time I experienced the power of being proactive. 

Here’s the deal: people who do well during tough times don’t sit and wait for life to happen to them. They get out there and take a proactive approach. 

Being proactive doesn’t mean you can just take away the tough times. It means you’re empowered to make things better and believe that doing something is better than doing nothing. 

If this sounds like you then it’s very likely you possess the trait of proactivity and can thrive during tough times. 

8) They’re resilient

“Mission complete. 17 years ago I set a goal of breaking 3hrs in a marathon. I failed my first 24 attempts, today I did it.” This was the caption to Casey Neistat’s (vlogger and filmmaker) recent Instagram post

When I saw this I thought to myself “What a fantastic example of resilience!”. To “fail” to reach your goal 24 times, only to bounce back each time and try again is a unique trait that not everyone is blessed with. This is what being resilient is all about. 

Have you faced any big hurdles in your life that you’ve been able to overcome? If so, this is a sure sign you are resilient and able to handle whatever life throws at you. 

As the American Psychological Association outlined, “Becoming more resilient not only helps you get through difficult circumstances, it also empowers you to grow and even improve your life along the way.” 

Here’s the bottom line: Resilient people are better able to handle tough times. 

Final thoughts 

While these are unique traits that not everyone is born with, it’s important to remember that it’s possible to develop them with hard work and dedication. 

Which of these traits do you want to develop more? 

And don’t forget, just like Dwayne Johson, if you haven’t had your big break yet, the tough times you are experiencing now might just be part of your success story later on so keep on grinding. 

Cat Harper

Cat Harper

Cat is an experienced Sales and Enablement professional turned writer whose passions span from psychology and relationships to continuous self-improvement, lifelong learning and pushing back on societal expectations to forge a life she loves. An avid traveler and adventure sports enthusiast, in her downtime you'll find Cat snowboarding, motorcycling or working on her latest self-development project.

Enhance your experience of Ideapod and join Tribe, our community of free thinkers and seekers.

Related articles

Most read articles

Get our articles

Ideapod news, articles, and resources, sent straight to your inbox every month.