Have you ever wondered how some people skyrocket to professional success, while others are forced to settle for mediocrity? It's a conundrum many of us wrestle with throughout our careers.

Fortunately, highly successful people exhibit common habits that can serve as a blueprint for your own success. Here are several common habits that play important roles in achieving high levels of success.  

1. They define success

This one seems obvious, but it's often overlooked. Understanding what success means for you is the most important step in actually becoming successful.

The definition of what constitutes success is different for each individual. Successful people don't determine whether they've succeeded in life based on what others have achieved. They do some serious soul-searching and determine what success means for them personally.

Not everyone wants to be the CEO of a Fortune 500 company. The pay is great, no doubt about that. A 2014 study by the Economic Policy Institute found that salaries for CEOs were over 300 times higher than those of the average worker. There are, however, lots of downfalls wrapped up in that higher salary.

In a recent article on CNN.com, Steve Tappin, author of “The Secrets of CEOs,” revealed that many CEOs are “burned out and stressed.”

"There should be a health warning,” said Tappin. “If you have those emotions for 80 percent of the day, they lead to stress and cortisol in the body, which leads to accelerated aging, heart attacks and cancer.”

CEOs typically work long hours and travel extensively for business. This type of activity can certainly lead to professional success, but at what expense? In order to avoid burnout and unhappiness, the first step in the process needs to be a focus on defining what success means to you.

2. They strive for a work-life balance

Working long hours and flying all over the world isn't only exhausting, it also leaves little time for family, friends and leisure. The job may come with a high salary and lots of fancy things, but truly successful people realize that money alone doesn't translate to success.

Striking a balance between the personal and professional parts of your life is imperative. Highly successful people learn how to put work to the side when they are on vacation or at home with their family. On the contrary, they learn how to focus fully on their work when they're at the office or flying around the country on business.

3. They learn from failure

Many of the most successful people in history stumbled along their way to the top. Failure is only the end if you let it be. To achieve success, it's important to be able to reframe failures and mistakes as learning opportunities.

Albert Einstein said, “Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.”

Playing it safe and avoiding risk rarely leads to success. Ever heard of a guy named Steve Jobs?

Jobs didn't end up creating one of the most iconic brands in the world by chance. He was willing to take big risks, risks that sometimes lost his company lots of money, but that never deterred him.

In a commencement speech at Stanford University, Jobs talked about his decision to drop out of college only six months in and how that decision changed his future.

“If I had never dropped out, I would have never dropped in on this calligraphy class, and personal computers might not have the wonderful typography that they do,” said Jobs.

Successful people like Jobs understand that a mistake is not the end of the world. It is likely, rather, the beginning of a new opportunity.

4. They never stop learning

While learning from your mistakes is important, it's also helpful to limit those mistakes as much as possible. Successful people take proactive steps to avoid mistakes by continuing the pursuit of knowledge throughout their entire lives.

Settling in and assuming that you know all you can about your professional field or about life in general is a mistake in and of itself. For that reason, it's important to continue to focus on improving yourself by learning new skills and developing new, positive habits that lead to success.

Many companies offer continuing education courses for their team members. Signing up for these types of courses not only allows you to improve professionally by learning something new but also shows initiative to your employer.

College is another option. Many employers have programs in place to pay for or reimburse tuition costs. Whether completing a bachelor's degree or taking graduate courses, colleges offer the ability to dig deep into a subject and really become an expert.

According to US News and World Report, those who completed bachelor's degrees earned nearly $1 million more during their lifetime than those holding only a high school diploma.

Whatever route you take, continued learning is critical to achieving high levels of success. If you aren't up for four years at your local university, try picking up a good book and digging in to boost your knowledge that way.  

5. They pay it forward

Rarely is success achieved without the help of others. Think back to all the people who've lent you a helping hand and lifted you up along the way? Without them, where would you be?

Highly successful people understand the importance of paying the helping hand forward and bringing up those around them. As they ascend up the corporate ladder, highly successful people notice talent and make recommendations for promotions. They provide opportunities to others that were provided to them during their rise.

6. They don't burn bridges

Along with those who help you rise on your path to success, you'll come across those who seem bent upon your demise. It's natural to fantasize about exacting your revenge once you make it. Revenge, however, should be something you avoid at all costs.

Often, someone we assume is out to destroy us is, in reality, someone who sees our true potential and is bent on pushing us to achieve it. Down the road, you may need people like this in your corner, so before you jump to conclusions about intentions, take a step back and analyze the real motive.

Even if it turns out that a person's intentions truly are nefarious, burning bridges still should be the very last option. On your way up, it's likely you'll cross paths again. No need for future interactions to be awkward or vindictive, so avoid burning bridges, no matter how tempting.

7. They keep their emotions in check

Some people are born with high levels of emotional intelligence, but most of us have to work at it. The ability to keep emotions in check during stressful situations can really make or break your career. Flipping out and yelling at your boss will likely get you fired. Even if you manage to retain your job, the incident will always be in the back of your co-worker's minds, and your boss will recall the outburst when it comes time for promotions.

It's important to pay attention to signs of interview stress and anxiety. Knots in your stomach or the inability to sleep may indicate that stress is building up. Being aware of this buildup can help you to take a step back from the situation and assess your options for reaction.

Where you can start

It's important to understand that these habits take time to develop.  Becoming highly success in any aspect of life takes dedication and focus. Working diligently to develop these habits can help speed that process along.

As mentioned previously, defining what success means to you is the best place to start. Once you've fine-tuned your own definition of success, you can start working on the other habits described in this article.

Take it slow, and don't expect to perfect any of these habits in short order. Some take months, even years to master. In reality, in order to become a highly successful person you'll need to continue to improve upon these habits throughout your entire life.

It's not an easy process, but the reward in the end will be great, both personally and professionally.

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