Five Factor Personality Model or OCEAN

Five Factor Personality Model or OCEAN
Five Factor Personality Model or OCEAN

How do we read people, see through them, determine their essence, give them sensible advice, and make the right decisions about their lives?

By the end of this episode, you will be able to look ten times deeper into yourself and others.

This information will allow you to answer all sorts of important life questions, for example:

  • What career would you recommend for your child?
  • Which activities are good for your child, and which ones are not?
  • What is your next job, and why is your current one burning you so hard?

I'm not talking about astrology and other esoteric practices. I'm talking about psychometric theory, classified as a weapon in England by MI6, prompting Congress to fine Facebook over $2 billion.

I'm talking about the psychological tool trusted by the US Army for selecting Navy SEALs, where everyone gets an education and training worth more than a million and a half dollars.

This tool is called the Five Factor Personality Model or OCEAN. It's based on the principle I promised to tell you about in the previous article - the principle of Seeing Through.

If you know how to apply OCEAN to yourself or another person, you know what a person is genetically predisposed to. Most things that ordinary people think are the result of environment or upbringing are actually the result of gene expression or - we can use the buzzword - epigenetics. For example, your levels of discipline, happiness, anxiety, and creativity are predetermined by your genes. Your preferences for smells and foods are determined by your genes. Your sexual orientation and the types of people you like are determined by your genes. Your way of responding to stress, your ambition, and your competitive drive - or lack thereof - is determined by your genes.

If you learn to understand what a person's DNA predisposes them to in one short conversation, you will learn to see and understand others better than they do themselves.

The five-factor personality model is currently the only psychometric that has undergone thorough research and has a solid statistical base.

We begin by looking at the five factors of personality in detail.

Once again, these five factors are called OCEAN. OCEAN is an acronym, and here is what each letter stands for:

O - openness (openness to experience and creative thinking)

C - conscientiousness (hard work and love of order)

E - extraversion (the ability to experience positive emotions in response to stimuli in the external environment)

A - accommodation (care and compassion)

N - neuroticism (suspiciousness and anxiety)

Now let's talk about each of these elements.


Open people think in complex, abstract ways, whereas those with low openness are "concrete thinkers."

People with high openness talk and think about theories and concepts, even if the concepts are not proven. They love creative, original, and innovative ideas and love to think about the future and what lies ahead. Because they value ideas for their own sake, they tend to pursue art and culture. They are interested in experiences that expand their minds and inspire them to think in new ways.

People with a low level of openness are concrete, straightforward thinkers. They distrust ideas and theories that have no practical application to reality. They prefer traditional methods and concepts to new, untested ideas.

These people are more realistic than creative and often have difficulty imagining things they've yet to experience. They are, therefore, not interested in new experiences, preferring the familiar.

People with high openness:

  • Creative
  • Extraordinary
  • Imaginative
  • Original
  • Artistic

People with low openness:

  • Practical
  • Traditional
  • Ordinary
  • Conservative
  • People of habit

What Does Science Say About Openness?

While little is known about how openness relates to our biology, scientists speculate that this personality trait reflects how the brain is wired into a neural network. According to the prevailing theory, tasks, and concepts remain relatively clear for people with a low level of openness. Concepts are considered in isolation and do not lead to links with others. Conversely, people with a high level of openness have a wider neural network. When thinking, they use more neural connections, leading them to think about related concepts.

One Stanford study found that open-minded people think in a wandering pattern, not focused on any particular task. Such people often daydream and imagine the future.

High Level of Openness

People with higher levels of openness can connect seemingly unrelated concepts, making them highly creative, inventive, and more likely than others to be impressed by unusual ideas and beauty.

They appreciate art, music, and unique creativity. While others might find it strange, the open-minded enjoy contemplating the meanings of things and can understand how seemingly unrelated ideas are connected.

People with a high level of openness show interest in new ideas and are, therefore, more likely to be politically progressive and open to new ideologies.

Open-minded people excel at picking up on new trends and are the first to understand where the world is heading.

