Your OWL – Optimum Way of Living

Your OWL – Optimum Way of Living

Our optimum way of living is an extension to our optimum way of learning. It serves as the evolving blueprint for how we engage with and project ourselves into the world as a whole. That means not just receiving information but giving it too.

Understanding our personality traits enables us to understand our strengths/weaknesses and give us insight in to which choices will lead to maximising our vitality.

In this section we will look at some models for understanding your personality. You may notice how the approach and language used is very similar to the theories around learning styles.

A bit of History First…

Humans have been creating models to define and understand personality types for thousands of years. Dating as far back as 5,000 years ago the system of the Four Temperaments was part of the tradition of Egyptian and Mesopotamian civilisations. It defined a relationship between the natural elements of earth, fire, wind, and water and human behaviours, body organs, and treatments.

The Four Temperaments were evolved and refined by the ancient Greeks around 2,500 years ago, and persisted as an accepted standard in the western world until the mid-1800s. The Greeks refined the system to have a focus on the requirement to maintain a balance between the four bodily fluids of blood, phlegm, yellow bile, and black bile. If people had an imbalance, they thought it would lead to behavioural and physical problems. They developed various tools and techniques to monitor and maintain the balance of these fluids, and as such human behaviour; or so they thought.

In 1921, building on the teachings from his mentor Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung published his theory of Psychological Types. It is a theory that laid the foundations for the majority of modern theories and models for human personality. Some of the key concepts that Jung discussed were:

  • Theory of Libido – Previously just regarded as sexual drive, Jung reclassified the libido to be more of a generalised psychic energy which motivates an individual in a number of important ways including spiritually and intellectually. You could call this vitality.
  • Personality is influenced number of separate interacting systems, the main three being:
    • The conscious mind. This is the bit you can control and hear.
    • The personal unconscious; which contains forgotten information and repressed memories. A key feature is complexes; these are collections of thoughts, feelings, attitudes, and memories that focus on a single concept.
    • The collective unconscious; shared by all humans, it contains latent memories from our ancestral and evolutionary past such as our instinctive fear of snakes and our behavioural archetypes. Archetypes, are like blueprints for certain behaviour patterns which are common to all humans. Examples are the hero, the jester, the explorer and the sage.
  • People have a general attitude type of introverted or extraverted.
  • There being four key “functional” types of personality trait
    • Thinking vs. Feeling – Functions that enable us to decide and judge and,
    • Sensation vs. Intuition – Functions that enable us to gather information and perceive

Do you recognise some of these concepts from the Kolb learning styles?

Jung’s theory addresses the causal relationships that drive the personality traits that we see in people. This is summarised in the diagram below:

The next five tools within the introspection tool kit will help you better understand the factors at play (causes) in your own internal world. In respect of you OWL, we are interested in the effects. You need to be able to detect the smoke before you can then work out where the fire is.

Jung’s principles of attitude type and functional types are what have been carried forward in to the more recent models for personality traits. Let’s now move on and take a look at a couple of models for personality profiling that are used widely today.

OCEAN Personality Model

The OCEAN model contains five key personality traits, each of which have been researched and validated by many different psychologists (WT Norman 1963, McCrae & Costa 1987, Brand & Egan 1989, LR Goldman 1990 and P Sinclair 1992). The traits are used at the core of the majority of modern personality profiling tests. 

The Big Five Personality Traits are:

  • Openness: Conforming vs. Creative
  • Conscientiousness: Unstructured vs. Detail-conscious
  • Extraversion: Introversion vs. Extraversion
  • Agreeableness: Tough-minded vs. Agreeable
  • Neuroticism: Confidence vs. Sensitive

Each of these traits is represented by a scale, and the trait is named according to the description at the high scoring end of the scale.

When people are tested, high and low scores in each area are neither good nor bad. They are simply a measure of what we are.

Here is a summary of the factors that can be seen at each end of the scales:

You can see from the summary of factors that each “Big Trait” actually encompasses multiple facets (meaningful “sub” behaviours).

In fact, each trait can be broken down in to two facets, and each facet, broken down in to multiple sub facets giving a total of 30 facets to be considered when evaluating personality.

At the more granular level, it is quite easy to see how our emotions come in to play to influence our behaviours and personality traits. Let’s look at an example:

Words like anxiety and vulnerability have a direct relationship to your emotions. They are words that describe how we feel in response to our emotions. Later on, we will explore how our conscious and unconscious emotions can drive our feelings and as such our behaviours. You can now see the direct correlation between the two.

Modern techniques for personality profiling are becoming ever more complex and evolved as our understanding of the human mind grows. They consider not just scores within each of the sub facets independently, but what the combination of scores within each facet actually mean. It is the combination of the scores that makes all of the difference.

