A life well-lived shouldn't be gauged by how long you live, but rather how many kickass experiences you enjoy—or so say lots of Instagram memes, anyway.

All social media tropes aside, it can be tough to know when you're really living your best life. Fortunately, some new research from the University of Portsmouth has drilled into what they call the 15 key characteristics that help people live more productive, engaged lives.

"Thriving is a word most people would be glad to hear themselves described as, but which science hasn't really managed to consistently classify and describe until now," study author Daniel Brown said in a press release. "It appears to come down to an individual experiencing a sense of development, of getting better at something, and succeeding at mastering something. In the simplest terms, what underpins it is feeling good about life and yourself, and being good at something."

In their academic review, published in European Psychologist, Brown and his team of researchers identified a slew of traits that help a person flourish and succeed—whether it's a teenager acing the SATs, an entrepreneur launching a successful startup, or a total beginner becoming a bona fide mountain climber. The combined body of data included information from infants to the elderly, as well as a wide breadth of occupations from artists to athletes.

Ultimately, what it takes to live your best life includes a combination of some, not all, of these traits:

Factors and traits that help people thrive

  1. Optimism
  2. Spirituality or religious belief
  3. Motivation
  4. A proactive approach
  5. Eagerness to learn
  6. Flexiblity
  7. Adaptablity
  8. Social competency
  9. High self-esteem
  10. Finding opportunities to succeed
  11. Support from employers/family/community
  12. Manageable challenges and difficulties
  13. Calm environment
  14. "Self-rule," which is like self-control
  15. Skills (turns out Napoleon Dynamite was right about that one)

Together, these traits and opportunities can boost your vitality, mental toughness, and enjoyment of life.

The bottom line: Success doesn't simply fall in the laps of successful people. Sure there are opportunities, but it takes a degree of self-motivation and hunger. If you work for it, relationships, career advancements, and physical barriers can all be surpassed.