First, Know Thyself; Using the Ancients to Understand Motivation

Cheers to the artisans and rationals! We’ve got an office full of them!

man and wall

We recently came across a fun Playbuzz personality quiz which had some amusing insights into our personalities.

After we all took the quiz and shared our results – because, really who doesn’t love a quiz? – we started to think about the work of David Keirsey and how he developed the most widely taken personality tests in the world. What is it about his personality categorization that stands the test of time and resonates with us on a deeper level?

With the work of Hippocrates and Plato as his foundation, Keirsey developed a classification system that divides humanity into four key temperaments:

  • Artisans: Concrete and adaptable. This temperament seeks stimulation and wants to make an impact on the world around them. Their greatest strength is tactical, excelling at troubleshooting with agility.
  • Guardians: Concrete and scheduled. This temperament seeks security and belonging and enjoys responsibility and duty. Their greatest strength is logistical, excelling at organizing, facilitating and supporting.
  • Idealists: Abstract and compassionate. This temperament seeks meaning and significance and craves personal growth and identity. Their greatest strength is diplomacy, helping people understand one another.
  • Rationals: Abstract and objective. Seeking mastery and self-control, they are concerned with their own knowledge and competence. Their greatest strength is strategy. They excel in any kind of logical investigation such as engineering, conceptualizing, theorizing, and coordinating

Much like symbolic archetypes that we discussed last month, Keirsey’s classifications help us both categorize ourselves and others and identify key motivators and drivers for our personalities. While archetypes focus more on signs and symbolic meanings that exist over time, temperaments help us delve into why we do what we do. It’s not only what speaks to us, but what makes us want to act and react in certain ways.

That’s not to say that personality is fixed and static; it simply means that understanding our first instinct to behave or respond in a certain way can help inform and transform situations and interactions with others.

Why does one person see a dog on the side of the road and stop to help him find his home, while another drives by and says the dog seems to know where he’s going? It’s not that the person who doesn’t stop is heartless; it’s that jumping in to help is not the first instinct of the person who drives on.

Why does a problem at the office seem easily manageable to some, while to others they see it as thorny, and difficult to unravel? One person can clearly see the map to a solution – and the solution is the desired outcome to that person; while another is equally if not more concerned about the perceptions of others around the issue than solving the issue itself.

In both of these scenarios, neither one is the “right way” to respond, although to those at odds at one another, it can certainly feel that way. Understanding how we each have developed our “worldview” and what is most meaningful to each of us individually helps us navigate our shared world and interpersonal interactions.

Now, go take the quiz yourself and let us know how accurate your results are.

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