Almost daily, I find myself asking some version of the question, “What does it mean to be human?” And more specifically, “How do our unique personalities influence our ability to form sustainable relationships and develop healthy thought patterns?”
According to philosopher and theologian Paul Tillich, “The character of human life, like the character of the human condition, like the character of all life, is “ambiguity”: the inseparable mixture of good and evil, the true and false, and the creative and destructive forces—both individual and social.”
The human condition has always been fascinating to me. After all, the world as we know it is defined by the way we think, feel, and interact with others. So, it’s not surprising that when I began my graduate coursework in Organizational Leadership and Adult Education (arguably two of the most human-centered disciplines one can study), I knew I had found my happy place. There were no real right or wrong answers, but there were enough theories, perspectives, and shared experiences to keep me occupied for a lifetime. They were all-encompassing yet ever-changing, and they provided deep insight into why we, as human beings, do what we do. I mean, who wouldn’t find that interesting?
But what I didn’t expect to gain from that season of my life was such a deep understanding of who I am and why I, specifically, do what I do. And that’s what I hope to offer you here today.
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Some of the most useful tools in my self-discovery journey and my growth as a leader and educator have been personality tests and self-assessments. And I’m not talking about the quizzes you find on Facebook that take less than five minutes to complete and then yield a vague two sentence summary about the essence of your inner-being. No, no. I’m talking about research-based, psychological typing and universally accepted approaches to observing and interpreting human behaviors. I’m talking about nitty-gritty, in the trenches, soul-searching. The deep stuff.
Now, there are several renditions and offshoots of the most popular personality assessments, but my personal and professional experiences have led me to believe that there are three primary tests that are unmatched in their capacity to provide valuable insight into your human condition.
1. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator
The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is derived from Carl Jung’s psychological type theory, which suggests the random variation in human behavior is due to basic differences in the ways individuals prefer to process and apply their perceptions and judgment.
Based on your response to the questions posed through the MBTI tool, you will be categorized into 1 of 16 personality types, determined by your overall preference for the following:
- Extraversion (E) or Introversion (I)
- Sensing (S) or Intuition (N)
- Thinking (T) or Feeling (F)
- Judging (J) or Perceiving (P)
I’ve taken the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator in a few different formats, and I prefer the free assessment offered by Human Metrics. What I like most about the Human Metrics version is the in-depth description provided for each personality type and the additional resources such as prospective career choices and a list of famous individuals organized by type.
As for me, I’m a tried and true INFJ. In other words, I’m a judgy-feely intuitive introvert.
Yikes—what a combination!
But really, give me a chance — I promise it’s not as bad as it sounds!
A few defining characteristics of the INFJ:
- Both a “doer” and a “dreamer”
- Struggles with inner-conflict (tug of war between idealism and practicality)
- Deeply concerned about our relationships and the overall state of humanity
- Clear insight into the motivations of others
- Very selective in choosing friends
- Suspicious by nature
- Values self-expression and tends to have strong writing skills
- Well-suited for “inspirational” professions such as higher education and religious leadership
Seriously guys, the accuracy gets me every time! Even with our flaws exposed, this is grounding, humbling information that sets us up for increased self-awareness and unprecedented personal growth.
2. The DISC Assessment
The DISC Assessment was developed by psychologist William Moulton Marston and is designed to help individuals better understand their behavioral style. More specifically, this assessment examines how individuals rank in four distinct areas of behavior:
- (D)ominance of Problems
- (I)nfluence of People
- (S)teadiness of Pace
- (C)onscientiousness of Procedures
My favorite version of the DISC assessment is administered on Tony Robbins’ website (for free). Not only are the results super accurate, but they come with a 14-page report that provides insight into your scores and suggestions for adapting your preferred behaviors in specific situations (at work, in service, in social settings, in learning environments).
Like the Myers-Briggs, my DISC results were extremely accurate. I scored very low on the Dominance scale, average on the Influence scale, and extremely high on the Steadiness and Conscientious scales.
In other words, I tend to:
- Rely upon procedure and structure to guide me through the decision-making process
- Be very detail oriented and seek perfection
- Hold others to a high standard
- Be resistant to change
- Fear superficial relationships
- Be a dependable member of teams and organizations
What I like most about these results is that they challenge me to look outside myself and consider how my behaviors impact my ability to engage with others and build healthy relationships. For that reason, if you ever get the chance to incorporate this assessment as part of a team-building exercise in your workplace, classroom, or community, I highly recommend it. It is truly remarkable how differently we treat each other when we understand one another’s unique fears and motives.
3. The Enneagram
The Enneagram is derived from ancient philosophy that examines the structure of the human soul and the ways “soul qualities” become distorted into states of ego. The Enneagram system operates out of nine distinct personality types, which can be arranged into three “centers” and broken down into multiple levels of development.
The nine personality types of the Enneagram are:
- The Reformer
- The Helper
- The Achiever
- The Individualist
- The Investigator
- The Loyalist
- The Enthusiast
- The Challenger
- The Peacemaker
It’s very likely you’ll find a little of yourself in each of the nine types. However, there will be one that you identify with on a deep and personal level. While this may be a conclusion you can reach simply from reading up on the nine types, I find the best way to get familiar with the system and find yourself in the Enneagram is to take the Riso-Hudson Enneagram Type Indicator (RHETI) administered by the Enneagram Institute. Unfortunately, this assessment is not free, but at only $12, the information you get in your individualized report is well worth the price.
I test as a Six on the Enneagram. I also identify with many of the characteristics associated with Threes, Twos, and Nines, respectively.
Sixes tend to:
- Be engaging, friendly, and dependable
- Be meticulous, disciplined, and persevering
- Believe in cooperation and shared goals
- Seek safe, stable environments
- Overcommit, especially in relationships
- Be troubled by doubt and anxiety
Of the three personality tests described in this post, I believe the Enneagram has the most potential to foster self-growth and lead to true self-transformation. The primary reason for this is that the Enneagram system reveals our passions and behaviors both at our worst and at our best. By becoming aware of these tendencies and considering how they impact our relationships and overall well-being, we are better able to shift our thought patterns to adopt healthy habits and practice them consistently.
A Final Note
To quote philanthropist George Soros, “Once we realize that imperfect understanding is the human condition, there is no shame in being wrong, only in failing to correct our mistakes.”
My mission through this blog is to equip you with the tools you need to weather life’s storms with grace, humility, and confidence. But like a house built on a piece of land, we must start by constructing a strong foundation. You must know yourself to love yourself, and that means being vulnerable enough to peek into the cracks and discover the things that make you uniquely you.
I hope that through reading about the three assessments covered in this post and the insights I received from each of them, you are able to see the emerging common threads and the distinct applications they possess for our personal development journey.
To that end, I’d love for you to take the assessments and share a bit about your results and reactions!
Tell me, what’s your human condition?
Until next time,