The Unexamined Life is Not Worth Living: Tools for Self-Knowledge

Socrates said, ‘the unexamined life is not worth living.’

If this proclamation is indeed true, then where does one begin to excavate these multiple dimensions of their life? And, more than that, what is the point?

Well, from the perspective of career and educational planning, the more information we have about who we are and how those factors correlate with job fit and satisfaction, the better equipped we are to make informed decisions. Furthermore, the deeper our self-awareness and understanding of differences in personality, the better able we are to navigate the world of work.

Tools that help facilitate this self-examination include a variety of assessments, such as StrengthsFinder, Strong Interest Inventory and the Enneagram. Each of these assessments help to clarify one’s interests, strengths, and values, in addition to personality traits.

One of the best-known and widely used personality assessments is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). With its basis in Jungian psychology, the MBTI looks at four different dimensions of personality in which individuals tend to gravitate towards one side. The questions posed by the MBTI illuminate preferences on how and where you get your energy (extroversion vs. introversion), how you take in and process information (sensing vs. perceiving), how you make decisions (thinking vs. feeling), and how you orient yourself to and structure your day-to-day life (judging vs. perceiving). There are 16 possible personality types based on the Myers-Briggs and each one of them has distinct traits that describe differences in styles of communication, leadership and group dynamics.

Considering most of us don’t live totally alone, in the remote mountains, interfacing with other humans on a regular basis, is virtually inescapable. To that end, the more we understand about each other, particularly ourselves, the more likely we are to have relationships that are more harmonious and effective. Familiarizing ourselves with the Myers-Briggs framework is immensely valuable, particularly in the context of work; knowing our preferences within each dimension of personality, allows us to find occupations that are better aligned.

For example, as an ENFP, the Intuitive (N) trait will manifest in seeing the big picture; easily identifying patterns and relationships between people, ideas and things; and in an ability to ideate. These parts that are driven by imagination, innovation and forward thinking, will likely need to find outlet through brainstorming and ideating on possibilities for the future, or when solving problems. If you’re in a role that does not support this dimension of your personality, it is possible you won’t be as satisfied, or engaged, on the job. While this only describes one of the MBTI traits, it serves to highlight the value in exploring the connection between who you are and how those unique dimensions impact your experience in life and work. The Myers-Briggs then becomes an ideal springboard from which to uncover the many layers of your personality that can support you in making better aligned career decisions and when navigating differences in communication and group dynamics.



By Carolyn Sommers
Carolyn Sommers Associate Director, Serves Undergraduate CAHSS & Exploring Students