There are as many theories about what qualities help us to achieve success as there are definitions of what success is. Factors like intelligence, being born rich or poor, physical health, geographical location, educational opportunities and how you were treated as a child all have a bearing on what you achieve in later life.
What is success?
As for our definitions of success, that surely depends on what we want from life. For many of us, success can be measured in financial terms, or by our material possessions. By this definition, success is money in the bank, a big house, a good car and so on. Others may say that a successful career can be measured in terms of the respect of our peers, our achievements in our chosen field, and the responsibilities that we take on- although hopefully these also earn us an appropriate financial reward.
But what about good health, or solid relationships? Surely a long and happy life, a loving marriage and a close family also constitute success, regardless of whether one is career-minded or not? Do we get to say for ourselves whether we have been successful, or is it something that is judged from outside, by society?
What do you want?
In whatever way we measure our success, it seems like our personalities have a lot to do with it. For one thing, people with different personalities may define their accomplishments differently. Which of the versions of success mentioned above you accept could depend on whether you are career-minded or home-loving, fiercely independent or dedicated to family. But according to experts, our personality can also decide to a great extent whether we achieve success- or even whether we want to be successful in the first place.
Many psychologists these days use the five-factor model of personality which is based on how strongly we score on five key traits. These are an openness to experience, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism. They can be remembered using the acronym OCEAN. In many ways, these personality traits determine our future success, and the most important one in that regard is conscientiousness.
How much do you want it?
Conscientiousness means being thorough, careful, well-organized and aware of the consequences of our actions. Being conscientious also means being goal-oriented. Conscientious people are driven to succeed, and so develop the skills to make that happen. As a result, conscientiousness is ranked highly as the most important factor in money and job satisfaction, finding a job, getting good grades, having a long and healthy life, a good marriage and almost every measure of success you can think of.
Even when it comes to exam results and excelling at school or college, conscientiousness is just as important as intelligence, perhaps more so. Intelligent students can be lazy and fail or coast through, but the conscientious students will study hard to make sure they get good grades. Those grades, added to their persistent personality, will then help them to get a good job, and so on.
Do you seek out success?
The other personality factors also affect our success in life. If you’re open to experience, you’re more adventurous and smarter, as you put yourself in learning situations. You’ll go further because you’re not content to remain in the same situation. Extrovert people crave attention and connect with other people more readily, while neurotics tend to worry more and get stressed more easily, which isn’t helpful.
Agreeableness is an interesting one. If you’re friendly and likable, then people will want to help you, employ you and give you a good job reference. But disagreeable people are less bothered about being liked and more likely to act out of self-interest, so can often achieve career success for that reason.
What shapes your personality?
Many people believe that our personalities are affected by the time of year we are born. Even if you don’t believe in horoscopes that makes a kind of sense. Summer babies whose first experience of the world is warmth and sunshine may be more optimistic and outgoing than winter babies for instance. That correlates quite well with the qualities associated with the star signs. From the pursuit of happiness and love to using a lottery horoscope tool to pick winning numbers, many people choose to use their horoscope to focus in on success.
Personality then is a significant determinant of success. Put simply, if we have the type of personality that wants to be successful and is prepared to work at it then we are much more likely to achieve in life. Self-confidence, diligence and a well-organized mind will get you further than intelligence or ability alone, although obviously, these qualities are important too. And ultimately, it’s your personality that decides what success means to you: whatever makes you feel happy or fulfilled is a success on your terms.