Costa and Macrae, who have devoted their lives to researching the five-factor model, write that a very high degree of openness correlates with experiences of unusual phenomena, including hallucinations, extrasensory perception, and belief in magic or the supernatural.

Not everyone who has high openness will have such an experience.

Open people often choose a creative path in life. They like to create, explore and look for meaning in science or spirituality.

Average Level of Openness

If you have an average level of openness, you like to try new things but also appreciate the traditions and values of the past. You enjoy new experiences but are not opposed to routine tasks. You can be very progressive in some areas and traditional in others. Both deeply creative and conservative people are interesting to you.

You enjoy discoveries, novel experiences, and meeting new people, but you don't chase after adventure.

You grasp new ideas and concepts easily and readily accept differences of opinion. You care about the quality of your life and get satisfaction from it.

Low Level of Openness

If you are a person with a low level of openness, you stay focused on one thing for a long time and usually have only one or two careers in your life.

You prefer predictability, routine, and control, choose practicality over abstraction, and tend to pursue less creative endeavours. Predictability makes you feel comfortable and safe. You resist new trends. And you might have a hunch that these tendencies are not leading you in the right direction.

You are likely to have a closed mindset. This means a low tolerance for what you don't like and a tendency to go to extremes of opinion.

This all adds up to a lack of empathy. Often such people don't become coaches because they can't relate to others' experiences.

However, you have most likely always understood commitment and don't understand those who flit like a butterfly from one new hobby to another. You haven't taken the time to adapt to new changes, instead yielding to more adaptive individuals.


Conscientiousness is the tendency to be persistent and determined to achieve one's goals. Conscientious people work hard to make their plans a reality, while those low in this trait tend to change course and get easily distracted.

Very conscientious people are hardworking and responsible. They have a high degree of willpower and resist temptation and distraction, staying focused on their goals.

Conscientious people delay gratification by sticking to difficult or mundane tasks, working towards long-term achievement. They are focused, organised, and reliable.

People with low conscientiousness are less interested in long-term goals and are reactive to the present moment. They like to go with the flow and are easily distracted. People with low conscientiousness easily abandon plans when something more attractive arises. They are often disorganised and perform tasks haphazardly.

People with high conscientiousness:

  • Orderly
  • Dependable
  • Resolute
  • Ambitious
  • Managerial

People with low conscientiousness:

  • Spontaneous
  • Adaptable
  • Impulsive
  • Disorganized
  • Unsystematic

The Science of Conscientiousness

Fundamentally, conscientiousness is related to impulse control -  our ability to stop ourselves from doing what might be fun or attractive at the moment to pursue a more important long-term goal.

Let's call it willpower.

The frontal lobes of the brain control our ability to regulate our impulses. The frontal lobes govern high-level planning, problem-solving, judgement, and other complex cognitive processes. The frontal lobes are the parts of the brain that make us human; they take the animal impulses of the instinctive brain ("There's food! Eat it!") and relate them to our complex plans and goals ("I'm not going to eat this doughnut because I'm trying to lose weight.").

In a study using computer imaging, people observed the dynamics of the activation of brain areas when performing a task that required them to control their behaviour. It turned out that the frontal lobes, responsible for controlling impulses, are most active in people with a high level of conscientiousness.

High Level of Conscientiousness

If you are highly conscientious, you are ambitious, self-assured, and know that you will achieve your goals through work and discipline. You value order and have integrity. You are a fighter for justice and exercise strong judgement. You create a streamlined environment, eliminating irritating elements.

You don't tolerate cheating and rule-breaking. You are punctual and disciplined. A clear algorithm is enough to achieve success, as you act according to a plan, love to-do lists, and always finish what you start.

Unfortunately, focusing on a result and moving linearly towards it in the pursuit of progress can burn you out.

You are very successful and productive in a stable environment but feel stressed and out of control if things become unstable. You may feel agitated and unable to think as linearly as you used to. If you don't work due to illness or other reasons, you begin to feel shame and guilt at your uselessness. Chaotic people and circumstances are difficult for you.

