Who Are You, Really? The Surprising Puzzle of Personality by Brian Little
In WHO ARE YOU, REALLY? Professor Brian Little presents some surprising research findings on personality. This is a fun book, and an easy read. The author writes well, and his ideas are presented clearly and concisely.
Most people think of personality as one’s attributes--such as how extroverted we are, or how detailed we are. But an overlooked aspect of personality is not just our attributes—it’s what we are DOING. This activity is identified by our “personal projects.”
The exciting part is that we can modify our projects to better mesh with our personal attributes. So, an introvert would feel a sense of accomplishment—and likely succeed, on a poetry project. (And not so much a run for political office.) By shifting to a “doing” perspective on personality, we give ourselves lots of options to improve our sense of well-being and accomplishment. We can consciously choose and adapt our projects.
We can use a general principle to select our projects:
“Projects that are “meaningful, manageable, and connected with others, and that generate more positive than negative feelings, their well-being will be enhanced.”
For example, projects that are internally motivated, rather than being done under pressure from someone else, will give us greater happiness. Ask yourself WHY you are doing a “self-help” project: “Who instigated it? If they spring from your own vision of a possible self, you are likely to feel better while pursuing them.”
Projects that are manageable, rather than chaotic also leads to greater sense of well-being. The author calls this project “efficacy.” He explains that efficacy is one of the top predictors of well-being:
“Efficacy best predicts whether a person feels that their life overall is going well.”
Although we should try to arrange projects to match our personality attributes, Dr. Little also recommends leaving a little room for chance:
“Hone your skills as the athlete you always dreamed of becoming, but be ready to change course if you begin to demonstrate a strong passion for science.”
Similarly, if you dream of writing poetry, leave the door open to writing about music.
All in all, I found WHO ARE YOU, REALLY? to be a fun, intriguing read, with some meaty ideas. I especially like the idea of being proactive in choosing projects that give me greater satisfaction. Don’t miss the Appendix, which has an interesting personality evaluation.
Advance Review Copy courtesy of the publisher.