Our personality traits have a huge influence over how we live our lives, simply because we believe that they represent who we are. What if I said that you could be anybody you wanted to be? If you could determine what your personality traits are and use them as and when you needed them, how would that impact your career and your life?
Do you sometimes feel that you have great potential but that your personality is holding you back? Are you being outshone by others that are more confident, more positive and adventurous? Do you wish you could embody all the personality traits you admire in others?
We are led to believe that the person we are is set in stone as a result of our genes and our upbringing, but we can change our personality if we really want to. It is possible to become more like the people you admire by improving the personality traits that can make you great.
I will show you how to develop and improve these key personality traits. You don’t need to pick and choose the ones that you think you’re capable of. In fact, you might need to practice all of them to become well rounded.
The Key Traits and Why they are Important
I chose these traits because they embody everything I have discovered to be important about the way I go about my work and my life in general. I have been through a journey and have gone a long way towards becoming the person I always wanted to be. The journey can never be completed, but I am very happy with my career path and the way I live my life.
The key traits I found are:
The list will never be perfect, but I feel that if you can improve in these 8 areas you can be confident you are going in the right direction.
Before I begin, let’s talk a bit about greatness.
If you can master these traits, I feel they can lead you to greatness.
But take this word lightly, I only use it because I like the way it feels. I think greatness is relative to what you actually want out of life.
If your greatness is akin to Richard Branson levels of success, fantastic! If your greatness is to be an amazing parent, also fantastic!
How to Improve these Personality Traits in Yourself
“Let us step into the night and pursue that flighty temptress, adventure.”J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince
To me, adventure is a willingness to consider and act on the opportunities, random events and passions that present themselves in our lives. We might not always choose the right path, but if you don’t choose a path at all then you are guaranteed not to choose the right one.
It is too easy to walk sedately through life without really seeing if, perhaps, the grass is actually greener on the other side.
With adventure comes some responsibility though. You cannot simply follow your instincts through life without consideration of how it affects others. This may seem to make things more complicated, but we can start to see how other personality traits are important to build up at the same time, such as empathy.
To cultivate a sense of adventure, you really don’t need to do a lot. Just start by allowing your mind to consider ‘What If’ occasionally. We often don’t even get that far.
What if you could be enjoying a career you love instead of just working your way towards the weekend. What if you had a peek at what else might be out there for you? What if that peek turned into a plan, which turned into a course, which turned into a sideline, which turned into a whole new career, which completely changed your life for the better?
Instead of doing the same things every day, every week, try switching the little things up. Instead of buying another bag of apples this week, why not get a pineapple?
Make time in your life for the things you really want to do. If that is hard, start off small and do it as a one-off. Then see how that impacts your life, be mindful of how you feel, how long that feeling lasts, how the feeling changes as you get back into your normal routine.
Commit to something with a friend every week that you know will take you out of your comfort zone and/or be a lot of fun! This should be the easiest trait to develop in yourself because you have a licence to try things you’ve always wanted to do!
“Be yourself, everyone else is already taken.”Oscar Wilde
Authenticity is about being true, firstly, to yourself and then to others. How often do you try to pull the wool over your own eyes? You wouldn’t have thought it was possible, after all, you can read your mind!
But when you think about it, how often do you pretend everything is fine when it really isn’t?
Do you try and compartmentalise the stress of working in a career you don’t enjoy? Do you tell yourself next year will be the year for change, and then realise that’s what you said last year?
Do you tell yourself you’re not eating badly when you really are? Do you say to yourself ‘It doesn’t matter if I don’t go for a run today.’?
Start by being honest with yourself. A good way to do this is with a brain dump. Just sit down with a notepad and pen when you have no time pressure and just write down everything that is on your mind. Don’t analyse it as you go, just write.
Your subconscious brain only knows truth, it is your conscious brain that tries to add in dishonesty. When you take out the conscious part and just ‘dump’ your subconscious thoughts onto paper you get to your real authentic self. You can then start to look at everything you have written and consider it with an open, receptive mind.
