4 Things About You That Matter More Than Your Personality Type

People have dedicated immeasurable hours to the study of personality theory in an effort to understand what motivates our feelings, thoughts and behaviors. Enthusiasts have been known to get so involved in personality typing that they use it to predict a person's health, career destiny, relationship potential, and even their sex drive! Once you've figured out your four letter code, you can spend hours on blogs and forums figuring out what's in store for you based on your personal strengths and weaknesses.

While there's a scientific basis for personality typing such as the theory put forward by Briggs and Myers, evidence from research studies shows us that personality is surprisingly fluid. Personality testing may act as one type of predictive tool, but it's a lot more sophisticated than fitting traits into a box. In fact, there are dozens of variables that matter more to a person's success and happiness than their personality type.

Curious? Let's take a closer look.

#1: Values

"We are what we think," taught Buddha which is a stylish way of saying, you are what you believe you are. We all play roles and we often wear masks that represent the image we want to show to the world. But the real us - the raw, unadulterated form of ourselves - remains the guiding force behind our actions. And that is not determined by a broad set of personality traits, it is determined by our values.    

Values are the standards by which we order our lives and make our choices. It is possible to categorize many types of values such as those that relate to happiness, health, wealth, pleasure, success, recognition, tradition, honesty, benevolence, security or family. These are all subjective terms, which means that they will mean different things to different people. And they may even mean different things to the same person, depending on their life stage.

There are several differences between personality and values. Values are what we believe we ought to do. They reveal a lot about a person because they identify how people attach meaning, worth and importance to things. Personality is what we naturally tend to do, alongside others of the same personality type. 

Personality traits do not conflict with one another, which means that a person can simultaneously express preferences for Introversion and Thinking, for example, or pleasure-seeking and achievement. Values do conflict. The choices that a person makes to pursue some values at the cost of others is what makes them entirely unique and determines the direction a life takes. 

Blindly accepting personality as the determinant of success and failure takes away your power to decide what makes you happy based on your own values. For most people, that's why personality typing is only half the story in getting to grips with their authentic selves. 

#2: Resilience

Have you ever wondered why some people seem to bounce back from adversity while others seem to come undone? People who cope with stress and hardship have what psychologists call resilience, or an ability to cope with difficulties and setbacks. These difficulties might include illness, job loss, bereavement, natural disasters, divorce, or financial problems.

Resilience does not stamp out life's difficulties. People who possess resilience do not experience less tragedy, grief or anxiety than others do. But their resilience allows them to tackle these problems head on and often, emerge stronger.

Some personality types are characterized as being unflappable in the face of crisis. However,  psychologists agree that resilience is not an inborn trait, but learned. We know that strong social networks, responsive relationships, social support, and spirituality all make significant contributions to a person's resilience. Those in stable and committed relationships, for example, will experience greater emotional security, improved health and higher self-esteem, regardless of their personality type. These are all factors that help us respond to adversity in healthy ways.

Resilience is important because it has been shown to have a moderating effect on life outcomes. People who are resilient typically experience better health, more psychological stability characterized by the ability to plan, monitor, and regulate behavior, and less stress under changing circumstances. These are the people who succeed, even excel, despite incredibly difficult circumstances.  

#3: Learning

Personality theories tend to distinguish personality from intelligence, and it's those psychological differences between people that aren't primarily matters of ability that make personality theories so interesting. But being "intelligent" is not only about having a high IQ. It is now seen to include emotional, social and physical aptitude, having great communication skills, logic, musical ability or "life smarts" - and these types of intelligence can largely be acquired through learning.  

Put simply, there's a difference between those who love to learn and those who don't. Enthusiastic learners will consider activities that broaden their perspective (such as reading, learning new skills and exploring hobbies) fun. Reluctant learners will consider those activities boring. They might avoid opportunities to learn - and this can have a critical impact on their happiness.

Love of learning, meaning the mastery of new skills and knowledge, whether self-directed or formal, is closely associated with contentment, motivation and a sense of accomplishment that psychologists refer to as "well being." Lifelong learners typically experience greater well being than reluctant learners, which in turn leads to objective outcomes such as better mental health, longevity, productivity, pro-social behavior such as volunteering and a lower risk of anxiety and depression. Learners enhance the odds of success and survival. Clearly this has ramifications for their life outcomes.  

#4: Choices

Who you are today is the result of all the choices you've made in your life. From exercising three times a week to which brand of toothpaste you buy, from taking an accelerated class at school to attending a job interview, from putting a dollar in the homeless man's pot to walking on by - your whole life is a series of decisions that impact your future. Choices are everywhere, and every single one of them has the potential to make a lasting impact on our lives. 

To a degree, our choices are the product of our personalities. It makes sense that a risk-averse person would be suspicious of a choice that might put themselves or their loved ones in danger. But the obvious criticism is that personality theories are based on dichotomies. Are you Introverted or Extraverted? Sensing or Perceiving? It's up to you to decide. 

