You cannot improve that which you do not measure and, as with spiritual warfare, you cannot fight without first demarcating the battlefield. In regard to goals of physical health, well-being, and career, the battlefield is defined by your personality.
If you don’t have a grasp on who you are as a man, you are at a disadvantage. You don’t know your weaknesses or your strengths. You don’t know what needs improved, what has improved, or what’s being severely neglected. It also means, in the course of making a decision, you are unable to consider what’s most important. Your sense of purpose starts at knowing your natural tendencies and talents and making decisions that play to your advantage.
Before you can do any substantial work on yourself, you must know who you are. The most practical way is through a Big Five personality test.
Years of research suggest that our personalities can be boiled down to five primary traits, each of those traits being divided into two aspects. Those traits are:
- Openness (Aspects: Creativity & Intellect)
- Conscientiousness (Aspects: Orderliness & Industriousness)
- Extraversion (Aspects: Enthusiasm & Assertiveness)
- Agreeableness (Aspects: Politeness & Compassion)
- Neuroticism (Aspects: Withdrawal & Volatility)
When taking a Big Five personality test, you answer how much you agree or disagree with 100 phrases related to each of these traits and their corresponding aspects. At the end, you receive your percentile which reveals whether you are high or low in those traits.
What do these traits mean exactly?
Your Openness relates to your appreciation of the arts, curiosity, creativity. It tells you how intellectually curious you are, how open to emotion and adventure. If you have high Openness you will tend to be more creative and more driven by emotion.
Openness is further divided into two aspects: Creativity and Intellect.
Creativity is specifically about (you guessed it) your creativity and aesthetic sensitivity. Intellect, on the other hand, reveals the interest you have in abstract concepts and ideas. (The aspect of Intellect shouldn’t be confused with intelligence. You can be highly intelligent while not being interested in abstract ideas.)
If you are high in Creativity, it would mean you are artistic, imaginative, and that you value beauty. If you are high in Intellect, it would mean you are interested in solving complex abstract problems or studying philosophical concepts.
Conscientiousness is about your sense of responsibility, duty, and precision. It tells you how self-disciplined you are, how well you regulate your impulses. It is the trait most related to taming chaos.
Conscientiousness is further divided into the aspects of Orderliness and Industriousness. Orderliness relates to your ability to organize and systematize while Industriousness is about your consistency, your ability to achieve goals, or, more simply put, how hardworking you are.
Extraversion relates to positive emotions and how you interact with the external world. Are you energized by it or not? Are you deeply engaged with it or not? Those high in Extraversion will seem full of energy and enthusiastic. Those low in Extraversion are more quiet and less social.
Extraversion is further divided into the aspects of Enthusiasm and Assertiveness. Enthusiasm relates to your levels of joy and engagement with the external world while Assertiveness is about your ability to be socially and verbally dominant.
Agreeableness relates to your desire (or lack thereof) for social harmony. How well do you get along with others? How considerate and kind are you? Those who are high in Agreeableness are more optimistic about human nature, more trusting, more considerate and kind. Those who are low in Agreeableness are more self-centered, suspicious, and unfriendly.
Agreeableness is further divided into the aspects of Compassion and Politeness. Compassion reveals how likely you are to empathically experience others’ emotions. Politeness is related to your predisposition to abide by social norms.
Neuroticism relates to your experience of negative emotions. It is your emotional stability or instability. Those high in Neuroticism are easily upset and stressed, while those who are low are more confident and unbothered.
Neuroticism is further divided into the aspects of Withdrawal and Volatility. Withdrawal relates to your tendency to avoid situations that represent uncertainty. Volatility is about how likely you are to become irritated and upset when something goes wrong.
How to Interpret Results
When you take a Big Five personality test, you will be inclined to see some results as positive and others as negative. You will already have an opinion, conscious or not, about aspects of your personality and you’ll naturally wish some result was different.
But what you should realize is that every result reveals something positive and negative about yourself.
For example, my own test revealed that I am very low in Agreeableness. What does that say about me? With something like low Agreeableness, the weaknesses are obvious. I’m more self-centered, stubborn, and self-interested, I’m less trusting. It takes me longer to warm up to people, or I initially think the worst of them. However, low Agreeableness represents strengths as well. I’m less likely to fall for nonsense, I’m straightforward, and I’m competitive.
On the opposite side, those high in Agreeableness have obvious strengths, like being kind, trusting, friendly, approaching the world more optimistically. However, being high in Agreeableness means they can be taken advantage of, bullied into compliance because of their tendency to avoid conflict. They might be more likely to get roped up in scams or to become untrustworthy because they withhold what they really think.
The kind of man we are striving to be is a man who is as near to the 50th percentile in each trait as he can be. The closer we are to the center, the stronger our strengths and the weaker our weaknesses.
Using my example of low Agreeableness, while I might like that I’m straightforward, I would profit from striving to be more diplomatic and empathetic. Then I benefit from both sides of the spectrum. I wouldn’t be too gullible, but also not too self-interested and suspicious. What we want to attack first are those traits where we have settled at one extreme or the other. And in any case, we can use the results to really see those traits which we should be working on the hardest.
Your results can also contribute to your sense of purpose. If you know you are more gifted in this sense and less gifted in that sense, you can use that knowledge to make better decisions about what you should be doing. For example, I’m also low in Extraversion. What that tells me is, as far as a career goes, I’d find it more enjoyable to work with things (like writing articles for a website) than I would people (offering a web design service).
Where Can You Take A Big Five Personality Trait Test?
If you’re interested in doing the test, I’d recommend you take the same test I took if possible. It’s called Understand Myself and it was developed in part by Dr. Jordan B. Peterson. This particular test isn’t free, but it’s just $10 and what it can tell you is priceless and essential if you plan on fixing yourself.
If you’re unable or unwilling to pay for such a test, I’ve heard good things about the Big Five Aspect Scale from Workcoach. It is free and should provide you with good information (though I can’t personally attest to it).
Go get started now. Know yourself so you can fix yourself.