One day, it’ll be too late and you’ll have wasted your life
It seems a bit extreme to say you need to find out who you really are. We should know ourselves, shouldn’t we? But what if we don’t know who we really are, that would be a waste. The danger is that you spend your life following a journey that doesn’t suit you. Doing a job that you do, all because that’s where life leads you.
Life is too short to spend it being unhappy, not being content with what you’re doing. That’s what happens if you don’t find out who you are. Trust me, I know. It took me the best part of forty years to wake up the self-awareness asleep in my head.
I’m imploring you to wake up your self-awareness. Open your mind to who you really are. A life wasted is a life spent doing something that isn’t you. Stuck in a job after leaving college behind as it was the only one. Did some life decisions not go as expected? Fifteen to twenty years later you’re still there. Are you happy? Really happy?
This is what happened to me, college didn’t go as planned and I left and took the first job I could find. And there I stayed, oblivious to the person I really was.
I was on a work training course, it was for all the managers and I had been included. The course involved doing one of those personality tests. Now, I had never done anything like that before, so it was all new to me.
We each did the test on our own, answering the various questions that come with the MBTI quiz. It was all a bit of a novelty to me, but some of my colleagues laughed off the test. It’s all mumbo jumbo apparently.
A week later we spent the day learning about personality types from a work coach. Throughout the day we were asked to decide what personality type we thought we were from the 16 variables. The first question was to decide whether I was an introvert or an extrovert. This seemed pretty straight forward to me. I was a salesperson, I had been since I left college and started work, which at the point of this course was twenty years in the past. I was clearly an extrovert. How could be I not be?
Myers-Briggs Type Indicator
I’m sure many of you are aware of the MBTI test and may even know your own MBTI. For those that don’t know what it is, here is a quick explanation. This is from the Myers and Briggs Foundation:
The purpose of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI®) personality inventory is to make the theory of psychological types described by C. G. Jung understandable and useful in people’s lives. The essence of the theory is that much seemingly random variation in the behaviour is actually quite orderly and consistent, being due to basic differences in the ways individuals prefer to use their perception and judgment.
Perception involves all the ways of becoming aware of things, people, happenings, or ideas. Judgment involves all the ways of coming to conclusions about what has been perceived. If people differ systematically in what they perceive and in how they reach conclusions, then it is only reasonable for them to differ correspondingly in their interests, reactions, values, motivations, and skills.
Favourite world: Do you prefer to focus on the outer world or on your own inner world? This is called Extraversion (E) or Introversion (I).
Information: Do you prefer to focus on the basic information you take in or do you prefer to interpret and add meaning? This is called Sensing (S) or Intuition (N).
Decisions: When making decisions, do you prefer to first look at logic and consistency or first look at the people and special circumstances? This is called Thinking (T) or Feeling (F).
Structure: In dealing with the outside world, do you prefer to get things decided or do you prefer to stay open to new information and options? This is called Judging (J) or Perceiving (P).
Each of the letters combines depending on the answers to the personality test that was designed to accommodate this structure. There are 16 possible combinations. If you don’t know yours and are interested, you can take the test here.
I Can’t Be an Introvert
At the end of the class, the coach gave each of us our results from the test. He reminded us to check to see how the results of the test compared to our own assessment we had drawn up through the day.
My personality test results were a complete shock. It shouldn’t have been, but it was. I was an INTJ. An introvert.
I challenged the coach, are you sure this was right?
It made my head spin. As far as I was concerned I was an extrovert. To start with because I had been in sales for so long and successful I assumed I was outgoing. My interpretation of this was that I was extroverted.
As I took the time to reflect upon what I found out, it made me realise that I didn’t know myself that well at all.
The MBTI test gave me cause to challenge everything I thought I knew about myself. The training we received helped me to see that I was, in fact, an introvert.
Although I had been in sales for many years, my success wasn’t down to being outgoing. Far from it. I enjoyed being with others, but I found it mentally draining. I enjoyed being on my own, for reasons I couldn’t understand or explain. In a debate, I would often hold back and let others speak first.
These behaviours were classic signs of being an introvert. I lacked the knowledge of this way of looking at my personality and the awareness to see it.
Talking it through with a colleague opened my eyes to the skill of self-awareness. This is the conscious knowledge of one’s own character and feelings. I realised that I hadn’t been very self-aware at all. Now, it was as if someone had just turned the light on in a very dark room.
What I could see was me, worts and all. There were other aspects that came into my field of vision. I was someone who rarely accepted information as it was presented, I always wanted to see more. With that came other markers of my MBTI. I was a thinker, never considerate of feelings and to compound that I craved structure.
The more I learned about the personality types, the more it helped me define myself.
Don’t Waste Your Life
I wanted to make a point that without self-awareness, without the knowledge to define who you are, you risk wasting your life. I spent the first twenty years of my working life doing a job that didn’t really suit me. Sales isn’t a job for an INTJ. I had been lucky and learned from great salespeople that enabled me to get by, to act the role I needed to, which enabled me to be successful. Are you ‘acting’, or are you being you?
But was I happy, was I truly motivated by what I was doing?
No, I wasn’t.
I was then extremely fortunate. I had recently been moved to a new department and with it came a new manager. He was there to help me through this journey of discovery, and what’s more, help me find a role that played to my personality strengths.
The difference it made to me was huge. I was happier than I ever had been at work and at home as well. It didn’t so much as save me, but instead allowed to feel fulfilled in ways I previously hadn’t.
That’s what I mean by saying don’t waste your life. Find out who you are really are. Use personality tests to discover what type of person you are, so you don’t end up wasting yours.