Why Understanding Personality Is Key to Increasing Potential

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

You can also find him on Medium at: https://anxiouspilot2.medium.com

Or on Twitter at: @AnxiousPilot or @PointlessOverT

You can also email him directly at: anxiouspilot2@gmail.com

14 thoughts on “Why Understanding Personality Is Key to Increasing Potential

    • I believe it’s a subject well worth exploring – especially for the purpose of understanding one another better. Thank you for your kind words Jane. I hope you are well 🙏

      Liked by 1 person

  • I was very interested to learn about personality types years ago because it seemed so many HR people were putting so much stock into it. Yes, there are some types of tasks or jobs which are better suited for different personality types, but that caused many in HR to try to typecast people to find their “box”.

    What I learned since then is that research has shown that our brains are far more pliable than what was previously thought, so in effect people could cross-train or cross-learn into other interests, bringing their experience and understanding into that new area, thus broadening and deepening abilities and knowledge.

    As a creative, I had been told that chaos and disorganization were my preferred environments, and so when I received those personality tests which showed that creativity was a dominant trait, they used it to shut me out from certain jobs. I had to show that I was an organized thinker, that my creativity allowed me to come up with new solutions, and that I was an asset and not a liability. Those tests definitely caused assumptions to be made about me as a worker, and I needed to fight for my right to work at certain jobs!

    I found those very personality tests served to promote my boss’ or the company’s thinking about people because the information is subjective and malleable to fit into different situations. The tests seek to look for major traits, but overlook how the minor areas of a person’s interests can exert influence and can be developed.

    I found that after taking the tests I didn’t feel like my entirety was looked at, and the areas I later developed into strengths had been minimized.

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    • That’s really interesting. I can certainly see the pitfalls for taking these tests too seriously – using them to place people in certain boxes. Indeed our temperaments are extremely pliable. They vary day to day – depending on our mood even. I certainly don’t mean to underplay that important point. I found that I was a little self critical (which I tend to be) when I took the test and that the results didn’t accurately reflect who I was in every respect. But I could see that and found the exercise valuable none the less. It still demonstrated a good overview of my stretches and weaknesses. I think from a personal perspective that has utility. Whether a business should be using such models to assign roles, I’m not so sure… That said I do believe a deeper understanding of those traits and where they come from/why they exist can teach us something about our more intrinsic motivations. This can be a very useful tool for telling us what we should do in the long run – even though we can do something, the question remains whether we should. Thank you for sharing this Tamara. Very good points

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      • Thanks! I agree that these things shouldn’t be taken too seriously because our moods tend to influence our responses. I was a high functioning depressed person, I didn’t show the classic depressed symptoms because those get hidden behind the outward facade. Internally I was a mess! I could jump down the rabbit hole of self negativity so fast over even small things so I definitely downplayed some valuable insights which may have been helpful! I remember taking some of those tests during the job application or interview process and found after a while the same tests and questions were being employed by different companies. If I took it in the morning when I felt better about myself vs. if I took it later in the day after I had had a chance to criticize myself over some things, my answers would change. I the mornings I exhibited leadership and management skills, while by the afternoon those got hidden away! Businesses have been relying on those kinds of tests for years to try to find the correct person for their jobs and to try to weed out those who weren’t! They’re not always useful predictors of the soft skills actually needed for that job, so they can filter out some good candidates! Kind of how they try to use keywords to filter out resumes: many great candidates get filtered out simply because they may have used similar meaning keywords but didn’t use the exact ones that they HR department specified!

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