800 Character Traits: The Ultimate List (+ How to Develop a Good Character Step-by-Step)


Character Traits List Guide

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Character Traits 101: The Ultimate Guide

So you want to become a better person by building good character traits? Perhaps, you’d like to be more “kind,” “loving” or “generous.” Or, you look up to the heroes you admire and wish you had their “discipline,” “patience” or “grit.”

At this point, the sceptics may say: “But that’s impossible!” or “I was just born this way.” The good news is they don’t know what they’re on about.

Changing your character is not only doable, but also simple. That doesn’t mean the path is quick or easy. It takes sacrifice, persistence and effort.

But the rewards are well worth it.

Because here’s the thing: the only difference between you and your heroes is character. When you reforge your nature, you’ll find their footsteps easier to follow.

But where does this journey begin? What should you take with you? And whom?

By the end of this article, you’ll have answers to all those questions. You’ll also have:

Let’s get started!

What Are Character Traits?

One way to better understand character traits is to define three closely related ideals: core values, personality traits and character traits.

Though often used interchangeably, these terms have distinct definitions:

  • Core values (a.k.a personal values) are theoretical ideals of thought, word or deed;
  • Personality traits describe one’s public, external behaviour; and
  • Character traits describe one’s private, internal compass.

The main focus of this guide is building good character traits. To understand why it’s a priority, let’s dive deeper.

Core Values vs. Personality and Character Traits

I don’t talk much about core values with my clients. Here’s why:

  • Values describe ideas;
  • Traits describe actions; and
  • Actions speak louder than abstract ideas.

Anyone can claim or aspire to “tolerance” or “equality.” But it’s not until those values are expressed through actions that they become traits. And it’s not until they become traits that they impact you and the people around.

When you focus on values, there’s a tendency to talk a lot, then “set and forget.” You decide to be “kind,” “generous” and “loving.” You may even write those words down. But until you change how you act them out when it matters, core values are no more than ideas.

That’s why here, we focus on character traits. Obsessing over values is like getting distracted by the half-way line when your gaze should be fixed on the end-zone.

Personality Traits vs. Character Traits

The second important distinction is between personality traits and character traits.

We all know people whose appearances don’t always match their “true colours.” Who care more about being seen as “modest,” “selfless” or “thoughtful” than about being those things. Who put on good acts but betray their heart under pressure.

This is the essential division between personality traits and character traits. Personality traits describe what you do, character traits describe who you are.

When the stakes are high or your ability to pretend is low, the character always wins.

Character Traits Definition

That’s why I focus on character traits. I’m not here to teach you to say pretty words or become a good actor. The goal is to help you redefine the core of your being.

Core values are theoretical ideas, positive personality traits can be simulated but positive character traits go right to the heart of us. They’re deep-seated, long-term patterns of action, reaction and compromise that become hard to fake when we’re stressed out or tired.

List of Positive Character Traits: 99 Examples and Definitions

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Another great way to understand traits is with a lot of examples.

To that end, I’ve compiled a long list of good character traits from diverse sources: Marcus Aurelius’s Meditations (Summary), Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (Summary), religious texts and even handbooks for aspiring samurai and chivalric knights.

This list isn’t exhaustive – you can download a longer one above. But what you’ll find below is a comprehensive collection of 99 common good traits and personal attributes from high-quality sources. I’ve also supplemented them with definitions, based mostly on the Oxford English Dictionary.

Don’t let this list overwhelm you. Skim through it, let it soak and feel free to make note of any traits that particularly inspire you. When you’re done, we’ll cover a practical step-by-step process to build them into your life.

