A lot of personality

The previous exercise, “(Dis)agreeable You” was based on one of the “Big Five” personality traits. The big five model can be a good way to think about your own strengths a weaknesses, those of others and even how your relationships function. These Big Five are:

  • extroversion/introversion
  • openness/traditionalism
  • conscientiousness/carelessness
  • emotional stability/low stress tolerance
  • agreeable/assertive

In each case these are two ends of a spectrum along which we can positioned personalities. Some of the reasons which this model is so popular is that research has shown these traits to be “stable” (they don’t change with time) and “consistent” (independent of mood and situation).

Research shows that personality differences seems to be about 50% hereditary (your genes) and 50% dependent on your specific environment (i.e. the life experiences unique to you). The fact that part of our personality differences seems to be genetic, suggests that there is some evolutionary advantage to having different personalities in a group and that no “ideal” personality exists on any of these dimensions. Each trait has its strengths and weaknesses.

If you are interested, try this free personality test. To make sense of the results, it helps if you understand percentiles: Basically, if you find yourself in the 50th percentile, you are “in the middle” of the various people who have responded to the test. If you are in the 10th percentile, you have a lower expression of that trait than 90% of people; and in the 90th percentile, more than 90%.

Now, having told you that your personality doesn’t change much during your life, you may ask why I gave you an exercise to work your strengths and weaknesses. Well, the idea is that while your average behavior may not change, you can become more versatile and adaptable to different situations. For example, maybe you are not very conscientious, but you can build up some basic habits, like exercising in the morning and keeping a daily routine to maintain a certain level of productivity in your life. Or maybe you tend to avoid conflict, but can learn to be more assertive when necessary for your own well-being.

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