Live Your Truth
“Compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not to who someone else is today.”
I’ve recently started taking a course online that helps you understand your own personality and personality traits, to then authentically be yourself in each moment. The course begins with you taking an assessment called “The Big Five Personality Test.” It’s comprised of 100 questions that link to the five big traits of extraversion, agreeableness, openness, conscientiousness, and neuroticism. These traits are universal, meaning that every individual in any culture on earth can get a score somewhere on the spectrum. And unlike other trait theories/test that sort individuals into binary categories (i.e. introverted vs. extroverted), the Big Five Model asserts that each personality trait occurs along a spectrum, that is they are dimensional.
Each big trait has two aspects to them.
Extraversion—Enthusiasm and Assertiveness
Agreeableness—Compassion and Politeness
Openness—Intellect and Creativity
Conscientiousness—Industriousness and Orderliness
Neuroticism—Withdrawal and Volatility
The results of the test have been shown to hold steady against the test of time, with the potential for slight changes along each spectrum, but nothing radical. Once you have your baseline results, it allows you to first grapple with why certain situations/events seem to take more effort for you than others. And then it allows you to start exploring and expanding your personal limits for each trait. The wider one’s distribution of a trait, the more options and tools one has to choose from with their interactions in life.
For instance, my placement for Creativity was on the left end of the spectrum, meaning that I don’t particularly hold value or appreciate the finer arts, crafts, and architectural pieces. It also typically signifies one is not very musical or artistic, but they can still enjoy pieces of it.
In one of my favorite movies, Skyfall, there’s a scene in an art gallery where James Bond meets his new quartermaster for the first time. It begins with “Q” elaborating on the eloquent art work and creating a story for the painting hanging on the wall. He then turns to Bond and asks for his thoughts, to which Bond hints there’s no meaning and this conversation is a waste of his time.
For nearly my entire life, I would say I resonated with James Bond's interpretation of the piece of art and had no problem defending that viewpoint. It’s easy for me to say, anyone of decent artistic ability could produce a similar piece, and I don’t extract value from it in my life, so why waste energy thinking about it. But that’s the wrong attitude to have towards art, and creativity as a whole.
For starters, things that don’t naturally abide to your personality traits take more effort for you to comprehend/analyze. Think of something you do that you take for granted, but other people admire you for it. If you are great at engaging strangers in conversation, an introverted person might be shocked at your natural disposition to do so. But that’s only because that’s an action that requires more than normal effort for the introvert to execute. Now do the opposite, think of something that doesn’t come natural or easy for you. For me, I don’t have a musical bone to my body. As much as I like to think I could get on stage with my favorite country artists and perform in a duet, the facts don’t support that dream well. But to musicians, artists, and improv professionals, they probably feel lucky to do what they love without having to “work” a normal job.
So for me, it takes effort and focus to really understand art, or to act in a creative fashion. That’s an underlying subconscious aspect to my viewpoints of the world. Without self reflection or awareness of that pre-disposition, I would never be able to broaden my spectrum along the Openness trait. But the beauty is that with the right effort, you’ll be rewarded. The “feeling” of effort is you getting out of your comfort zone and exploring new boundaries for yourself.
“No matter how much brainpower you have, if you lack the motivation to change your mind, you’ll miss many occasions to think again.”
Being able to move along the spectrum of a trait gives you more options to tackle the challenges and situations you face everyday. In some moments you could really benefit from being neat and orderly, but if chaos is your nemesis, you’ll be in panic as soon as structure and discipline dissipate. Again, there are no negatives or positives associated to where you fall along the spectrum of a trait, it’s simply a reflection of where you’re starting in relation to the personal lens you view the world through. The variance is an effect of the neurodiversity of human beings and the right match between your personality and the context is key to your satisfaction and productivity.
It’s also an indication of why certain situations stress you out and cause anxiety, while others put you in a place of relaxation. The more comfortable you are along the spectrum of the five big traits, the less worry you’ll have, the more you’ll be ok with knowing what is in your direct control, and what’s not.
Wisdom is being more situationally adaptive and expanding those limits.
Adam Grant in his book “Think Again,” elaborates on this very topic. Mr. Grant emphasizes that no matter how much brainpower you have, if you lack the motivation to change your mind, you’ll miss many occasions to think again. And going back to the clip from Skyfall above, holding onto previous assumptions or frameworks, like “only young people are innovative” will not give you opportunities to learn and ask questions that can broaden your understanding of the reality you live in.
Mr. Grant writes about a way to break stereotypes and prejudices through counterfactual thinking, which is helping an individual to consider what they would believe if they were living in an alternative reality. Example being, “What values would you hold if you were raised on a farm as opposed to in the city?” It invites people to explore the origins of their own beliefs.
Motivational interviewing is another tactic to deploy when trying to peel back the layers of a belief hierarchy train of thought. It’s asking questions that place the individual in a self-reflected state of thought. Mr. Grant says we can rarely motivate someone else to change. We’re better off helping them find their own motivation to change. When people ignore advice, it’s not that they totally disagree with it, sometimes they are resisting the sense of pressure and the feeling that someone else is controlling their decision. But if they are able to hold up a mirror and see for themselves with more clarity what shapes their beliefs and behaviors, they will be more accepting of potential areas of improvement they could invest their time and energy into.
The end of a motivational interview should recap the next steps the individual will undergo to induce the change they have decided upon. As the motivational interviewer, your job is to simply be a great listener. A part of being a great listener is making the speaker feel like the smartest, most important person in the world. Your questions should not have an agenda or bias to them. They should serve as a spring board for curiosity and ideation.
During my time working at CrossFit New England, there was a quote that stayed on the whiteboard everyday for the members to reflect on. It said, “Small minds talk about people, average minds talk about things, great minds talk about ideas.” Minds in this context are not in relations to IQ, but being in the pursuit of growth and knowledge. And then to piggy back on that, someone told me to treat every conversation like it might lead to the next great idea. Once I let those two concepts marinate in my brain, I noticed a profound difference in my conversations with people, and the questions I asked. Again, it doesn’t mean that you can’t have small talk, or discuss the latest “tea” with your friends. But if you find that 90% of your conversations with other people are spent talking about other people, what good is that doing for you or for them?
So what does this all mean. For starters, it’s acknowledging and accepting that each person’s reality is different from yours. Some more so than others. And failing to appreciate the foundational framework and lenses that people view their reality through, will leave you shy of fulfilling your relationships and conversations. Just because you believe something to be true, doesn’t me it is. And when someone else believes something to be true that you don’t agree with, step back and adjust the lens you are viewing the world through, and see if maybe a new light sheds a bit more truth.
Secondly, if you don’t fully understand yourself or your beliefs, it’ll be hard to consistently find joy and fulfillment in life.
“Much of what constitutes success in life is therefore the consequence of finding the place in relationships, work and personal commitment that corresponds to your unique personality structure.”
Aligning your personality structure throughout the various environments you operate your life in will bring you more pleasure and satisfaction. Coupling that with targeted efforts to grow in settings that put you on edge, will over time give you more options to thrive in.
Respect that just because something works for an influencer, your friend, or a pro athlete, doesn’t mean it’ll work for you. Take the time to lay out, deep dive, and explore your truths, and then go live them.
Resources for further discovery: