Have you spent some time over the last couple days thinking about your calling and goals from the first post in this series? Seriously, take the time to ponder your calling and life goals. You probably won’t be able to fully articulate all of your objectives immediately; however, it is important to start getting a handle on them. Though you don’t have to be on a constant quest, be open to self-discovery. Read books, talk to people who have walked where you want to walk, and be open to thinking about where you’ve been and where you’re heading. What’s next to discover?
The topic of personality fascinates me! What a testimony to God’s amazing creativity when identical twins can have completely different personalities. Our personalities come into play in how we process information, how we get our energy, have we make decisions, and how we relate with others, just to name a few! Our uniqueness comes out in our personalities. We all have details that make us completely irreplaceable.
There are scores of personality profiles out there, but my favorite has to be the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). A test similar to the MBTI is available at http://www.personalitytest.net/cgi-bin/q.pl. If you haven’t already taken such a test, set aside about twenty minutes and take it! After taking it, look up some specifics about your personality type. You might learn something new about yourself, or you may have a “So, that’s why I act that way in those situations” kind of moment!
(Eric’s update: After becoming a Certified Practitioner of the MBTI after being trained by the Myers and Briggs Foundation, I have come to understand that the online, free versions of the test are often very flawed. In complete honesty, and over a few literal decades, I tested ENTJ about 95% of the time and ESTJ 5% of the time with them. When I finally took the real MBTI [published by the Myers Briggs Company] and resulted as an INTJ, I dismissed it as incorrect. Then, I took their paper version – again, INTJ. What?!??! After some serious self-study and searching, I realized I really do prefer INTJ preferences! It was a revelation and illuminated much! I strongly recommend that if you are going to take the MBTI, schedule the real one with an MBTI Certified Practitioner. We also administer the real MBTI with our clients in our PreEngaged client program.)
Confession time: when I was in graduate school, I really struggled to enjoy the experience. My undergraduate college experience didn’t seem to tax me as much. Granted, I worked full time and was married while I was in graduate school, but my angst was deeper than simply exhaustion. My mind wandered in class, no matter how interesting the material. Some days, I wondered why I was there at all. The subjects were of interest to me, but my drive to soak in the lectures was nowhere to be found. Eric, on the other hand, loved graduate school. He adores soaking up new information, especially on topic matters which interest him; and, even though he didn’t always love to read the materials assigned, he persevered while it was all I could do to crack open the book.
Recently, as I was studying a profile of my personality type (my MBTI type is ISFJ), I noticed something that liberated me! It said that the ISFJ type often struggles with traditional education. It said that we enjoy hands-on learning more than lecture-style learning; and, perhaps the most freeing moment came when I saw traditional education, complete with theories and abstractions, listed as a chore for ISFJs. A chore indeed! Oh, I could’ve cried.
(Update: Since writing this post, I have done more personality self-study and finally surrendered to the fact that I am an ISFP; however, my comments in the preceding paragraph still apply!)
At the time, I felt ashamed that Eric was loving school and I was enduring it. Studying my personality helped me understand that I was treating something normal about myself as a fault. This doesn’t mean I had a license to ignore my assignments because they weren’t my cup of tea, but it does help me understand that my struggle was due to my personality. I wasn’t a bad student after all! I was just crammed in a room with too many thick books! ~smile~
As you study your personality, I hope you also have a lot of “ah ha” moments! The more you know about how you’re wired, the more prepared you are for situations. “I know I’m a moderate introvert, so I probably shouldn’t ride with my extraverted friend to the party. I’ll drive separately because I know I’ll be tired and ready to go before she will be ready to leave.” “She seems to be catching onto these concepts faster than I am; but, that’s okay, I know I have to do tasks before fully understanding them.”
Having a grasp of your personality will help you understand how you see the world and how you interact with others. Along with your personality study, it’s not a bad idea to find out common relational pitfalls that may be a struggle for your personality type. For examples, ISFJs struggle to let go of grudges and trust people once they’ve been hurt.
Oh my. How many newlywed fights could be stopped if we were only better aware of our own expectations? How many fights could couples at any marital stage avoid if we were more aware of our own expectations? These sneaky suckers hide beneath the surface until they are violated and then they make themselves known.
“You never told me that you expected me to clean all the bathrooms after we got married!” “I didn’t think to tell you. My mom always cleaned our bathrooms, so I assumed you would too.” “What do you mean your family is expecting us for Easter this year? I told my parents we’d be going to their house for our traditional lamb feast! I’m not missing that!”
Expectations aren’t always selfish or bad. They are simply what they are… expectations. If we take time to think through our lifestyles, what we hold dear, the place adventure holds in our hearts, and how much time we desire to spend with family and friends (just to name a few), we will begin to realize some of our underlying expectations. If we know a lot of our expectations before getting into a serious relationship, we will be able to articulate our desires from the beginning instead of discovering them in the middle of an argument.
“I deeply enjoy time outdoors with friends. I expect my future husband or wife to at least take walks with me a few times a week.” This is a clearly stated expectation, and it’s so much better than getting married and thinking, “I married a jerk. All I want is to take a few walks around the block with my spouse!” All too often, our expectations don’t surface until they are violated. To be fair to your future spouse, and to save you both some unnecessary arguments, begin thinking about your expectations now. You won’t always get everything you want, but if you don’t verbalize your expectations, you can’t discuss them rationally and they are less likely to be met.
The Results are Worth the Time!
Self-exploration is a time consuming task, but a worthwhile one. No one expects you to be an expert on yourself in a few short days. Learning about yourself is a lifetime journey, but there are basics you should know before taking on the task of learning about someone else (i.e., a potential mate). Take personality profiles. Write down observations you have about yourself (e.g., When someone yells at me, I…, When I’m in a large crowd, I…, etc.). Ask others for their observations. Take note of the good, bad, and the ugly. There is power in knowledge! While you’re exploring your personality, notice expectations that surface as well. Notice expectations you have of friends (e.g., John didn’t hold the door open for me. I don’t respect guys that let doors close when I am still walking through them, etc.).
Personally, I think self-exploration is fun; but, even if you’re not as into it as I am, know that it’s worth your time. If you are aware of your calling, life goals, personality traits, and expectations, dating won’t be the guessing game for you that it will be for others who are not as self-aware. Self-aware people know what they are seeking, so they don’t have to waste time dating those who are clearly not a match. Those who don’t know who they are or what they want in a mate will spend a lot of time dating the wrong people, and they occasionally end up marrying people with whom they have little in common.
We’ll tackle conflict and communication styles next!
Have you taken time to explore your personality and your expectations for relationships and marriage?