I have been excited for this month of reading for probably almost a year! While doing my Happiness Project, I found that knowing myself better was a key success factor which enabled me to get real about what would likely impact my subjective wellbeing as opposed to what I thought shouldmake me happier. So I spent some time figuring out how to build a life better aligned with my own values, interests, and personality. And throughout that process I found that I really wanted to dedicate some time to learning about various personality theories and frameworks. Although I suppose this could have been a theme within that year, I decided to wait so I could focus on a proper “personality project” (clearly – I need some help from someone in marketing to craft more intriguing names for these various projects!). So this month was when I started to dig into some of the books that I have collected in preparation. Here’s what I read in the month of October ::
Based upon probably the most well-respected personality framework in the scientific community, Daniel Nettle’s book provides rationale and in depth descriptions of Costa and McCrae’s five-factor model (also known as the Big Five in personality psychology – Extraversion, Neuroticism, Conscientiousness, Agreeableness, and Openness to Experience), which he argues ultimately subsumes all other constructs. He begins by defining personality as “something internal, stable, inherent to the person, something which stands in a causal relationship to their specific choices, motivations, reactions, and obstacles when faced with events. A clue to personality being at work… is a kind of thematic recurrence within the events of a life.” Throughout the book he attempts to describe why various and seemingly contradictory personality types would prove to be adaptive while also describing the strengths and common concerns within each. One thing that I really appreciated about this one, aside from the fact that it was more research based than some of the others, is that Nettle stresses the fact that each of these traits are continuums along which individuals vary from one another or at various points in time. Further, in closing, he argues that “we have the freedom, the power, and indeed the responsibility to use our minds to seek out the good niches that are right for us, and to avoid the ones that are bad.”
According to the Newcastle Personality Assessor included in this book, I am considered high in conscientiousness (tendency to be organized, planned, and self-disciplined) and openness to experience (tendency to be curious and appreciative of intellectual or artistic pursuits) and medium-high in extraversion (tendency towards positive emotion) and medium in agreeableness (tendency to be compassionate or cooperative) and neuroticism (tendency towards negative emotion). These results were pretty similar to other versions of the five-factor model assessments that I have taken in the past.
What Have You Done
In October, I also had an extreme amount of work travel along with a couple issues with flights which meant I finished Nettle’s book without another on hand out on the road. Thankfully, this was an option via my Kindle First Reads therefore I had opportunity to read this one for free! It’s a thriller/mystery/crime novel by a new author, Matthew Farrell, about two brothers who were traumatically orphaned as children and then grew up to be officers in the same police force. There were a lot of the common elements – affairs, murder, memory loss, and betrayal which are kind of becoming stale to me. It was a quick and entertaining read which I thought started out well enough, but then become unnecessarily messy towards the end with many additional layers and twists of limited value. All in all, it was a great distraction during my delayed travel, but not necessarily one of my favorites.
Isabella Myers Briggs and Peter B. Meyers
Then I was back to the personality theme with a best-seller in the genre, Gifts Differing by Isabel Briggs Myers and her son, Peter B. Meyers. The Myers-Briggs is another one of the most commonly referenced or utilized personality frameworks around and seems to ring true for a lot of people who are familiar with it. There are 16 different types within the construct based upon the combinations of an individual’s preference for 1. Extraversion vs. Introversion (main interests in the outer world of people and things or in concepts and ideas), 2. Sensing vs. Intuition (being interested in the actuality of what is around one in the environment or being engrossed in pursuing the possibilities of what could be), 3. Thinking vs. Feeling (coming to conclusions via logical process with impersonal finding as opposed to feeling and assigning a personal, subjective value), and 4. Perceiving vs. Judging (“processes of becoming aware of things, people, occurrences, and ideas [as opposed to] coming to conclusions about what has been perceived”). Although the authors are both INF’s and seemed to be strongly, albeit subtly, biased to those tendencies, I did really enjoy this one – especially the type tables which mapped the frequency of each of the types to be drawn to a particular profession.
I am an ENTJ.
Another work trip gone wrong resulted in my picking up this little treat – a true classic by one of my absolute favorite writers. It’s an easy to read but brilliant allegory of the rise of Stalinist socialism in Russia. And although these events are before my time, I think that is important for all generations to remember the lesson Orwell describes in the preface – “how easily totalitarian propaganda can control the opinion of people in democratic countries.” I absolutely love satire and Orwell’s creativity and perceptiveness. Anyone who has not read this book (or who hasn’t read it in awhile) SIMPLY MUST.
The 12 Type Enneagram
Prior to this “personality project” endeavor, I had very limited knowledge of the enneagram, but do know that it is quite popular in the mainstream. Thankfully, I had just enough knowledge of its supposed usefulness prior to reading this one otherwise I would definitely not been interested in learning more – in other words, I really did not like this book. Apparently, the enneagram in general is not very empirically based and is so more descriptive of observed patterns. However there are a couple different varieties or schools of thought within this framework and this one was not for me. Unlike the more well known version, this one describes twelve different personality types which are named after the planets – not “[representing] the planets as such, but the influence of the planetary force centres [ or in other words] the type of energy associated with the planet, not the planet itself. Of course the Venus types are the “languorous lovers,” the Mercury type have a mercurial, active impulsivity about them, and the Mars types are fiercely competitive and warlike. All in all the book was repetitive and a bit too astrological for me despite the author’s insistence in its credibility beyond any mysticism. I wouldn’t recommend it and I certainly wouldn’t consider this a very common (or useful) interpretation of the enneagram. Alas, since I had purchased it and I am a finisher extreme – I just had to read it all.
I couldn’t really ever clearly discern which type I was from this book, something which supposedly validates the author’s argument for how out of touch and disconnected we are from ourselves.
Don Richard Riso with Russ Hudson
This one was lengthy, but MUCH more insightful than the last. It was lacking in terms of empirical evidence (something which I have now learned is the case when it comes to this personality tool) and it was all basically depictions and patterns of behaviors observed amongst the various types. This particular book included the more popular framework consisting of nine different profiles – 1. The Reformer (also called the perfectionist – rational and idealistic) 2. The Helper (caring, nurturing) 3. The Motivator (adaptable, achievement oriented) 4. The Individualist (also called the artist – intuitive and reserved) 5. The Investigator (perceptive, cerebral) 6. The Loyalist (also called the skeptic – committed and security-oriented) 7. The Enthusiast (also called the generalist, enthusiastic and productive) 8. The Leader (powerful and aggressive) and 9. The Peacemaker (easygoing and accommodating). I liked this book because it not only outlined the 9 types but also 9 potential levels of declining psychological health – ranging from Mother Theresa down to pathological serial killers, with a major conclusion that it is our paradigm or primary needs that either drive us to greatest or send on a downward spiral in an ironic twist. It was interesting to find that I could very easily pick out some of the types amongst people I know – my sister, my mother-in-law, some clients at the studio and then there were other which were a bit more convoluted.
I am Type 1. Reformer and Type 7. Enthusiast.