Are you happy? Only 33 percent of people would reply “yes” to that question, according to the 2017 Harris Poll Survey of American Happiness. Those results are perhaps unsurprising. We face more pressure now than ever before in our lives and careers. The world is an increasingly chaotic, noisy place.
Most of all, happiness means different things to different people, and because of that, there are many paths to achieve it. While one person may thrive in a fast-paced, competitive environment, another person may value being able to do their work alone in solitude.
While the “how” of happiness may vary between individuals, new research has found that there are a few personality traits that correlate strongly to better well-being.
The study conducted by positive psychologists, Jessie Sun, Scott Barry Kaufman, and Luke D. Smillie, broke down the classic Big Five personality framework into more nuanced dimensions, which allowed them to paint a more specific picture of what contributes to well-being and happiness.
In their results, they found five different “personal paths to well-being”:
Sociable and expressive, enthusiastic, love to laugh and have fun. They tend to have more positive emotions, self-acceptance, and purpose in life. This reflects in their happiness levels: people high in enthusiasm report higher life satisfaction and stronger relationships.
Everyone gets overwhelmed and turns inwards sometimes, but those low in withdrawal handle it more gracefully. They are lower in neuroticism, which means they experience less anxiety and aren’t as self-conscious. Put simply, they are more emotionally stable and less reactive to stress.
Perfectionists and productivity lovers rejoice! According to this study, being high in elements of conscientiousness is a good thing. The propensity to think ahead, plan, work hard, and follow through are not only linked to high-achievement, but also a feeling of mastery and engagement in life.
Thoughtful, empathic people can get ahead after all. People who are compassionate care about others’ well-being, and as a result, increase their own. So go ahead and spend some time today practicing gratitude or helping someone in your network. It’ll be well worth the time investment.
Those who are intellectually curious love to solve complex problems, yet are open to new ideas. They reflect, think deeply, and challenge themselves to grow.
Assertiveness and creative openness were two traits also predictive of certain aspects of well-being, but less so than the five above. Additionally, the study found that politeness, orderliness, and volatility were not at all predictive of well-being.
Can any of these traits be acquired or developed? “Relax!” Kaufman says, “Personality can be changed. A large number of scientific studies are piling up now showing that interventions exist to change personality.”
One place to start is getting control over negative thinking and emotions. You’re capable of more growth than you think.
Discover how to change negative thoughts holding you back from success with this free workbook.