Study: The one personality trait that strongly predicts your overall success

Great news. According to new research, the number one determiner of how successful you will be is a character trait that you can choose to demonstrate.

A new study from the University of Toronto suggests that one of the big five personality traits is the most likely predictor of your performance and occupational success. Fortunately for those looking to get ahead, that particular trait is the one that is the easiest for you to control and exercise. It is the one that is most clearly a choice.

That trait is conscientiousness. To be conscientious is to be reliable, diligent, and resourceful. It is to take responsibility for your words and actions, practice self-control, and be industrious in your efforts. Those are all choices you make, and they will make you more successful than non-conscientious people.

“Conscientiousness is the most potent, non-cognitive predictor of workplace performance,” says Michael Wilmot, the U of T researcher who led the study.

To reach this conclusion, data was taken from studies conducted in numerous countries, from various occupations, and across different career stages including education, job applications, and on the job performance evaluations.

The research found that conscientiousness – unlike the other broad categories of personality types – had a much stronger effect across all of the work-related variables that were studied.

The other “big five” personality traits recognized by psychologists are extraversion, agreeableness, openness, and neuroticism. While extraversion can also be a predictor if success in some fields, it was a less striking differentiator than conscientiousness.

It also can be less of a choice how extraverted or neurotic you are. However, you can decide to be conscientious about accomplishing your goals and living up to your commitments, and that matters more to your success than the other traits.

(It can even help you live longer. Previous research has indicated that conscientious habits can be the key to a long and healthy life.)

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