I am reading the book, The Personality Brokers: The Strange History of Myers-Briggs and the Birth of Personality Testing by Merve Emre. It is fascinating to trace how what we see as the modern day measurement and use of personality and style assessments comes from long ago. A mother-daughter team in the 1920s created Myers-Briggs yet their idea was based on Carl Jung’s personality typing that he developed before them and his approach incorporates even earlier philosophy and mythology. The use of personality and style tests has exploded in the past 50 years or so and has been the basis of so many applications including hiring and firing in jobs, acceptance to schools, team building and career planning to name a few.
Although there are many wonderful uses and I find assessments very helpful, I have been thinking a lot about why I am so drawn to them and how to make the best use of them. I have probably taken most of the assessments that are available in the corporate world as well as seeking out others on my own. They include Myers-Briggs, 16 personalities that is basically a modernized version of Myers-Briggs, I Speak Your Language, Strengths Finders, VIA Signature Strengths, Strong Interest, DISC, The Four Tendencies and more. There are overlaps and commonalities though they all have distinctive differences that can be very helpful for building your own self-knowledge.
And that is perhaps the main reason I enjoy these assessments. I find that the more that I can explore through assessments my approach to the world, the more I understand why I do what I do and why I have the wants and needs that I have. The greater my self-knowledge, the better I am able to create a meaningful life for myself. However there are some very important components of using these assessments that I always remind my clients and myself.
Personality tests can help you to understanding your perspectives on life, your strengths and blind spots. But they shouldn’t hamstring you to do only that which the tests say you are inclined towards. Because if you limit yourself to only doing what the assessments say you are best at, then you can’t stretch and grow. If instead you set your own expectations for what you want in life, keeping in mind your personality traits, you will be so much more fulfilled. What you expect from yourself will define what you achieve so don’t limit yourself based on a personality test. You are capable of so much more. Instead, use the styles and personality tests to help uncover that which you may not readily understand about yourself and to help reveal and even validate what you already know about yourself. Then go out there and consider what your dreams are. Let them be even more than what you expect from yourself based on a test. Be expansive so that you can create and redefine how your life unfolds. Believe in your capability beyond what others define you as, including any personality test. Because what is a meaningful life to you is not the same as what others define as a meaningful and purposeful life, even if they have the same Myers Briggs or whatever personality type.
Often times when I think about my purpose in life I can find myself pausing to ask, have I done enough? Have I contributed enough to the world? Am I continuing to contribute to the world? Are my contributions big enough? When I feel that I haven’t done enough and I think that I should be doing something big I realize that there are two key words in that sentence that need to be dissected: should and big.
The use of the word should implies that there is something inside or outside of you defining what is right or wrong or required that you must do. Instead if you ask yourself what you could do, and then make a choice as to what you choose to do, you are much more likely to follow through on actions that support your dreams and support your truths. The use of the word big implies that there is some standard of measurement of what is big enough to be deemed an important contribution. And that is garbage! You needn’t contribute big to have an impact on the world or to have a sense of living your life with purpose.
My life purpose is to contribute to the world and have an impact on others through my writing and coaching. I write because I feel compelled to write—it is essential to my being (even though I had been writing psychology and marketing research papers and presentation for years, revealing my personal voice came later for me). Even if only one person gets something from my writing it is big enough. Through coaching other people to help them find their own purpose, passion and meaning, I feel great fulfillment. Diving into understanding our psyche and motivations is what gives my life purpose and meaning. And yes, personality tests do accurately capture my leanings as a psychologist (even though I figured that out before I took my first assessment test.) Nonetheless, I created my own expectations and chose and continue to choose my life path. And I choose to deepen my understanding of my own tendencies by exploring personality assessment tools.
So if you decide to pursue personality assessment tests, use them to reveal some of your strong traits and styles. Then choose what to do with that information. Dream and create your own meaningful life. Choose what to expect from yourself and what you expect is what you can achieve.