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. 

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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

3-2-1 Flying Fridays

Hello lovely readers and welcome back to 3-2-1 Flying Fridays! The only weekly post that has a personality disorder…

Following a 3-2-1 approach, it contains 3 thoughts from me (that you should ignore), 2 quotes from others (that you should read), and 1 something special (maybe). 

As a bonus I’ve finished with one joke that’s so bad, it’s good!

Let’s begin!


3 x Thoughts:

1) A great way to unburden your mind is to write your worries down on paper. Then, ask yourself some objective questions about those thoughts and write those answers down. Then, keep going – keep asking questions about your answers and writing those thoughts down. Eventually, as if by magic, you’ll come to a surprising insight.

2) What you want is a different hat to wear for every occasion. But you also want to wear the hat most suited to who you are as much as you possibly can. To put it another way: you should specialise at what you are but practise what you aren’t.

3) Your personality is the lens through which you view the world. Part of what colours this lens has do with the social context under which we have been raised. But another major part has to do with the innate personality traits that we were born with. Who we are – who we really are – runs deep. This understanding is important. Not only for knowing who we should become, but for helping us understand that other people are fundamentally different. It’s this understanding that helps foster greater compassion and tolerance for “the other side.” It also encourages us to engage with the other side so they can help point out our blind spots.


2 x Quotes:

“To be human means to be constantly in the grip of opposing emotions, to daily reconcile apparently conflicting tensions. I want this, but I need that. I cherish this, but I adore its opposite, too.”

— Stephen Fry

“What frightens us or gives us anxiety is not when bad things happen—it’s when we’re not sure whether a bad thing will happen or not.

— Mark Manson 

1 x Thing:

This Mark Manson article: The 3 Paradoxes of Life in which he answers the question of finding contentment by wrestling with the 3 paradoxes of life. The paradox of choice struck a chord with me in particular. As he writes, “Freedom is only meaningful when it is given up. And we give up freedom by making commitments.” Well worth a read!


1 x Joke:

Did you hear the tragic news about the Italian chef who died?

He pasta-way!


PREVIOUS NEWSLETTER:

3-2-1 Flying Fridays – 13/05/22

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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

Motivational Mondays – 04/10/20

Hello fine readers and welcome back to my Motivational Mondays Post! The only weekly newsletter that makes you take a freezing cold shower before wrapping you in a warm towel.

Following a 4:3:2:1 approach, it contains 4 exceptional thoughts from me (ha), 3 admittedly better quotes from others, and 2 things I’ve been reading and/or listening to this week that have helped me grow.

As always I’ve finished with 1 something silly to lighten your Monday blues… 


4 x Thoughts From Me:

When you cling to something you lose the ability to see clearly. It’s only by letting go that you give yourself the space that true love requires. 

When our leaders continue to lie and treat us like children – when they fail to protect us in ways we know they never should have… At times like these I take solace in the words that Obama said when he left office – that progress is never a straight line – but the over all trend is upward. The world is far safer and more equitable than it was 100 years ago. We will always have these wobbles in history as those in power try hard to resist changes that are both necessary and inevitable. Of course we can’t be complacent and we need to keep fighting for those changes. It’s important to stress, in the same way that high can’t exist without low, hate cannot exist without love. Now is the time for the voices of love, peace and compassion to rise to the table and tame the cauldron that is 2020.

The best way to look after the world is to look after yourself. 

How much of the time that you spend on your phone is intentional versus mindless? Let me be clear about intentional time. I’m not just talking about work. Connecting with family and friends or using social media to champion a cause you believe in. This is intentional time. Watching cat videos or playing candy crush – maybe not. If your intention is to unwind with a game that’s fine of course, but make sure you use your phone with intention. Have a point when you pick it up. Make sure it’s not simply about trying to get a dopamine hit because that, my friend, is an addiction. 


3 x Quotes From Others:

“The moral thing I should wish to say… is very simple. I should say: love is wise, hatred is foolish. In this world, which is getting more and more closely interconnected, we have to learn to tolerate each other. We have to learn to put up with the fact that some people say things that we don’t like. We can only live together in that way and if we are to live together and not die together, we must learn the kind of charity and the kind of tolerance which is absolutely vital to the continuation of human life on this planet.” – Bertrand Russell (Source: brain pickings.org – The Love of Truth and the Truth of Love: Bertrand Russell on the Two Pillars of Human Flourishing)

“Rabbi Alfred Bettleheim once said: “Prejudice saves us a painful trouble, the trouble of thinking.” ― Ruth Bader Ginsburg (Source: tablet mag.com – Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Teenage Essay on the Holocaust)

Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” – Steve Jobs (Source: cristianmihai.net – Don’t Try. Be)


2 x Things That Helped Me Grow

1 – This brilliant Tim Ferris podcast episode with Jamie Foxx on Workout Routines, Success Habits, and Untold Hollywood Stories… For sheer entertainment value this might be one of the best Tim Ferris episodes I’ve listened to. Jamie Foxx’s impersonations are incredible. What. A. Talent. This is well worth taking the time to listen. I guarantee you’ll love it! You can find a few of quotes and notes I took from the pod below.

