Your Personality is Predictable, But Not Your Purpose and Place in the World

Zach Rhoads By: Zach Rhoads
Reviewed By: Dr Stanton Peele

Posted on July 10th, 2023 - Last updated: November 20th, 2023
This content was written in accordance with our Editorial Guidelines.

The main ingredients in your personality (e.g., outgoing/friendly/shy-reserved; adventurous–risk taking/cautious-risk averse) are largely fixed by genes, upbringing, trauma. But, as you mature your purpose and outlook can change (e.g., seeking success, enjoying helping others). The latter, changeable things are crucial for directing your life.

And for changing your behavior.

We call this vision or map of yourself and your life your personal narrative. That is what’s under your control. And you can redirect your narrative from what it’s been in the past to where you’re headed. This change is what we work on in the Life Process Program.

That is, we don’t try to change you from a shy to an outgoing person. But we ask what you want your life to look like, no matter what your “nature,” and work with you to get there.

In my coaching role, I pay attention to this balance more than anything else in clients. There are infinite directions our autobiographical narratives can take us.

The Conscientious Rock Star

I am a musician among my other working roles.

My friend and fellow musician, Hans, is conscientious to the max during the work day — he is an attorney. During some evenings, Hans throws caution to the wind when he performs in a club. He dances and jumps around the stage like — well, a rock-star.

Which is the real Hans? Music was always a crucial part of his life. He loves being creative and interacting with an audience — not staid recitals but up-beat rhythm and blues.

Thus the coming-alive-with-music is an authentic part of him. Yet a personality test may not uncover this. Hans would most likely be pinned as the task-oriented person; the person who scored nearly-perfect marks in law school and studied for the bar while his friends studied the bars.

The Sentimental CEO

I’ve known one conscientious man since high school. I’ll call him Chris.

Chris wasn’t very warm or people oriented, and people often thought of him as curt or angry, especially while he was in “work mode.”

I guessed he would either be a surgeon or the CEO of a major corporation. Instead, he became a teacher and principal and created a school that welcomes and nurtures kids with different learning styles.

A real people-person!

The person I know now is both a mentor and a colleague. He is known as someone who helps other human beings. Instead of his gruffness, he is now famous for his kindness when it comes to in-need families and children. In other words this Type A personality adjusted his life to fit with his sometimes hidden helping impulses. It became the most important thing for him, and he directed his life that way.

Agreeable Leaders and Impulsive Scientists

Going in the other direction, I’ve encountered shmoozing, hangout, partying people who have become careful scientists who scrutinize data. And I’ve met highly supportive, agreeable, nurturing (to the point of being “walked all over ” when not careful) people who have become activists, leaders, politicians.

I still recognize all of these people’s underlying personalities, sometimes after years of not seeing them. People’s natural disposition towards others and the world is something that I notice when I meet them. Yet I’ve never thought about personality as a ceiling on people’s potential development as human beings.

That’s how I think about people in general, and especially as a coach.

I believe a person when she tells me she’s interested in or passionate about something. Whatever changes this will entail in their lives, I believe they can make, and I will help them.

No one is shut off from being a positive, productive, non-addicted person.

That’s our guiding principle at the Life Process Program.

If you enjoyed this blog, you may also enjoy our podcast debunking the “addictive personality” myth.  Subscribe to the channel if you’d like to see new content, weekly! 

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