Do not be afraid of acknowledging imperfections, risks, worries. The first step to dealing with anything is accepting it.
“To be authentic, we must cultivate the courage to be imperfect — and vulnerable. We have to believe that we are fundamentally worthy of love and acceptance, just as we are. I’ve learned that there is no better way to invite more grace, gratitude and joy into our lives than by mindfully practicing authenticity.”Brené Brown
As humans, we seek authentic people, those people who share our values and who are honest and kind. It is important to be that authentic person if you want to attract others, whether for personal or business relationships.
As you go through life, practice ‘authenticity mindfulness’. This simply means looking out for times when you say something but you don’t really mean it. If you notice this happening, have the courage to correct yourself. Also, listen to your doubts about anything you think or encounter, this could be your authentic self telling you something.
Be careful of how your actions impact others. Authenticity is closely related to emotional intelligence and empathy. It is not simply about speaking your mind, you need to be aware of the implications of your beliefs and respect other people’s opinions.
We all start off with the same amount of self-confidence. Granted, this will be affected as we grow up, but there is no reason that one person is destined to be more confident than another. You may be surprised to find out that a hero of yours had low self-esteem at one point too. They just learnt to improve it.
Start small, set yourself challenging but achievable goals and congratulate yourself on reaching them.
Find someone that you can teach all the things you know that they don’t. If you can show yourself that you do actually know a lot, while putting yourself out of your comfort zone, your confidence wins on two levels.
Think big, visualise yourself as the most successful person you could possibly be (tip: there is no limit to this, if someone else has done it, so can you, we are all just human). Then tell yourself every day that you are going to be that person. Act like that person. Make decisions as that person and you will eventually become that person.
Now, this might seem to fly in the face of what I was saying about authenticity, but as long as you keep to the principles of ‘authenticity mindfulness’ there is no reason you can’t have both. Confidence is not about changing your values, more about how you demonstrate them.
A little bit of self-examination is useful here. When you encounter situations where you do not feel confident, try to understand what is happening to make you feel that way. Then accept the reality of this situation (you have an automatic response that will not go away overnight) and do what you need to do anyway. Over time the automatic response will fade away as you learn that you have no reason to lack confidence.
Feedback is a confidence hack that will speed things up for you. For example, if you lack confidence when you go for an interview, try practising interviews in front of a friend who can give you feedback. You can even video it and critique yourself. Each time you do this you will improve dramatically.
Fostering an adventurous spirit and building confidence are the perfect partners. As you push yourself to try new things, you automatically gain confidence both specifically for what you have just tried and generally that you can do things you thought you couldn’t.
As with a lot of these personality traits, confidence comes with practice. Be relentless (more of that when we look at Grit later!) and the results will follow.
“Confidence is going after Moby Dick in a rowboat and taking tartar sauce with you.”Zig Ziglar
Empathy is the ability to sense or understand other people’s emotions in any given situation. But you don’t need to be born with some kind of sixth sense, you just need to be open-minded, a good listener and curious about other people.
If you can show empathy to other people you will stand a far greater chance of building strong relationships. It will also help you regulate your own emotions as you develop the ability to listen to and understand yourself better. It also guides you towards a more positive attitude to life as you expand your mindfulness of other people’s lives and start to help others.
Often empathy simply involves recognising situations you see other people in that you have previously found yourself in. Then acting like the person that helped you or that you wish had helped you.
However, being empathetic to an individual is more about generally being a good listener. Listening is a skill that everyone should have. It is not difficult to know how to listen well, but it is difficult to actually do it.
The key to really listening to someone is not thinking about your response while they are talking. We are often eager for someone to finish talking so that we can say what is on our mind, even if it is no longer relevant.
Take in everything someone is saying and don’t be afraid of pausing to think about it afterwards before speaking yourself, or even not responding with anything other than acknowledgement. You don’t always have to have an answer!
Another aspect of empathising with someone is to put yourself in their shoes. How would you feel? What would you do? This method is also key when talking about empathy for more general groups of people.