Choices, on the other hand, rarely fall into the simple pattern of either/or. They are infinite. That is why a person who has made one set of choices can experience life so very differently to the other 10 percent of the population with the same personality type.  

Understanding your personality type can help you to justify why you've made the choices you've made. But it isn't a blueprint for those choices. Being a Thinker does not mean that you cannot choose to be an empathetic and compassionate caregiver. Being a Perceiver does not mean that you cannot choose to manage a project in a structured, pre-determined way. Our personalities should never be excuses to limit our own decisions - at best, they should provide a schema for becoming the most developed versions of ourselves. 

Final thoughts

Personality tests are illuminating and quite fun to do. They can help to establish your niche in this crazy, complex world and reveal how you compare to other people. They can also help you tap into a wealth of knowledge about the strengths and struggles that those around you are experiencing. This is what personality tests are designed to do.

But personality theories are also a self-fulfilling prophecy. Scoring your personality won't tell you anything you didn't already know. The tests are based on how you see yourself, and logically, how you see yourself is the sum weight of your values, your resilience, your choices, your learned skills and a dozen other variables that make you both the person you are, and the person you want to be. These, and not your personality type, are the things that make you memorable when you walk into a room. 

Molly Owens

Molly Owens is the founder and CEO of Truity. She is a graduate of UC Berkeley and holds a master's degree in counseling psychology. Since 2006, she has specialized in helping individuals and organizations utilize personality assessments to develop their potential.

In 2012, Molly founded Truity with a mission to make robust, scientifically validated personality assessments accessible to everyone who may benefit from them.

Molly is an ENTP and lives in San Francisco, where she enjoys elaborate cooking projects, murder mysteries, and racing toy cars with her son.

Comments

Khushi (not verified) says...

My perosnality type is an Enfp do you know what careers would be good for me! :)

Lori Milner (not verified) says...

Khushi, research Donna Dunning for personality type and career fit.  She has a wealth of information.  Good luck in your job search!

Molly Owens says...

We've also got some suggested careers right here on our ENFP page! Another great resource is Do What You Are, by Barron and Tieger.

KingsleyM (not verified) says...

Wow. Thank you for an interesting read - love it.

Jean-Marie Kruger (not verified) says...

Wow. I thoroughly enjoyed this post!! 

So much wisdom! 

Jessica C (not verified) says...

I am an INFJ with an IQ of 139, yet I can clearly see how these 4 factors contribute just as much to who we are fundamentally. Thank you for this tidbit of info... it adds fodder for us to chew on while we live our rich and wonderfully complicated lives. 

Mariusz (not verified) says...

Bardzo dziękuję za ten artykuł. Kilka miesięcy temu zrobiłem wszystkie dostępne bezpłatnie kursy. Muszę przyznać, że dzięki nim otrzymałem wiele pytań, które zadawałem sobie przez wiele lat, a na które nie miałem odpowiedzi. Tutaj dowiedziałem jakim jestem mniej więcej człowiekiem. To pozwoliło mi pracować nad własnym charakterem, bardzo wzrosło moje wcześniej poczucie bardzo niskiej wartości. Jestem dość skomplikowaną osobą. Myślę też, że osobowościowo dosyć nieszablonową. Trochę ekstrawertyka, trochę introwertyka, trochę "ambivarent". Ciekaw jestem innych testów, bo nie ukrywam dają one duży obraz siebie, a to bardzo jest pomocne gdy ktoś szuka odpowiedzi dla swego wnętrza. Jak będę stał lepiej finansowo to z pewnością zakupię płatny testy. Bardzo dziękuję za pomoc. Z wyrazami szacunku, Mariusz

Truity says...

Just posting a translation here for those who only speak English! Sorry if it's a little stilted, it's from Google Translate.

"Thank you very much for this article. A few months ago I made all the free courses. I must say that thanks to them I received a lot of questions that I asked myself for many years, and for which I had no answers. Here I learned as I am more or less human. This allowed me to work on their own character, very increased my earlier sense of very low value. I am quite complex person. I also think that at a personal rather unconventional. A bit of an extrovert, a bit of an introvert, a little "ambivarent." I wonder other tests, because they do not admit they give you a big picture of yourself, and this is very helpful when someone is looking for answers to its interior. As I became more financially it will buy the paid tests. Thank you very much for help. Yours sincerely, Mariusz"

Dr M Vinod Kumar (not verified) says...

Completely agree with the message of this article, Well said...

Mary Beth A. (not verified) says...

Thank you for this insightful article. It is very easy to look to Type to be the be-all and end-all when it comes to trying to understand oneself. I have been struggling with my career choices and path for quite some time. I have been scouring the ENFP descriptions and "ideal careers for ENFPs" and wonder if I have been limiting myself. I think you've provided a great service by showing how other factors play a much bigger role in understanding "who we are". I never considered how important, for instance, my value system is in career satisfaction.  I will look at things differently after reading this article. Thanks!

