Can a Personality Quiz Change Your Life?

To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.

~e.e. cummings, 1955

Have you ever taken an online personality quiz? There are all kinds out there. My son recently made me take one related to an online video game to determine what type of wizard I might be. Guess what? I was a Balance Wizard. Who’da thunk it?

Normally, I roll my eyes at these tests. Most of them are just for fun. But what about the “real” personality tests? Back in university, I took quite a few psychology courses and I always found the study of personality to be fascinating. At the same time, getting into the nitty gritty of personality testing taught me to regard any standardized test with a healthy dose of skepticism.

Still, I took a condensed version of a famous personality test a little over a year ago and I can honestly say that it had a profound effect on me. Shortly thereafter I started Balance Junkie, even though I was am a technological dunce. This article is about that test.

MBTI Questionnaire: What Can It Really Tell You?

“All my life I had been looking for something, and everywhere I turned someone tried to tell me what it was. I accepted their answers too, though they were often in contradiction and even self-contradictory. I was naïve. I was looking for myself and asking everyone except myself questions which I, and only I, could answer. It took me a long time and much painful boomeranging of my expectations to achieve a realization everyone else appears to have been born with: that I am nobody but myself.

~Ralph Ellison, “Battle Royal”

If you took an introductory Psychology course in school or have been through a career suitability assessment, you’ve probably heard of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. It’s one of the most well-known and trusted personality inventories out there. To have it administered by a trained professional usually costs several hundred dollars. Is it worth the expense? What can you really gain from one of these tests?

Before we delve into those questions, let’s take a quick look at the structure of the inventory. By answering a relatively lengthy questionnaire, the MBTI aims to determine where you fit in on 4 key areas of preference. Each one describes a dichotomy, and you will land somewhere on a continuum between two extremes. This yields 16 possible personality types. The 4 areas of preference look like this:

Favourite World: Extraversion (E) or Introversion (I)

Do you prefer to focus on the outside world, actively engaging with your environment and other people? If so, you’re an extravert and you get an “E” on this part of the scale. If you’re more comfortable exploring your own inner world, you’re an introvert and you will be in the “I” camp.

Information: Sensing (S) or Intuition (N)

Do you prefer to take in information from the world “as is”, or do you need to interpret and add meaning to it? If you’re in the former group, you are an “S” for sensing. If you’re in the latter, you’re an “N” for intuition.

Decisions: Thinking (T) or Feeling (F)

If you fall into the “T”, or Thinking group, you prefer to make decisions by looking at logic first. If you’re an “F”, or Feeling person, you look at people and special circumstances before you make a choice.

Structure: Judging (J) or Perceiving (P)

People who are in the “J” (Judging) category like to have things settled. People who score higher on the “P” (Perceiving) end of the dichotomy prefer to stay open to new information and options.

You can take a free, shorter adaptation of this quiz at Human Metrics. It’s not as complete as the full inventory, but it may still give you a good idea of your type. Once you have the 4 key letters, I would encourage you to explore different descriptions of your type and see how the information might help you in your career, your personal finances, and your life.

It’s important to note that no type is better than the others. If you look at the diversity here, you can see why humans argue so much – and why we’re also capable of astounding achievements when we work together.

Who Cares?

“Be what you are. This is the first step toward becoming better than you are.”

~Julius Charles Hare

While a lot of this stuff is pretty interesting, some of you may be wondering how it can really help you in life or in finance. After all, by the time we reach our mid-twenties or early thirties, don’t we have a pretty good idea of who we are, and where our strengths and weaknesses lie? Yes, no and maybe.

It depends on where you’re at. Some people are naturally very self-aware. Some don’t really become comfortable in their own skin until they’re much older. Some may never get there.

These tests are often used to help people choose a career that fits their personality type or by corporations that are looking for employees who are a good fit for their organization. Those are two very practical applications, but I would take it a step further. A true understanding of yourself has vast implications for all areas of your life, including the way you perceive and manage money. That will be the subject of future articles. For now, let’s take a look at how taking a personality test affected one person.

Case Study: INFJ

“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.”

~ e.e. cummings

I know of one rather extreme introvert who found that taking the Human Metrics test was extremely informative. Reading various descriptions of the type it generated provided real insights in spite of the fact that this person was quite self-aware. Some of the idiosyncratic traits of the type were so accurate that it was nothing short of uncanny. She found that her type (INFJ) is the most rare of the sixteen, with less than 1% of the population in this group.

Although this person almost never had enemies growing up, she also had very few friends, with just a small group of trusted companions. While she didn’t dislike people in general, she was usually less than impressed by “the crowd.” She was more than happy to stand outside of it most of the time. I guess that feeling of being on the periphery would start to make a lot more sense if you suddenly learned that it wasn’t your imagination – that you really were just a bit different than the majority.

More importantly, this person learned that it was OK to be that way; that she, like every other person, could still contribute – and maybe even had a responsibility to do so. Balance Junkie is just one INFJ’s attempt to contribute.

Did you take the test? Did you gain a new perspective on yourself? How will you use that information?

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