Have you ever considered your personality when you make important decisions, like which degree to take on, or which profession to pick up? Have you been avoiding certain professions because you think your personality and characteristics won’t be a good fit?
If you’re a few years into the workforce, have you ever questioned yourself whether you picked a right career or not? Have you ever regretted it?
Today I am going to tell you my story of pivoting my career from accounting to music therapy – 2 fields that don’t relate at all – and my thought process. I hope my story enlighten you in some way in thinking about personality and help you make better decisions.
To answer the question, I don’t think personality matter when you decide what job to do. Let’s dive into the myths of personality, and what to consider instead when you set career goals.
Mistakes I made with personality test
I was deep in a quarter-life crisis after graudation with an accounting degree. Long story short, I developed this vision of helping millennials improve mental health through music and music therapy (blending profession and passion). At that time, my environment and my career were not surving that purpose. Soon after, the situation went worse (read the full story here) and I knew that I needed to take action as soon as possible.
But I was scared. Not just because the idea of pivoting career was daunting, but also for the fact that music therapy was comparatively newer and less popular than other healthcare profession. After doing as much research as I could, and asking around for friends who might know music therapists, I made up my mind to go down with the path of becoming a music therapist. As if I needed more proof to persuade myself, I took a personality test while preparing for my audition.
There was one popular personality test that seemed very reasonable, comprehensive and accurate – The 16 personalities test. Funny enough, my result was INFJ Advocate – and the career advice attached at the end of the result seemed to highlight the very reason behind my constant unsatisfaction and unhappiness in life.
Advocates (INFJs) tend to seek a career path that aligns with their values rather than one that offers status and material gain. Advocates want to find meaning in their work and to know that they are helping and connecting with people. This desire to help and connect can make roles as counselors, psychologists, teachers, social workers, yoga instructors, and spiritual leaders very rewarding for Advocates. Many Advocates are also strong communicators. This explains why they are often drawn to careers in writing, authoring many popular books, blogs, stories, and screenplays. Music, photography, design, and art can all be viable options as well, allowing Advocates to focus on deeper themes of personal growth and purpose. (https://www.16personalities.com/infj-careers)
It seemed to validate my idea. I couldn’t possibly think of a better career other than becoming a music therapist – a rare combination of creative healthcare profession after reading this. I knew that it was time to ditch my accounting career.
But it was a mistake to use personality test as an anchor to make decisions.
The 5 myths of personality
Most personality tests ask you questions about your PAST. They determine your “type” based on your PAST decisions and behaviours. They could only inform who you WERE. Imagine for a second, if you were stuck in the past, unwilling to change, how could you craft a better future for yourself?
In the book Personality Isn’t Permanent, Dr. Benjamin Hardy mentioned 5 myths of personality.
- Personality can be categorised into “types”
- Personality is innate and fixed
- Personality comes from your past
- Personality must be discovered
- Personality is your true and “authentic” self
Why are all these not true? Let’s consider a hypothetic case:
Imagine going to your GP today and your doctor told you that you had serious health issue and you might have cancer if you didn’t start exercising. What would your response be? You panicked, obviously. The thought of getting cancer, getting chemo, not being able to provide for your family, not being able to go anywhere, eat anything.. was terrifying.
What would you do? Well, you first make the decision that you ain’t going to keep your current lifestyle. You recognise the urgency and importance for a change. You picture the future self that you would be happy and healthy in the next 10 years if you made the change now. You follow the workout plan set out by your doctor or personal trainer. You may even have a nutritionist planned out all your meals for the next 90 days. Your behaviours change. You start to sleep earlier because you need to make time for that jog. You say no to processed food. You turn down some happy hours.
In this example, we can see that the behaviours, actions and personality changed because of the future. You picture a version of yourself in mind first, then take action towards achieving that goal. Hence personality isn’t fixed, not from the past. Your future shapes your current behaviours and actions. You can change.
In certain situations, you are required to act in certain ways. Think about social obligations where you speak more than usual. Think about attending a Sunday service where you keep quieter than usual. You are changing all the time.
A side note on “true” and “authentic” self: Ben mentioned in the book that your authentic self is actually your future self. You are acting and thinking in certain ways now because you are informed by the future self you have in mind. No matter intentional or not, you do have a certain goal in mind regarding who you want to become. The funny thing is, for most people, if I ask them whether they think they will change in a few years’ time, most will think they won’t. But if I continue asking, do they think they were the same person 10 years ago? everyone would say no.
Conclusion: embrace change. Or better, be proactive and intentional about who you want to become, and take the necessary actions to make your dreams reality.
What to consider instead when making important decisions
From my experience, I would tell you to not worry too much about your “personality” not matching the type of job you want to do. You can always change and learn to fit into different roles and situations. However uncomfortable it might be, you would do it when you had no choice. Just like if you consider yourself an introvert and you landed yourself a sales position, you have no choice but to start acting confident when you sell the products. You will learn all the relevant skills to do the job.
So think about what you really want to do. Not just as a job, but with your life as well. When you have a vision in mind, and an urgent calling to make it reality, it becomes your motivation to show up every day and figure out the pathways to get there. You stop wondering and making excuses. When making decisions, future self comes first. Your future self drives your current behaviours and actions. Your plan is crafted based on the future self you envision to be.
Don’t be afraid to dream big. What seems impossible can be achieved, if you are determined and dedicated enough. You can achieve anything fearlessly.