Today I’m turning 54. The past twenty years seem to have flown by pretty fast, with a lot happening to me since December 1999. Back then, everyone was freaking out about the digital cataclysm about to happen at the turn of the millennium. Little did we known then that a different cataclysm would be happening in a couple of years, with the tech bubble bursting in 2001.
Today we’re at a point where we could be facing a global cataclysm of another kind, with climate change reaching an irreversible tipping point within the next decade, yet its emerging effects are already being seen and felt today. Collectively, on many fronts, radical change is here and here to stay. The stabler and simpler times we lived within the past, now seeming like a distant dream, are all but fading from our reality.
Twenty years ago, I was a radically different person. I was seemingly at the top of the world, working as a Senior Web Developer for a local web firm whose clients were some of the most notable video game publishers in the world. As an avid video gamer and an online community builder, this was my dream job. I felt like I really didn’t desire or need anything else, as I had reached the pinnacle of my life. Little did I realize at the time, that my own bubble of life would burst and I’d be shown a much larger world of meaning than I could have ever possibly imagined.
Life is Changing, Evolving, & Emerging Constantly
During the next decade, standing in the blasted remains of the tech economy and my own life, I questioned and explored everything, no longer taking things at face value and no longer accepting the “religion” of the status quo. While beginning to explore The Future of Work and how it related to transforming organizations, I also began exploring personal development and how it related to transforming individuals. Later, I would realize that the two were actually entwined. In effect, when personal development becomes the embedded embodiment of organizational development (aka collective leadership), that’s when the real creative magic occurs, as both the individual and organization socially innovate and evolve as one.
Even more so, I realized that the creative process for both was exactly the same, as they were fractal mirrors of each other but just at different scales. In effect, just as the organization is striving to integrate itself internally, bridging the siloed, fractured aspects of itself, of which some parts of it were more marginalized than others, so too were individuals trying to integrate themselves internally, bridging siloed, fractured aspects of themselves, of which some parts of them were marginalized more than others as well. Therefore, just as the organization is trying to weave itself together using social creativity, so too is the individual.
The more I explored and researched these aspects of life that are seemingly off the edge and radar of the conventional known world, the more I realized that the stability of life that I had grown up with was actually an illusion. Nothing in life is permanent. Things are always in a constant state of change, regardless if we can see that change or not. And we often don’t see it because our perceptions and beliefs blind us from them, like lenses that only let us see that which we wish to see.
Today, I realize that we are all evolving in stages of development and based upon the stage we have achieved, we may radically see the world differently than others, with different values and meaning overlaying it. For a lot of people on the initial conventional end of this spectrum of development, this is pretty hard for them to comprehend. However, once you see how these stages are mapped to how a person logically acts in a leadership capacity, suddenly you may see your last worst boss or the wonderful leader in your current company.
Redefining Personality Through Character
The reason I’m slowly lead up to this point is because it helps us to take the next step in rethinking and reframing something that often isn’t seen in this way. What I’m talking about is personality and why so many people seem to misunderstand it. In effect, there is this assumption that you can take a personality profile test and suddenly, voila, I completely understand myself and my whole life makes sense. This couldn’t be further from the truth and I think this is why personality profile test results can often not make sense to someone, nor help them fully make sense of their life as a whole.
For myself, I was fortunate with my personality profile assessment because I did see aspects of myself within parts of it when I first took it but it didn’t make sense as a whole at the time. However, as time progressed and I read many different interpretations of my personality type and I evolved to higher stages of development, something suddenly clicked in not only understanding my personality but also in understanding how everything interconnected with each other in a larger way.
What I realized is that a person’s personality and character are like the two threads of a DNA strand which are bonded together in a working relationship with one another, striving to help the genetic identity of that person to evolve to their fullest, natural form. To help clarify what I mean by these two things, personality is defined as something innate within you, whereas character is something that is learnt.
Now while people may understand their character as something that is learnt from others and thus is evolving and being mastered over time, where the confusion arises is when they misunderstand that the same thing isn’t happening with their personality as well. This occurs because people assume that if their personality is innate, it should be stable and permanent, thus not evolving. While your personality is a stable core, your understanding of it is what is constantly evolving and changing, with your mastery of it being your increasing understanding of it.
Making Music with Personality & Character
To help understand this, imagine coming across an object on the ground and picking it up and touching the strings upon it. Suddenly for a moment, wondrous music comes out of it, making you feel more alive than you’ve ever felt before. As you try again, the sound comes out more clumsily this time. Every few minutes, again a spark of that glorious music comes out again and you feel totally alive. This is your personality. It is something innate within us, waiting to be revealed and expressed.
Walking further down the road, you come across an old man who sees the instrument in your hands and tells you that you have found quite the treasure there. You ask him if he’s familiar with it and he says he is, having seen similar instruments in the past. You ask if he could teach you how to play it and he agrees, giving you a small lesson that helps you string together a full minute of music that makes you feel amazing in the process. This old man, this teacher, is your character.
As you continue your development, your mastery of your personality continues with the help of your character. Yet at the same time, as you create newer, more complex compositions that reveal your true nature and abilities, your personality reminds your character of deeper teachings that it can convey to you. Thus in this way, both your personality and your character are helping each other, stretching and tuning you to your True Self, making you realize that this instrument that you are playing is actually you. And the more you play with the composition of your life, the more the real you emerges.
The Meaningful Potential of Your Personality
To sum up, the assessment of your personality provides you with the full potential of who you are, your innate self within. This doesn’t mean you will understand this potential or be able to utilize it yet at this point in your life, which is why it can be so confusing for some people to understand it immediately. On top of that, depending upon who has created the assessment, the metaphors used to help explain your personality type to you may not make any sense because you may not relate to those types of metaphors.
For example, for my personality type as an INFP, different ways of describing it have been as a healer or a mediator. If those roles don’t relate to me, I may not understand the meaning they’re trying to get across. For myself though, I did relate to both of those roles as metaphors but another role, as an integrator, seemed even more relatable, since I used to provide computer systems support and I’ve heard of a systems integrator as a career path (which I nearly went to college for). But instead of being a systems integrator, my personality relates more to being a social integrator, both on an individual and collective level, particularly as it relates to helping individuals or organizations understand their core identity.
If I then pair the above personality development with my growth and mastery of the stages of development, which would equate to my character development (or cultural development from a organizational standpoint), the higher my stage of development, the greater the understanding I will have of my personality (which further eventually reveals my passion and purpose in life). What this means is that I will not begin to truly understand myself at a deeper level of meaning until I have hopefully reached these higher stages of development as I get older.
What’s amazing about this though is that as one evolves their character through these stages of development, one becomes more malleable, being able to stretch their personality in ways they couldn’t before. For example, when I was younger, I was highly introverted and petrified of speaking to people I didn’t know. Over the years though, I’ve become much more extroverted at times, especially if I’m trying to communicate something of meaningful importance about my life’s work. In terms of recharging myself though, I still need be alone, away from everyone, just having some time and space for myself.