The Traits that Predict Success According to Psychology (And Jordan Peterson)

There are certain traits that are more desirable than others when it comes to how well one succeeds in the business world and this is heavily backed up by studies. So without further wasting your time with a lengthy intro, let’s get into the traits that predicts success according to psychology (and Jordan Peterson).

So this theory is based on the big five personality traits, also known as the five factor model which suggests that there are five pretty broad dimensions that can describe the human personality and psyche. These five traits are conscientiousness, agreeableness, neuroticism (or high negative emotion), openness and extraversion.  

And out of the big five personality traits, there are three in particular that predicts success according to psychological studies which Jordan Peterson amongst others has talked about a few times, and he even mentions this in his infamous interview with Cathy Newman.

Before I break these traits down let me say this – for some people these traits are natural and they are more likely to advance in the workplace and essentially get a higher paid position and earn more money. However if these traits don’t come to you naturally, it will definitely not exclude you being successful but this video might just highlight the traits you need to improve upon if you want speed up the process and boost the predictability to become successful. If you want to test yourself on the five factor model I’ll link a website where you can do that for free, and btw I have no affiliation with this site.


So the first trait is conscientiousness and it’s a pretty broad term but it’s arguably the single biggest trait that predicts success and a staggering amount of research backs this up. It can be described as the way in which people control impulses and the ability to delay gratification rather than giving in to immediate rewards that often produce undesirable long-term consequences. Conscientious people tend to be very organized, rarely late, and are excellent at making plans and sticking to them. The same goes for setting goals and sticking to a routine to achieve them. And even if the goal is super ambitious and impossible to reach, instead of giving up completely they instead change it making it more attainable.

Intelligence is another factor that deserves to be mentioned specifically as a predictor of success, but it’s not a separate personality trait but rather a part of one’s conscientiousness. People who score high on the scale of conscientiousness is perceived by others to be intelligent. They might not score higher on SAT or iq tests but they’ll more than often end up getting higher grades and overall GPA’S than their peers because of their higher level of conscientiousness.


The second trait is agreeableness or in this case non-agreeableness. Being agreeable is not necessarily an undesirable trait to have as you’ll get along greater with more people, however it won’t serve you well when it comes to advancing in your career. I’m only referencing what research say about the traits predict success, and being too agreeable negatively predicts success. The business world is not a kind, cuddly, forgiving place, so you gotta be ruthless sometimes and not give in to other people’s needs and wants over your own. In order to get ahead you’ll have to be able to stand your ground and not be too agreeable, which also builds character and integrity.

Non-agreeable people are in large paid more, sometimes even though they have the same job, because of their abilities to argue a higher wage and not settle for anything lower than that. It’s a pretty unpleasant conversation to have but that won’t stand in their way when it comes to getting what they want. Non-agreeable people place their own self interests above other people which serves them well in advancing in the workplace. However it’s not optimal when it comes to social interactions as they are unconcerned with others and won’t really extend their hands for other people. They are often skeptical towards other people’s motives which makes them seem unfriendly and uncooperative. Finding a balance and being able to mix the agreeableness trait is the overall best solution rather than always being extreme on one side all the time.

Just remember that the business world is a ruthless place and ruthless, non-agreeable people will come out on top in this competitive environment, and rightfully so.

Neuroticism (high negative emotion)

The next trait is Neuroticism, or the tendency to experience high negative emotions. People that score high on the scale of neuroticism tend to react emotionally to events or situations that would not really affect people who score low on this scale. They see ordinary situations as potentially harmful and threatening and the problem with high levels of neuroticism is that it diminishes a person’s ability to think rationally and clearly in order to make better decisions and cope with stress.

And you’re more likely to succeed if you score low in neuroticism as these people can stay calm, free from negative emotions in seemingly stressful situations, resulting in making overall better decisions in the long term.

They also tend to have a more optimistic outlook on life, are carefree and self-confident.
It’s not uncommon to battle high levels of neuroticism by practicing stoic philosophy, which is heavily used among top performers and prolific achievers world wide, so if you want to know more about stoicism you can watch my video on 7 lessons to practice a stoic mindset here.

The other two traits not mentioned by Peterson in the interview is openness and extraversion.

Openness (or openness to experience)

So Openness, or openness to experience is a trait that measures creativity, curiosity, eagerness to learn new things which obviously is a great trait to have. On the other side of the scale if you score low on openness, you’re most likely more reluctant to change, resist new ideas and are not very imaginative which isn’t a very desirable trait to have in the world of business.


The last trait in the five factor model is extraversion and scoring high on this scale strongly predicts one to become an effective leader. Dominance and sociability are the most important attributes for that, however with that being said there are many great leaders who are not naturally extroverted. And for that matter there are also extroverted leaders that are horrible because they lack in other areas.

Don’t worry if these traits don’t come natural to you as you can always work towards improving yourself in these areas if you’re lacking in them.

As always I’ll leave links to the references below and I’ll also link a site where you can test yourself on the scale of the big five personality traits. 

Test yourself on the five factor model here!


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