Average Level of Conscientiousness

An average level of conscientiousness amounts to an average amount of self-control. You probably carry out your plans well, occasionally getting distracted and making impulsive decisions.

You are somewhat organised and keep some areas of your life in better order than others. You make an effort to be organised at work, where it matters more, by allowing yourself to relax at home. A bit of clutter doesn't bother you, but a big mess makes you uncomfortable.

You benefit from using organisational systems and tools to give more structure to your activities. You are a thoughtful decision-maker and usually exercise good judgement. You think about the pros and cons of a decision before making your choice, although sometimes you rely on your intuition. You are somewhat goal-oriented, setting a moderate number of goals and showing the determination to achieve them. You also sometimes give up on dreams that you find difficult to achieve or lose interest in. However, when something is important to you, you persevere.

Low Level of Conscientiousness

If you have low conscientiousness, you are flexible, carefree, and spontaneous. You are disorderly, impulsive, chaotic, and easy-going. You rarely plan and decide everything as you go. You feel limited by too many plans and prefer going with the flow to adhering to a rigid schedule. Sometimes you may be late with projects or miss details.

You may crave the illegal - theft and fraud - believing that rules can be broken if they don't suit you and that the law doesn't apply to everyone.

You make decisions easily in the face of constant change, chaos, and disorder. You are adept at coping with precarious and unpredictable circumstances. Chaos is your element.

You may have poor health habits, and it's hard for you to deny yourself something you want.

You adapt quickly to new situations and environments, often improvising and rarely preparing. You are not bothered by mess, and rapid growth through the ranks does not appeal to you.

You live in the moment, reacting to what appears in front of you. You don't feel the need to be helpful to others, so you feel less emotional pain.


Extraversion describes a person's tendency toward being energised by the environment. There is a misconception that extroverts love people. Extraversion does not guarantee a love for people; it only ensures the enjoyment of outside stimulation. If people stimulate you, then yes, you enjoy them.

Very extroverted people are outgoing, energetic, and friendly. They gravitate towards busy and active places. They need speed, change of circumstances, and exploration of territories. They express themselves easily and love to talk. Extroverts are enthusiastic about life and describe their experiences with colourful expressions of positive emotions.

On the other side of the spectrum are people with low extraversion. We call them introverts.

Introverts are calm and reserved. They get easily over-excited and avoid noisy and busy environments, which they find overwhelming. They often find it difficult to express themselves and may prefer others to speak. They are usually inhibited and not easily aroused.

People with a high level of extraversion:

  • Enthusiastic
  • Energetic
  • Excitable
  • Friendly
  • Sociable

People with low levels of extraversion:

  • Reserved
  • Calm
  • Solitary
  • Introspective
  • Quiet

The Science of Extraversion

The fundamental basis of extraversion is the tendency to experience positive emotions. Highly extroverted people experience more positive emotions, with greater intensity, and more often than others. In one brain imaging study, people with varying levels of extraversion were shown pleasant images such as puppies and ice cream. Highly extroverted subjects showed more activation in brain regions associated with positive emotions, showing that their brains were more receptive to pleasurable stimuli.

On a chemical level, extraversion is linked to the neurotransmitter dopamine. Dopamine is sometimes called the "reward chemical" because it is associated with behaviours that cause us to seek rewards such as attention, status, power, or pleasure. People with a high level of extraversion have an increased response to dopamine in the brain, which makes them more motivated to receive rewards and more satisfied when they do so.

People with low levels of extraversion get less enjoyment from positive experiences and are, therefore, less motivated to spend a lot of energy chasing them.

High Level of Extraversion

If you are a highly extroverted person, you gain energy from being in a stimulating environment. You are always in the thick of things and are comfortable in communities with a lot of noise, communication, and activity. You go crazy if you are alone for a long time and are comfortable being the centre of attention.

Your element is competition and risk, preferring extreme sports to more relaxed ones. Because you are constantly in the spotlight, often taking risks and responsibility, you quickly become a formal or informal leader.

As a rule, you are the heart and soul of the company or the most sociable person in the room. If you're having a bad day, you want to commiserate with others. If you have a good day, you want to celebrate with others.