NOTES & QUOTES:

  • ‘You are the bow and your children are the arrows. You’re just trying your best to aim them in the right direction. And hopefully your aim isn’t too off.’
  • “The notes are right underneath your fingers baby. You just gotta take the time to play the right ones. That’s life.” – Ray Charles
  • “What’s on the other side of fear? Nothing.”
  • If you can stay motivated and not be jaded or feel entitled or be spoiled then you can do anything. 
  • “The hardest part to achieving something great is afterwards because now you have to top that.
  • One of the most amazing things about America is the evolution of freedom. We are on the right path. Be who you want to be. Love who you want to love. We are evolving. 
  • I asked my daughter what she thinks about gay rights. She replied we don’t. We don’t think about. We don’t give a shit. That’s you guys. – Thank god for the youth. 
  • You better start laughing because you’re gonna be dead in a minute. 
  • What do you do when you get writers block? I write about things that get me angry. 
  • The best kind of interaction is in person because it requires discretion to deal with all types. On the internet people interact without discretion and you can get dragged down by it. 
  • Your hustle muscle is the most important thing to exercise. When you want something and you go make it happen as opposed to leaving it up to chance. If you hustle you’re not spending your time worrying. Put the hard work in and it takes 70 percent of your worrying away. 

2 – This very interesting BBC article by David RobsonWhy Arrogance Is Dangerously Contagious. From the article: “Now, fascinating new research by Joey Cheng, an assistant professor of psychology at York University, shows that overconfidence can be contagious. “If you have been exposed to an overconfident person, then you become more likely to overestimate your own relative standing,” she says. It’s a tendency that could cause dangerously deluded thinking to spread through a team.” This is well worth the quick read!


1 x Silly Thing To Make You Smile:

So we took our son for a little staycation this weekend to celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival!

As I was pointing it out the full moon to him, he quickly buried his head into my shoulder while saying, “I’m scared.”

I asked him, “Of the moon?”

He replied, “Yes.”

I looked over to my wife who said, “Why on Earth would he be scared of the moon?”

I was quick to reply, “Why on Moon wouldn’t he be?”

She rolled her eyes.

“Wait wait, I can come up with something better…”

I continued, “Maybe he’s afraid that it’s going to sit on him!”

Get it!?

Because it’s the Moon


I’m here all week ladies and gentlemen.! 

Till next time…

Have a Happy Monday Everybody!

P.S. Don’t forget to exercise your silly muscle this week!

One bonus question for you all:

How can you make sure that the time spent on your phone is intentional?

(Thank you all so much for reading. If you have any suggestions, thoughts or ideas about anything I’d love to hear from you in the comments at the bottom!)


PREVIOUS MONDAY POST:

Motivational Mondays – 28/09/20

Motivational Mondays – 28/09/20

Hello fine readers and welcome back to my Motivational Mondays Post! The only weekly newsletter that forces you to take the stairs before handing you a beer.

Following a 4:3:2:1 approach, it contains 4 exceptional thoughts from me (ha), 3 admittedly better quotes from others, and 2 things I’ve been reading and/or listening to this week that have helped me grow.

As always I’ve finished with 1 something silly to lighten your Monday blues… 


4 x Thoughts From Me:

The greater your understanding of how small you are, the bigger the person you become. 

If you want peace in this life then you have to learn to let the ego go. That’s not to say you should see it as the enemy. Your ego is a part of you. It’s a tool to be used, just like your hands. What I’m getting at is the ability to stand back from your ego and see when it‘s useful to engage with it or not. Often it’s best left alone. In my eyes it’s an essential skill to be developed throughout ones lifetime. You may never master it but with practise you can become exceptionally good. If you don’t, of course, you may lose it altogether. The danger then is that the tool ends up using you.

People will always believe a confident lier over those who whimper the truth.

