One of the great things about personality type is it tells you what you aren't very good at.
When we talk about personal growth, we often focus on strengths. Investing in developing what we are already good at. And this is a good strategy: if you are naturally good at public speaking, investing in understanding what makes a great speech is a brilliant idea.
Because one thing we often do is to undervalue our strengths. We ignore our strengths in favour of trying to be successful in the way other people are successful. We try to be something we are not. We try to be good at public speaking when we are clearly better at organizing the event.
And personality type provides a useful guide as to what those strengths are, giving us a guide to something we can’t see ourselves.
It is also true that for every strength there is an equal and opposite weakness. When we invest time into doing an activity, for example knowing how to build relationships with people, then you are not spending time developing your analytical data skills, or your ability to focus on a solitary topic while no one else is around.
Because when we do something, we reinforce that part of our brain’s wiring, making it easier to access and use. Conversely, we don’t build up neural connections in other parts of our brain, meaning we are less likely to use those when we need them most.
However, there are some parts of the brain it pays to develop in order to be more balanced humans, who can successfully negotiate the challenges life throws at us. It may be helpful to think of these as blindspots, instead of weaknesses.
You are blind to using these parts of the brain to help you achieve your goal. You have been hammering away at a problem. Now realizing that you really needed some scissors instead.
That is where looking at the eight elements of personality as processes can help.
So what is the difference between a preference and a process?
A preference is something you naturally do, your preferred way of operating. A process is more like an action you can take, something you can choose to do to help you achieve your goals.
For example, I have a preference for Extraversion, but I still need to use the process of Introversion in order to achieve my objectives. It is difficult, uncomfortable and I don't like it, but I do it because, ultimately, it’s worth it.
Let’s look at this example in more detail. If you have a preference for Extraversion, you have a natural affinity for interacting with the outside world. For the most part, it is easy for you to talk to people, make things, present things or try new things.
What won’t be as comfortable will be the process of inner reflection. Of sitting down to review your beliefs, your values, your likes, your dislikes and to determine whether things you said and did really align with who you are. And without taking the time to do that process, Extraverts can find themselves bouncing between projects, interests, jobs, houses, or even relationships. Because they are attuned to what is happening around them, they are less interested in what is within them, so they invest less time in that process.
Similarly, there is more to the process of Introversion than just spending time alone. It requires creating a distraction free environment and really allowing yourself to focus on your thoughts and feelings, then organizing them around your core beliefs, values and principles.
Both Extraverts and Introverts can benefit from asking themselves how well they are using the process of Extraversion and how well they are using the process of Introversion. Because there are things that happen in our lives, such as getting critical feedback or doing something you don't know how to accept, that steer us away from comfortably playing in our natural space. Sometimes we have to teach ourselves how to play in our preferred sandbox again.
So let’s break it down.
Write your Myers-Briggs type on a piece of paper in front of you. Underneath it draw a line, and then write the opposite letters below it. So for me, above the line would be ENTP, and below the line would be ISFJ. Above the line are my preferences, my natural strengths, the things I enjoy doing the most and feel most at home in.
Below the line are my natural weaknesses or blindspots, the things I feel uncomfortable or out of my depth while doing. But that doesnt mean I should avoid them. In fact, rather unfortunately, I need them - in order to achieve my goals and aspirations.
Next draw vertical lines between the letters, in effect, breaking your type into its component parts, so you can think of your type as a series of four opposites. This is when we start to think of each letter as an individual process.
Now take a look at each process. Which one do you need most at the moment? How comfortable is that for you?
And then look at each process in terms of your current projects, goals and your life’s aspirations. Which of these processes have you been avoiding that help you get closer to that objective?
Do you know small, safe ways of starting to play with that process?
To help you get started watch my new series “Unlocking the Power of Your Personality Type,” on Youtube. Where I will talk about the eight processes: the benefits of using each, why we naturally avoid them and strategies and techniques to start using them in small, safe ways.
Or take a look at our full length course at www.truity.com/training.
I hope you join me.