One Way to Gain Self-Knowledge

I have talked extensively on this blog about the importance of self-knowledge as a key to stress management and work-life balance. Knowing what makes you tick - priorities, principles, learning style, communication style, etc. - is tantamount to effectively caring for yourself when things get harried. But how does one go about figuring these things out if they are not obvious? In the midst of practicing your Realms of Balance when there is no ideal vacation or extended quiet time in sight, taking time to gain self-knowledge can be challenging.

In previous posts (here and here), I've recommended self-reflective activities such as mindfulness meditation, journaling, and dialogues with coworkers, but there are other tools out there. Recently, I was reminded of a good one that not everyone may be familiar with: the personality test!

Near the end of my senior year in high school, my dad (an MBA executive and ever the business manager) sat me down and had me take the Myers Briggs Inventory. I skeptically answered the questions, wondering why I was being subjected to this on a Saturday morning. The result was INTJ: a four-letter combination signifying my general personality - what drives me, how I learn and interact. Ironically, when I read the description (see link) now, I identify with some of the traits but think it mostly decribes my husband! It is a typical type for a scientist or engineer: a systematic problem solver, rational thinker, high achiever. I had the opportunity to retake the Inventory during Orientation Week for medical school, and my results were close but slightly different - INFJ. I do feel that this combination mostly captures me: artistic, sensitive and driven by personal values, often in service professions.

You can take a version of this test (or other similar tests) in the comfort of your own home. There are shorter, free versions online like the ones here and here, and there are also pay services that provide a counseling session after you are finished with the questions. If you have access to counseling services at your workplace, you may be able to take the complete test with a practitioner there. Even when doing a complete MBTI, I recommend interpreting the results with a grain of salt. For example, INFJs are often described as notoriously private. While I do sometimes internalize my feelings, I am obviously not a super-secretive person. Hello, I have a blog! And if your results indicate that you are in the "wrong" career field, don't immediately up and quit your job. This is merely another tool to learn about yourself, and it's interesting to at least ponder the questions posed. Try one and see what you get!