Here are a few examples as a very loose and rough guide:

Have a think about each of the big five traits and where you think you would fit on the scales. Maybe try a free online test and see what results you get.

Remember, any test results you get are just proposal of what your personality might be like some of the time. Use the test results to challenge yourself and your understanding of yourself. They are not a blueprint or hard definition for who you are so do not agonise over the results. If they say something you do not like or did not expect, spend time reflecting to understand if it really does apply to you. Be honest with yourself. Then either accept and accommodate it, or, throw it away where it belongs! Only you know you!

Now, let’s have a look at one final model.

Myers Briggs® Type Indicator – 1962

The Myers Briggs® Type Indicator is a widely used and highly regarded system for understanding and interpreting personality. It is founded on Jung’s Psychological Types ideas, and to a lesser extent, the Four Temperaments.

The theory describes four different “personality preferences” that we each have; and from the combination of our preferences, outlines 16 possible personality types.

The preferences:

Extraversion vs. Introversion: Gaining energy

Extraverts like to be with others and gain energy from people and the environment.

Introverts gain energy from alone-time and require periods of quiet reflection.

Sensing vs. iNtuition: Collecting information

Sensors gather facts from their close environment and rely on the things they can sense.

Intuitives look more at the overall context and think about patterns, meaning, and connections.

Thinking vs. Feeling: Making decisions

Thinkers look for the logically correct solution.

Feelers make decisions based on their emotions, values, and the needs of others.

Judging vs. Perceiving: Organizing your environment

Judgers prefer structure and like things to be clearly regulated.

Perceivers like things to be open and flexible and are reluctant to commit themselves.

It is the combination of all four factors that create the personality types.

  • ENTJ – The Leader: Bold and strong leaders always able to find a way.
  • ENTP – The Visionary: Smart curious thinkers, seeking new solutions to challenging problems.
  • ENFJ – The Protagonist: Charismatic and inspiring leaders able to motivate change.
  • ENFP – The Champion: People-centred positive free spirits.
  • INTJ – The Architect: Analytical problem-solvers, eager to improve systems and processes.
  • INTP – The Logician: Philosophical innovators, fascinated by logical analysis.
  • INFJ – The Advocate: Creative nurturers, driven by a strong sense of personal integrity.
  • INFP – The Mediator: Imaginative idealists, guided by their own values and beliefs.
  • ESTJ – The Supervisor: Hardworking traditionalists, great at managing things or people.
  • ESFJ – The Provider: Caring and conscientious, always eager to help others.
  • ESTP – The Adventurer: Energetic thrill seekers, perceptive and ready for action.
  • ESFP – The Entertainer: Spontaneous and energetic, loving life and those around them.
  • ISTJ – The Logician: Responsible organizers, driven to create order out of chaos.
  • ISFJ – The Defender: Industrious caretakers, loyal to traditions and institutions.
  • ISTP – The Craftsperson: Bold experimenters adept at solving practical problems.
  • ISFP – The Artist: Flexible and charming, always enjoying new experiences.

This is a model that I have used in the past. I have found it interesting to see how my profile has changed over time. Around ten years ago I was classed as an ENTJ and while researching this, I took the test again and I am now classed as ENFJ. I guess I may have learned to feel more as I have matured.

You can find richer descriptions of each of the personality types online and, just like with the OCEAN model, there are free tests available using this model that you will easily be able to find.

The same caveats around the test results apply! Use the results as a guide and for inspiration, not as gospel and set-in stone.


Learning how you learn, and identifying what personality traits you exhibit, is key to developing self-awareness. This awareness allows you to build a deep and meaningful relationship with yourself, which then enables you to build effective relationships with other people.

While psychometric profiling has been around for quite some time, the advent of modern technology and the internet has made it something that is more accessible to everyone. Profiling tools are easy to find and in quite a few cases they are free* to use.

Here are some links to tests I have personally used before:

For years employers have used profiling as a way the vet employees through the recruitment process. Now, progressive employers are using it as a tool to build effective teams in the work place. They mandate that staff need to complete a profile exercise and that they then need to share the results with everyone else in their team.

That may sound like a really daunting proposition, especially if you have introverted traits, but sharing information in this way is an act of sincere, honest and unguarded communication. It is behaviours such as this that build confidence, strengthen interpersonal connections, and increase vitality.

Before you can share it with anyone else, you need to be able to share it with yourself.

Have a look, see what you find out.

What are you going to do with the information?

Disregard, assimilate or accommodate. That, is your choice to make!

Enjoy, for Now

*There are both free and chargeable tools available online. It is up to you to explore the options available. Paid for profiles will often give much richer reports and will use algorithms that have been tested on large numbers of subjects. Even if they are paid for, they are still just a guide.

Remember:  you are the one that needs to walk the journey of self-discovery. A test will not do it all for you.

Previous Post – Bricks or Pressed Concrete?

All Posts