Psychological assessments are all the rage these days - there are assessments of personality, strengths, motivation, leadership style. Whatever the “trait,” there’s sure to be a measure. Including traits that quite frankly, don’t exist.
I have to admit, I have an axe to grind with assessment. Because as human beings we have so much more potential and potential to change than our results might suggest. The truth of the matter is, many if not most “personality” assessments reflect our beliefs and habitual ways of responding to our environments, formed and reinforced over time.
It’s a little bit like measuring your height when you’re a kid. You’re this tall now, and it’s reasonable to assume you will grow.
Don’t get me wrong, some traits are pretty stable. For example values, how introverted you are, or your appetite for novelty. But there are introverts who enjoy parties, and nervous nellies who relish entrepreneuring. Security driven types can become mission driven. These things are all true of me, so I would know.
According to the science on this topic, when it comes to our BEHAVIOR and EXPERIENCE in any situation, there’s actually not much set in stone. We ASSUME there is, because we are biologically wired for survival, and therefore automaticity. In failing to apply our innate capacity for wisdom, and insight, we tend to fall back on old behaviors and ways of thinking. We see the world and ourselves with blinders, and balls and chains. In actuality, within any given situation we have a startling degree of choice and possibility.
Once again, I KNOW this is true. It’s science, after all.
Once you get this - really get it, moment to moment and not just in an intellectual sense - it’s life changing. Imagine what it would mean to choose differently, in any given moment and in a longstanding, personally transformative way. If you’re only willing to try, and on some level, you believe.
As a business psychologist, coach, culture chameleon, and someone who has been in the trenches and reinvented myself several times, I will repeat: There are few things about you that are hardwired. The vast majority, you get to say.
You ARE a creative, resourceful, brilliantly adaptable entity. You are NOT your assessment results, or even your past or present choices. I’m not saying these things are meaningless or completely unfruitful to look at. But trying to “find yourself” anywhere in clues scattered outside - particularly when something feels off or lacking - is the psychological equivalent of chasing your own tail.
Assess yourself, sure. Heck I can do it for you. A well-designed assessment can be a good jumping off point and provides a rough sketch of current realities. But at the end of the day, taking stock of the goods (and not-so-goods) you’ve accumulated is not enough to fulfill you or move you forward. There’s a leadership saying that what got you here, won’t get you there. Starting with now, you and your life are created. Who and what are you building today?