7 personality traits more important to success than intelligence

It’s nice to be smart.

Often, our first encounter with the world comes through the education we receive as kids, and those with a high IQ certainly have an advantage when it comes to academic performance.

Sometimes, this gives us a distorted impression of how important intelligence is when it comes to life success.

“Evidence suggests that having a high IQ is hardly a guarantee for financial, academic, or creative success,” argues psychologist Kendra Cherry. 

Instead, there are multiple personality traits that can be better predictors of future success than intelligence alone.

Let’s take a look at some of these important characteristics.

1) Perseverance

Intelligence can certainly be useful in achieving your goals. But it pales into insignificance compared to the value of perseverance.

That’s because our lives are in many ways defined by the hardships we encounter.

No matter what you try to do in life, you will come up against obstacles. Often, the more ambitious your goal, the more obstacles you will find in your path.

It doesn’t matter how intelligent you are if you give up at the first hurdle. That’s why people who refuse to give up often end up having better results over the long term than those who are smart but lack perseverance.

2) Passion

Sometimes, perseverance comes from a stubborn personality that simply refuses to give up. But other times, perseverance, and therefore success, is a result of having passion for what you do.

Think about it. Picking yourself up after multiple failures is something you would only do if you feel like the goal is worth it. When you don’t have passion for you’re doing, it’s easy to make excuses and give up as soon as the going gets tough.

It takes a real passion for you’re doing to keep you going in spite of all the hardships you may face along the way.

In other words, you have to really want it. 

So if you’re not experiencing the success you’re looking for, it might be because you’re not passionate enough about what you’re doing.

3) Desire to be the best

Of course, passion and desire go hand-in-hand. And often, when it comes to success, it’s not the results of the success they hope for that drives people. It’s the desire to be the best at what they do.

Mike Tyson once said, “No one wants to get up at 4 and run when it’s pitch-dark, but it has to be done. The only reason I do it so early is because I believe the other guy isn’t doing it and that gives me a little edge.”

You’ll find similar stories from any athlete who has achieved great things, but you don’t need to be an athlete to want to be the best. 

Whatever your chosen field, you will have more success if you’re driven more by the process than by the end result.

Money and fame sounds appealing. But usually, the people who achieve great things are not motivated by that. 

Instead, they want to be the very best at what they do, and that’s what makes them successful.

4) Willpower

Mike Tyson’s willingness to get up before dawn and start training before anybody else shows the desire he had to be the best. But it also took enormous willpower to force himself to do something he didn’t want to do every single day.

You don’t have to be a professional athlete to understand the value of willpower.

We all have things we don’t want to do. But often, it’s the things we would rather not do that determine our future success. 

And willpower is how we make ourselves do those sometimes unpleasant tasks that are nevertheless key to achieving what we want.

“Understanding willpower is essential to recognizing why we behave as we do and how we develop our resilience,” according to psychologist and author Jeremy Sutton. He also writes that willpower can be increased through methods such as:

  • Meditation
  • Getting enough good quality sleep
  • Setting clear and specific goals
  • Breaking down big tasks into smaller, more manageable items

Willpower is the key to any goal, whether it’s losing weight or conquering the business world. So working on your willpower can be one of the most powerful things you do to guarantee future success.

5) Discipline

pic1764 7 personality traits more important to success than intelligence

You could be the smartest person in the world, but if you lack the discipline to apply your intelligence, it’s not going to get you very far.

In fact, you may well become frustrated watching people less intelligent than you achieve far greater success, just because they were more disciplined.

Discipline is similar to willpower in that it requires focus and, often, making yourself do things you don’t want to do.

The difference is that willpower is a desire to make yourself do the things you don’t want to do, while discipline refers to your ability to ignore unhelpful impulses and control your emotions.

And as you can imagine, these are two traits that often go hand-in-hand.

Being disciplined means that you can apply regular and managed effort toward your goals.

More often than not, success is made up of small steps you take every day rather than individual giant leaps, and it’s discipline, along with willpower, that allows you to take those small steps every day, even when it would be easier just to give up.

6) Conscientiousness

In its broadest possible definition, the term conscientious describe someone who is guided by their conscience. However, in the context we’re talking about here, it means a combination of being careful, diligent, and thorough.

Conscientious people are able to control their impulses and focus on the big picture. They take their commitments seriously, to themselves and to others. They tend to be reliable and commit to tasks.

“Highly conscientious employees do a series of things better than the rest of us,” according to psychologist Brent Roberts.

Conscientious people:

  • are better at setting goals
  • can adjust their goals to suit the circumstances
  • stay organized
  • can follow the rules
  • show up on time
  • plan for the future

All of these qualities can help you perform better in the workplace. They can also help you become an entrepreneur or achieve great success in other fields.

7) Resilience

Finally, one of the most important factors in success is resilience.

If you’ve read this far, you probably realize that any success you try to achieve will not be easy. No matter what you are trying to do, you will encounter setbacks along the way.

Perseverance, willpower, and conscientiousness can help get you through those hard times, and the passion you have to achieve what you want will keep you going when things are tough.

Add it all together, and what you get is resilience.

Resilience is the ability to endure failure and hardship as you pursue your goals. Resilience will keep you going in tough times and make sure that no matter how many times life knocks you down, you’ll always get back up again.

No matter how intelligent you may be, you can’t always think your way out of your problems. Sometimes, the only thing you can do is endure them, and resilience is what allows you to do that and achieve real success.

Intelligence isn’t everything

Having an intelligent mind is like having a high-performance sports car. It’s very good at certain tasks, but it won’t be any use to you unless you use it.

Being intelligent can make it easier to be successful, but there are many traits that are far more important if you really want to achieve great things.

Luckily, while intelligence is to a large degree hereditary, traits like perseverance, resilience, willpower, and desire can all be improved.

In other words, achieving greatly isn’t a question of being smarter than everyone else. It just means working harder than everyone else.

And that’s something all of us can do something about.

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Clifton Kopp

Welcome to my writings on Ideapod! I'm a bit of a "polymath" in that I like writing about many different things. Often I'm learning from the process of writing. I hope you enjoy, and please leave a comment on one of my articles.

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