Here’s the list of character traits:

  1. Active – Alert, lively and ready to engage energetically. 🏃‍♂️
  2. Adaptive – Willing to change in response to circumstances.
  3. Affability – Friendly, good-natured or easy to talk to.
  4. Affectionate – Showing fondness or tenderness.
  5. Alert – Clear-thinking and intellectually active.
  6. Ambitious – Having desire and determination to achieve success. 💯
  7. Attentive – Showing careful attention to the comfort or wishes of others.
  8. Austere – Disowning comforts or luxuries.
  9. Balanced – Enjoying harmony and stability. ⚖️
  10. Benevolent – Being well-meaning.
  11. Careful – Prudent and showing thought or attention.
  12. Characterful – Showing strength and originality in one’s nature.
  13. Charitable – Kind and tolerant in judging others.
  14. Creative – Showing inventiveness and use of imagination. 🖊️
  15. Compassionate – Showing sympathy and concern for others.
  16. Confident – Certain in one’s worth, abilities and qualities.
  17. Considerate – Showing careful thought not to inconvenience or harm others.
  18. Cooperative – Complying readily with requests to achieve mutual ends.
  19. Courageous – Able to do things that one fears.
  20. Curious – Showing a strong desire to know or learn new things.
  21. Dependable – Being trustworthy and reliable.
  22. Determined – Showing firmness of purpose. 💪
  23. Diligent – Working carefully and persistently.
  24. Disciplined – Doing what one knows they should do (even if they don’t feel like it).
  25. Dispassionate – Remaining rational and impartial.
  26. Dutiful – Conscientiously or obediently fulfilling one’s duty.
  27. Encouraging – Giving others support, confidence or hope.
  28. Energetic – Showing or involving great activity or vitality. 🔥
  29. Enthusiastic – Showing intense and eager enjoyment, interest or approval.
  30. Excellent – Being outstanding or extremely good. 👌
  31. Faithful – Remaining loyal and steadfast.
  32. Flexible – Ready and able to adapt to different circumstances.
  33. Forgiving – Feeling no anger or resentment to offences or mistakes.
  34. Friendly – Being favourable and serviceable to others.
  35. Frugal – Sparing or economical with money or food.
  36. Generous – Ready to give more than necessary or expected.
  37. Gritty – Showing courage, resolve and strength of character.
  38. Hard-working – Working with energy and commitment. 👷
  39. Harmonious – Being free from disagreement or dissent.
  40. Honest – Free of deceit; truthful and sincere.
  41. Honourable – Knowing and doing what is morally right.
  42. Hopeful – Feeling or inspiring optimism about a future event.
  43. Humble– Having a modest or low view of one’s importance.
  44. Independent – Thinking and acting for oneself.
  45. Industrious – Diligent and hard-working.
  46. Integrous – Honest and of strong moral principles.
  47. Initiative – Assessing things and taking action independently.
  48. Just – Behaving according to what is morally right and fair.
  49. Kind – Being friendly, generous, and considerate.
  50. Liberal – Respecting behaviour and opinions different from one’s own.
  51. Listening – Take notice of and make an effort to hear others. 👂
  52. Lively – Full of life and energy; active and outgoing.
  53. Logical – Acting based on clear, sound reasoning.
  54. Loving – Feeling and showing deep, selfless affection for others.
  55. Loyal – Showing firm and constant support or allegiance.
  56. Merciful – Showing compassion or forgiveness to those who harmed one.
  57. Methodical – Orderly and systematic in thought or behaviour.
  58. Mindful – Conscious and aware of the present moment.
  59. Moderate – Avoiding excess or extremes.
  60. Modest – Unassuming in the estimation of one’s abilities.
  61. Neat – Tidy, smart, or well-organized.
  62. Open-minded – Accepting of and receptive to change or new ideas.
  63. Orderly – Neat and methodical. 📁
  64. Organised – Structured, systematic and planning effectively.
  65. Passionate – Having, showing, or driven by strong feelings or beliefs.
  66. Patient – Waiting without getting tired of waiting.
  67. Persistent – Continuing firmly despite difficulty or opposition.
  68. Polite – Acting respectfully and considerately.
  69. Pragmatic – Acting sensibly, realistically and practically.
  70. Prudent – Showing care and thought for the future.
  71. Punctual – Doing things at agreed or proper times.
  72. Purposeful – Showing determination or resolve.
  73. Quality – Showing general excellence of standard or level.
  74. Rational – Thinking and acting in accordance with reason or logic. 🤔
  75. Reasonable – Having sound judgement; fair and sensible.
  76. Reliable – Consistently good in quality or performance.
  77. Resolute – Admirably purposeful, determined, and unwavering.
  78. Respectful – Showing regard for the feelings, wishes or rights of others.
  79. Righteous – Acting according to what is morally correct.
  80. Self-disciplined – Doing what one knows they should do (even if they don’t feel like it).
  81. Self-controlled – Managing emotions and desires well in difficult situations.
  82. Self-mastery – Knowing one’s traits and predispositions and managing them effectively.
  83. Silent – More prone to listen than to speak.
  84. Sincere – Free from pretence or deceit.
  85. Simple – Presenting no difficulty to others.
  86. Stable – Unchanging; not easily upset or disturbed.
  87. Steadfast – Resolutely or dutifully firm and unwavering.
  88. Strong – Not easily disturbed, upset, or affected.
  89. Supportive – Providing encouragement or emotional help to others.
  90. Temperate – Showing moderation and self-restraint.
  91. Thrifty – Using resources carefully and not wastefully.
  92. Tidy – Neat, orderly and controlled.
  93. Truthful – Telling or expressing the truth; honest.
  94. Trustworthy – Able to be relied on as honest or truthful. 🤝
  95. Unselfish – Putting the needs or wishes of others before one’s own.
  96. Valiant – Possessing or showing courage or determination.
  97. Vital – Being strong, active and energetic.
  98. Warm – Showing enthusiasm, affection, or kindness.
  99. Wise – Showing experience, knowledge, and good judgement.

