Personality Type and Life Purpose

question mark with personPersonality type, along with other factors such as our interests and environmental influences/upbringing, can have a major impact on our life purpose. Typing systems provide a way of defining our nature—our strengths, weaknesses, and values. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is used by career counselors and coaches to help students and clients select their ideal career. The Enneagram is used by spiritual seekers as a personal development tool. What can each of these systems tell us about what we should be doing with our lives?

The MBTI focuses on external behavior—how we prefer to act in most situations, which can be seen from our actions. Through activities we perform regularly, we develop a standard skill set for our type. These skills then become strengths to use in our work.

The Enneagram, on the other hand, focuses on internal motivations for actions—the “why” rather than the “what”. These are our inner drivers behind our behavior, our fixations, and what must be present in our lives for our happiness. These values indicate what we must strive for in life.

Together, both the MBTI and Enneagram provide a more complete picture of our nature and nurture and suggest ways, through balancing opposing forces, that we can achieve our potential and life purpose.

Enneagram Subtypes

enneagram subtypes diagramAfter several years of study, I feel fairly knowledgeable on the Enneagram types, wings, and arrows/direction of integration/disintegration, but don’t really know that much about the instinctual subtypes, so that’s my exploration topic for this week.

The subtypes relate to survival behaviors—the issues that we devote the majority of our time to. Although we have all three subtypes, in general, one will be dominant, one secondary, and one tertiary in our preference of usage. The dominant type is the one that drives us the most, the one we obsess about, the most desired, and the one that causes us the most pain when we do not achieve it. The secondary subtype is the most balanced and easiest for us, and the tertiary subtype is our most neglected and difficult for us.

The three subtypes are:

  • Self-preservation — Focus: Self/one; Theme: Physical and material security (food, safety, health, money, home)
  • Sexual — Focus: Other/two; Theme: Intimate relationships, partnerships, and friendships
  • Social — Focus: Society/many; Theme: Belonging, community, group membership

Here are a few good references for learning more about the subtypes and determining yours:

What is your subtype stacking?

Border Types

MBTI Function Scale for an INFP

MBTI Function Scale for an I/ENFP/J

Do you sometimes test as one type and other times as another quite frequently depending on your mood or situation? Or you just can’t decide which type fits you best? If so, then maybe you’re a “border type”.

In all of my reading and research on personality typing, I haven’t really found much on defining type that is on the border between type factors/functions. I’m mainly talking about Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, where you are defined as being “either an A or a B”, each points being the end of the spectrum. As someone who has officially tested 51% T (see Reference page for definition of letters/functions), I’ve always felt a bit undefinable—somewhat both an F and a T, depending on the circumstances. And I suspect people who are “on the border” between two different factors are hard to classify, are frequently mistyped, and use both functions in their own personal way. For instance:

E/I Border

  • “Social I’s” who love socializing, going to parties and events, and connecting with people—usually easily and comfortably—but have a need for much recharge time alone afterwards.
  • Shy E’s who mask their insecurities with humor (the “class clown”) or who talk nervously about any subject.

S/N Border

  • Detail-oriented N’s who can work through a vision taking it step-by-step to its conclusion.
  • Imaginative S’s who create art through piecing together various smaller elements, which eventually turn into the “big picture”/finalized product.

T/F Border

  • People-focused T’s who can make tough decisions knowing what’s best for the people involved.
  • Logical F’s who can stay calm in a crisis, perhaps even a war zone, while helping people.

J/P Border

  • Unpunctual J’s who are frequently late/miss deadlines because they try to maintain order in all areas of their life and complete tasks before moving to the next.
  • Guarded P’s who have strong boundaries set up for relationships to define what they need.

These are just a few examples of border types. If you’re uncertain of where you fit in, maybe you’re a border type—at lease with one function. And if so, how do you define yourself—as one or the other, or both? Or maybe some assimilation of the two (like the Social I, Guarded P, etc.)?

For me, a T/F border, I make all my decisions initially with my head—what seems most logical. Then, I see how others react and how I feel about the decision (does it “feel right”) and tailor accordingly. This has produced a lot of changed plans and indecisiveness for me over the years due to my heart not agreeing with my head. But it also provided a check on a decision that would have been the wrong one for me in the end. So, there are both positives and negatives to living on the border.

How do you experience your border type?