As much logic as you put into your decisions, your personality will always affect the way you make a choice. Combined with maturity and experience, individual personality is an inevitable factor, but proactive self-awareness can help you weigh how much your decision-making process is influenced by your individuality.
Depending upon where you are in your day before choosing to read this article, you've likely made dozens, if not hundreds, of decisions. From the super simple to the exceedingly complex, your brain has been humming away on all sorts of options and potential consequences. Sleep in or work out? Oatmeal or doughnuts? What to wear, read, watch, and do today?
The fascinating thing about decisions is they're all yours. No other being on the planet will make the exact same decisions you do, using the exact same process. Why? Because personality, that one-of-a-kind youness, informs every decision you make. Combined with your level of maturity, experience and ego strengths (the way you deal with stress and maintain stability), personality plays a large role in the decisions you make and the process by which you make them. It starts with self-definition: For example, if your self-esteem is driven by how you look, your first choices of the day will likely be fashion-driven while your type-A counterpart, will be lining up the day's schedule for productivity and your money-focused friend's first choice will be checking the stock market.
Understand What Makes You Unique
So how can you better understand your personality to make better choices? First, a primer on personality. Part nature (your temperament) and part nurture (your experience) personality emerges during youth and evolves over time. Comprised of hundreds of different individual qualities called traits, personality defines how you respond to others and the world around you. When a group of traits forms a cluster, a personality type results. Types are the broad, differentiated category results that are measured by personality assessments.
A relationship-specific test can tell you you're inhibited and shy in romantic pursuits, but it takes a career-specific assessment to reveal that you're very driven and aggressive in your professional life. We all recognise the leaders, the followers, the helpers, the artists, the scientists, the intellectuals, the hands-on doers. We recognise these types by their preferences, actions, style — all starting with temperament, experience, personality traits. Can you recognise yourself?
If you've ever taken a personality test, you may have puzzled over your results. Perhaps the test indicated you were an introvert, when you always thought of yourself as an extrovert. The key to understanding personality is understanding that personality is very context-specific. You're not either an introvert or an extrovert. Everyone is both, to a certain degree. You just lean one way or another depending upon the situation. Thus, it's very important to test personality in different contexts.
For instance, you may consider yourself an extrovert because you feel lonely when alone and crave time with close friends. However, you tire easily in big crowds and are often the first to leave a party (classic to introversion). Much to most people's surprise, introversion and extroversion is not about friendliness or socialising or even being outgoing or not. It's actually about how people recharge and derive energy. For the extrovert, a crowded, exuberant concert would be stimulating while it would be draining after a while to the introvert who would need to spend time alone to recharge. Understanding this distinction, whether at work or play allows for planning that can help individuals and teams understand what activities and environments are actually pleasurable and productive.
How Your Brain Makes Decisions
Decision-making is multiply-determined, meaning many forces are at work simultaneously. Your personality traits and factors combine with your values, needs and motivation as you navigate the world of decisions every day. Your "style" will inform whether you approach decisions rationally or emotionally, impulsively or cautiously, spontaneously or deliberately. If you have daring and adventurous components to your personality, you may find that you are quick, even impulsive in making decisions versus your analytic counterpart that may need to contemplate every angle before weighing in.
Some of us make decisions to uphold a particular internal standard, ethic or value. Others make decisions in order to reduce anxiety or to enhance self-esteem and/or the potential for closeness or distance from others. For those who are strongly guided by pleasure-seeking and instant gratification, decision-making often lacks rational judgment and instead is often impulsive. So yes, that's your personality at work when you add that shiny new something to your cart and delight in two-day shipping with Amazon Prime.
Personality assessments offer a process of self-discovery with very useful applications. The more you know about yourself, the more your options, choices and perspectives increase exponentially! Self-awareness not only "unblocks" us, but also opens up possibilities that might otherwise remain unconscious or unknown to us. Let's look at productivity circumstances for example. Some people tend to under-function on their own because working on an interactive team spurs their creative thinking.
Becoming aware of what we need as individuals takes us out of labelling ourselves as good or bad and allows us to understand what we need for our highest level of functioning. That could be guidance, structure, space, autonomy, connection, humour — all depending on understanding personality. Understanding what is meaningful, how we best learn, what and who is most compatible with our personalities allows for educated choices that can increase our quality of life.
How To Factor Your Personality Into Your Decision-Making
Start by looking at what works for you and what doesn't. What are the major themes and patterns? If you continually feel like you're trying to fit a square peg in a round hole, you're probably ignoring the needs and uniqueness of your own personality. If you have the options between two job offers, and one is working from home and the other is in a busy and interactive office place, how do you decide which is right for you? Knowing something about yourself and your preferences can help. Do you thrive in a lively and interactive environment, or is that distracting and unproductive for you? Knowing about key traits and how they influence your personality can help make critical life decisions.
You can drill down further into your personality by taking a personality assessment. Ask yourself what you learned in the process, and look at the results. Do they sync with how you are approaching your work, social time and relationships? With more detailed information on your personality, you can begin to set goals and live life more fully.
Personality comes with us, so to speak, as we move through our day. It makes life easier or more challenging, depending on who we are and what we're facing at a given moment. There is no one "right" way to live a life, make a decision, choose a job or have a relationship. But, when guided by knowledge of personality, there are "best" ways and "compatible" ways to move through life with less conflict and more personal satisfaction. Understanding your personality can help you make better choices and stress less over the decisions that you make.
Derek Mercer is CEO of Traitify, a company that combines big data and psychology and specialises in harnessing the impact of personality and applying it to any business model.
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