Personality assessments like Strengthsfinder and Myers-Briggs are popular for finding one’s “type.” But can taking a personality test actually improve your life this year? Senior editor Arynetta Floyzelle takes the Enneagram to find out.
Full disclosure: I have a love-hate relationship with personality tests. Truth be told, I like to think that I am far too unique and incomparable for any test to push me into the boxes of their stringent “types.”
However, I am always secretly excited to get my results. Why? I’m sure half the reason is good old-fashioned vanity. It’s fun to see myself reflected back to me in black and white “Oh my goodness, that is so right”, and “Yes, I do do that!” I’ve also enjoyed seeing eccentricities I have noticed about myself listed in traits that others share. It’s kind of a universal reminder that there are other weirdos out there just like me. Then, there is always the super fun section that names overall badasses that share your type.
But beyond vanity and a sense of kinship with similar types…
Can a person revolutionize their existence by just taking a personality test?
Or at the very least, can they become stronger, smarter, and better? Understanding one’s type can help a person lean into their strengths, exploit eccentricities for their benefit, and relax into a flow predestined by their personality. Habits that you previously held shame around can be understood as personality traits deeply ingrained in your very being to help you navigate the world.
I have found that the problem is figuring out how to use them that way. After the amazement of how a solitary test can have me so pegged, I usually go on with my life, content with discussing the findings when I bump up against another enthusiast. Thing is, I doubt that this is how these tests are meant to be used. But something tells me that when Isabel Briggs Myers, and her mother, Katharine Briggs, broke down and expanded upon a conceptual theory proposed by Carl Jung, it was for more than fodder for dinner parties. Perhaps they were looking to expose our understanding of ourselves, leading to an improvement in how we show up in the world.
So when I learned about the Enneagram, and was given the opportunity not only to take the test, but to have a discussion with an Enneagram specialist about my results, I was reluctantly (I am far too unique for any personality test to have me pegged) game. Was it possible for a personality test to indeed make a person stronger, smarter, and better, and if so, how?
The Enneagram is a personality test based on nine basic types. Understanding your type can help you identify hidden strengths and understand perceived weaknesses. According to the Enneagram Institute’s website, “At its core, the Enneagram helps us to see ourselves at a deeper, more objective level and can be of invaluable assistance on our path to self-knowledge.” Sounds good to me.
So I took the test, and after about 10 minutes and 50ish questions, found out that I am Type 7: The Enthusiast. And this is where the fun began.
See, this time when I took a personality test, I went deeper. And with the following three steps, I learned how a seemingly basic personality test could make me stronger, smarter, and an overall a better human being in 2019.
3 Steps on How to Use Personality Tests to Make You Stronger, Smarter, and Better:
Step 1. Go Deep, Then go Deeper
When you receive your personality test results, read them, and annotate. I know, sounds a lot like literature class. What you are really doing here is studying how you tick. This is definitely worth taking notes and even, if it’s available, receiving a bit of professional guidance.
As The Enthusiast, my motto, according to enneapp.com, is…
“More is Better.”
I love and escape into pleasure, fun and imagination, and use this to avoid pain and fear. I am always thinking ahead toward better possibilities and more enjoyment. I am enthusiastic, joyful, optimistic, extroverted, playful and high-spirited, versatile and spontaneous, and a constant seeker of new and exciting experiences. You want to be my friend, right? So do I.
So in the past, the depth would stop there. I would read all about my good to great qualities, skim my problem areas, talk about it, Google it, go to sleep and promptly forget, until someone, somewhere brought up their experience with the test. I knew that I wanted to go deeper into my results and to gain a better understanding beyond what my lack of knowledge limited in my ability to digest.
I called Danielle Fanfair, an Enneagram specialists, who, according to her website “[teaches] professional women, business leaders, and professional groups to move from confusion to clarity, discovering who they truly are,” and I scheduled a 30-minute call to go over my results. Whip-smart, engaging, and disarming, Danielle is who took my understanding to a new level. Within minutes I was telling her my life story, prompted by questions she asked based on my Enneagram results. Danielle really made me see how some of my positive characteristics could have led to painful situations in my life, and how I could repurpose some of my urges for my benefit.
