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The Wealth Mindset: Personality traits of highly successful people

Posted by Deb Muoio

Nov 3, 2014 8:42:00 AM


It’s been the theme of many books – the wealth mindset. What is it that allows a person to go from abject poverty to a 5-bathroom, 15-car garage mansion, for example, while another remains within his or her less fortunate circumstances?

When most people hear rags-to-riches stories, they appreciate the concept – maybe even glean some inspiration from it – but the idea of going from “just getting by” to “success beyond one’s wildest dreams” often falls under the category of “Things that will never happen to me.” So how does it happen?

We compared the personalities of people in different socio-economic brackets who took the SLPro (Success Likelihood Profile). What we discovered is that there are distinct personality differences between those in the $75,000+ salary range and those under $25,000 in six areas:

1)     Fear of success: People with this fear tend to walk away from opportunities. They are afraid of getting their hopes up; they worry that success will bring responsibilities and expectations that they won’t be able to handle. They also tend to believe that they don’t deserve success to begin with.

2)     Fear of the social consequences of success: The basis of this fear is the impact that personal success will have on loved ones. There is a fear of jealousy, of being ostracized or, on the contrary, becoming the center of attention.

3)     Fear of failure: This is a pretty straightforward fear, and is often tied into the belief of not being good enough (i.e. self-esteem, self-confidence, or the imposter syndrome). A fear of failure can be debilitating, holding a person back from taking risks, setting goals, and doing anything outside their comfort zone.

4)     Drive and ambition: This in the impetus that moves a person forward. A person who sets goals and puts the effort into achieving them increases their success potential exponentially.

5)     Self-esteem: The role that self-esteem plays in success is invaluable. Those who don’t believe in themselves are less likely to succeed, and even if they do get a taste of success, it is more likely to be short-lived because they feel they don’t deserve it.

6)     Locus of control: Those with an external locus of control believe that success (and their life in general) is not within their control. They have developed a core belief that they are a victim of their circumstances and lot in life. Those with an internal locus of control believe that it is their actions that determine the direction their life takes.

In our study, we compared adults over the age of 30 in low and high salary ranges ($75,000 and over vs. $25,000 or less). Our statistics reveal that people at the $75,000+ level show:

  • A lower degree of fear (of success, of failure, of the social consequences of success).
  • A higher level of ambition and drive.
  • A higher level of self-esteem (a score gap of 12 points).
  • A more proactive approach to life, choosing to believe that whether they succeed or fail is entirely in their hands.

It isn’t that people in a high salary ranges are above failure – they can and will fail. It’s just that they don’t let it dictate how their life will be experienced. These are people who keep their mindset focused on success, and who see failure as a lesson to be learned, not a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Even if they lose money or go through difficult financial times, there’s never that sense of “Am I ever going to get out of this rut?” They know that they’ll find a way to get back on top again. Clearly, mindset is a major factor in how your life plays out.

Here’s what else our comparison between rich and less fortunate adults reveals:

  • 4% of those in a high salary bracket believe that if they are successful, friends and family will only come to them when they want money (compared to 14% of those in a low salary bracket).
  •  68% of those in a high salary bracket set challenging goals for themselves (compared to 47% of those in a low salary bracket).
  • 81% of those in a high salary bracket believe that if they try hard enough, they can succeed at anything, compared to 69% of those in a low salary bracket.
  • 68% of those in a high salary bracket will take on a difficult challenge even if there is a chance that they will fail, compared to 50% of those in a low salary bracket.
  • 66% of those in a high salary bracket would not be satisfied if their performance at work was considered “average”, compared to 51% of those in a low salary bracket.
  • 82% of those in a high salary bracket push themselves to be the best at what they do, compared to 67% of those in a low salary bracket.
  • 40% of those in a high salary bracket admit that they’ve been plagued by self-doubt at some point in their life, compared to 59% of those in a low salary bracket.
  • 34% of those in a high salary bracket downplay their achievements to others, compared to 41% of those in a low salary bracket.
  • Both groups believe that a person can rise above his or her background and be successful (over 90%).

So how can you improve your likelihood for success? Do the following:

  • Rise to the occasion. Don't obsess about your ability to live up to expectations when faced with a difficult challenge or assignment. If you didn’t have it in you to succeed, the opportunity would not have come to you in the first place. Don't pass up a challenge to prove yourself just because you are unsure. It's better to know that you at least tried, rather than giving in to your fear.
  • Face the dog-eat-dog world. When you excel at something, you are setting standards not only for your own future performance, but also for the performance of others. What if your excellent work raises the bar for others around you? Will your colleagues despise you? Not necessarily. When handled with tact, your success may be a source of inspiration and encouragement to others.
  • Accept that failure is actually a good thing. You don’t like to fail – but you will never know what you are capable of accomplishing if you don't accept the potential for failure. By learning through your mistakes, you can turn any failure into a success. Remember, humanity progresses by trial and error. “I have not failed 10,000 times. I have not failed once. I have succeeded in proving that those 10,000 ways will not work. When I have eliminated the ways that will not work, I will find the way that will work.” (Thomas Edison on his development of over ten thousand failed prototypes for the light bulb).
  • Find a supportive social network. Surround yourself with people who believe in you and are ambitious themselves. They can be a great source of inspiration when you start to lose faith in yourself. Getting out of your comfort zone can be a little scary, but it will likely be a lot less terrifying when you have good friends supporting you.
  • Aim for the stars. Well, perhaps not the stars, but do aim high – set challenging goals but keep it realistic. Although setting the bar low for yourself pretty much guarantees success, it really won't do much for your sense of accomplishment. Reaching the loftier heights in life requires a willingness to take risks. Remember that with big risks comes the potential for a big payoff. Although you may not always succeed, the fact that you tried is still something to be proud of.
  • Develop a plan of action. Ok, so you have a goal in mind. What next? Unfortunately, you can't just sit there and hope that the path to success will automatically unfold before you like a red carpet. You need to create a battle plan to tackle a challenge. Remember that the first few steps will always be the hardest, but each step you take gets you that much closer to your goal.
  • Don't compare yourself to others. You may look at successful people and think they have something you don't, but the fact is they may be looking at others, maybe even you, thinking the very same thing. Someone may be better than you are at certain things, but you may excel in other areas. Judge yourself by your own standards.
  • Make a list of your accomplishments. Include anything that made you feel good about yourself, without thinking about whether it is technically an accomplishment or not. (Your ability to relate to animals, your chess talent, the amazing cookies you make, the great short story you wrote, etc.). Refer to it whenever you need a boost.

If you’re interested in using SLPro (Success Likelihood Profile) or other tests for HR purposes, request a free trial for ARCH Profile here.

Want to learn more about psychological testing? Download a free eBook – a practical guide on using tests for hiring, leadership/career development, training and team building: Download our free eBook

Ready for a test drive of ARCH Profile, the delivery system for PsychTests’ assessments? All you need to do is ask!


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Topics: Employee Attitude, Goal Achievement, Mentoring, Personal Development, Coaching

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