 

Brenda Henry (not verified) says...

Hi Molly,  I really like Truity and your blog.  I am a Master's of Organizational Psychology.   Before my program I was a huge MBIT fan, however, my industry points to research that shows MBTI to be an unreliable test, especially showing retesting to sometimes have a different score/label when taken a second time.  Our industry favors The Big Five for personality.  Wondering what your thoughts and understanding of the reliability and purpose of MBTI?  Do you see it as a self awareness tool, rather than a tool for personnel selection?  Do you use or favor the Big Five?

Cheers, Brenda

Molly Owens says...

Hi Brenda!

I never recommend using type assessments for personnel selection. They are at best useless and at worst damaging when used in the hiring process. The major problem is that the questions are very straightforward and thus it is extremely easy for most people to understand what they are getting at. So if an applicant wants to present a certain picture of themselves, they can easily do so. So all you're really getting is an assessment of how well the candidate understands what you're looking for and how intelligent they are at answering according to that persona on a questionnaire. At worst, hiring managers prioritize these assessments over their own expertise in hiring, making decisions based on tools that have no validity for this purpose.

OK, sorry, rant over! Yes, the Big Five can be a useful tool, but again if you're using it for hiring you want to find an assessment that's been specifically validated for that purpose. One with very transparent questions isn't going to work very well for the same reasons.

Thanks for reading!

Brenda Henry (not verified) says...

Hi Molly,

Part 2 to previous message.  It seems to me that people who dont understand MBTI (when hoover between 2 types, etc.) and therefore dismiss it, don't understand how to interpret and use the results.  And also I do understand the confusion when scoring in the middle.  However, from the books I've read on MBTI, you cant just read your type and box yourself in and think that defines you, as you mentioned above.  I am looking for a thesis topic and am pondering this.  I can't get my head around how the psychology research world has largely dismissed MBTI.  Your thoughts?  Did you run into this in your Masters?

Brenda, ENFP

Molly Owens says...

Personality typing has a major inherent weakness, which is that most people's personality traits fall along a bell curve. So if we give an assessment for Introversion and Extraversion for instance, most people will have scores around the middle, with fewer and fewer scoring towards each extreme. So it's a bit arbitrary, and not especially scientific, to try to split this bell curve down the middle and say that now one half of people are Introverts and one half are Extraverts. This is the fundamental complaint made about the MBTI® and other personality type assessments, and it's a valid one. 

Trait systems like the Big Five are more valid because they don't try to sort people into boxes; they simply provide a score along a continuum. This is a much more accurate way to represent differences among people and this is why they're essentially the only assessments used in psychology research.

You might ask, if this is true, why anyone uses personality type assessments like the MBTI®. The answer is that even though personality categories like Introvert and Extravert aren't a good way to represent the data, they are a good way to represent the way people think. People think in terms of categories and labels. They want to say that he's this type and she's that type. So when we're not in a context that demands scientific rigor, like in corporate settings, personality type systems are a great way to introduce the concept of individual differences to an audience that doesn't have a PhD in personality psychology. And for what it's worth, Isabel Briggs Myers' theory actually overlaps quite a lot with the Big Five; she just conceptualized it as types rather than traits

Daria (not verified) says...

Hello from Russia!

Thank you for this article. You are awesome! Ingenious thoughts wrapped into perfect language. It made me feel less confused and abandoned.

Rajesh Sawant (not verified) says...

Article was heart warming to know that the limitation being a introvert can be overcome by the four characteristics. Thanks for sharing your views, it made my day.

 

Andre J. (not verified) says...

We are what we think does not equal "We are who we believe we are". Simply because we think about many other things than what we are too. And we are those things too. So its really all thoughts you think during the day that make you who your are. At least thats what I think Buddha meant  ;-).

Shelley W (not verified) says...

Thank-you for this article. I am one of those INFJ's who is an enthusiastic learner and have always been. Admittedly life has been difficult throughout the years due to my 'type' and being largely misunderstood by most including myself. My one sadness is I have never met my relationship love. What I believe has contributed to my success in life ( mid fifties now) is my tenacious need to learn  and grow and to roll with change. I am all for trying new things because you never know where that next great , or even little, passion lies. I am also very physical by nature so I think this makes it easier to try new things as well because I have the energy to do so. I have friends who are not learners and what is said in the article regarding that holds very much true for them as well. Regardless of 'type'. I agree that accepting a type as being who you are in totality is leaving the story of you unfinished and can essentially lead to growth impairment if taken at face value. I didn't always make the best decisions when younger but I managed to land on my feet every time anyways. Luck? Values? Type? Morals? Karma?  Combo?

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