What Does It Mean To Be A Self-Starter? 10 Key Traits

By Zach Buchenau

Last Updated: March 23, 2021

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Knowing what it means to be a self-starter can help you advance in your career, build wealth, and completely change the direction of your life.

Now more than ever before, people are starting their own businesses, building side-hustles, and becoming their own bosses. Maybe that’s not your dream – maybe you just want to do well at your job, have a successful relationship, or get your finances in order. No matter what your goals are, being a self-starter can help you improve many different areas of your life.

This article goes through the ten key traits of self-starters, so you can get a better idea of what it takes to become one.

1.   Takes Initiative

One of the key hallmarks of what it means to be a self-starter is taking initiative. 

Self-starters don’t wait for someone else to give them direction – they recognize what needs to be done, and they do it themselves.

Self-starters don’t need someone standing over them, micro-managing their work. Even if they’ve finished their duties or responsibilities, they’ll search for more ways to contribute. 

Rather than waiting for someone to dictate what they should be doing, they step up and figure out how they can be useful.

That doesn’t mean self-starters can’t take direction. If they’re unsure about what their next steps are, they’ll take the initiative to find out by asking for help or utilizing their resources.

Ultimately, self-starters don’t sit around waiting for someone else to solve problems for them. They see what needs to be done, and even if they don’t know how to do it, they figure it out.

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2.   Disciplined

When you have big dreams and goals, you need a healthy dose of discipline to help you accomplish them. Self-starters are motivated to achieve. Without discipline, their dreams would remain out of reach.

Like most of us, self-starters experience distractions and temptations that can cause them to lose focus on their goals. What sets them apart is that they recognize the value of short-term sacrifice for the potential of a long-term reward. So, even though they would much rather spend a Friday night at the bar with their friends, they may choose to forgo the fun so they can keep making progress in their new business.

That’s not to say that self-starters never have any fun! 

They are, however, masters of their time and experts at prioritizing. They build strong habits and routines that allow them to remain focused.

Discipline can be a difficult trait to build, but it’s worth the effort because of its potential to improve your life. In fact, self-discipline is one of the most desirable personality traits in job candidates.

You can become more disciplined by creating a schedule for yourself and sticking to it. 

Unexpected surprises will likely happen, and you’ll be tempted to ditch your initial plan, but do your best to stick with it. Every time you overcome the temptation to stray from your schedule, you’ll build a little more discipline. 

Then, you’ll be that much closer to becoming a self-starter.

3.   Always Learning and Improving

While self-starters tend to be highly successful, they never lose sight of the fact that they could always be just a little bit better. They recognize that there is always room to grow.

A constant desire for learning, improvement, and growth is at the center of what it means to be a self-starter. People who are self-starters are interested in how they can improve upon their existing strengths and how they can level up their shortcomings.

Even after they’ve achieved some form of success, self-starters continue to work toward that next level of personal and professional growth. They never see their work as totally “finished”. As long as they’re living, they’re growing.

They embrace opportunities to learn new ways of doing things, whether by reading, listening to others’ perspectives, or experimenting. The life of a self-starter is never static.

What does it mean to be a self-starter? | Be The Budget

4.   Driven

Self-starters are intrinsically motivated to do well. They have a driving force within them that propels them forward, and they don’t rely on external rewards to spark their motivation.

At their core, self-starters are achievers. They are determined to accomplish great things with their lives and to realize their full potential. And that desire fuels everything they do.

Rather than remaining satisfied with what they’ve achieved thus far, self-starters look to the future and imagine what’s possible for them. By focusing on the future they desire to create, they direct their present actions toward deeply meaningful goals.

This drive infuses everything they do with a sense of purpose. Whether they’re making their bed or making big moves in their careers, they bring purposeful energy to every task.

5.   Goal-Oriented

It almost goes without saying, but goal-setting is a quintessential part of what it means to be a self-starter. Setting goals is a practical way for self-starters to remain focused on tangible growth and improvement in their lives.

People who are self-starters don’t just sit around hoping for certain areas of their lives to change. They are able to articulate to themselves exactly how they want to improve, and they create real plans to get there.

The goals self-starters set for themselves are a constant source of motivation. They have something they are always working toward, and this infuses their daily life with renewed energy and purpose.

Whether they’re working toward a promotion or aiming to improve their relationships, self-starters work toward their goals with intentionality and consistency. They set aside sufficient time to chip away at each of their goals every day, moving just one step closer. 

Over time, this persistent level of intentionality results in great achievements.

For self-starters, there is always another goal to set and reach. Their work is never truly finished.

6.   Organized

Because self-starters have such big goals and desire to accomplish a lot, they need to be highly organized.

While the word “organized” may make you think of a clean desk or a tidy home, an organized space is only a small portion of the battle. Self-starters tend to be organized in all areas of their lives, from the cleanliness of their spaces to the ways they spend their time.

