There have been numerous attempts over the years to hone in on exactly what it is that makes us successful, in our work lives, but also in life in general. For instance, I recently wrote about a study that highlighted digital skills as being the key to success at work. When looking more widely, however, a number of studies have highlighted the incredibly valuable role being conscientious plays in our success in life.
It has been identified as the number one character trait if you want to thrive. Indeed, a recent paper suggests that conscientiousness is more than four times as important as intelligence when it comes to predicting our success in life.
The study found that a combination of conscientiousness and openness to new experiences was a potent cocktail when it came to predicting success in academic, professional and personal lives.
When we’re open to new experiences for instance, the paper suggests that we’re much more likely to be creative and imaginative. What’s more, it goes on to suggest such people are more likely to be intellectually curious, constant seekers of variety, and indeed even be more sensitive to their personal feelings.
Conscientious folks, on the other hand, were shown to be more disciplined and excel at planning and organising their lives successfully.
Intelligence isn’t all that
Taken together, the studies authors believe that these two characteristics are more influential than intelligence, which still tends to be the traditional benchmark used when predicting potential success.
“With respect to learning, personality is more useful than intelligence for guiding both students and teachers. In practical terms, the amount of effort students are prepared to put in, and where that effort is focused, is at least as important as whether the students are smart. And a student with the most helpful personality will score a full grade higher than an average student in this regard,” the researchers say.
The study, which was published in Learning and Individual Differences, saw tens of thousands of people surveyed to try and find any correlation between (self) analysis of personality and future success in school and life. These self assessments were found to be a pretty good indication of future success.
Why we should listen to our friends
Where things got really interesting, however, was when a third party assessed each participant. When a close friend or relative assessed the personality of each participant, they were able to predict the future exam scores of that person four times better than simple measures of intelligence could.
“Intelligence tests have always been closely linked with education and grades and therefore relied upon to predict who would do well. The impact of personality on study is genuinely surprising for educational researchers, and for anyone who thinks they did well at school because they are ‘smart’," the researchers say.
On the plus side, it would appear that both conscientiousness and being open to new experiences are something we can develop and improve upon as individuals.
“Personality does change, and some educators have trained aspects of students’ Conscientiousness and Openness, leading to greater learning capacity. By contrast, there is little evidence that intelligence can be ‘taught’, despite the popularity of brain-training apps,” the paper concludes.
So, if you want to get on in life, you now know the kind of skills you need to work on.
Image source: Time