I recently completed a course on personality theory that I found infinitely fascinating. Today I want to share some thoughts about how this understanding can help us better navigate in the world.
You can think of personality as the lens through which we view the world. It functions by filtering the world so we only pay attention to certain things. This then influences the way we think, feel, and act.
Part of what colours our lens has to do with the environment in which we have been raised. But another significant part has to do with the innate personality traits that we were born with.
Science has shown that much of personality is inborn and relatively stable over time. Who we are runs deep. Indeed, most parents can get a good sense of who their children are by the time they’re toddlers.
This understanding is critically important.
Not only for knowing who we should become but for helping us understand that other people are fundamentally different. They will never be able to look at the world like you do – neither will you they. It’s this understanding that helps foster greater compassion and tolerance for “the other side.”
This is also why we should pick things like our profession based on our personality. Some are of us are naturally creative while others look at art and simply don’t get it. Conversely, some of us are highly conscientious while others couldn’t care less if they put odd socks on in the morning.
Most organisations need a combination of both vertical (in-the-box) type thinkers and lateral (out-of-the-box) type thinkers. Indeed, the world needs various personality types because there isn’t a single answer to all of the world’s problems.
Does this mean we can’t adjust the colour of our lens? Does it mean we can’t become something we’re not? No, not entirely. Our personalities change naturally as we age. They are malleable. And we should try to expand the limits of our own personality.
That said, there are limits. After a certain point, you get diminishing rates of return. We all have a proclivity to learn specific skills more quickly than others. We all struggle to understand certain things more than others too.
This is because all of us have limited cognitive abilities. We’re simply incapable of processing all of the objective facts in the unknowable universe. Different personalities are nature’s way of covering all bases.
This is important for understanding different political persuasions, which is heavily influenced by personality. Sometimes liberals have the answer; at other times conservatives do. But, at the end of the day, to quote some Indian dude, “the left-wing and right-wing are part of the same bird.”
We need diversity of thought. And we desperately need to work together despite our differences. This is how we cover each other’s blind spots.
There’s something else to be aware of too.
Many of us berate ourselves for our weaknesses while failing to see how they’re intimately linked to our strengths. This is because there are pros and cons at the end of each personality trait spectrum.
Ultimately this understanding can help us find that goldilocks position in life we’re all looking for. The one that suits us best (and this, I firmly believe, best suits the world too). But it also helps to adjust the parts of ourselves that on occasion need adjusting to fit the circumstances.
Ideally, you want to wear the hat most suited to who you are as much as possible. But you also want the ability to put on a different hat when the circumstances require it. Because life is unpredictable so we must be adaptable.
The trick is to specialise at what you are but practise what you aren’t.
But to do that, we must first become clear about who we really are at our core. We must first understand the hand we have been dealt before we try to play it – before we match the game to our particular set of cards.
This is something I want to talk to you about next week by introducing you to something known as the Big Five Personality model.
In the following weeks I mean to break these five traits down while placing my own personality under the microscope. In the process I hope to shine a brighter light on who you are too, so we may all deepen our understanding about ourselves and the world we live in.
You can find more of AP2’s writing here at: https://pointlessoverthinking.com
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