Jean Huber, LCSW

For Overall Success, Which is More Important–Your IQ or Your Personality?

Wouldn’t it be nice if there were a formula we could follow that would guarantee success?

Many of us think that there’s little we can do to determine our level of success. We attribute success to unchangeable factors at birth like intelligence.

But it turns out that overall success isn’t quite so random and it’s not because of our IQ. Instead, it’s our personality traits that are a greater influence on our level of success.

It’s not what you know, but what you do with what you’ve got.

The Limits of IQ

When we think about the great geniuses of our society, like Bill Gates and Stephen Hawking, it’s easy to assume that a high IQ equals huge success. But there are thousands of people who are gifted with a high IQ who toil in relative obscurity. What gives?

Intelligence alone can only go so far in determining success. Our IQ doesn’t determine our work ethic, factors from our upbringing, or help us cultivate the skills needed in the workplace. It’s ultimately little more than one factor in our potential. IQ isn’t even the most important factor in overall success.

What Matters More than IQ?

A paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reported that personality combined with intelligence created the best odds for overall success. Your personality plays a much greater role in your overall success than IQ alone. If you’re brilliant but unpleasant, you will likely have a much harder time finding success. If your intelligence is just average but you have the skills and traits that are valued in the workplace, people will flock to you and want to help you succeed.

Other Skills Needed for Overall Success

The traits needed for overall success include work ethics and so-called “soft skills.” You’ll be more likely to succeed if you have a good work ethic that includes showing up to work on time, working well with others, and having good follow-through.

Soft skills are highly in demand in the workplace. When you’re friendly and put others at ease, can remember names and make people feel valued it makes a big difference. If you have these traits in addition to a high IQ, that’s the unbeatable combination.

Can You Change Your Personality?

Personality traits are not inborn but are formed during childhood. Our personality traits are developed from the influence of our families and experiences. Although IQ is mostly fixed before adolescence, we can still change our personalities. Some studies have shown that teaching meditation is an effective intervention for teens with behavior issues, for example. We can change and reshape our personalities with consistent effort and determination.

How to Cultivate the Right Personality for Success

If you realize that you don’t have the best personality traits for overall success, it’s not too late. Fortunately, this should be much more empowering than believing that your fate depends on your IQ! The key is to develop a growth mindset. Having a growth mindset means that you respond to setbacks with determination to try again. When you have this type of mindset, improvement is always possible.

If you’re not sure how to cultivate the right attitude for success, try these tips:

  • Learn from your failures. Evaluate all the variables and determine what didn’t work.
  • Keep trying. People who bounce back from failure aren’t less afraid than anyone else, they just don’t get paralyzed by fear and anxiety.
  • Give it 110 percent. Success doesn’t care if you’re having a bad day. The effort that you put in is the only thing that matters.
  • Believe in yourself! Don’t prepare for failure but expect success. When viewed this way, your setbacks will seem like temporary hurdles.

Isn’t this great news? The factors of your success haven’t already been determined by your intelligence. Cultivating an optimistic personality takes practice but it will be worth the effort.

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