Understanding the Five-Factor Model of Personality

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What is the five-factor model of personality? Do you think your personality influences what you are capable of and who you can become?

The five-factor model of personality is a framework that describes individual personality in terms of five dimensions. Your personality doesn’t dictate your destiny, but it does suggest which paths you will most likely gravitate toward and be successful with.

Keep reading to learn about the five-factor model of personality.

The Five-Factor Model of Personality

The five-factor model of personality describes human personality in terms of five personality traits (the Big Five), each with a spectrum of behavior that highlights who you are. All five have biological underpinnings and typically remain unchanged throughout your life.

  1. Openness to experience—from curious and daring to cautious and unvarying.
  2. Conscientiousness—from organized and methodical to spontaneous and relaxed.
  3. Extroversion—from sociable and gregarious to reclusive and reticent.  
  4. Agreeableness—from affable and caring to difficult and withdrawn.
  5. Neuroticism—from fretful and sensitive to assured and resilient.

There’s a range of behaviors that fall along your spectrum of personality. What works for someone else may not work the same way for you, so you must choose the path that aligns with who you are and what you like, not on what society or your friends and family expect. 

The right path makes the journey simple and fun. The wrong path is like pushing a cart of rocks uphill. Whatever your path of least resistance is to your life, follow it to experience more enjoyment and motivation. 

What Path Is Right for You?

Even if you know what your personality is, knowing what life path will suit you best may not be obvious. Use trial and error to find the right experiences and environments for success.

The process of trial and error includes periods of exploration and exploitation. During exploration, you should remain open to the various paths that lead to your desired identity. Exploration occurs at the beginning of any new behavior or activity. 

  • Relationships form after a number of dates.
  • A college major is chosen after a year or two of general studies.
  • A restaurant opens only after a number of soft openings.
  • Cars are sold to the public after several trial runs at the factory.

Once you explore and find a good path for or response to your desired behavior, stick with it. When you find success with a certain response, exploit that behavior or activity.

Exploitation means repeating the successful behavior or activity again and again to gain more successful results. Once success starts to wane, it’s time to start exploring again.

A good balance during trial and error is to exploit successful behaviors 80% to 90% of the time and to explore other options 10% to 20% of the time.

Understanding the Five-Factor Model of Personality

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Darya Sinusoid

Darya’s love for reading started with fantasy novels (The LOTR trilogy is still her all-time-favorite). Growing up, however, she found herself transitioning to non-fiction, psychological, and self-help books. She has a degree in Psychology and a deep passion for the subject. She likes reading research-informed books that distill the workings of the human brain/mind/consciousness and thinking of ways to apply the insights to her own life. Some of her favorites include Thinking, Fast and Slow, How We Decide, and The Wisdom of the Enneagram.

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