An unexamined life is not worth living.Socrates
I wouldn’t go so far to say that it’s not worth living, period. But it’s a bad mistake to go through life without some self-examination.
Without self-examination, you may find yourself in the wrong career. You may find yourself in a relationship with the wrong person.
And if you’re a young person, like myself, this is the prime time to start self-examining. You can course-correct with minimal change!
Socrates’ quote links to the Delphic maxim, “Know thyself.” You could ask a dozen philosophers what “Know thyself” means, and you’d probably get a dozen (or more) different answers. I think the kernel of the maxim is this: You need to examine yourself so you can understand what—and how—you think, so you can find your optimal place in society.
Why is this important? As an example, if you don’t examine yourself, you might find yourself in an unfulfilling career. You might think you’re supposed to be an engineer, but you actually like working with people more than you like working with things. But you may not understand that, and so you’ll go to work every day feeling unfulfilled at best—or hating your job at worst.
Knowing yourself also helps you know other people better. You understand where you fall on various scales, like introversion-extraversion. You learn the oft-forgotten fact that not everyone thinks the same way you do. Even your friends think differently from you. That’s what makes us unique, and that’s what keeps society functioning—because if we were all wired to be doctors, who would write music?
But perhaps the most important reason to take a personality test is this: You start to understand how the world perceives you, and find areas where you can improve your life.
If you think you’re a psychological anomaly, you’re probably not alone. A personality tests shows that you fit into a category with other like-minded individuals. This is comforting.
You start to feel better about yourself, accepting yourself for who you are while working to improve in weaker areas. You start to make life changes that will lead to greater self-satisfaction. In turn, those life changes will help you better sympathize and empathize with others.
At the end of high school and through college, I was blessed to have taken personality tests several times. These tests helped open my eyes to understand how I work, how other people perceive me, and how I could best “plug in” to the crazy world we live in.
It’s been five years since I first took a personality test, and I took three recently to see if my traits would change. I explain each test below, and give my opinion.
So, take these tests, know thyself, and then get to work! Then come back, a few years from now, and try again—and see if your results change at all.
The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator
A lot of people have heard of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). Two ladies, Katharine Cook Briggs and her daughter Isabel Briggs Myers, designed the test during World War II. They based it on the four personality traits identified by Carl Jung.
It’s got its fair share of critics and some consider it pseudoscience, but don’t let that stop you. It’s great for an initial yet thorough self-assessment. I’ve taken it at least a half-dozen times over the years and scored pretty consistently each time.
The Myers-Briggs test gives you a four-letter abbreviation that represents your type. Each letter represents one end of a scale. The best way to understand this is to use an example.
My Myers-Briggs personality type is INTJ:
- I: Introversion over Extraversion
- N: iNtuition over Sensing
- T: Thinking over Feeling
- J: Judgment over Perception
You can find several Myers-Briggs tests online. My favorite so far is 16Personalities, which does a good job of not type-casting you, but instead showing where you fall on a scale.
For example, I may score as an Introvert, but 16Personalities notes that I’m in fact 72% introverted. That means I’m 28% extraverted. (At a party, I’m not the socially-awkward guy in the corner—just the guy who prefers smaller groups and more meaningful conversation!)
16Personalities also adds a fifth metric: Identity. Identity ranks how confident you are in your abilities and decisions, on a scale from Assertive to Turbulent.
So, with 16Personalities, your final personality type looks something like this: INTJ-A.
16Personalities gives you more than a rather vague four- or five-letter personality type. It gives you an identity to go along with that type. For example, being an INTJ, I’m considered an Architect.
At the end of your test, 16Personalities provides a thorough breakdown of your traits. You can read how your type works best, fares in relationships, and so forth.
You can even pay to access additional resources. 16Personalities provides a type-specific e-book. They also provide an Academy, which consists of further assessments and improvement exercises.
Last week, I retook the 16Personalities test to see if I’d score would change. Turns out, this time I scored as INFJ-T, the Advocate.
What’s the difference? The Architect thinks more than he feels, and the Advocate feels more than he thinks.
In looking at my results, I find that I’m only 60% Feeling. I recall from my first test that I was only about 60% Thinking, too. So perhaps I oscillate between Thinking and Feeling—or maybe I know a time to think and a time to feel!
All that to say, this is a great first personality test to take. Scientific or not, it should give you a better idea of who you are and what someone with your personality is best suited for in life, love, and work.
