Who am I? What should I be doing with my life? Who do I want to become? These are critical questions we must also wrestle with as we enter adulthood.
I’ve personally been intrigued by these concerns ever since I first took the Myers-Briggs assessment in college. There was something truly magical about the idea of understanding myself and discovering what I was born to do.
Despite this longstanding interest in self-discovery, it wasn’t until a couple years ago that I became captivated by the idea of roles in human life (a.k.a., “life roles”).
Your Role in the World
While there is growing interest among psychologists regarding the value of personal stories for finding meaning and identity in modern life, stories are less amenable to theoretical analysis and generalization than roles are. In contrast to stories, roles can be represented conceptually. The concept of “writer,” for instance, invokes an image of someone regularly performing a certain type of activity. Even broader, but nonetheless valuable, are archetypal roles such as explorer, sage, creator, etc.
In many cases (though certainly not all), our roles overlap with our careers. Indeed, individuals searching for the right career are in actuality often seeking a career role, that is, an activity that effectively incorporates and symbolizes their abilities, values and interests.
But why do we care about finding our role(s) in the first place? One reason is our social identity is in many respects built on the roles we play and identify with. While roles admittedly omit many of the details and subtleties of who we are, they serve as a sort of social snapshot or starting point for what we care about.
Perhaps most importantly, the roles we embrace provide a path to purpose in the world. When we pursue what we enjoy and are good at, we experience a rewarding sense of flow, absorption, and personal accomplishment.
Personality Type & Life Roles
There are plenty of reasons for knowing and understanding your personality type, be it for the sake of personal growth, career development, improving your relationships, etc. But one of the things I appreciate most about typing is it provides objective insight into the sorts of roles we are best-suited to perform.
This realization inspired our posts on the respective roles of the 8 functions, as well as the roles of the INFP and INFJ types. The importance of roles and their foundations in type is also highlighted in our online course, Finding Your Path as an INFP, INTP, ENFP and ENTP.
Granted, there are alternative sources of guidance for charting one’s life path (e.g., religion), but a type-informed approach helps ensure that the roles we play are consistent with our innate talents and preferences.
Your Worldview & Life Story
Knowing our role in the world is undoubtedly important, but it’s not enough. Living our best life also involves crafting a meaningful worldview and interweaving it with our life story.
A worldview is essentially what we believe to be true about the world, including how and why it came to be as it is. Typically, a worldview is a tapestry of familial, cultural, religious, philosophical and/or scientific beliefs and values.
In many regards, worldviews are like stories. They give an account of what happened in the past leading up to the present, a narrative of why things are the way they are.
Our life story is usually closely tied to our worldview. It highlights the key ideas, people, and experiences–both good and bad–that have informed and influenced the course of our life.
Our worldview and life story comprise the soil that nourishes and supports our role in the world. In many respects, they provide much needed answers to our “why” questions, answers which justify and substantiate our chosen role. Thus, when we find ourselves doubting or questioning our current path, we turn to the past–to our long-held stories, beliefs, and values–for encouragement and reassurance.
Clarifying who you are and your role in the world doesn’t happen overnight. Fortunately, as you learn more about yourself and the world around you, your self-understanding will gradually become clearer, helping you feel more confident about your life path.
If you want to better understand yourself, your personality, and your role in the world, be sure to explore our online course, Finding Your Path as an INFP, INTP, ENFP and ENTP: