There’s a movement toward greater self-awareness by understanding one’s personality. In general, this is healthy and good — but is it making a difference?
My wife, Karen, and I have been reading The Road Back to You to learn about the Enneagram, a personality-type system that can lead to self-discovery and greater understanding. Doing so has generated a lot of conversation. From these chats, I have a thought to share that I’ll set up with a key passage from the QBQ! book.
Excerpted from Ch. 37 titled, “We Buy Too Many Books” —
We attend too many seminars. We take too many classes. We buy too many books. We listen to too many podcasts. We engage in too much training.
Yes, it’s all a waste! A waste, that is, if we’re unclear on what learning really is. Learning is not attending, listening, or reading. Nor is it merely gaining knowledge. Learning is really about translating knowing what to do into doing what we know. In other words, it’s about changing.
Never forget: Learning equals change. If we haven’t changed we haven’t learned.
Now that thought …
Personality Tools I’ve Used Over Time
The Millers have been exposed to many “personality testing” tools over the past three decades. Do you know any of these?
Wilson Learning, “Social Styles”: Driver, Amiable, Analytical, Expressive.
Tim LaHaye, “Spirit-Controlled Temperaments”: Choleric, Sanguine, Melancholy, Phlegmatic.
Gary Smalley, “Personality Types”: Lion, Beaver, Otter, Golden Retriever.
DISC: Dominance, Influence, Steadiness, Conscientiousness.
Myers-Briggs: Too many letter combos to mention! Though I do favor—and resemble—the ESTJ. ?
Gretchen Rubin, “Four Tendencies”: Upholders, Questioners, Obligers, and Rebels
Enneagram: Reformer (#1), Helper (#2), Achiever #3), Individualist (#4), Investigator (#5), Loyalist (#6), Enthusiast (#7), Challenger (#8), Peacemaker (#9)
So, in summary, John Miller is a Dominant Driver Choleric Lion Rebel Challenger #8 ESTJ!
So profound. So insightful! And … so meaningless.
Unless I change.
The Problem: Knowing Versus Doing
To just know what I am (personality wise) without changing how I relate to people and problems is like seeing a $100 bill in a street dumpster but being unwilling to do the work of digging through the muck to get to it. That paper money in my hand is worth one-hundred smackers!
If I don’t grab it, though, it’s … worthless.
Just like all these personality defining tools can be — and often are, sadly.
Don’t get me wrong, this kind of material is fun, interesting, and challenging. It makes for terrific conversations in families and workgroups.
Yet, to know but not apply is of no value. In fact, it would be a waste of our time and energy. Sort of like a corporation implementing a training program that tells customer service people to “take care of the customer” but doesn’t teach them why or how.
In and of itself, head knowledge is of little value. Training, learning, and self-discovery only become meaningful when I — wait for it — change.
Change how I think, how I feel, and how I act.
Or, as we state in QBQ! — “We must translate knowing what to do into doing what we know.”
If You Can’t Do The Time …
You’ve probably heard the line, “Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time.” Well, here’s some blunt counsel:
Don’t do any personality-type exploration if you’re not going to do the work — the work of changing.
If you are currently utilizing a personality profiling tool, the question that matters is this: Am I changing? Because only when I change do I (and the people around me) reap rewards.
My challenge to all of us — and the topic for discussion here — is in these questions:
What personality tool do you like most?
Which one has helped you learn more about you?
How have you changed?
Jump in and comment! ?
Hi, John. AS always, your messages are so valuable. For years I have used SOCIAL STYLE from the Tracom Corp, the creators of SOCIAL STYLE. I find it the most useful model of key characteristics that students can put into practice right away. The question I ask students, “Do you care enough about others to make this a conscious effort on your part? If you do not care enough, this learning may be falling on deaf ears. Bob
Bob, you get it … clearly. Thanks for sharing and for the kind words!
Excellent article – We regularly use Wiley’s Everything DiSC products (Workplace, Sales, Productive Conflict) in our consulting practice because of exactly the focus that you are referring to. The detailed reports focus on both self-awareness, and using this information to make a difference in relationships with others. Two- thirds of the 26 page report focus on applying the new awareness from the first set of pages. … Larry @ The Delfi Group
Excellent article – We regularly use Wiley’s Everything DiSC products (Workplace, Sales, Productive Conflict) in our consulting practice because of exactly the focus that you are referring to. The detailed reports focus on both self-awareness, and using this information to make a difference in relationships with others. Two- thirds of the 26 page report focus on applying the new awareness from the first set of pages. … Larry
Thanks for sharing, Larry, and for enjoying our stuff! 🙂
I prefer Strengths Finders compared to any other personality assessment tool. The assessment provides an action plan to help you capitalize and grow/change in your area of natural talent.
I’ve been reading your blog for a number of years – love this one! Reading/learning without active change doesn’t do anything. All the classes and all the podcasts and all the books in the world won’t mean anything (aside from entertainment, which is its own benefit) if we don’t take the learning to heart and make changes.
INFJ and Questioner here. 🙂
Casey, so very kind. Thank you so much! And good to know what you are! 🙂
For insights and actions for me: StrengthsFinders and, to a lesser degree, Myers-Briggs.
For insights and actions into others and therefore how I can adapt my interactions: Social styles, StrengthsFinders.
Best value from any of these is when people SHARE their results and UNDERSTAND their differences to help them ADAPT their reactions.
From a Woo-Maximiser-Consistency-ESTJ-Amiable (but fairly central)
Elaine, always good to hear from you …. thanks for telling us more about you! “Amiable ESTJ” … that might be my new fav oxymoron!
John, thank you for being a sincere DO-ER! You inspire me to DO more by BEING better! I give all the credit to God who entrusted so much of the responsibility to our parents and our family, notably our wives. PASSIVE skills (reading, listening, watching…) are those received; ACTIVE skills (writing, speaking, filming…) are those transmitted. Both types of skills are needed, and both are complementary, meant to go hand-in-hand. Active skills are to be the expression of our passive ones, never reflecting something we are not. After learning well who I AM, then I can begin to share with others what I DO. May I not DO things that don’t sincerely express who I AM.
You’re right on the money . This is another type of analysis paralysis . Thinking you did something because you learned something. . Did you really ? If you did why are’t you using it ? The value of knowledge is USING it . Keep writing , It’s making some people think about what they do and why they do it.
Matt, you’re on the money, too! Thanks for commenting! And for your kind words.
Great post! To me the point of a personality test is to learn more about yourself. The “change”, then, from the learning is not to try to change your personality or yourself – there is no wrong personality. To me, it is about learning your strengths and weaknesses, then changing your tasks, focus, etc. to capitalize on the strengths or strengthen what is weak. What is your perspective on what we change based on the learning in a personality test?