The 5 Psychological Traits That May Determine Success

man at the summit

We don’t have a magic formula that guarantees success; however, there are some interesting models and no shortage of books advising on how to be successful. One of the most compelling models of measurement is offered by what is sometimes called CANOE traits.


Conscientiousness is a measure of how disciplined, diligent, and organized a person is. People who are high in conscientiousness are the kind of people who make sure everything is meticulously planned. They’ll be the ones who already have a probate lawyer ready for their executioner years before they’ll probably need one.


A person with too high a score in this trait may be too considerate and willing to compromise and may not be able to assert what they need or want. That can be particularly detrimental in situations where someone is negotiating a pay rise and is unable to disagree with a lower valuation of their worth. However, too low a score, and a person may be challenging to get on with, which could damage a person’s reputation and other people’s willingness to work with them.


This trait measures emotional and mental stability. On the whole, success seems to be matched with lower levels of neuroticism and indicates someone who is not prone to debilitating or irrational mental states. Too low a level, though, can make someone look too in control and lacking a human touch.


Openness indicates how much a person enjoys and seeks out new experiences. It’s not necessarily the case that if you’re not high in this trait, you won’t be successful. Many people can be considered successful yet would be described as rigid, with a strong inclination towards values like perseverance and pragmatism. However, in a world that is rapidly changing because of social transformation and technological innovation, people high in this trait may have an advantage.

Extraversion and Introversion

Man in business attire going up the stairs

A person who is reticent and wants to disappear in a crowd would probably get a low extraversion score. A high score would suggest a genuine desire to interact with people. Too high a score could mean that the person could be overly engaging, not being able to read when someone requires space. That, in turn, might be seen as a character flaw, where someone with too high an extraversion rating is seen as self-centered.

Another measurement that many psychologists think is an indicator of success is IQ. Although this would seem obvious and beyond question, IQ is notoriously controversial. The subject of IQ is a very emotive topic, and discussions about IQ will often bring in sociological and even biological factors. Furthermore, the testing and even the definition of IQ is still contested. It is illegal to test for IQ in job descriptions, but many aptitude tests echo characteristics of an IQ test.

The human experience is varied and vibrant, and the definition of success can differ wildly. However, judging by commonly held indicators such as financial stability, mental wellness, and engagement with your community, it seems that successful people do share similar levels in these five traits.

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