Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Personality, memory and missions

There are those who blog with a purpose - to inform, to evaluate, to entertain.  But most bloggers, in my opinion, blog to create a sort of diary or memory of their thoughts and actions for posterity.  Everything else that happens after that is secondary to their real purpose.  How else would I remember what I was thinking about on each particular day?  Especially now that days tend to blur into one another so easily.

So here is what I have been thinking about in the past few minutes.

I do not know if it is an American or a human-based phenomenon, but it seems that we are obsessed with self-assessment.  As we cannot fully trust ourselves to give objective results, we often turn to the genie in the bottle:  the personality test.

These run the range from legitimate tests rooted in psychological study and research to the ridiculous based on someone's partially formed juvenile attempt to be funny.  Of course, most tests require the subject to answer honestly, which may prove problematic for some, but theoretically when done correctly, the results should offer us insight into our personal habits, desires, strengths and weaknesses.

While I am not willing to claim that these sort of tests do not ever render useful information, I am skeptical.  I often find that they end up either causing confusion, anger, or even misguided self-awareness.

I think that secretly (or not) many people really do want to be pigeon-holed.  Labelled.  Explained.  When you do something strange, you can simply point to this test-given label and say, "See?  This is why I did that!"  Almost as an excuse, if you will.

Take, for example, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator.  This is not one of your cheap fly-by-night online personality tests.  This test is big time.  Legit.  It is supposed to evaluate you and place you into a "type" and helps you know what sort of jobs or experiences you would be best suited to attempt.  In a broader sense, I suppose it is supposed to help you understand yourself and your motivations.  Psychologists, am I close?

The results for this test come out as four letters.  For each of the four, there are two possible options.  I have no interest in explaining these, so check out the Wikipedia link above.  If you're interested, I am supposedly an INTJ.  This is possibly not surprising, but to be honest I have never let it play much of a role in my life or my decisions. 

What I find interesting and a bit annoying is when people will use their profiles as excuses for bizarre behavior.  Like they cannot help themselves and pointing to this one label should explain everything and make them seem less ridiculous.  Oh, so you said something without thinking and someone else found it offensive?  Just tell them you are an ENFP and all will be well!  Right.

Honestly, I wouldn't say that this test is useless in total.  I do think that it can be used to help steer and influence one in the decision-making processes of life and in moments of introspection.  I do not think that it should be used as an after-the-fact excuse to explain idiotic moments or lapses in judgement. 

Of course, my cynicism on this subject could be due to my general aversion to the lucrative world of self-help.  You want to know how to really make your life pleasant?  Write a self-help book and sell a ton of copies to the hopeful directionless people of the world and with all your profits I guarantee you will feel much better about your prospects.  This seems to be the common thread in most theories:  it costs at least $25 to get total clarity and objective analysis of yourself.  Oh and you'll also get this handy book/planner/printout/pen to go with it!  Wheeeeee!!!!

Where is all this coming from, you say?  Well, it just so happens that one of my friends is in the middle of a college class that centers around this sort of thing, including writing a Mission Statement.  She is struggling with this assignment, as I know that I would do as well.  I mean, seriously.  Aren't these things difficult enough to write for businesses?  Now we have to write them for people?  Hm.

Now that you have read through all my negativity, let me finish by saying that I am not against introspection and self-improvement.  In all lives, there is room to grow.  We should always seek to better ourselves and to approach our lives in better ways.  I do not have a problem with the idea itself; I have a problem with those who seek to profit and control others through their "tools" of enlightenment that may not serve the best outcomes. 

This has been a philosophical/preachy entry, and for that I apologize.  Every now and again I like to stir up a bit of "controversy" to supplement the usual cake-baking, dog-centered information I share.  But if you're interested, I am hoping to bake a cake tonight and spend quality time with my dog. 

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