(You can send yourself a huge list of 800 positive, neutral and negative character traits (though without definitions) by using the form at the top of this post. And if you’re here because you’re a writer, you might enjoy this awesome post on how to find freelance writing jobs from my buddy Kevin while you’re at it!)

How to Embody Good Character Traits

The secret to developing good character traits is realising that each trait is a constellation of deep-seated habits.

For example, “modesty” describes many small routines of thought, word and deed which create patterns of behaviour that are consistent with our idea of “modest.”

But here’s the challenge. Because unlike big habits, the “building blocks” of character traits are hard to pick out and isolate.

What are “tolerance,” “curiosity” or “acceptance”? Defining the sums by their parts is a challenging task. And, even if we could identidy those thousands of sub-habits, they’d be too many to work on.

That’s why the approach to character traits must be slightly different from how we build habits.

From Input to Output-Based Tracking

What we need is a system similar to habit hacking but more output-focussed. This system measures the results of our actions, rather than whether or not they took place.

The solution (first described in Benjamin Franklin’s excellent Autobiography) is to flip habit tracking on its head. Instead of tracking habits (input) to change your behaviours (output), you’ll track behaviours (output) to alter your habits (input).

Specifically, you’re going to track every behaviour that fails to align with your desired character trait.

5 Steps to Hacking Your Character Traits

If this explanation sounds overwhelming, the good news is that it’s time to get practical. Building new traits into your character is incredibly simple and has five foolproof steps:

Let’s look at each step in more detail.

Step 1: Identify Good Character Traits That Inspire You

The first step in our process is to identify a handful of positive characteristics that inspire you.

Building character traits is a long journey. Starting with those that excite you (rather than those you think you should work on) will make you more likely to succeed.

There are two main ways to tackle this: the long list approach or the hero approach.

  • For the long list approach – re-read the list of good character traits above and note any traits that jump at you. Don’t overthink it. You should easily find 10 or more ideas in a few minutes.
  • For the hero approach – make a list of the people that inspire you the most. Dead or alive, fact or fiction, all choices are good. When that’s done, reflect on the two or three traits you most look up to in each of those people.

Both approaches work well, though one big advantage of the hero approach is that it unlocks something I call “hero-based thinking.

Picturing your hero and thinking about what they’d do in a given situation makes the whole process more fun and inspiring. Many decisions and trade-offs become easier to make.

Step 2: Prioritise ONE Trait at a Time

Although the process of developing character traits is simple, it can also be challenging. Taking on too many traits at once may hold you back from changing anything. The solution is to start with one, then add more as you go.

