Discover How Your Personality Can Lead You to a Life You Love
Understanding what motivates and energizes you can explain a lot about your choices and why some careers or activities are a better fit than others. One perspective of personality dimensions comes from the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI)1,2,3, a commonly-used personality instrument in career counseling and human resources. It measures four dimensions of personality and places you along a continuum of opposite characteristics for each of those dimensions. The four dimensions measure how you focus your attention and energize yourself, gather your information, make decisions, and handle the outer world around you. Understanding your personality type can assist you in examining yourself in relation to other people or environments and appreciating those differences.
How Do You Focus and Energize?
The first dimension describes where you focus your attention and from where you draw your energy. This dimension includes a continuum between extraversion and introversion. Rather than the commonly-used descriptions of these terms as outgoing or shy/reclusive, this dimension describes the types of environments that focus your attention and energize you most.
- Extroversion types place their attention on external people and things. They prefer to be with people, discuss their problems and decisions with others, and get feedback from those around them. For example, at a party, extroverted types would prefer interacting with friends, meeting new people, sharing their thoughts and opinions, and observing the activities around them. A busy party would most likely energize them. If you prefer to be around others, have a variety of friends, or commit to a project with someone before you think about it, you may find yourself more on the extraversion end of the continuum.
- Introversion types focus on internal concepts and ideas. They prefer to reflect and work out their problems and decisions internally. They may prefer to be alone or be with only one or two people at a time. For example, at the same party, introverted types might observe from a corner of the room and be more introspective of the experience. A busy party may drain an introvert as they are most likely prefer a day alone to rejuvenate. If you prefer to be alone, have only a few close friends, spend a lot of time reflecting in your decisions, or forget to confirm that your decisions make sense to others, you may find yourself more on the introversion end of the continuum.
How Do You Gather Information?
The second dimension describes the way you take in your information. Do you want all the details and facts or do you prefer big picture approach? The two characteristics on this continuum are sensing and intuition.
- Sensing types notice information through the five senses and focus on the practical use of the information in the present moment. For example, if sensing types were in a business meeting, they would notice what they hear, see, and feel in the moment such as the numbers presented on a screen, the detail of the images or charts, who was present during the meeting, or the temperature of the room. If you prefer to look at the facts or bottom line before being able to form a big picture, remember events as they actually happened, and prefer to trust experience over promises, you may find that you fall on the sensing end of the continuum.
- Intuitive types notice impressions or the meaning behind the information. They prefer to look at the larger picture, abstract patterns, or future possibilities. For example, if intuitive types were in the same business meeting, they may notice the bigger patterns such as what the information means to their future opportunities within the organization, how it impacts their daily tasks, and who will be involved in the future projects. If you remember events by your impressions or the way they made you feel, prefer doing new and different activities, jump between a variety of ideas and possibilities to solve problems, and come up with so many ideas that you don’t make them a reality, you may fall on the intuitive end of the continuum.
How Do You Make Decisions?
The third dimension describes the way you make decisions. You may have said you make decisions with your head or your heart; that may be a clue to where you lie along the continuum of thinking versus feeling.
- Thinking types base their decisions on logical and objective analysis. For example, when making a decision to take a new job, thinking types may weigh out the pros and cons of a decision logically, possibly by writing a list of each and objectively analyzing whether it would be beneficial to take that job offer or wait for a better one. If you try to be impersonal and fair in your decisions, use primarily logic to explain or solve issues, easily notice inconsistencies, believe in the truth over being tactful, sometimes miss the ‘people’ part of the issue, or you can be seen as too task-oriented, uncaring, or indifferent, you may fall on the thinking end of the continuum.
- Feeling types consider values and feelings. For example, when making a decision to take a new job, feeling types will ponder how their decision aligns with their values, how it will make them feel, and how it will affect others in their lives.
If you are caring and empathetic, consider the people involved when solving issues, are concerned with harmony in relationships, believe that being tactful is more important than the blunt truth, sometimes miss the logical facts of the issue, and can be seen as too idealistic, mushy, or indirect, you may fall on the feeling end of the continuum.
