Updated: Jul 15
It's that time of the year where we start to think about our New Year's Resolution. Your typical resolution might look something like:
Eat more healthy
Get a new hobby
I propose we create a more meaningful resolution: change your personality!
What is Personality?
Personality is the tendencies in thought and behavior that prevail in your life. It has significant consequences on all aspects of your life you care about — from your physical & emotional well-being to your longevity and career success.
A recent study on undergraduates found that most want to change their personality (e.g. be more hard-working and outgoing). Moreover, another study found that people who successfully changed their personality traits tended to have better well-being.
Personality theory suggest we all differ along 5 major dimensions of personality --- Big Five, with the acronym: OCEAN. Let me first define each of the Big Five, and then provide small changes you can make in your daily life to improve your personality over time.
OCEAN: Big Five Personality
1) Openness to Experience - reflective, imaginative and creative
Those who are higher on levels of Openness tend to have wide range of interests and be more interesting.
Curiosity is a large part of Openness that is simple to increase. Here is a simple pro tip to improve your level of curiosity over time:
💡Ask a question out of sheer curiosity and find its answer.
Make it a daily habit to ask at least one question out of sheer curiosity and then finding the answer --- it should be as easy as just Googling it! Collect the answers to your daily questions in a document to track your progress. Over time, you will accumulate lots of knowledge and intellectually attractive.
For example, have you wondered why the sky is blue and how the coffee beans that went into your coffee are grown? The key is to start asking questions about anything and try to find answers just for the sake of finding out the answer! Who knows when these answers will become handy? Maybe you will stumble into something you are genuinely curious about that will change your life direction!
2) Conscientiousness - achievement-oriented, hard-working, reliable, persistent and orderly.
Higher Conscientious individuals tend to be more successful on the job and tend to live longer.
Being more conscientiousness means having higher levels of motivation to get things done and on time. Here are some tips to improve your level of Conscientiousness over time:
💡 Write down the top three most important things you would like to accomplish at work each day.
This will help you prioritize your time and ensure the most essential tasks are done.
💡 Use a planner or calendar to block out time for doing each task.
At first, you may want to simply record the amount of time you spend on different tasks for a few days to better estimate how long tasks generally take.
💡Be strategic about when you do what.
If you're a morning person and your mind is the sharpest in the morning, try to complete all the challenging and important tasks in the mornings. Then work on the less important tasks in the afternoon.
3) Extraversion - sociable, outgoing, talkative, energetic, assertive and enthusiastic.
Individuals who are more Extraverted tend to be happier.
Do you think you are hesitant to speak your mind during meetings?
💡 Set a goal to contribute one idea at your next meeting.
Then set a goal to share two ideas at the following meeting. Over time, this will become a habit and you will feel more comfortable speaking up.
Do you feel isolated during large conferences and don't know how to strike up a conversation with a stranger?
💡 Prepare a list of generic questions to ask others.
Start by introducing yourself, ask about what they do, why did they come to the conference or ask specific questions about their presentation if they presented.
4) Agreeableness - compassionate, trusting, sympathetic and polite.
Individuals who are higher on Agreeableness tend to have better relations with others.
Do you want to get along with others better?
💡Exercise your empathy and make others feel instantly understood.
Imagine a scenario when your significant other or friend approaches you with a concern, seeking your support. Before jumping directly into providing advice to resolve their problem, first acknowledge their problem and show that you understand how they are feeling. Incorporating this empathy exercise with other interpersonal interactions you have will over time boost your level of empathy.
5) Neuroticism - depressed, worrisome, moody and nervous.
Individuals higher on Neuroticism tend to suffer from negative well-being and are more likely to get psychological disorders.
To decrease your level of Neuroticism, you have to pinpoint the sources of those negative emotions and determine whether the fears or worries are simply overblown or even unreal. Let's begin working on your behavior in situations that tend to stir up these negative emotions.
Do you feel extremely anxious during interviews or public speaking, your heart beating super fast that leads you to under-perform? Here are some tips to help you decrease the level of Neuroticism:
💡First, practice, practice and practice so you feel confident in your ability to deliver.
💡Next, reflect on why you are feeling anxious.
Are you scared you will make a mistake? It is widely acknowledged that making mistakes is inevitable and tolerable for human beings -- no one is perfect! Even if you screw up, you are likely the only one still remembering the mistake after the presentation. This may sound harsh, but the truth is others care far less about your presentation than you think.
Now it's time to draft your New Year's Resolution and write down three concrete steps you will take to improve your personality!
Take the Big Five assessment to see where you stand on each of the Big Five. This will help you see which you could improve on.
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Hudson, N. W., & Fraley, R. C. (2016). Changing for the Better? Longitudinal Associations Between Volitional Personality Change and Psychological Well-Being. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 42(5), 603–615. https://doi.org/10.1177/0146167216637840
Hudson, N. W., & Roberts, B. W. (2014). Goals to change personality traits: Concurrent links between personality traits, daily behavior, and goals to change oneself. Journal of Research in Personality, 53, 68–83. https://doi.org/10/f6s6zd
Ozer, D. J., & Benet-Martínez, V. (2006). Personality and the Prediction of Consequential Outcomes. Annual Review of Psychology, 57(1), 401–421. https://doi.org/10/d7hjz3