You are inspired and motivated by praise and positive circumstances, while negative circumstances paralyse you.

Average Level of Extraversion

If you are a person with average extraversion, you experience positive emotions on a moderate level. You feel joy, excitement, and enthusiasm in much the same way as most people. Because you are moderately extroverted, you have a typical response to positive stimuli. You get excited when you see an opportunity to do something particularly fun or rewarding but don't spend your life thrill-seeking.

You enjoy making new friends, but you're not always ready to connect with a lot of new people. You prefer intimate settings to crowds. You probably identify as an extrovert as well as an introvert. You don't consider yourself socially awkward but may find it difficult to make small talk or socialise in large groups of strangers. You are probably a little uncomfortable being the centre of attention. You enjoy the balance of time spent with others and time spent alone.

Low Level of Extraversion

If you have a low extraversion score, you're called an introvert. You get energy from solitude and enjoy time alone. You have fewer positive emotions than extroverts but a rich inner world. You speak slowly, deliberately, concisely, and directly. You think before you speak, are observant, and sometimes arrogant.

Going through life calmly, in a moderate rhythm, you don't need external stimulation, feel the desire to change partners, or stimulate yourself with alcohol, sex, or other things. You prefer to be in the shadows, avoiding attention and responsibility.

Your preferred environment is intimacy with one or two people with whom you go through life. You are self-focused, inwardly directed, and an expert at solitary work.


Accommodation describes an individual's tendency to put the needs of others ahead of their own. Highly accommodating people are primarily concerned with getting along with others. People with a low level of accommodation are mainly focused on their own interests.

People with a high level of accommodation are responsive and accommodating. They usually want to get along with others more than achieve their personal goals, so they are willing to compromise. They are altruistic and spend a lot of time and energy being helpful.

People with a low level of accommodation tend to be competitive and greedy. They don't care much about getting along with the group and are willing to upset others in the pursuit of their own goals. They are not interested in compromise and don't get satisfaction from the selfless help of others. They enjoy feeling superior.

People with a high level of accommodation:

  • Helpful
  • Empathetic
  • Selfless
  • Altruistic

People with a low level of accommodation:

  • Competitive
  • Argumentative
  • Self-seeking
  • Rational
  • Disrespectful

The Science of Accommodation

Accommodation is closely related to empathy and sympathy -  the ability to understand and feel the emotions of another. People with a high level of accommodation are very empathetic and identify easily with the emotional experiences of others.

Empathy is the reflection of another person's emotions in one's mind. Sympathy is attachment to what the other person feels.

People with a high level of accommodation experience empathy to a greater extent than others. They feel sad when they see someone cry and get a boost of cheer watching someone laugh. As a consequence, people with a high level of accommodation get a lot out of helping others, as they feel an echo of the positive feelings they bring to someone else.

People with a low level of accommodation don't feel an inner response to what brings happiness to others. They are, therefore, less willing to invest their energy in being helpful or altruistic.

Accommodation relates to two aspects of what is often referred to as emotional intelligence. In particular, to be pleasant, a person must be able to conceptualise the emotions of others (i.e., understand how they may feel, what their problems and priorities may be), and second, consider another person's feelings when making decisions.

High Level of Accommodation

If you have a high level of accommodation, you are able to put the needs of others ahead of your own. You feel and understand people's emotions well, try to anticipate their needs, and make sure that they feel good in your presence. That's why people are drawn to you.

You are friendly and compassionate, a team player, and great at getting people to cooperate. People feel at ease in your presence, which makes them open up to you and tell you their stories.

You understand and remember the personal situations of each person in your environment. You can therefore keep up the conversation without touching on the painful topics of each present and maintain harmony in a group of 15-20 people.

The reverse side of these abilities is that you don't feel secure about your own and other people's boundaries. You may have a need to live other people's lives, surrounding them with excessive attention.

Average Level of Accommodation

If you have an average level of accommodation, you get along well with people - up to a point. You are humble and kind to those who deserve it and recognize those who deceive you. You usually try to avoid conflict and harsh judgments, but when an ambiguous situation arises, you are not afraid to speak up.