“If you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you’ll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view, until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird
How you act after that is down to you, but at least you have given yourself the best possible chance of acting in the right way.
Grit is a true predictor of success. You can be an incredibly talented person, but without putting in the hard yards you will never fulfill your potential. Or, to put it another way, you do not even need talent to succeed, you simply need to put in the effort.
Grit is a term coined by Angela Duckworth to describe what she found was a common denominator among successful people. She describes grit as “passion and perseverance for long-term and meaningful goals”.
There is a lot to digest from that one statement. Firstly, passion for a long term goal is not simply something you can turn on. Your long-term goals need to be carefully chosen to reflect your passions in the first place, as well as your values.
Secondly, perseverance to stick with your goals is a highly difficult skill to master. Yet, we can all achieve it. It just takes practice. You’ll be well used to the word practice by the end of this article!
Duckworth often refers to elite sportspeople when talking about the importance of practice. They do not become World or Olympic champions through talent alone. All of their competitors are talented, but it is often those that practice their sport over and over again until they think they are the best they can be, and then practice it some more that triumph.
“Every great story happened when someone decided not to give up.”Spryte Loriano
In the real world, procrastination is a buzzword that is thrown around a lot to describe moments when we are not showing grit. It seems difficult to get out of the procrastination rut, but ultimately everyone can. It just takes practice (I should start a counter of the work ‘practice’).
Start really small. Get something, anything done and build from there. Use the ‘2 minute rule’ which entails just saying to yourself you’ll spend only 2 minutes actually doing something that will get you towards your goal. Just 2 minutes. But those 2 minutes are crucial, they are the 2 minutes you have been resisting up until now. Once you do those 2 minutes everything after them seems so much easier. Keep building up your 2 minute, 5 minute, 10 minute, 1 hour blocks and you’ll create a momentum.
There are other methods to help you develop grit, such as surrounding yourself with people who already display grit. Their perseverance will rub off on you.
You can also work on your beliefs of what you are capable of. If you don’t think you can hit your goals then why would you keep going? Keep visualising your success and believing that you are perfectly capable of achieving them.
Grit is an undervalued trait that can underpin everything you do. If you can master grit, then you can achieve anything, including all these other personality traits I am talking about.
“Every great story happened when someone decided not to give up.”
Positivity is a practice more than it is a personality trait. It is one of the few traits you could actually switch on fairly instantly, although it may take a while for it to become an automatic state.
Anyone is capable of being a ‘positive person’. I use the term lightly as there is no need to be positive about everything in your life, it is more about having a positive spin on everything and everyone you encounter.
Seeing life through a more positive lens will help you develop grace, which is another of the personality traits I will talk about. I see grace as the fundamental trait that is a part of all the other traits here. It is, however, incredibly difficult to awaken to and so improving on all other traits will help you get there.
Often positivity is about concentrating on the good aspects of life more than the bad. For example, the news often concentrates on negative stories because it has established that people are attracted to them more than positive ones. They can therefore get a larger audience. We suffer as a result of this bombardment of negativity (if you follow current affairs regularly) that really only makes up a small portion of what is going on in the world.
If we had a greater proportion of positive news stories we would come away from them with a more positive attitude. The same concept is true for our own lives.
By only concentrating on the negative things that happen, you will develop a negative outlook. Try instead to actively notice the positive things that happen in your life. Start by writing down at the end of the day three good things that happened today.
“You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”A. A. Milne
I’m going to say the word ‘practice’ again.
If you practice paying attention to positive aspects every day it will make you a more positive person.
The most beneficial thing to come out of a positive attitude is in fostering good relationships. You can make your life as well as other people’s lives better by focusing on the positives rather than the negatives in any situation.
That is not to say that the negatives should be ignored, they could even be turned into positives if you are thinking through a positive frame. It is more about opening your eyes to the positives in order to balance your view of the world.
You are responsible for your own life and how it unfolds, as well as the lives of people that are affected by your actions.
