I’m a big fan of taking personality tests. Not the, “This Escalating Word Test Will Reveal If You’re More Emotional or Logical,” or “Build Your Perfect Day at Disneyland and We’ll Guess Your Age and Favorite Prince” type quizzes, which were the actual top two trending Buzzfeed quizzes as I wrote this (More Emotional and 21, Flynn Rider, by the way). I’m more along the lines of taking things like the Myers-Briggs test or StrengthsFinder. These more “scientific” tests seem to actually use psychological indicators or scientific(-y) methods or talent assessment measures that demonstrates your personality or explains why you “tick” the way you do.
(But seriously, “Your Taste In Bread Will Reveal a Deep Truth About You?” What, that I have food allergies?)
My difficulty with trying to describe what these tests do is related to how little I understand what’s actually happening in these assessments. I understand the whole “put something in and something gets spit back out” method, and I can understand how answering different questions in specific ways can point to “who you are.” My greater difficulty is with what to do with the results.
Let’s take the Myers-Briggs test. I’m an INFP (for anyone who cares). I can understand why that’s the result I got – the description was very accurate to me. But what do I do with that? How does that impact or affect my life, if at all? I can see what kind of jobs other INFP’s do well in or how I could function going into relationships with people, but is there some specific way in which I should use these results?
Also, how does interactions between these results and results from other tests inform my life or my understanding of myself? Again, with the StrengthsFinder results, I can understand why each of the strengths I tested with are related to me – they all explain me pretty well. But with the purpose of the StrengthsFinder being to show you your strengths because it’s better (or more advantageous or even smarter) to work to improve your strengths than your weaknesses (as related to the test), how do I go about improving these strengths? How do they relate to the Myers-Briggs results?
I can also understand how knowing the results of others around you can both help you better understand these people and why the do things, as well as informing how the two of you or a group of you could better function as a team. Unfortunately, I don’t know all of the results and their related personalities that well (and often don’t know the people around me intimately enough to guess their related results to any given test), so how do I go about using these factors to promote success in these groups?
There is some real-life experience behind these questions. The team I worked with this summer went through the StrengthsFinder and Myers-Briggs test (a bit late in the summer), but without knowing how all of these things related, I didn’t know how to nurture or promote these strengths or personality traits.
All of this has been on my mind recently after having discovered a new (to me) personality test: the Enneagram (Any-a-gram, the pronunciation guide my PDF was kind enough to provide). I took a very short free version of this test, but found a PDF guide with explanations about each of the nine “types” to be more helpful (although the test did confirm what I believed after reading the file). I found one of the types to describe me to a “T,” but the file didn’t come with any sort of interpretation guide. What am I supposed to do with these results? At least the Myers-Briggs and StrengthsFinder attempt to help you with how to use the information they give you. Using the language of this enneagram test, how am I supposed to get to be more “at my best” and less “at my worst?” How do I get from this “dilemma” section to the “conversion and maturation” section? What is the point of taking the test if I don’t know what to do with the results?
Ultimately, I know that all of these tests are a part of a quest to better know myself, but for all of the day-dreaming and future-focused thinking that I do, I really like to have practical ways that I can apply information to my actual life, and I really like to have a guide for how to do the things in my own life. For all of the things I’ve learned about myself through these tests, it seems like my allergy test has been the only one to give me very concrete practical application (hey, don’t eat that).
This is a little bit of grousing just to grouse, but I do have real interest in knowing how this stuff actually applies, or how I am to actively apply this information. Sure there’s a whole list of careers these things say I would be good at (and many I would love to do), but how do I get an entry point into these things. Just show them my test results? What do I actually use to build on this foundation?
At this point, if anyone’s still with me I’ll be a little surprised. I definitely didn’t expect this to be as much of a journal as it’s turned out to be. It’s kind of an interesting phenomenon to me. I also don’t know how much it helps me or anybody else. I’m not a person who likes to have more questions than answers, especially when it comes to what happens next in life. Lucky me, that’s kind of just the way things go. As long as I’m at this place in life, this is probably what I’ll continue to spend a lot of time thinking about – trying to understand my place in the world and whatnot. I’m pretty sure I’ve said this before, but if anybody figures it out, let me know – I’ll be sure to do the same.