You work well as part of a team and excel in solo projects. You are quite generous and like to do everything in your power to help others. You volunteer or help friends and family with various projects in your free time.

You believe helping others is important but don't feel the need to dedicate your whole life to it. You do your best to help but are careful not to be taken advantage of. You don't have a goal to save everyone. It's enough for you to help your loved ones.

Low Level of Accommodation

If you are a person with a low level of accommodation, you put your own needs and interests first. You are infrequently empathetic towards others and generally don't feel much concern for their needs.

Because you don't identify too much with others' emotions, making others feel good isn't paramount to you. While you probably don't actively work against others, you don't have much motivation to make the people around you happy, content, or safe and comfortable.

You would rather spend your time pursuing your own interests and doing what matters to you.


Neuroticism describes an individual's response to stress. Highly neurotic people are prone to anxiety, depression, anger, and other negative emotions when in stressful situations. People with low levels of neuroticism resist stress and tend not to experience many negative emotions.

Highly neurotic people struggle with negative emotions. They often experience anger, sadness, anxiety, embarrassment, and other difficult feelings. They tend to be more vulnerable to stressors and less able to deal with challenging situations. They doubt their abilities and feel shame.

People with low levels of neuroticism are resilient and respond more calmly to stress. They experience few negative emotions and cope well with difficulties. They easily overcome stressful situations and get back on track. They don't often feel sad, angry, or depressed and tend to feel confident in themselves and their abilities.

People with a high level of neuroticism:

  • Vulnerable
  • Unstable
  • Restless
  • Gloomy
  • Insecure

People with a low level of neuroticism:

  • Consistent
  • Flexible
  • Optimistic
  • Confident
  • Carefree

The Science of Neuroticism

Neuroticism is the flip side of extraversion; where extraversion describes the frequency and depth of positive emotions, neuroticism describes a person's tendency to experience negative emotions such as fear, anxiety, sadness, anger, and worthlessness.

Studies have shown that people with high neuroticism respond more intensely to negative stimuli. Their brains remain activated for longer periods when shown something sad, frightening, or unpleasant.

Neuroticism is associated with the "signalling system" of the brain. We all need to be able to recognize danger and anticipate negative consequences. But we differ in how sensitive our internal alarm systems are. People with a high level of neuroticism are especially alert to the possibility of bad things happening. People with low levels of neuroticism are more likely to dismiss danger signals, assuming that things will turn out well.

Although neuroticism describes a personality trait rather than a mental health condition, people with a high level of neuroticism are more likely to be diagnosed with disorders such as anxiety or depression. People with a low level of neuroticism avoid the development of many mental illnesses.

High Level of Neuroticism

Highly neurotic people seek stability. To avoid their fear of the unknown, they'll endure dysfunctional circumstances to their detriment and make decisions from a negative state. Unable to believe in the future, they fall down the social ladder, settling for less. They rarely take risks, have low self-esteem, and live on the edge of comfort. Relentlessly criticising themselves, they cannot cultivate strong and supportive relationships.

If you recognize yourself in this description, there have likely been difficult circumstances in your life. It may seem that you got more than your fair share. Neurotic thinking is predominantly negative, so circumstances that others would dismiss give you emotional pain.

Average Level of Neuroticism

If you have an average level of neuroticism, certain situations or people may cause you frustration, confusion, or excitement. You burn out if you take on too much. In a bad week, you find it hard to sleep because you worry a lot. The good news is that, as a moderately neurotic person, you usually find ways to stabilise, avoiding falling into negativity for weeks or months.

You're not overly optimistic or pessimistic and can clearly and realistically consider problems, taking many factors into account.

You assess risks well and see where problems may arise. If you get out of emotional holes or negative circumstances,  you become a  good guide for others.

Low Level of Neuroticism

If you have low levels of neuroticism, you experience fewer negative emotions than the average person. You don't often feel anxious, sad, or shy, and don't worry too much about negative thoughts.