Why write when everything has already been written about? Two reasons. The first one is because it’s not true. No one has written about your story. No one has written about your own unique perspectives. The second reason is because no one has written exactly as you would. Often writing is about reinforcing timeless advice and passing it on in a way that speaks to the people of our time for our time.


3 x Quotes From Others:

“The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing which stands in the way.” – William Blake (Source: brain pickings.org – How an Artist is Like a Tree: Paul Klee on Creativity)

“If my doctor told me I had only six minutes to live, I wouldn’t brood. I’d type a little faster.” – Isaac Asimov (Source: artofblogging.net – Writing Quotes to Inspire You to Punch the Damn Keys)

“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution.”Albert Einstein (Source: waysofthinking.co.uk – Why We Need To Use The Power Of Imagination Now More Than Ever)


2 x Things That Helped Me Grow

1 – This inspiring TED talk by Xiye Bastida‘In a deeply moving letter to her grandmother, Xiye Bastida reflects on what led her to become a leading voice for global climate activism — from mobilizing school climate strikes to speaking at the United Nations Climate Summit alongside Greta Thunberg — and traces her resolve, resilience and profound love of the earth to the values passed down to her. “Thank you for inviting me to love the world since the moment I was born,” she says.

FAVOURITE QUOTE:

“If our struggles make the world a better place, then they will make us better people.” – Xiye Bastida

2 – This brilliant Mark Manson article, The Cognitive Biases That Make Us All Terrible People. As Mark explains, ‘For those who don’t know, cognitive biases are basically inherent “flaws” in our psychology—they’re the predictable ways we misjudge situations, filter information incorrectly, or jump to irrational conclusions about people or events. We all have them. We all succumb to them. And it’s only in understanding them that we can develop the self-awareness to guard ourselves against them.‘ Well worth the read!


1 x Silly Thing To Make You Smile:

For all you parents out there – and seen as the Moon Festival is upon us this week – I thought you might enjoy this timely rendition of the classic children’s book Goodnight Moon


Thanks ladies and gentlemen. That’s all from me this week! 

Till next time…

Have a Happy Monday Everybody!

P.S. Don’t forget to exercise your silly muscle this week!

One bonus question for you all:

How can you make mindfulness a habit?

(Thank you all so much for reading. If you have any suggestions, thoughts or ideas about today’s weekly post I’d love to hear from you in the comments at the bottom.)


PREVIOUS MONDAY POST:

Motivational Mondays – 21/09/20

Why A Basic Understanding Of The Mind Helps To Let Go

A basic understanding of the mind helps.

To understand our mind is a tool we can use – it isn’t who we are – we are not our thoughts.

The mind is simply a vessel that continuously delivers thoughts based on everything that it’s been fed.

That doesn’t mean your thoughts are accurate – it means the exact opposite.

The vast majority of stuff we are fed and told, the concepts, constructs and expectations of society are largely bullshit – they’re just ideas. Your mind is always going to project that stuff to some degree or another and that’s perfectly ok – you should understand and accept that!

But! BUT BUT!!

You should not accept such thoughts as accurate – you should treat them and the beliefs you have with a HUGE amount of scepticism – remain open to the possibility that what you think and believe – that what most people think and believe – is largely bullshit! Because, and I’ve got news for you, it is.

That doesn’t mean you should create an inner dialogue about what you are thinking or currently believe – that only serves to strengthen the thought you are having anyway! What I’m getting at is because of this understanding, you should let go of the VAST majority of your thoughts.

Let them pass.

Your mind is simply generating ideas continuously – by letting them pass and not fixating on anyone of them – they lose their power of being able to define you! This also allows you to see those thoughts more clearly – for what they are.

It’s from looking at them this way that we can gain greater insight that helps to shatter the illusions our clever minds love to make up!

FYI These are just some thoughts from my mind – feel free to let them go/treat it as largely bullshit (probably just echoing something I fed it anyway).

9 Golden Rules For Cultivating A Growth Mindset.

“There is no such thing as a natural-born pilot. Whatever my aptitude of talents, becoming a proficient pilot was hard work, really a lifetimes learning experience… The best pilots fly more than others; that’s why they’re the best.” CHUCK YEAGER

Following on from a previous post: How A Fixed Mindset Led To Years Of Depression And How A Growth Mindset Set Me Free, I decided to put together this list of 9 Golden Rules for Cultivating a Growth Mindset, that I compiled from my notes of Carol S. Dweck‘s brilliant book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.

Here they are:


1 – Make A Concrete Plan.

To do this think about the goals you want to achieve most -ones that align you closest with your values – then write out a detailed plan by asking yourself where, when and how. The more detailed the plan the better. Finally review & modify as necessary everyday.

