Know Thyself III

Character Strengths and the 5 Love Languages

If you haven’t read the previous posts: in the first version of Know Thyself I spent a lot of time talking about the tools that Bill Burnett and Dave Evans gave us in Designing Your Life.  I used one of those tools to place my You Are Here pin and truly answer the question of: How You Doing?  In the second installment I went deep on Myers-Briggs.  I talked about the Myers-Briggs Personality Test and the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI).  I used my own personality profile as an example.  I also briefly looked at the Satisfaction with Life Scale to get a sense of baseline happiness.

In this post I’m going to dig in to the softer side.  I’m going to start by looking at character strengths and finish with an analysis of the 5 love languages.  There are a ton of character strength options out there.  I’ve heard nothing but good things about StrengthsFinder but I’m sticking with options that you can start looking at for free.  That led me to Character Strengths and Virtues, also known as CSV.  CSV was a book written by Christopher Peterson and Martin Seligman in which they provide a framework that allows for practical applications for positive psychology.

Character Strengths and Virtues

Positive psychology was introduced as an academic middle finger in reaction to the old standbys of psycho-analysis and behaviorism.  Those disciplines focus heavily on mental illness and negative thinking.  Seligman had enough of this limited approach.  What do you want, he was a New Yorker.  Earlier in his career, after many years of study on depression he theorized that, with the right stimuli, humans and animals can be conditioned into a state of learned helplessness.  He backed this up with a fair amount of experimentation.  In this definition, learned helplessness meant that a human or animal could be conditioned to behave helplessly in a particular situation – after experiencing some inability to avoid an adverse situation – even when it actually had the power to change its unpleasant or harmful situation.  One can only assume that this research weighed heavily in his desire to create a positive counterpart to all of the negatives associated with psycho-analysis.  Instead of focusing on what can go wrong, CSV focuses on what can go right.

Interesting sidebar on learned helplessness.  Some assholes in the government jumped on the theory and used it as one of the pillars of our ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’.  This became one of the fun ways that we tortured folks down in Guantanamo.  Seligman was horrified that his theory was used in such a reprehensible way.

The Cliff Notes on CSV start with the identification of six core virtues.  The core virtues are made up of twenty-four measurable character strengths.  Here’s the list:

  • Wisdom and knowledge: creativity, curiosity, innovation, love of learning, open-mindedness, perspective
  • Courage: bravery, integrity, persistence, vitality, zest
  • Humanity: kindness, love, social intelligence
  • Justice: citizenship, fairness, leadership
  • Temperance: forgiveness and mercy, humility, prudence, self-control
  • Transcendence: appreciation of beauty and excellence, gratitude, hope, humor, spirituality

I used the test from The VIA Institute on Character which turned the CSV framework into a forced choice questionnaire devised to illuminate what your core strengths are.  While core strengths do not directly equal core values, they are tightly coupled.  This becomes an important step in discovering what those core values are.  Here are my results:


After paying for the more detailed report here is a slightly more in-depth breakdown:


You can see that the VIA Institute slightly tweaked some of the terms.  For example, integrity became honesty.  For the most part they stayed pretty close to the academic representation of CSV.

5 Love Languages

5-Love-LanguagesThe Five Love Languages comes from a book of the same name by Gary Chapman.  Chapman doesn’t have a psychology background.  He comes from a religion / philosophy and anthropology foundation of learning.  Maybe that means he believes in dinosaurs wearing saddles?  I’d like to believe not.

He preaches more of a pop psychology on the radio.  That doesn’t make his theories any less interesting.  He has clearly worked with a ton of people to develop the theories and that alone hints at some level of scientific method.  I doubt there were a whole lot of double blind studies in his work but it still seems to resonate with a large percent of the population.

His theory is that we discover our love languages by observing how we express love to others.  We can analyze the things that we complain about most often in our partners as a good indicator of what we are looking for in love.  In his theory, people tend to naturally give love in the same way that they prefer to receive it.  When we understand how we wish to receive love and how our partners wish to receive love, communication goes waaay up.  Better communication gives us a much better chance at a strong relationship.  Makes sense to me. turned this into another forced choice questionnaire.  Here are my results:


My wife is taking the same test.  I’m not going to share her results here but when we look at the two together it becomes clear where a lot of conflicts can arise.  Defining our core values from our core strengths will provide us with the lines we will not cross when building our plan.  Our conflicts in the 5 love languages becomes another vector for our personal development plan.

There may be one final Know Thyself post that covers all of the methodologies that we decided not to use in our Know Thyself analysis and why.



Know Thyself II

Myers-Briggs Personality Test

The first step was understanding where we stand today.  The next step is starting some classification.  This still lives in the realm of know thyself but it’s time to gather some data outside of my own head.  I was never a big believer in these tests, especially the constant barrage you receive on Facebook or Pinterest.  No, I actually don’t want to know which Harry Potter character I would be.  However, the first time I took a Meyers Briggs test, I was surprised.  Sure, I knew I was an introvert but a lot of the other stuff didn’t actually seem to describe me that well.  Then I took the results to my wife and a couple of friends and their response was shocking.  “That is sooo you,” they said to a person.  After some intense introspection I realized that they, and the test, were right.  We lie to ourselves quite a bit when it comes to who we think we are.  The Myers Briggs Personality test is a tool that allows us to strip away some of our personal misconceptions and embrace who we actually are.