The word enneagram comes from two Greek words meaning “nine” and “symbol”. Hence, the Enneagram is a personality test with nine types.
I find the Enneagram the most confusing of the personality tests I’m sharing with you. To me, it takes some extra effort to wrap your head around the results. But that doesn’t mean that it’s any less valuable.
The essence of the Enneagram is that you fall into one distinct personality type with a “wing”. That is, your dominant type also possesses traits of an adjacent type on the circle.
When I took the Enneagram, I scored 5w4. That means my personality type is a 5 (The Investigator) with some traits of a 4 (The Individualist). That makes me a “thoughtful identity seeker” who is observant, unique, and different. I’d say that’s accurate.
I can definitely see how my Enneagram results complement my Myers-Briggs results. Both emphasize introversion, intuition, and thoughtfulness.
Another interesting note is that I retook the Enneagram last week and this time scored 1w2. Type 1 is The Reformer, and Type 2 is The Helper. I suppose that makes me a “perfectionist helper” who is responsible, selfless, and socially aware.
I’m not quite sold on these results, and I don’t see much of a correlation with my newer INFJ personality type. I see the perfectionist in myself, and I’m happy to help others, but not to the point that either overrides my tendency to deeply analyze things.
If you’d like to take the Enneagram, the site I used is Eclectic Energies. And no, I don’t do any of the chakra stuff, nor do I intend to. I’m just there for the test.
Understand Myself by Dr. Jordan Peterson
Hey! We’ve been talking about knowing thyself, and here’s a test called “Understand Myself”. What a find, right?
If you’ve never heard of Dr. Peterson, I’ll give a quick introduction. He’s a psychology professor at the University of Toronto, and he’s probably best-known for his YouTube channel where he posts clips of lectures, talks, and more. He’s also written a fascinating, highly-informative, and best-selling book called 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos. The book rolls psychology, philosophy, and more into twelve rules you can follow to live maximally, as he would say.
You owe it to yourself to check him out.
I’m a fan of Dr. Peterson because his take on things is a breath of fresh air in the post-truth, politically-correct culture we live in. Dr. Peterson tells it like it is—and if you’re looking for some intellectual entertainment, check out all the videos of him “destroying” feminists, postmodernists, social justice warriors, and more.
And if you’re a feminist, postmodernist, or social justice warrior, well—to put it politely, maybe it’s time you examined yourself and your beliefs.
Anyway, I learned that Dr. Peterson developed a personality test of his own called Understand Myself, and knew I had to take it. Unlike the previous two sites, Understand Myself costs $9.95 one time—and you can only take it once.
This test is the most scientific of the three. It evaluates you based on the five personality traits generally accepted in psychology: Agreeableness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Neuroticism, and Openness to Experience.
At the end of the test, you’re given a fifteen-page breakdown of every metric, tailored to you. You get to see where you fall on the spectra compared to the hundreds of thousands of other examinees. Pretty impressive.
Some of my results didn’t surprise me very much. For example, I scored in the 93rd percentile for Orderliness—that’s why, when my brother and I take trips, I’m the one who does the planning! (And why, for the most part, things go as planned!)
Other results did surprise me. I scored in the 40th percentile on Extraversion, which classifies me as “Typical”. Guess I’m not as introverted as I thought! But the description fits me like a glove:
People with average levels of extraversion are not overly enthusiastic, talkative, assertive in social situations, or gregarious. They enjoy social contact, but are also happy spending time alone. They will plan parties occasionally, and make people laugh, but are often willing to let others take the lead in organizing social situations and entertaining. They have a balanced view of the past and the future, neither over-emphasizing nor dismissing the positive.
Needless to say, I’ll be reading and reviewing the results of this test for a while. It’s by far the most comprehensive I’ve ever taken.
So, should you take all three tests? That’s up to you. I recommend you at least take the Myers-Briggs test to get an idea of where you stand personality-wise. If you want a second assessment, take the Enneagram.
That said, if you don’t mind spending $9.95 and you can be completely honest with your answers, take Understanding Myself. Remember, you can only take it once—and Dr. Peterson advises taking it when you’re not hungry, tired, or under any kind of stress. If you can do these things, you may find that $9.95 to be the best $9.95 you’ve spent in quite a while.
If you take any or all these tests and want to share your results, please drop them in the comments below. And if you know of other personality tests worth checking out, let me know. I’d love to hear from you.
Until next time—make it a great week, and don’t stop improving!