2 – Show Up Everyday.

It’s important you form the habit by showing up every single day. Remember you’re telling yourself something important when you show up on the bad days as well as the good. Even if all you can manage is 10 minutes, 5 pushups or 1 paragraph – whatever it is you’re working towards – make sure to show up!

Dweck advises the “next time you feel depressed, think about effort as a positive, constructive force, not a drag – try it out.”

3 – Don’t Let Any Failure Define You.

Remember you’re not your failures. Remember you only ever really fail when you decide to give up. Remember to keep the idea of a growth mindset in the forefront of your mind.

As Dweck points out, “When people believe their base qualities can be developed, failures may still hurt, but failures don’t define them. When depressed it is only more of a reason to hang on and do what’s necessary to keep your life on track.

If you keep going, keep learning, keep growing – you will prevail.

Don’t. Give. Up.

4 – Study To Learn Not Simply Pass.

“Those with a growth mindset take charge of their learning and motivation. Instead of plunging into unthinking memorisations of course material, they said, “I looked for themes and underlying principles across the lectures… I went over mistakes until I was certain I understood them.” – CAROL S. DWECK

Loving the process is key. Find your passion by defining the values that mean most to you, then build your life around them. If you can do that, you will have a natural hunger to learn. Success will then come about naturally as a by-product of simply doing what you love. You’ll also realise that ‘success’, as defined by society, is something completely different.

5 – Seek feedback/Ask for help

“The person who asks is a fool for five minutes, but the person who does not ask remains a fool forever.” – Ancient proverb.

True self confidence is the courage to be open – to welcome change and new ideas regardless of their source. Real self confidence is reflected in your mindset: your readiness to grow.” – CAROL S. DWECK.

Seek constructive criticism, not praise. You can always improve. You can always grow. Forget about feeling stupid or disengaged and think about learning and how to improve instead. Challenge yourself. Don’t be afraid to put up your hand.

6 – Praise effort not talent.

 “Admiring our children may temporarily lift our self-esteem by signaling to those around us what fantastic parents we are and what terrific kids we have — but it isn’t doing much for a child’s sense of self. In trying so hard to be different from our parents, we’re actually doing much the same thing — doling out empty praise the way an earlier generation doled out thoughtless criticism. If we do it to avoid thinking about our child and her world, and about what our child feels, then praise, just like criticism, is ultimately expressing our indifference.” STEPHEN GROSZ 

Make sure to praise effort for trying to achieve something difficult, even in failure. Never praise natural ability or talent, especially when they complete something easily.

One of the worst parenting compliments to give, is telling children how clever they are. Far better to apologise for something being too easy and then challenging them to do something more difficult. Following that, praising their effort even, or perhaps especially, if they fall short. Then encouraging them to think about how they could have done things differently. Finally encouraging them to keep going.

7 – Be honest but be constructive.

When criticising it’s important we give our honest assessment but equally important we offer advice on how to improve. Don’t simply judge, teach. Think of helping that person to grow by giving them the tools with which to improve.

Be sure to tell them how you really feel. It’s not always easy but honesty is ultimately the kinder thing to do.

8 –Find the time to reflect.

Look back at bad experiences and understand that it doesn’t define your intelligence or personality. Instead ask what can I learn from it? Do this every day if you can. Ask how could I have done better? What are the lessons I need to learn? How can I grow from here? Show up the next day with those lessons fresh in the mind.

Don’t settle for good enough when you can be great. Don’t settle for great when you’re capable of being extraordinary. Keep going and form the habits of champions.

9. Take Ownership Of Your Mistakes.

“Unfortunately people like things that work against growth. People like to use their strengths to achieve quick, dramatic results – they don’t take their weaknesses as seriously as they might”Morgan Mccall

Dweck says, ‘you can still be in the process of learning from your mistakes until you deny them.’ Blaming and complaining get you nowhere. If you stand up and take responsibility for your mistakes, you’ll gain the respect and admiration of others. You’ll also put yourself in the mindset of wanting to learn and grow. This is what it means to be a true leader.

Dweck notes, “Leaders are made, not born, and made more by themselves than by external needs.” That means taking full responsibility for your life and your mistakes.


SOURCES/ARTICLES:

Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol S. Dweck

Presence, Not Praise: How To Cultivate a Healthy Relationship with Achievement by Maria Popova

Fixed vs. Growth: The Two Basic Mindsets That Shape Our Lives by Maria Popova

The Examined Life: How We Lose and Find Ourselves by Stephen Grosz