If one out of nine of us is born that way, then what can the other eight of us do? I am one of those eight. I am mid range in both Need for Stability and Extraversion. I have moments of happiness, but that is the exception. Yet, I love my life for the most part, and can think of few ways I’d like to change it. How have I, and how can others, plan for happiness when/if it doesn’t come naturally? Persons who report greatest life satisfaction tend to be those who engage in roles that are most consistent with their:
- traits (e.g., selling and extraversion, large family and extraversion, volunteer work and high Accommodation/Agreeableness)
- abilities (musician and high Hearing/Auditory talent, professional athlete and high Physical/Kinesthetic talent)
- physical characteristics (one with lower sleep requirements in emergency medicine)
- salient memories (such as my memory of playing chamber music with my brother in New Haven)
- strongest values (making time for exercise for Health, able to travel widely for Aesthetics)
Jeff McCrae and Paul Costa (2003) call this an undifferentiated sense of self, contrasted with a differentiated self, one in which the individual tends to take on many roles that are not supported by traits (e.g., more introverted persons in a selling role; more creative persons in a repetitive, proofreading role; more considerate persons in a competitive role). These differentiated selves are more likely to have a “shaky and uncomfortable identity.” Persons who are high in Need for Stability appear to have more of a tendency to take on such roles, continuing to experiment in search of the right role, but continuing to be somewhat unfulfilled, “like an insomniac who cannot find a comfortable position in bed.” (Costa & McCrae, 2003, p. 229) The goal for optimal personal satisfaction is to be “undifferentiated”–what you see is what you get. The same at home and abroad, at home and at work.
–adapted from soon-to-be-published The Owner’s Manual for Personality from 12 to 22 which I have written with my wife, Jane Mitchell Howard.