Determine and Cultivate the Personality Traits that Serve Your Goals

When we first start setting goals, we set “having” goals.

  • I want to have a million dollars in the bank.
  • I want to have a Ferrari.
  • I want to have a five bedroom home.

There’s nothing wrong with “having” goals, but after a while, we quickly realize that we need “doing” goals to achieve our “having” goals.

  • I want to get an MBA.
  • I want to start a business.
  • I want to sell my business.

Most of us get stuck in the “doing” goals and have a hard time achieving them because there’s a lower, subtler level we are missing. That lower level is the “being” goals.

  • I want to be decisive.
  • I want to be resourceful.
  • I want to be courageous.

We need to set and achieve our “being” goals to achieve our “doing” and “having” goals.

Setting Being Goals

Here are a few questions for you to reflect upon.

  • Do you have any “being” goals?
  • Which “being” goals do you have to set to achieve your “doing” and “having” goals?

That second question isn’t that easy to answer, because most of us lack self-awareness. Sometimes, we don’t even know the criteria that we have to evaluate ourselves with. It’s in the domain of what we don’t know we don’t know.

Most of us know that we need self-discipline to succeed. Some of us are also aware that success requires courage as well. But have you thought about being decisive?

  • Do you consider yourself decisive or not?
  • How does that affect your success in your private and professional life?

Which Personality Traits Do You Need to Cultivate?

Take a moment and think about which personality traits you need to cultivate to achieve your goals. Can you come up with a list?

It’s not that easy to see flaws in our personality. If you aren’t lucky to receive feedback from others, you might remain unaware of them for the rest of your life.

Going over a list of personality traits and virtues can help you evaluate yourself and find your weaknesses. Then, you can set being goals based on your evaluation. I’ll share three lists with you in this post.

Benjamin Franklin’s 13 Virtues

Benjamin Franklin practiced 13 virtues. He focused on a single virtue per week. You can read more about his practice in his autobiography.

  1. Temperance. Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation.
  2. Silence. Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.
  3. Order. Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time.
  4. Resolution. Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.
  5. Frugality. Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e., waste nothing.
  6. Industry. Lose no time; be always employ’d in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.
  7. Sincerity. Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak accordingly.
  8. Justice. Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty.
  9. Moderation. Avoid extreams; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.
  10. Cleanliness. Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, cloaths, or habitation.
  11. Tranquillity. Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.
  12. Chastity. Rarely use venery but for health or offspring, never to dulness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another’s peace or reputation.
  13. Humility. Imitate Jesus and Socrates.

The Big Five Personality Traits

If you do a google search on personality traits, you’ll come across lists that consist of hundreds of personality traits. That might be overwhelming, and you might wonder where to start.

An excellent place to start is the big five personality traits, which covers the basics.

Openness to Experience

Are you more inventive and curious or more consistent and cautious? My life experience taught me that we need to have a balance between these two polarities.

When you’re stuck in a particular situation, innovation, diversification, and inventiveness pay off. When you find a job, business, project, or relationship that offers substantial benefits, it’s a good idea to focus on it, and be consistent and cautious.

It’s also a good idea to find an occupation that satisfies your openness to experience. Entrepreneurs are more inventive and curious, where else consistent and cautious people are drawn to jobs such as engineering, medicine, and law.


The polarities of conscientiousness are efficient and organized vs. easy-going and careless.

Our culture glorifies being efficient and organized for a good reason. But I do believe you have to add some easy-goingness and carelessness to the mix. That would open you up to new ideas and opportunities.

You can include both polarities in your personality. The more efficient and organized you are, the more room you have to be easy-going and careless.


The polarities of extraversion are being outgoing and energetic vs. being solitary and reserved.

Being extroverted is praised in our culture, but we are missing all the work done by the introverts. Think about all the technology developed by engineers.

Sure teamwork is important, but at a certain moment, someone has to sit in front of a computer and get the work done to make the rest of the system work.


Are you friendly and compassionate or challenging and detached?

This can be a sensitive subject for many because it’s connected to relationships. We all know a person that is too nice and taken advantage of. We also know someone who is too challenging and detached for whom we have some choice words.


The polarities of neuroticism are sensitive and nervous vs. secure and confident.

I guess no one would like to be nervous, but I think we need to add some sensitivity to the mix. Being overconfident can result in overseeing some severe mistakes and cause disasters.

Using the Big Five

Even though our culture glorifies one end of the spectrum for all of the big five personality traits, I recommend you cultivate a balance on all of them, even on neuroticism.

Here’s how I’d use the big five to set “being” goals.

  1. For each personality trait, determine where you are in the spectrum.
  2. Does your place in the spectrum serve your goals?
  3. If not, cultivate the opposite polarity to move toward the optimal point in the spectrum.

Remember, the optimal point is rarely on one end of the spectrum. It’s mostly somewhere in between those polarities.

It’s a good idea to work on your personality traits to modify them to serve your goals. It’s also a good idea to adjust your goals to match your personality traits. That way you’ll end up with a better match between your goals and personality and maximize your chances of success.

638 Primary Personality Traits

If the big five personality traits and Benjamin Franklin’s 13 virtues aren’t enough for you, here is a list of 638 primary personality traits.

You might want to go over that list once in a while to determine your own dozen or so personality traits to work on.


Most of us are focused on having and doing goals, but there’s a subtler, yet more effective dimension underneath them. That is who we are.

To achieve our having and doing goals, we need to set being goals that serve those high-level goals. To do that, we need to evaluate ourselves and determine which personality traits we need to cultivate.

Once we determine and cultivate the necessary personality traits, our doing and having goals are achieved almost on autopilot. They come as a byproduct of our personality.