To pick the ONE character trait you should start with, look at your shortlist and ask:

“Which of these traits would most transform my life if I embodied it?”

Narrow your selection to a few candidates, then pick ONE to get started with.

A big part of you is going to want to tackle three, four or five values at once. My recommendation is to strongly resist that temptation.

You can think of it this way. If you could embody even ONE trait like “discipline” or “kindness,” there’s a good chance you’d change beyond recognition. Why let impatience put that opportunity at risk?

Start with one trait to maximize your odds of succeeding. You can always come back for more later.

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Step 3: Set Your Trait Up for Success

Loners don’t last long in the wild. That’s why we all have an insatiable drive to “fit in.” It’s also why the strongest influence on your actions is the behaviour of the people you hang out with.

No matter how driven you are to change, you’ll struggle if you surround yourself with lazy people. Each time you start making progress, your subconscious will try to drag you back in line with the group.

Conversely, it’s hard not to be more “disciplined,” “curious” or “grateful” if the people you meet each day have those traits. Rather than becoming an outsider, you’ll naturally take action to fit in with their characters.

The upshot is this: If you don’t have the character trait you want, there’s a good chance the people around you don’t have it either. But if you want to develop it, you must do whatever it takes to alter that equation.

Change the area you live in, the job you work, the books you read, the places you hang out or the hobbies you enjoy. Look for ways to spend time with people you’d happily trade places with. Do it offline, do it online. Do it one, three, then five days a week.

Just do it.

Set yourself up for success and you’ll surf right into the beach.

Fight the current and you’re in for a long, tiring swim.

Step 4: Make Your Trait a Habit.

As with habit hacking, one of the most powerful ways to develop a character trait is to track it. This creates the focus, clarity and accountability you need to see lasting change.

But assessing whether or not you were “loving” today is tricky. Even if you could do it, that’d mean an overwhelming number of ✘s in your tracker before you could say you developed a trait. These ✘s would cover up the genuinely helpful details of your progress.

Would it make more sense to track the individual instances of being “just” or “loyal” as a way to measure your growth? Not necessarily.

The catch here is this. Even if you counted 50 instances of “loyalty” today, you could overlook the 100 instances of “unloyalty” that also took place.

To keep things simple, it’s more helpful to count the negative instances of a character trait, instead of positives. That way, you can be sure that you avoid being the person you don’t want to be.

The practical solution is this: Every evening, review the day and take note of each time you failed to live up to a trait. To remember it better, you can use time tracking to help jog your memory.

As you string more and more days together, your tracker will look something like this:

TRACKTION Character Traits And Values Tracker - Complete

Over time, you’ll start spotting trends in your actions. Without thinking about it, you’ll naturally make interventions to improve your behaviour. You’ll also get a much better idea of what the character trait in question really means to you.

One last word of advice: Remember that when tackling a character trait, you’re not changing one habit. You’re changing thousands of them. What’s more, the habits that are critical to your trait may also be the most deep-seated and unconscious ones. Rooting them out will take time.

That’s why you need to be patient with yourself and keep at it. In due time, you won’t be able to recognise the person you once were.

Step 5: Repeat the Process.

Once you’ve got a good hold on one character trait (or, if your priorities shift to another area of your life), feel free to start working on the next.

If you’re using the values tracker in the TRACKTION Planner or FREE productivity templates, shift your existing traits one space to the right and begin tracking your new trait in the furthest-left column.

Over time, you may grow your list of traits to as many as five active targets at once. Some of them may take months, or even years, to develop.

If you get overwhelmed, don’t be afraid to cut back down to one character trait. And don’t worry if it takes long to make progress.

Though the process is simple, changing your character isn’t easy. But the rewards when you get there are worth it.

Living Your Personality Traits: Next Actions

That’s it! We’ve covered everything you need to transform your character traits.

What should you do next? Simple:

  1. List all the character traits from TAoL’s list of good traits that you’d be excited to work on;
  2. List the people that inspire you and add their best traits to your list;
  3. Pick ONE character trait that would most transform your life;

(If you’ve completed a Wheel of Life on page 6 of the TRACKTION Planner, your ONE trait should relate to your lowest scoring area of life.)

