Who am I? What’s my deepest passion or purpose? How can I make the most out of my life?
These are foundational questions we all wrestle with at some point in our lives. Not surprisingly, how we decide to answer them is of immense importance, informing our core beliefs, values and path in life.
Finding satisfactory answers to such questions is rarely simple or straightforward. The modern world offers us a veritable sea of choices and possible life paths. And this can leave us feeling confused and overwhelmed regarding which path is best for us as individuals.
That said, we know we have to make a choice at some point. And similar to finding a life partner, we don’t want to merely grab the first thing that comes our way. Instead, we want to make an informed choice about which path we will pursue.
A prerequisite to wise and well-informed choices is knowledge. Not only do we need to know some things about the outside world, but also about ourselves. The latter we refer to as self-knowledge. The world contains myriads paths and options, and without self-knowledge, we’ll never know which suits us best.
Self-Knowledge: What It Is & Why We Need It
Self-knowledge is therefore the first and most important step in finding our way in life. If we can better understand ourselves—who we are and what we were born to do—everything else should fall into place rather naturally. Self-knowledge is the foundation for building out the rest of our lives—our careers, relationships, lifestyles, and so on.
So what is self-knowledge and how can we obtain it?
In a nutshell, self-knowledge includes our beliefs, values, interests, abilities, and personality. While these elements are to some extent independent and worth exploring in their own right, they also overlap significantly. These points of overlap point to the essence of who we are—our core self. So when it comes to self-knowledge, understanding this core is the foremost concern.
One of the best ways of understanding our core self is through the lens of personality type. While type certainly can’t explain everything about who we are, it explains a great deal—often much more than we realize or are willing to admit.
When building an engine for a car, it isn’t necessary to completely reinvent the engine altogether. Instead, we start out with a basic prototype, a pre-existing concept or model, which keeps us from having to start at square one.
Similarly, when it comes fashioning human personalities, nature doesn’t start from scratch. Instead of being born as “blank slates,” we are endowed with a certain type of temperament or personality.
Personality Type: A Foundation for Self-Knowledge & Pathfinding
While our personalities certainly aren’t fully formed, they do contain a basic template—what we call a personality type—which guides and shapes the person we become, including our values, interests, and abilities. Although the person we become isn’t fully determined from the outset, it’s not entirely open-ended either. Nurture matters. But so does nature, which inscribes us with the blueprint of type.
For the vast majority of human history, we lived in tribes and functioned as hunters and gatherers. And one reason we were arguably so successful is each tribe contained a number of different personality types—each with its own set of skills and attributes.
A type can thus be understood as a specialized role, which when employed alongside other types increases the likelihood of our collective success. Indeed, without this diversification of psychological talents, there’s a good chance we wouldn’t be here to talk about it.
Clearly there’s a connection between who we are (our type) and what we do (our societal role). So if we manage to get a sense of the typical roles for our type, we’ll have a much better chance of figuring out what we should do and, just as important, what will make us happy and fulfilled.
By seeking self-knowledge through the lens of type, we can also capitalize on the wealth of knowledge that’s already been collected on the 16 types. This gives us a huge head start as we work to clarify our life path.
As I mentioned earlier, modern life offers us so many options that it’s easy to feel overwhelmed, even paralyzed, by indecision. Identifying and learning about our type can help us winnow down these options to something that feels less daunting and more manageable.
To learn more about using type for self-understanding and clarifying your life path, be sure to explore our online course, Finding Your Path as an INFP, INTP, ENFP, or ENTP.
Unsure of Your Type?
My True Type: Clarifying Your Personality Type (our most popular book)