If reading medium articles on maximizing productivity is getting old, or you’re growing weary of Tony Robbins’ booming voice telling you to work hard to achieve your goals, then let me tell ya—personality testing is your next fix.
My school offered a personality test to my entering class (Attorney Assessment). So, I did what anybody who rates high in the “Analyze” category would do. I took to Google. Unfortunately, I struggled to find relevant information about personality testing. Although I searched diligently, result after result revealed that most interest is in employer-employee matching and corporate culture instead of self-help.
I was as perplexed as writer “K.M.V.” from Marin County, California was in 1957, when she wrote to the Institute of General Semantics. In her letter, she expressed genuine ambivalence and confusion at the questions of a personality test that asked her whether she enjoyed gardening and cooking. “Why does it matter?” She wondered. Indeed, she only showed certainty in her disapproval of the untactful question: “Do you prefer mannish women?”
In the correspondence, later published in the Institute’s Journal, “ETC: A Review of General Semantics,” she pleaded for answers, writing, “Perhaps there is information somewhere available to the interested layman about these tests—how are they devised, checked, how they work, how they are scored, and how valid their results have been found to be.”
Little has changed since 1957.
History indicates that the first personality tests were designed for employer-employee relations purposes. Dating back to 2,200 B.C. China, they were designed to determine which citizens were the best fit to serve as officers to the Chinese emperor. A lot has changed in four thousand years, not the least of which is Konrad Rieger’s 100-hour battery designed to test for brain damage.
Today, it seems as if there are more tests available than we have time to take, yet so little information on extrapolating lessons and insights from the results.
Taking a personality test yields a report. Those reports claim to predict your propensity to act, think, and engage with others in certain ways. Personality tests are also good at being right. Perhaps, since they’re right so often, you no longer experience the rush of excitement when you read the report and think to yourself: “Whoa, it nailed me.”
But as soon as your excitement (or the lack thereof) wears off, the next question is “what do I do with that information?” My own personality tests have helped shape how I approach learning and socializing. They’ve done so by pointing out my weaknesses.
But maybe, the lesson we can all learn from personality tests lies inconspicuously hidden in the North American Review’s 2012 issue, featuring Jack Cooper’s poem, “All of the Above: A Personality Test.” In it, Cooper invites us to accept a deep truth about ourselves: that since our lives are always subject to change, so are the contents of the personality test results. Appearing at the top of the poem, in italics, are the words: “As you search for answers, remember, there are only choices.”
Meyers Briggs has 16 distinct personality types; CliftonStrengths has 35 ordered traits; Attorney Assessment rates you on 22 sliding scales, chooses two of six dominant traits and gives you ordered lists on how you engage with others. There are so many choices of themes to explore.
Ultimately, reflecting on those choices will change your personality, and eventually the results themselves. No amount of searching Google, petitioning General Semantics for answers, or actually taking personality tests can substitute good ol’ fashioned self-reflection and interpretation of the results.
It’s a creative process, so try to have fun with it. I’ll leave you with one last piece of advice: As you search for choices, remember, there are only answers.