Do You Prefer Structure or Spontaneity?
The fourth dimension describes your need for order and how you handle the outer world (how others see you). For example, is your next vacation planned out or open to possibilities? When going with a group, do you prefer to have things decided ahead of time or do you go with the flow? These may be clues to whether you are a judging or perceiving type. Do not let the names for these dimensions confuse you. A judging type does not imply that someone is more judgmental; Myers and Briggs used it to describe one who preferred more structure and defined order. A perceiving type does not imply someone is more perceptive, but rather they have less need for structure and are more adaptable to change.
- Judging types prefer a structure. They are more goal-oriented and prefer things to be settled. They focus more on making decisions than gathering information because they like things decided. For example, if judging types are planning on a vacation, they might have an organized itinerary of their entire trip, complete with directions, times, and locations of each planned activity. If you are task-oriented, make ‘to do’ lists, and get your work done before you play, you may fall on the judging end of the continuum.
- Perceiving types are more flexible, spontaneous, and adaptable to change. They focus on gathering information over making decisions so they can remain open to new opportunities. For example, if perceiving types are planning a vacation, they may prefer to go with the flow and figure things out day by day, being open to a variety of options. If you tend to stay open in your decisions, favor spontaneity over planning, or mix work and play, you may fall on the perceiving end of the continuum.
Are Your Preferences Extreme or Balanced?
On the continuum of each of the four dimensions described above, you may find yourself on an extreme end of one dimension and somewhere in the middle on other dimensions. This helps you understand where you have a more prominent preference for those types of activities and where finding balance between them is ideal.
Each dimension has a midpoint of zero and an extreme preference score of 30 for each of the opposing dimensions. The degree to which you fall on one end of the scale identifies not only the preference, but the strength or clarity of those preferences as well. For example, on the extraversion-introversion dimension, an extraversion score of 28 would indicate a much stronger extraversion personality type than someone who had a score of 5. The lower score, or score closest to the midpoint, might indicate more of a balance between extraversion and introversion preferences. This may help you understand why you tend to prefer being around people or you need a balance of group and solitary activities.
By reviewing the descriptions for each dimension, you may easily determine where you lie on the each of the four dimensions. However, if you prefer to complete an online inventory to determine your MBTI type, you may consider the official paid version at MBTIcomplete.com or you may try a shorter and non-official version from other online resource like MyPlan.com or the Personality Test Center.
Your MBTI type does not define you or indicate a career direction that you should take. Rather, it helps you identify the types of environments that might be better aligned with your personality type. Through exploring these four dimensions of your personality you may more easily identify the environments important to experiencing a career and life you love.
- What insights did you gain from understanding your personality type?
- Did understanding your personality type help you better understand why you are satisfied or not with your current job?
- How was it helpful in identifying the dimensions where you noticed more extreme preferences?
- What does it say about you?
- Does that seem to fit your personality accurately or do you think you should have landed elsewhere on the MBTI grid?
- Provide an example of how each of those codes fit for you (e.g., “I am definitely a ‘J’ because I keep a color-coded planner and need to layout my semester in advance. It stresses me out when I don’t have a plan in advance.”)
- How are you taking action today to incorporate more of the environments, you prefer into your career and life?
Want to try other personality type assessments? Consider the following:
- MBTI-related: Jung Typology Test (free)
- KTS: Keirsey Temperament Sorter (free)
- BFI: Big Five Inventory (free) or the NEO PI-R
- EPPS: Edwards Personal Preference Schedule
- 16PF: Sixteen Personality Factor Questionnaire ($)
- INSIGHT Inventory
- IPIP: International Personality Item Pool: A scientific collaboratory for the development of advanced measures of personality and other individual differences
1 Myers, I. B. (1987). Introduction to type: A description of the theory and applications of the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (4th ed.). Palo Alto, CA: Consulting Psychologists Press.
2 The Myers & Briggs Foundation. http://www.myersbriggs.org/my-mbti-personality-type/mbti-basics/
3 Myers, P.B. & Myers, K.D. (2004). Myers-Briggs Type Indicator Career Report. Mountain View, CA: CPP, Inc.