  1. Make a list of people you know who may sabotage or support your progress;
  2. Set actions to spend more time with the supportive people;
  3. Open your TRACKTION Planner to page 8;
  4. Write your new character trait in the first column of the value tracker;
  5. Add up to four more traits to the remaining columns;
  6. Set targets for the week ahead; and
  7. Resolve to act as if you already embodied your primary character trait.

That’s all there is to it!

As I said at the beginning of this guide: the only difference between you and your heroes is character. When you reforge your nature, you’ll find their footsteps surprisingly easy to follow.

For that, there’s no approach as effective as character trait tracking.

So get to work!

➡️ Download TAoL‘s FREE productivity templates.

➡️ Get your first TRACKTION Planner.

➡️ Work through the checklist above.

➡️ Leave a comment and tell me what character trait you’ll work on.

And remember:

“You cannot dream yourself into a character; you must hammer and forge one yourself.” – James Anthony Froude

Frequently Asked Questions

Examples of negative character traits include Apathetic, Bossy, Cruel, Dishonest and Envious. For more, download the full list of character traits above. For more, check out our full list of over 800 positive, neutral and negative character traits.

Some examples of personality traits include things like Altruistic, Brave, Caring, Diligent and Ethical. For more ideas, check out our full list of over 800 positive, neutral and negative character traits.

A list of character traits is a helpful aid for e.g., writers, game designers or people trying to improve their own characters. Some examples of character traits include Ambitious, Benevolent, Compassionate, Determined, Enthusiastic, Forgiving and Gritty. For more ideas, check out our full list of over 800 positive, neutral and negative character traits.

Examples of positive character traits include Altruistic, Brave, Caring, Diligent and Ethical. For more ideas, check out our full list of over 800 positive, neutral and negative character traits.

A person’s character is defined by their habits of thinking, speaking and acting. This is especially true when people are under pressure, as they are more likely to “show their true colours“. The good news? Character traits are like habits. You can change them quite easily when you know how. Want to learn more? Check out this ultimate step-by-step guide to hacking your character.

The more positive character traits a person consistently lives by, the better and more reliable their character becomes. To develop a good character, then, you need to pick positive core values and work hard to live by them. Want a long list of positive character traits and a step-by-step guide to building good character? Check out this ultimate guide.

Bad character is the opposite of good character. The more negative character traits a person lives by, the worse their character becomes. If you don’t actively work on building your character, you won’t be aware of the negative character traits you may have acquired. Want a long list of character traits and a step-by-step guide to becoming more like your heroes? Check out this ultimate guide.

There are hundreds of common character traits that you’ll see at work in your favourite fictional characters and real-world acquaintances. Some examples of common traits include things like Competitive, Emotional, Rational, Skeptical and Practical. For more ideas, check out our full list of over 800 positive, neutral and negative character traits.

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  1. Jose Campos-Arreola says:

    Since the pandemic took place, I’ve lost my sense of purpose in life. From having a prosperous life to not working close to a year, it has been a tough road to go through … would make good use of it.

  2. Lady G says:

    This was very helpful. I was looking for certain characteristics traits to build my nonfiction character for my children’s book. However, it turned out to help me personally.

    Thank you
    Lady G

  3. fely Belmont says:

    I sat down, reading, and taking notes. Been looking for a material like this long time. Embodying these traits will increase your value as a human being. I am still following. Thank you!!

  4. Matías says:

    Hello Arthur, thanks for this website, it’s very helpful and I think that this was a good work, and I think that this time god heard me. 🙏🏻

    • Arthur Worsley says:

      You’re very welcome, Matías. Thank you for the kind words and good luck with the next few steps your journey. 🙌🙏

  5. Aisha says:

    Hello, I absolutely love your work and I pray for more productivity for you so we can all benefit. Can I use all the method suggested including the resources here with a group of youth I am working with? Will Reference you defiantly so they can learn more after.

