Is Personality Permanent?
Plenty of people stay in one career all their lives. Others move from one career to another every few years. Still others stay with a career for many years before switching to something completely different in the second half of life.
When we see that last situation unfolding, we often get to wondering: Has this person changed completely overnight?
It might seem so, but perhaps there is something else at work.
We Have a Choice: Flexing Your Personality Preferences
What happens to us over the course of our lives when it comes to the use and development of our personality type preferences, and how does that impact our career paths? Are we stuck with our particular type preferences with no choice or ability to use the opposite preferences? Is personality permanent?
Of course not. Don’t be ridiculous!
The psychoanalyst Carl Jung, on whose work the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is based, believed our preferences are inborn predispositions and do not change. However, Jung also believed how we use those preferences can and does change.
In other words, the question of whether personality is permanent requires a deeper discussion. We all have a choice in how we use our mental energy (extraversion-introversion), how we take in information (sensing-intuition), how we make decisions (thinking-feeling), and how we organize the outside world (judging-perceiving). As we develop and grow, we should learn not to rely only on the side of our preferences that is part of us. Instead, we must learn how to use the opposite side when the situation calls for it — an action I refer to as “flexing.”
Knowing when it is appropriate to flex your personality preferences is a good indicator of development. When you can’t identify those situations — or you can but choose not to flex — that’s not good type development. In fact, when you overuse just the side of yourself you prefer, you may be greatly hindering your ability to take in information and make decisions.
The MBTI assessment tries to help us understand our preferences so we can make “clearer perceptions and sounder judgements,” as Isabel Briggs Myers wrote in her book, Gifts Differing: Understanding Personality Type. The MBTI assessment does not tell us our type preferences are all that we are and we have no choice in the matter. Anyone who thinks that doesn’t really know the MBTI assessment.