Responsibility is something I feel the human race has let go over a long period of time. There may be a strong movement currently to bring it back, but it will be a huge struggle.
If we could all, individually, assume responsibility for our actions then the negative news stories I mentioned earlier would probably be reduced!
Alongside taking responsibility for your actions after they have taken place (whether positive or negative) there is also a need to be in control of how you ‘respond’ to any given circumstance. If you can develop the character to choose the right response in the first place rather than reacting in the moment, then hopefully the outcome you choose will be the best possible result.
The starting point for taking responsibility seriously is your values. Understanding your values and how they influence your decisions and other people will give you a good basis for making the right choices and taking responsibility for them.
This is not just related to how we interact with the world, it is also related to achieving our goals. Nobody is going to achieve your goals for you, you need to take full responsibility for making them happen. By developing the traits, such as grit, that will make your goals possible you are taking responsibility.
“The price of greatness is responsibility.”Winston Churchill
As I mentioned earlier, I believe grace is a fundamental trait that can impact every other aspect of your personality, as well as your life.
It is a difficult concept to grasp and I approached it by coming up with my own interpretation of it. I started off by imagining it as ‘what religious people naturally have’.
“What is grace? I know until you ask me; when you ask me, I do not know.”Saint Augustine
So, now that we’ve established how crudely I can describe a subject, let’s try and make it a little more tangible.
Grace is an acceptance and awareness of the wonder and enormity of reality.
That didn’t help did it!?
Let’s take a moment to think about it. Imagine yourself standing on your street, then expand outwards to imagine your city, your country, the planet Earth. There’s a lot going on, right? Now go further afield to imagine the solar system, our galaxy and eventually the universe. Everything you just thought about came from one moment, followed by trillions upon trillions of actions that led to you standing on your street right now.
One deviation from any of those actions would have resulted in a totally different reality. But here you are in this reality. How do you choose to live in it? That is down to you, but if you choose grace, you choose to look at it from the point of view of positivity, empathy, responsibility, authenticity, adventure, grit and confidence.
Do you see where I’ve gone with that?
Grace is a flexible, attentive way to live in harmony with the world around you. You are able to show kindness, gratitude and love in any situation because you know that the only reason you are actually here in the first place is because of those trillions upon trillions of actions. If the actions you take are intended to have positive outcomes then you can have a positive influence on the future of humanity, Earth and the universe.
With grace you have an understanding that the universe, your higher consciousness, God, nature, whatever it is you believe in, is listening to you and supporting you. It conspired to make sure you existed in this moment and it can conspire with you to create your next moment or a moment next week or next year.
“Awareness will give us understanding. Understanding will give us compassion. Compassion will give us love.“Deepak Chopra
Grace starts and ends with awareness. Everything in between comes from that.
- Open your mind to all possibilities (Adventure), not just what occurs to you habitually.
- Learn to show compassion to yourself and others (Authenticity and Empathy).
- Be grateful for having the gift of life right now (Positivity).
- Stand up and strive for what you believe in, but also respect what others believe in (Grit, Confidence and Empathy).
- Understand that you are no more important than any other living creature (Responsibility).
Bringing more grace into your life is a slow and steady process. We will definitely cover the topic of grace in more detail soon, but you can start with a daily practice of mindfulness to get you going.
To do this, try sitting comfortably with your eyes closed and slowly and softly breathing in and out. Allow your breathing to find a rhythm before exploring how your body feels right now. Are there any aches or pains? Do you feel remarkably healthy? Are there any adjustments you need to make to your seating position?
Building up the ability to do this without distraction will focus your mind on allowing awareness in any situation. As I mentioned earlier, awareness is the first step.
The overriding thought you can take away from this is that you are not stuck with the personality traits you think represent you. There are ways to change your personality for the better.
It almost always involves practice.
This is true for a lot of things in life. If you do something over and over again, it becomes a habit that feels natural.
These 8 personality traits are not the be all and end all of success, but I feel you will go a very long way with them.
As always, let us know your thoughts and intentions around this subject. I look forward to hearing from you!