The test’s roots grew from Jungian theory.  Carl Jung was a fascinating character whose work spanned the late 1800s into the mid-1900s.  He was best known for founding analytical psychology but he was a true polymath.  Like most great minds of the time, he didn’t narrow his focus.  This embrace of many disciplines allowed him to come up with some amazing breakthroughs.  What I loved about the great polymaths: Einstein, Picasso, Da Vinci, Jung is that they were curious about everything.  That curiosity gave them a unique perspective in their own fields that facilitated these crazy ideas that changed the world.  There is a solid lesson there.  If you want to affect true change, don’t look in just one place.

Jung speculated that humans experience the world through four principal psychological functions – sensation, intuition, feeling and thinking.  This was the basis of his study on personality types, known as typological theory.  He expanded this in great detail in his book Psychological Types.  He was also one of the first, if not the first, to define extraversion and introversion in a psychological context where they were labeled as attitudes.  He blended attitude with psychological function to create the eight psychological types: extraverted sensation, introverted sensation, extraverted intuition, introverted intuition, etc.  He then posited that one of the four functions is used more dominantly and proficiently than the other three.  He theorized that the dominant function characterizes consciousness.  The opposite function is unconscious behavior and is typically repressed.  The other two are seen as auxiliary functions supporting the dominant functions.


This is where the Meyers Briggs Type Indicator comes in.  The MBTI was built by the mother daughter team of Katharine Cook Briggs and Isabel Briggs Meyer.  Their goal was to expand Jung’s typological theory to the general population and celebrate the value of our natural differences.  They made some tweaks to Jung’s theories but overall they stuck pretty close to the book.  The cross section of these ideas gives us our 16 personalities.  The Myers-Briggs test is a questionnaire with a bunch of forced choice questions that bring you to a determination of your personality.  The MBTI then gives you a four letter value of this determination.


After a fair amount of research, here is my understanding of each letter type.  The first letter is attitude.  Are you an introvert or an extrovert?  The best description I have heard of the distinction between the two is where you get your energy.  Extroverts recharge by spending time with people and introverts recharge by being alone.  The second letter is the perceiving or information gathering functions – sensing and intuition.  Those brains that prefer sensing trust information in the present that is tangible and concrete.  These aren’t the people that will trust a hunch.  Those that prefer intuiting information trust info that is less dependent on the senses but can be pulled together from all sorts of previous knowledge and patterns.

The third letter comes from the decision making functions.  Those who prefer thinking tend to come to decisions in a detached manner.  They measure and reason based off of logic and causality.  The brains who prefer feeling go with their guts.  Feelers empathize with a situation and try to make a decision from the inside, weighing the needs of all the people involved.  The final letter deals with lifestyle preference between judging and perception.  This lifestyle preference is what we show the world.  Those with a lifestyle preference of judging show the world their preferred judging perception (thinking or feeling).  As an INTJ, I show the world my logic side.  An ISFJ would like to show the world that they are empathetic.  Those types that prefer a lifestyle of perception show the world their sensing or intuition side.  So an ISTP would come across as very concrete where an ENTP might come across as abstract.

I love what the folks at 16 Personalities are doing with the test.  They took each of the 16 personalities and threw in an add-on fifth letter that covers identity.  The identity element gives us a sense of how confident we are in our abilities and decisions.  They also give you a percentage of your preferences on each quality.  Finally, they added a modern archetype to each of the four letter types which personalizes and brings home the result.

Here is my result from the 16 personalities test:

Myers Briggs Personality Test Result


Myers Briggs Types

It turns out that I share my personality type with Elon Musk.  Yay!  And Vladimir Putin.  Boo!  The question becomes, what now?  What do we do with this knowledge now that we have it?  It’s important to understand that each of these characteristics are what our minds prefer, not our ability.  I prefer judgement over perception but that does not necessarily make me more judgmental or less perceptive than anyone else, just that I gravitate towards judgment over perception.

Since this test gives us an understanding of our preferences it also starts to illuminate how we approach things like problems and goals.  We can use this understanding to customize a personal development plan that works best for us.

Satisfaction with Life Scale (SWLS)

This is a bit of a long post but I wanted to share the results of my Satisfaction with Life Scale.  This is a very simple test with only 5 questions.  From a sheer brevity standpoint, it is valuable.  The five questions are good ones and their goal is to “measure global cognitive judgements of satisfaction with one’s life.”  This was built by Ed Diener, Robert A. Emmons, Randy J. Larsen and Sharon Griffin as noted in the 1985 article in the Journal of Personality Assessment.

Here is my SWLS:

Satisfaction with Life Scale (SWLS)

It’s kind of boring, I know.  That doesn’t make it any less true.  This test gives us a great sense of our level of satisfaction with life.  Being satisfied doesn’t mean that we aren’t willing to improve.  Some of us aren’t satisfied unless life is changing on a regular basis.  Being unsatisfied doesn’t necessarily mean that we are ready for a change.  However, dissatisfaction can definitely be a driver for change.  Most technological advancements came about by somebody being dissatisfied with how the status quo was (or wasn’t) working for them.  In general though, satisfaction is one factor in a benchmark value of readiness for change.

We will have at least one more version of the Know Thyself series.  Stay tuned!