Happiness. Our quest for it motivates practically every decision we make and is the benchmark by which most of us measure success. It’s the eternal questions: am I happy? But what if our happiness levels were less about our relationships, material possessions and achievements and instead hinged on our personalities?
Based on the commonly referred to ‘big five’ personality traits that broadly make up who we are – extroversion, agreeableness, openness, conscientiousness and neuroticism – those displaying high levels of extroversion and low levels of neuroticism have long been associated with predominantly happy people. However, a recent study argues that the secret to a satisfied life mightn’t be as simple as whether or not we’re neurotic. “Is that it? If you’re not extroverted or are a neurotic mess, there’s no path to well-being – besides changing who you are?” questions the study’s co-author Scott Barry Kauffman in a recent column for Scientific American.
Instead, Scott – alongside Jessie Sun and Luke Smillie – believe that each of those ‘big five’ personality types can be split into two in order to gain a closer perspective on what makes us tick. Out of those ten new personality traits, five can also be the pathway to happiness. “If you score high in any of these five personality aspects, you are probabilistically more likely to have high well-being across multiple aspects of your life,” writes Scott. Ready? Here they are:
Yay! Enthusiasm! Those among us boasting high levels of enthusiasm are often friendly and sociable and have a knack for finding the fun in most situations. They have higher levels of self-acceptance, positive relations and experience less negative emotions. Enthusiasm falls under the extroversion personality umbrella and can be predictive of our overall feelings of life satisfaction.
If your withdrawal levels are high, then you’re likely to be easily discouraged, overwhelmed and susceptible to depression and anxiety. Is this you? Don’t fret – Scott reminds us that certain personality traits can be tweaked and can subsequently alter our happiness levels. However, if you have low levels of withdrawal your personality is likely to already mirror certain aspects of the above.
Goal-setters rejoice! You might not always the life and soul of the party (heck, you probably don’t even want to go to the party because you’re saving up for a deposit on an investment property), but that doesn’t mean that you’re exempt from feelings of well-being. Industriousness describes those who are achievement-orientated with a penchant for long-term goals.
Welling up over a particularly moving news item or going out of your way to help someone who needs it are all signs of compassion. It’s interesting to note that focusing on the well-being of others can impact positively on our own.
There’s a correlation between having an appetite for learning new things – and investing an unlimited amount of time doing so – and feelings of well-being. A high level of intellectual curiosity is indicative of personal growth, self-acceptance and a sense of accomplishment.