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Using the OCEAN Big Five to get more out of life

Find out where you score on the Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness and Neuroticism scales.

ocean big five
Taken at sunrise on the Caribbean December 2019.

Self-examination and living a life true to yourself go hand-in-hand. 

The philosophers of Cncient Greece knew it and Aristotle himself said knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom. 

Understanding who you are as a person requires self-reflection and analysis. This includes your likes, dislikes, strengths, weaknesses and anything else that allows you to decondition yourself and get to the core of understanding yourself.  

So too does understanding your personality type and what kind of life experiences and situations it corresponds with. Where you thrive – subjects, jobs etc – and where you come up short are usually personality driven. 

Your personality is not one homogeneous lump but instead it’s made up of a collection of traits that make you unique. 

Knowing what these traits are is key to understanding your own personality type and what you are suited for.  

The most comprehensive and clinically proven way to do this is by taking the OCEAN Big Five personality test. 

Discovered in the 1970s, the OCEAN Big Five test is the most accurate way of measuring personality.  

Most human personality traits can be boiled down to five broad dimensions of personality, regardless of language or culture.  

These five dimensions, or traits, were discovered by asking thousands of people hundreds of questions and then analyzing the data.  

Interestingly, the researchers who developed the OCEAN Big Five test didn’t set out to find the five traits but instead they are what emerged from two sets of independent research.  

In psychological circles, the Big Five is now the most widely accepted and used model of personality. The Myers-Briggs test is a popular one but it’s nothing more than a fun quiz with zero clinical validity.  

You may be wondering why is it called OCEAN Big Five test.  

OCEAN is the acronym for Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness and Neuroticism. 

The OCEAN Big Five are the fundamental traits that make up a personality.  

All of the Big Five are stable, reliable and heritable. In other words, they’re highly accurate and they change very little. 

Knowing where you fit on each OCEAN scale gives you the knowledge to understand yourself and, more importantly, what kind of situations, careers and lifestyle you’re more suited to. 

The individual OCEAN elements are. 

Openness 

How open you are to new experiences and ideas. Are you curious, intellectual and creative? Do you enjoy exploring concepts and perspectives? 

Conscientiousness 

Are you organized, punctual and enjoy being dependable? Are you achievement-orientated and industrious? 

Extraversion  

Are you positive, enthusiastic and enjoy people and social situations? 

Neuroticism  

Do you get anxious, irritable and moody? Are you insecure and do you worry a lot? 

Agreeableness 

Are you compassionate, polite and don’t feel the need to be competitive? Do you prefer cohesion over disagreement? 

All of these traits work on a scale meaning you aren’t 100% of either but instead you are a mix of them all, some of which are stronger in you than others.  

Each is a positive trait to have excluding Neuroticism which is generally considered negative. Although too much of one can lead to an imbalance elsewhere. 

If you’re too high in Openness it means you’re adaptable to change but you can never focus on one thing. 

High in Conscientiousness means you’re dependable but you’re also too much of a perfectionist. 

High in Extraversion means you’re great with people but hate spending time alone by yourself. 

High in Agreeableness means you work well with others but you can also be a push-over. 

This is the results from my own OCEAN personality test. 

ocean big 5
My OCEAN Big 5 results

When it comes to Agreeableness, most people who know me will say I’m not particularly agreeable. I like to debate ideas, put forward different viewpoints to what is generally accepted and I’ve been called stubborn more than once.  

Being low in agreeableness means you’re not a push-over too. If you ever need someone in your corner who is competitive and has a dislike for authority then pick the low agreeable person. 

Do I need to be mindful of this and work on it? Of course I do. You can use a trait like this to your advantage but you also need to know when disagreeing has no purpose.  

When I add the remaining OCE-N, my personality type is straight-forward: 

I like exploring subjects, concepts and ideas, doing a good job and being around people. Just don’t tell me what to do. 

Do the OCEAN Big Five personality test to understand yourself 

You have to be honest with yourself when fill out the questions in the OCEAN Big Five test. Answer the questions not based on your idealized self but with brutal honesty.  

The more honest you are the more accurate the results and the better you’ll understand your strengths and weaknesses on the OCEAN scale.  

From that, apply what you’ve learnt from the test to your life and how you operate in the world. 

You can do the test here. Or read the book below.  

Enjoy. 

Personality: What Makes You the Way You Are (Oxford Landmark Science)
  • Oxford University Press, USA
  • Daniel Nettle (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)

Written by Ste Davies

Stephen Davies is a digital strategist, consultant and speaker. You can reach him here.

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