5 signs someone is highly accomplished (even when they’re too humble to say so)

When I think of someone who is accomplished, I think of someone who is successful in completing a goal that is significant and meaningful to them. 

This doesn’t have to mean that they make a ton of money, or that they’re necessarily what the world thinks of when it comes to the definition of success.

Iranian human rights activist Narges Mohammadi who just won a Nobel Peace Prize even though she is currently sitting in Iran’s infamous Evin Prison and is on a hunger strike because of her belief in a woman’s rights to forgo her country’s strict hijab laws, is an amazingly accomplished—and courageous—woman. 

A musician is accomplished if they wrote a song that is perfect and special to them. A writer is accomplished if they wrote a book because it was a personal goal. The book may have resonated with a lot of people even if it didn’t do so well financially perhaps. 

Accomplishments certainly can lead to huge success. But the main thing is that something purposeful was fulfilled and completed by the person who did it. 

“This sense of accomplishment doesn’t just benefit your career,” says Steve Mueller, founder of Planet of Success. “[But it can benefit] your overall mental health and well-being.”

What are some signs that someone is accomplished (even if they’re too modest to say so)?

Here are five indicators. 

1) They have a passion that gives them purpose 

Accomplished people wake up every morning feeling motivated and excited about their passion. 

“They know what they want in life and [they have] a clear plan for how they will get there,” says Shachar Pan from Light Liz

The plan doesn’t have to be set in stone but the main thing is they are consistent about what they want. In other words, they don’t want to make music one day, and then think nah, I’d rather be a painter a week later. 

Usually it’s something they wanted ever since they were a child—although this doesn’t have to be the case. 

I recently interviewed Alia Bhatt, who is arguably the most successful actress in India. Her film, Rocky Aur Rani Ki Prem Kahani (The Love Story Of Rocky And Rani), was hailed as the most successful romantic-comedy movie of all time in India. 

Bhatt told me that she always wanted to be an actor. As a child, she liked watching people making funny faces at each other in the “television box” and she knew that she wanted to be inside that box one day. 

Bhatt comes from a movie family (her father is a director and her mother was an actress), so that was some of the driving force, but she never wavered from wanting to achieve her goal. 

2) They channel that ambition into action

Accomplished people don’t just sit around and talk about what they want to do—they go out and do it and let their accomplishments speak for themselves. 

They get to work on that marketing pitch, that book proposal, that screenplay they want to write, or that small business idea they have their heart set on. 

American novelist Karen Robards’ first try at writing a novel occurred when she was attending the University of Kentucky when she was taking a graduate creative writing class. 

The assignment was for each student to write 50 pages that could be published. Robards’ research showed that a historical romance would be her best bet at being commissioned. When making the choice, she didn’t realize that she would have to read the manuscript out loud to the class!

The book, despite laughter from the class, became the basis for her first book, Island Flame when she was in her early 20s. 

Back when Robards’ book was published, historical romance novels had a shelf life of just three weeks so the publisher was reluctant to commission any more work without seeing how successful it would be. 

Robards took the risk. She dropped out of law school so that she could become a writer. Of course, she had to pay the bills in the meantime so she took up work in an orthodontist’s clinic. Robards wrote the novel in the ladies’ room at the clinic. She finished the book in three months and it was sold quickly to a different publisher. It also became the real launchpad for her writing career.

Moral of the story: accomplished people are always putting their passion to work, and to the test. 

pic1871 1 5 signs someone is highly accomplished (even when they're too humble to say so)

3) They have a strong sense of self-discipline 

We see from the above example at just how disciplined Robards was. She wrote her book in the ladies room during any spare minute she had—that’s how dedicated she was to her craft. 

For accomplished people, self-discipline is a habit, a practice, a philosophy, and a way of living, says lifestyle coach Brian Tracy

“All successful [people] are highly disciplined in the important work that they do,” he says. “All unsuccessful [people] are undisciplined and unable to control their behaviors and their appetites.”

You won’t accomplish transitioning that side hobby into a full-time passion and livelihood if you keep giving into your Netflix habit night after night. 

Never put off what you can do now. Saying you’ll start something tomorrow or when you have more time or more money or whatever is the exact same thing as not doing it at all. 

That passion will just live in the wish zone while your life is passing you by. 

4) They’re cognizant of the company they keep

Accomplished people are very intentional about who gets to have access to them and who doesn’t.

“I always talk about the importance of friends and peers, because they have a great effect on what we become today,” says Jojo Gellar from Medium.

“You have to associate yourself with people of good quality, and it is always better to be alone than to be in bad company,” she says. “You have to evaluate quickly what type of friends you surround yourself with…So, if you are surrounded by successful people, you are more likely to be successful yourself.”

Successful people surround themselves with smart people, adds Matthew Royse

“When you surround yourself with smart people, you’ll expand your knowledge, you’ll have a support community that will push you to become a better version of yourself, and you’ll become a more well-rounded person,” Royse explains. 

“You’ll soak up their interests, goals, and expertise. Success breeds more success.”

I love this proverb that Royse employs to echo his point: “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.”

5) Their reputation precedes them—in a positive way

The beautiful thing about accomplished people is that their achievements speak for themselves. They don’t have to talk about them, they don’t brag about them, and they don’t have an ego about them. 

Think about all the people you admire for their accomplishments. They don’t have to be famous—although they can be. 

I didn’t know my paternal grandfather all that much growing up. My extended family all live in the United Kingdom (my immediate family lives in Canada), so I only saw him every couple of years growing up. He passed away when I was in university. 

My grandfather’s reputation preceded him. He came from India to England in the 1950s—just some years after India became independent from the British empire. He came from a small village in Punjab, India with little education, little money, and absolutely no English. He was also among the first sets of immigrants to the UK.

Some years later after he was established in England, he set up a textile factory with my father that was very successful for many years. This, in a country that looked at Indians as second-class citizens at the time and where there was rampant racism. 

My father was very much like his own in that he wanted to start from scratch in a new country so he came to Canada shortly after he and my mother married and the business was up and running. 

I’m very proud that there are people who I’ve come across in Canada who say they know of my grandfather—not just because of the business but also his character, demeanor, and integrity—and his sense of humor. He was also a great lover of music and poetry. 

I think this story and my father’s passion in telling it as well as the desire to forge his own way, is why I’m in journalism. That desire to do something different, something that isn’t easily done by others. 

That fulfilling sense of accomplishment. 




Wendy Kaur

Wendy Kaur

Wendy Kaur is a Toronto-based journalist whose work has been published by The Globe & Mail, ELLE USA, ELLE Canada, British Vogue, Town & Country, and others.

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