For example, yes, I love to escape into pleasure, fun, and imagination, and often don’t stay one place for too long. As a matter of fact, I’ve lived in five cities and two countries in 10 years.I tend to move or search for a new experience when things feel worn, or like I’ve enjoyed all that I can. But with this, I often feel quite rootless and like an outsider. Sometimes I enjoy that feeling, other times it deepens into a deep loneliness that can be difficult to shake. Danielle caught this immediately seeing that the urge to constantly move on to the next adventure actually robs me of the roots that I am craving. The good thing was, she had advice on how to rectify it.
One, she let me know that I am never really missing out on anything, explaining that: “You are the vibrancy that you seek. You are the vibrant color that you seek. That which you seek in the world is already within you.”She challenged that I do the exact opposite of what I feel like doing when that urge to fly tingled my bones — she advised that I dig in.
Danielle encouraged me to, “Deeply connect and ground down where you are and become reflective, deeply involved, and deeply curious in what you already have…
Contribute your wisdom…engage your heart and gut.
Taking this to heart, I began giving more to my friendships and my work. I spruced up my apartment, which I’ve often avoided putting too much care into because I never knew when I was going to move (I have slept on a couch for six months and a blow-up mattress for four). Just a few updates and comforts to my living arrangements made me feel settled and rooted. And with these few adjustments, my creativity soared, as did my ability to plan a trip in which I was able to satisfy that wanderlust, while finding opportunities to entertain myself in my city.
If the idea of hiring a coach to help you understand your personality assessments seems like a waste of money and time when Google is so at the ready with thousands of articles on your “type” at the stroke of your fingers, know that with the rise of life coaches and personality specialist, plenty of professionals offer free phone or Skype assessments of your tests.
Step 2. Game Plan Your Results
The awesome thing about these tests is that they often will give you pages upon pages of results. And the overwhelming thing about putting your results into action is, well, there are pages upon pages of them. This time, I picked three ideas about myself and leaned into those, instead of trying to remind myself of every detail about my personality.
Based on my Enneagram results, I knew that I wanted to examine: my desire to flee into more exciting opportunities, my habit of procrastinating, and my lack of organization.
With Danielle’s help, I realized what was at the core of my desire to flee to more exciting opportunities and designed the aforementioned plan to rectify that behavior. I was also able to take a deeper look at my habit of procrastination, which had to do with my desire to avoid any kind or unpleasurable experience. The displeasure of boredom I may experience while cleaning my apartment will have me watching TV for hours to avoid it. However, that displeasure is expanded upon as more and more days go by and my apartment gets messier and messier, until disorganization affects my ability to be productive, making it difficult to be my best self and thereby causing more, sometimes longer lasting, pain.
The fix: set a schedule of cleaning and organizing and stick to it and give myself treats for staying on schedule, and breaks for entertainment in between.This will satisfy that part of me that wants to be entertained and to treat myself.
Step 3. Give Yourself Time to See Results
When trying to improve my life, I have found that I want to see results very quickly. But when I have had the patience to stick with a plan while allowing for necessary adjustments and giving it time to see a positive change, I have always been happy with the results. I know that new pillows and candles will not satisfy me forever, but if I commit to making a serene and inviting home out of my living space, it will affect how I show up in the world. It is the same with organization. Continuous investment into my community, work, friends, and family will birth rewards that only consistency and depth can create.
Knowing yourself better and owning it empowers you to make better, smarter choices, and once you get good at it, you make those choices faster — all adding up to making you a better human being.
To me, the new year is a time to recommit to self love, and discovering new processes to be the best you possible is one way to honor that commitment. With this in mind, taking a personality test a little deeper can offer a glimpse into your modus operandi and benefit in your growth into your best self.