The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator

 If your efforts at personal growth are not yielding the results you want it could be because you are attempting to become something you are not–

…and that just does not work well. In fact, humans are the only species on earth that even can attempt to grow into something they are not.

myers-Acorns must become oak trees; they cannot become apple trees or alligators. A daffodil seed will either grow up to be a daffodil or it will wither and die. A brown bear can be trained to do circus tricks but it will never be as good a performer as a human acrobat; likewise, it would be much better, and probably much happier, just being a bear.

What makes acorns, daffodil seeds and bears embryos grow up to be oaks, daffodils and bears is genetically encoded in their DNA. Humans too have genetic predispositions which, when combined with the environmental influences, provide a blueprint for their most effective “growth path” and subsequent happiness. Oftentimes we feel that we are in fact not on the right path but have no clue as to where to find the correct one. Sometimes science can assist us.

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is a questionnaire designed to measure an individual’s psychological preferences for evaluating the world around them and making decisions. The Myers-Briggs was developed by Katherine Briggs and Isabel Myers after Briggs became fascinated with Carl Jung’s book “Psychological Types”.

Every day we process tens of thousands of pieces of information and make decisions as to how to act based on how we process that information. The Myers-Briggs evaluates our preferences for processing in four separate categories:

Where do you go to “energize” yourself?

myers-briggsDo you prefer a wide circle of friends, like to be around people, discuss your problems with others and sometimes jump into new activities without considering all the potential ramifications? If so, you’re likely an “Extrovert”(E)according to the Myers-Briggs type Indicator. On the other hand, if you tend to turn inwards for answers, have just a few close friends, prefer a solo canoe trip to a Carnival cruise and sometimes think too much before acting you’re probably an “Introvert” (I).

Our second pair of psychological preferences asks “how do you prefer to process information?”

Are you a nuts and bolts person who likes to deal with facts and physical reality? Or do you prefer to solve problems by thinking them through first, rather than getting your hands dirty? The first would be “Sensing” (S) and the second “Intuitive” (N). One with a sensing preference is pragmatic, bottom-line oriented and trusts experience and facts. Our intuitive is interested in possibilities and is more comfortable with “what might be” than “what is”. She sees the big picture before the first brushstroke even takes place, and trusts her gut more than her experience.

When you make decisions which is more important to you;

…objective principles and objective facts (Thinking) or your values, beliefs and the effects of your decisions on the people around you (Feeling)? The “thinker” is objective, analytical and impersonal; feelings are unimportant, his or others. When making decisions the “feeler” cares how they will affect those around him and relies heavily on his “heart” and core values. Decision making via thinking (T) or feeling (F).

The fourth Myers-Briggs preference has to do with how you organize your life.

myers-briggs infjIf you prefer lists, plans, stability and organization your preference is for “Judging” (J). (Do not confuse this with being “judgmental”–they are totally unrelated.) If, on the other hand, you like to go with the flow, be flexible and respond to things as they arise your preference is for “Perception” (P).

What we are left with are 16 possible combinations of preferences, each of which suggests a different personality type. It should be evident by now that one type is better suited for a particular career, relationship, etc., than another. For instance, an ESTP on the Myers-Briggs would probably be a great fit for a position in the boardroom but a rather poor match for a career as a poet; poets tend to be of the INF variety.

No one is all one preference and none the other;

I am right-handed but I use my left when I type. But we all do tend to lean toward one or the other in each of the four categories above. And of what value is knowing your type?

myers-briggsI first took the Myers-Briggs as a confused/troubled college student with a marketing major. Upon receiving the results it became clear to me that tying to fit my INFJ temperament into that major was like trying to pound a square pig into a gopher hole! I’ve taken it several times since and it almost always comes out the same, by the way.

The value of the Myers-Briggs is that it may tell you how “on track” you are in your life,

…how closely you are being guided by your psychic DNA or “inner nature.” Of course the Myers-Briggs assessment should only be administered by a qualified therapist and not taken while operating heavy machinery. So at the risk of being accused of charlatanry or psychological malpractice I will avoid suggesting sites that offer the test on line (but never forget your friend “Google”). But for those of you who find this topic as intriguing as I, I will gladly steer you toward the home of the Myers-Briggs Foundation

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