You rarely interpret your surroundings as dangerous or threatening. In situations where others might be scared, you feel no reason for concern. In rare cases, you worry about how things will turn out but go about your business without fear of negative consequences.

You're not prone to stress. Situations that might make others anxious don't affect you. You're able to cope with stressful circumstances without being influenced. Although you're not immune to mental health issues, you are far less likely than the average person to become anxious or depressed.

Now you know what a five-factor model looks like.

I'm sure many descriptions resonated with you, and you saw yourself in them. Now let's get to the most important question: how can you use your knowledge of OCEAN to take the next steps in life, or how can you help others to do so?

When I first started my coaching practice, I was flying blind. I conducted many experiments with each client to better understand what would work for everyone. But the coach-client relationship cannot be a success if you don't give your client results within the first month.

Having worked with many people and having a clear vision, I now generate deep insight within the first 10-15 minutes of a conversation. Understanding OCEAN plays a large role.

People's desires come down to one thing - they want to feel better by understanding what they want. My company hosts thousands of coaching sessions a month, and people always have one question: what should I do next?

Let's try to answer it for you now.

Once you figure out which OCEAN letters you have, you need to find which ones are small and which are large.

Small means low and big means high.

For example, a small o would indicate a low level of openness, and a large E would indicate a high level of extraversion.

Next, you need to find the two letters with the highest values. It doesn't matter if they are at the bottom of the spectrum - the smallest - or at the top  - the largest. For example, you may have very high openness and very low extraversion, while the levels for the rest of the letters are somewhere in the middle. Therefore, these two letters will dictate 50% of your behaviour.

Now let's go through each letter. My team will provide a link to a test in the comments to help you determine which letters suit you most closely and to what degree.

The first thing to look at in your letters is N - neuroticism. If you are highly neurotic, no matter what the other letters are, you will first need to deal with your level of anxiety and fear.

High neuroticism is not a problem. On the contrary, for many millennia, this trait gave us the ability to survive by anticipating adverse events. But the world has become much safer, and high neuroticism can slow you down if you don't use it intentionally. You can't achieve success and comfort. You are also easily emotionally hurt in the literal sense of the word. High N means the need for a stable environment.

If your neuroticism is medium or low, you look at your other letters.

A high O means you will find satisfaction in beauty and creativity or the search for deep meanings. This search may be of a scientific or spiritual nature. If you're not already doing so, you should focus on it without shame or fear. This doesn't mean you can afford to shrug off responsibility for everything else.

You must understand the difference between a job, a career, and a calling. A calling is your craving for creativity and truth. A career generates income and is where you develop your skills. Ideally, a career is based on your calling. Work pays for your existence and enables you to fulfil your duties to others.

High E - extraversion - will pull you towards adventure, leadership, and hedonism. Your element is being around people and pushing yourself to the limits of your DNA. You have the power to lead and pursue adventure.

Low extraversion - or introversion - will mean you rely on yourself and thrive on silence. You don't need anything to go; you are a machine in perpetual motion. This does not give much energy at once, but steadily, every day, without pause. You can create worlds alone.

A consistent pace is much more important than the energy swings that extroverts can have in their lives.

High conscientiousness is considered by many to be the winning ticket. Amazing organisers, these folks achieve more in a day than five people do in a week. They are people of order who are ill-equipped to operate in chaos. You will feel happiest organising and living in an orderly environment.

High accommodation will lead you to a life of loving devotion to others. Having made this choice, you will be satisfied with it.

Low accommodation gives you the ability to confront, compete, and dominate. It's your superpower, and it's hard to fight you.

Each letter shows what you are predisposed to and what you were created for. What to do with it is up to you.

But here's what I know:

You will get everything in life if you rely on the superpowers that nature has given you instead of looking for what you lack.

This was a long episode. You now not only understand how to read people, but you are also able to see through. In the following episodes, I will tell you how to hear behind the words and how to act based on your OCEAN.

Also, be sure to check out the previous episode, How to Make Your Life Legendary. In this episode, I briefly talk about the five key principles for creating a legendary life, one of which - "seeing through" - you just learned about.