    • Arthur says:

      Hey Aisha. Absolutely! Thank you for reading. It’s an honour to be a part of your journey and it sounds like those kids are lucky to have you as part of theirs. All the best, A 🙌

  6. Ken says:

    Thank you kindly for time that it took to provide all this information. It was very practical and helpful!

  7. Vishal says:

    thank you Arthur worsley for providing such personality and character list. so I can go through PDF file you had said that you will provide the book summary but the would like to hear book summary is not only in written format but also in audible form. I had downloaded few apps which are in Hindi language and some apps are in English language .I go through that app on daily basis and download some book summaries.if you provide me summaries related to business,self-development, investor,yoga and meditation etc books.so if I will find that your content is nice I will definitely share to family,relatives and most of my friend circle.even though you make it premium I will be the member of it.but be careful that if your providing a education or learning to other.pls charge minimum price from your member.so thank you very much for providing a list and if you come-up with app it will be great for us to be connected.it is not for me but I am talking for all people of the world.also make available this content to social class people.wheather he or she is rich or poor.

    • Arthur says:

      Hey Vishal – thanks for stopping by. I’m glad you enjoyed the traits list and the book summaries!

      Recording free audio versions of the summaries is definitely on my to-do list (I ran a quick experiment last year on this Make It Stick Summary)

      Anyhow, watch this space and hopefully we can make it happen soon 🙌

      Best, A

  8. Bob says:

    I thought this website was going to have 800 adjectives for a person but it doesn’t even have 100

    • Arthur says:

      Hello Bob – hope you’re well!

      There are 4 forms on the page (including one at the very top) where you can send yourself the full list of 800 character traits in an easily downloadable and reviewable format (with links to definitions of every trait).

      Including them directly not the page would have overwhelmed the main focus of the article which is around how to actually change your character.

      Hope that helps!

      Best, A

  9. emma says:

    I am living in a very difficult time right now, and I really, really, appreciate the time and effort you put into this very helpful advice.
    Its built a better me!
    Thank you so much.

  10. Hanaa says:

    Thank you so much for this information. It is very helpful and clear.
    I’m very thankful for your list. I’m an EFL teacher at an intermediate school, and this list is very helpful for my students as I’m teaching them to write a character sketch.
    I’d like to ask for your permission to use the list of 99 traits with proper accreditation in my classroom.

    • Arthur says:

      Of course Hanaa. Thank you for asking, and keep up the great work. Your students are lucky to have you. 🙌

  11. Yolanda Uche says:

    Hello I am making a list of good traits. It is called Adjectives-Positive Character Traits, may I use your trustworthy, humble, cooperative, and confident words for my website? I think they are beyond wonderful!

    • Arthur says:

      Absolutely, Yolanda! Feel free to drop a link back to this post if you feel like crediting the source. Glad they’ve helped you with your own writing 🤗

  12. Colleta says:

    Hi, I came across your website while researching positive attributes for a career guide book I am writing. I think your resources are very useful. Would you allow me to copy ( with proper attribution to you) the list of99 character traits into the book as a reference for readers? Thank you.

    • Arthur says:

      Hi, Colleta. Welcome and absolutely, no problem.

      Glad you found the list useful,

      All the best, Arthur

  13. Hunter M says:

    HI I have found this website extremely useful and i will be happy to let you know that i will be using this all the time
    Thanks for all the good work keep it up

    • Arthur says:

      You’re welcome, Hunter. And thank you for the kind words.

      Glad you’re finding the content useful and looking forward to hearing any of your future question or comments.

      Best, Arthur

  14. Trebe says:

    I’m currently doing an ideal-self and perceived self comparison at the request of my therapist and I found this list really useful to use to make my lists, that I was expecting. I wasn’t expecting to feel like I had a method for attaining some of the character traits I wish to possess. I think this will be very useful and would be to other people looking to improve their lives. Thank you :).

    • Arthur says:

      You’re very welcome, Trebe.

      For more on the idea of using value infraction tracking, check out Benjamin Franklin’s Autobiography (also a great read for many other reasons!)

      Good luck!