Physical and mental clutter tend to be obstacles of efficiency. And since self-starters tend to be focused on achieving their goals, organization helps streamline their efforts and reduce distractions.

Self-starters are good at prioritizing what’s most important. They stay on top of their responsibilities and obligations to themselves and others. Since they don’t rely on someone else to tell them what they should be doing, they need ways to organize and be responsible for their own time.

Organizing and staying on top of their priorities is what allows self-starters to be successful. 

While their lives may seem regimented or rigid from the outside, the strict organization of their schedules helps ensure they stay on track toward their goals.

7.   Good Communication Skills

Not even self-starters are totally self-reliant. We all rely on the aid and assistance of others, and being able to communicate our goals gives others the opportunity to help us achieve them.

One of the most important aspects of what it means to be a self-starter is to develop excellent communication skills. 

After all, people who aim to execute their own visions in the world need to be able to communicate their ideas effectively to the people around them.

Since self-starters are effectively pioneers, they rely on communication skills to influence others and to demonstrate the value of what they’re attempting to create. Many of us have great ideas, but we may not be able to articulate them in a way that interests people or helps them see why they are important.

This is where self-starters have an edge. They tend to be great networkers. They are able to articulate their goals and desires to others, and in return, the people in their network are often able to help them reach their goals.

8.   Proactive

Most people tend to be reactive, meaning they respond to a situation rather than creating or controlling it. In contrast, self-starters are often proactive – they take charge of situations.

Self-starters plan for things to go wrong. When they’re working on a project, they anticipate the challenges or obstacles they might face, and they prepare for them from the outset.

Reactive people create a plan, hope for the best, and start executing. But then, when something inevitably interrupts their plans, they go on defense and have to spontaneously search for potential solutions.

Alternatively, people who are proactive recognize that even the most well-thought-out plan rarely plays out without a hitch. This allows them to analyze areas where there are potential pitfalls, and it makes them more prepared for those challenges. 

Then, when the challenge arises, they’re able to overcome it with ease and grace because they planned for it from the start.

Being proactive requires you to think ahead and formulate solutions to problems before they arise. You can’t plan for everything, but anticipating challenges will make it that much easier to overcome them when they inevitably arise.

9.   Courageous

Usually, being a self-starter means having the courage to exit your comfort zone and do something you’ve never done before. It can be scary or uncomfortable to try new things, especially when there’s no way to know if you’ll be successful. Self-starters recognize the potential for failure, but they’re courageous enough to move forward on their goals anyway.

For self-starters, the potential reward of achieving a goal is worth the risk of failure. Instead of letting the fear of failure prevent them from trying, self-starters view failure as opportunities. To them, failure doesn’t mean they’re on the wrong path or they should stop trying to accomplish a particular goal. Instead, failure is an opportunity to learn from past mistakes and to use that wisdom going forward.

Self-starters realize that if you never try, you fail automatically. 

For them, it’s worth overcoming the fear of uncertainty and insecurity for the potential of accomplishing something great. Their goals are more important to them than their fears.

While self-starters are human and feel afraid like everyone else, they’re determined not to let that fear dictate their actions. 

10.   Handling Rejection And Criticism Well

Nobody truly enjoys being criticized, and it never feels good when someone rejects us. But what if we viewed criticism differently?

Dealing gracefully with rejection and criticism is one of the most important aspects of what it means to be a self-starter. As you go through life, not everyone is going to appreciate or understand the decisions you make. Self-starters are ok with that, and they don’t waste their energy trying to combat people’s criticisms.

Because of their laser focus on their goals and ambitions, self-starters become really good at filtering out opinions that are insignificant to them. They’re selective about whose criticisms they take to heart, and they’re accepting of the fact that not everyone will like them or agree with them.

People who are self-starters listen to, accept, and respond to criticisms when they contain some level of truth. Rather than internalizing people’s suggestions, they humbly consider others’ opinions. To the self-starter, being rejected or criticized is just another opportunity to learn and grow.

A self-starter never lets another person’s judgment stop them from making progress or continuing to show up. Often, when you set out to accomplish a goal for yourself in a public way, other people will have opinions about it. It’s up to you to not let those opinions deter you from the future you want to create.

Bottom Line

Self-starters aren’t perfect, but traits like these tend to help them do well professionally, personally, and financially.

The question is, what if you haven’t been the most disciplined, courageous, or goal-oriented person up until now? 

Well, the good news is, you can learn what it means to be a self-starter and begin building these traits within yourself. Put simply, you don’t have to be born a self-starter, and it’s never too late to become one!

Zach Buchenau

About The Author:

Zach Buchenau is a self-proclaimed personal finance nerd. When he isn't writing about budgeting, getting out of debt, making extra money, and living a frugal life, you can find him building furniture, fly fishing, or developing websites. He is the co-founder of BeTheBudget, and Chipotle's most loyal customer.

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