Aunty once went to an off-site ‘strategy development meeting’ with thirty other construction managers. ‘Strategy development meeting’ was code for going to an expensive resort, drinking as much alcohol as possible, then sporting a wild hangover the following day while coming up with the next year’s business objectives and plan. In between drinks and bad ideas, we managers completed the Myers-Briggs’ personality test so we could understand each other much better. This test is based on four personality traits of: extroversion v introversion, intuition v sensing, feeling v thinking and judging v perceiving. We all got our four letter outcome and said, ‘Oh, that explains why I am the way I am’ and then continued to be that way without thought to changing or improving ourselves.
Our predominant personalities are probably formed by around the age of seven years old. We rarely think about how we can change and be better. Instead, we say, “Oh, I’m an introvert” or “I have no willpower” and that excuses us from making an effort to socialise or refusing the extra slice of cake.
Everyone loves personality tests because they provide an opportunity to think and talk about ourselves. The key idea behind the tests is that once you know your strengths and weaknesses and understand yourself better, you can change and be whatever you want to be. For example, a personality test reveals you as reclusive as opposed to being a livewire. You recharge your energy by being alone rather than relying on a crowd of people to do this for you.
Then you get invited to the annual work party and are terrified at the thought of mingling. You do not have to hide in the corner. Read up on what an extrovert acts like and choose to be one for the night. Or not – it is your choice. Knowing you can have whatever personality you want and at any time is great news especially if you were labelled early as a ‘shy child’, ‘awkward adolescent’, ‘raving extrovert’ or similar.
To get started on your makeover, I suggest completing the classic Enneagram test to understand what personality type you tend towards. The Enneagram test proposes nine different personality types and offers characteristics of the best and worst of each type. Answer the questions on your own or with people who know you well. Be honest and you will get a number between one and nine. My mum thought that because I am a seven – the Enthusiast and she is a two – the Helper, I got a better, bigger score than her. This is not the case. No number is better than another since the Enneagram is a circle. The numbers all have strengths and weaknesses.
Once you know your number, type ‘Enneagram’ and your number into your internet browser and read all about your type. You will learn about what happens for you when life is going well and how you may react to stress. With this information, you can work to maximise your good points and to reduce your weak areas. Later on, as you watch and listen closer, you will start to recognise the various types in other people which helps you better understand their perspectives. This, in turn, should see your relationships improve.
As you begin to understand your personality, consider one specific trait and view both ends of that scale. I would describe myself as a ‘Judger’ rather than a “Perceiver’. ‘Judgers’ need everything to be perfect and are doomed to judge everyone harshly. We judge ourselves even harder.
We have to plan, set objectives and generally try to control, always. This can be exhausting. ‘Perceivers’ at the other end of the spectrum, accept things as they are and let the hours and days evolve and flow. Because they relax and let life happen, they do not feel the need to plan or to control everyone.
So I tried perceiving and began to embrace unplanned chaos, stopped living everyone’s life for them and decided to just be. This peaceful existence is there for the taking if you Judgers out there want to reach out. I decided to let someone else be bossy and do all the planning. Relaxing and chilling might not work on every occasion but it is wonderful to take a break from the incessant need to control. I now know can choose where I want to be on the spectrum between Judging and Perceiving because I have that power. So do you. One end of the spectrum is not better than the other end, it is just different. There are good and bad elements to both ends.
People may tell you how they think you should act or what your type is but it is your choice whether you listen or not and only listen to advice that benefits you.
Even if you think you have always been a sad, grumpy, shy, rude or impetuous person, you do not have to stay that way for one more minute, if you don’t want to. None of the personality types are going to be the best for every situation. So learn what options are available to you and pick the best for the present moment. Your mind is so powerful that you can decide your reaction to any given situation at any given time. The choice is within your control. Take the time to understand exactly what characteristics are available to you, then choose the personality type you want. Just make it a nice one. Don’t let your inner seven-year-old child define who you are today because you choose how you present to the world.
You can choose your personality.