Personality?“ In that article I shared how understanding the core aspects of your personality can help you set better goals and help you achieve your goals more easily.
In the 2+ weeks since I shared that article, I’ve spent a lot more time delving into this subject, including reading feedback from dozens of people about it. Now I’ll share some nice refinements that I think you’ll find very helpful.
Evolving Your Personality List
Your first stab at a list of personality attributes probably won’t be your final list. This is very much an iterative process. Once you create your first list, you’ll be able to see it in front of you and think more deeply about it, and you’ll have the opportunity to work with your list for a few days to see how it measures up.
Most likely you’ll notice some issues with your list that could be improved. Here are some of the main issues I’ve noticed, both in my own list and in those of others:
Being reactive vs. proactive – Some temporary personality aspects arise as coping mechanisms based on circumstances, but these normally don’t represent core aspects. For instance, suppose you’ve had to deal with a lot of crap in your life, and so part of you identifies with the role of rebel as a way of distancing yourself from those problems. But being a rebel for the sake of rebellion isn’t necessarily a core personality aspect. It doesn’t help define you as a human being.
If you have an attribute that involves rebellion, nonconformity, or some variation on being different and separating yourself from other people, consider digging deeper. Notice that you don’t always have to go against the grain. There may be some contexts where you feel right at home, and rebellion wouldn’t suit you. Instead of defining your personality as being against anything, consider what you stand for.
For instance, you could recognize that you love freedom and that you only resist authority when your freedom is threatened. Knowing what you stand for gives you more options for expressing yourself. Luke Skywalker was technically a rebel, but a more positive association was the role of Jedi. The need to express rebellion is temporary and circumstantial, but his Jedi-ness is for life; sometimes it expresses itself as conformity while other times it calls for rebellion. Being a rebel is a temporary side effect of being a Jedi; the rebel sub-role only surfaces in certain contexts.
So if you have some reactive elements on your list, dig deeper and look for the Jedi-like core quality instead of getting stuck in the role of rebel. Who will you be when you no longer have a reason to rebel? If you are a rebel or a nonconformist, then you’ll lose your sense of self when the source of your oppression is removed.
Having too much overlap – This was almost always an issue with people’s initial lists, including mine. As you begin to apply your aspects to make decisions in your life, you’ll find that certain aspects keep giving you a similar vibe. Those are the ones that can be combined and simplified.
For instance, on my original list, I had The Master, The A-Player, and The Champion as separate aspects, but when I applied them to make some actual decisions, I realized they all stem from the same underlying vibe, so I combined them into a single aspect. The A-Player is basically what I get when I express The Master aspect through my career, and The Champion is the expression of The Master through my health and habits. But deep down, this is the same personality aspect of wanting to be disciplined, honorable, and effective.
Having too many aspects – Some people shared lists of 15 or more different personality aspects. When you have that many, I think it’s impractical to use such a list. It’s too complicated to be of much help, and you’re surely including aspects that are straying further from the core of who you really are.
Core aspects are general enough that you can express them across most or all areas of your life — you’ll find that each core aspect can express itself through your relationships, career, finances, health, personal development, and more. If you have an aspect that only makes sense in the context of your work, for instance, but it has no application to your personal life, then it’s not a core aspect. Dig deeper to see what’s beneath the surface.
For instance, I could say that part of my personality is being a prolific blogger, but that would only apply to my career. If I dig deeper, I can see that my blogging stems from tuning into inspiration and wanting to inspire people. Now I’ve identified a part of me that I can express richly in any area of my life. I can inspire my friends just as I can inspire my online readers.
Do your best not to compartmentalize your personality aspects by limiting them to only one channel of expression. If an aspect is really you, then it’s still you whether you’re at work, at home, or traveling around the world.
I’d strongly suggest limiting yourself to 7 aspects maximum. If you have more than that, it’s fair to say that you can combine some of them by getting closer to your core.
Missing something – This is another issue that can be ironed out over time. You may recognize that there’s another part of your personality that wants to have a say in your life, but you haven’t identified or labeled it yet. When you revise your list, you can try to incorporate what’s missing.
I mentioned in the original article on this topic that I knew I was missing something in my first list, and I briefly described what I thought it was. Since then I’ve been able to understand that aspect better and incorporate it in my revised list.
Being too mental – I’ve found that all of my core aspects have deep emotional roots. I observed that a number of people sent me personality lists with some very mental items on them, such as The Brain, The Thinker, The Problem Solver, etc. That might be okay for some people, but when I tried to apply such aspects to goal setting, I discovered that they didn’t provide much juice in terms of motivation.
When I refined my list, I made an effort to make sure that every item had a strong emotional layer beneath the surface. I wanted aspects that expressed my heart as well as my head. Some people may find it helpful to separate the mental aspects of their personality from the emotional ones. I found it much more helpful to merge thought and feeling into every aspect. That seems to give me the most juice when deriving action ideas to express my personality, and it makes my list feel more balanced as well. I suggest you experiment here to see what works best for you.