We’ve all encountered them. The personality tests that assign you to a style that defines your major characteristics and traits. Many of them have been around for decades. Many of them are quite accurate, some quite entertaining.
What differs with Anne Dranitsaris and Heather Dranitsaris-Hilliard’s book is it aligns personality theories with current brain science, and for the more sceptical, provides fresh insight into how personality affects our behaviour. So join us for the next ten minutes to explore the book further and find out who we are meant to be!
Lesson 1: What Me, Worry?
The problem isn’t that we can’t meet our potential. The issue is we spend more time considering and trying to fix our faults and bring frustrated by other seemingly more successful people. Who are You Meant to Be isn’t just another self-help book. As the authors state: who you are meant to be doesn’t mean what are you meant to do.
Being is a state, not an activity. The purpose of the book is to show us how to fill the gap between what we know and what we do, to experience our life instead of worrying about what might happen. The authors combine modern studies in how different parts of the brain function together with the role of emotion in learning and development.
Together with psychological type analyses, needs and brain dominance theories they have created their Striving Styles Personality System or SSPS. It’s Carl Jung with Brain Science.
We often get so caught up trying to do what others expect of us, that we have become Human Doings rather than Human Beings. We let our fear decide and define what experiences we will have because we don’t want to upset anyone. Whether we recognise it or not, fear is the biggest barrier to achieving our potential. Fear is a nervous system response.
Lesson 2: Our brain in four parts.
The human brain can be divided into four quadrants and these are at the heart of the SSPS system. The four sectors are described as follows.
Left Rational Brain: The left rational brain plans and organises information. It has an impersonal, systematic approach for focusing attention. It notices patterns and their differences. It does not look at things holistically but rather breaks things into their component parts, sorts them, then decides what to do. The left rational brain is responsible for our self-concept – the idea of who we are and how we categorise ourselves. It’s inward looking. Using the left rational brain, we decide what is right or wrong – according to our values – and challenge those who disagree.
Right Rational Brain: The right rational brain is used to imagine, conceptualise and extrapolate on information and experiences. It helps us visualise the future – what might be – based on what has gone before. It works holistically, pulling everything together to help us make a mind jump to a vision, making a cohesive whole out of disparate parts. The right rational brain is responsible for our self image. It is outward looking.
Right Emotional Brain: The right emotional brain governs our feelings. It can produce emotions about current events as well as recalling emotions from the past, using the latter to inform the former. If something feels real to the right emotional brain then it is real — irrespective of whether fact based evidence supports the belief. Our feelings from the past influence the present. Effectively the right emotional brain is where we decide whether we like something or not.
Left Emotional Brain. The left emotional brain is responsible for the processing of positive and complex emotions. It operates in a fashion that is both impersonal and automatic. Things are black or white. It is the part of the brain that allows us to face challenges based on having had similar experiences before. The left emotional brain uses experiences to re-create familiarity in current challenges. It is linear and deliberate, able to follow plans without the need to know the final outcome.
Let’s now look at how SSPS dovetails with the four quadrants.
Lesson 3: Striving Styles
The authors suggest that our personality has a style that includes:
- The way we think and process information
- Our attitudes
- The way we express our feelings
- Our needs
- Our manner of interacting with others.
In essence, it is a blend of facets of the four quadrants described.
Each of the four brain quadrants operate in the external and internal world, giving eight areas of personality: what the authors call Striving Styles. Each Striving Style behaves in predictable ways. We all have the potential of each of the eight styles, although some are more dominant than others. With a hat tip to Maslow, each of us has a hierarchy of needs and one of them is the strongest.
Consequently we have one Striving Style that is our Alpha with the quadrant of the brain responsible for that style operating 100 times more efficiently than the other three. Nevertheless, the other three quadrants have styles that we can develop and exploit as we need.
The authors call these Associate Styles and all four: our alpha and three associates are “brain-blend”. Two styles of our blend will operate in the internal world and two in the external world, but to be who we are meant to be, we need to learn how to use them together – our whole brain.
Still with me? Perhaps describing each style might help.
Lesson 4: Protective or Actualizing?
Before we get to outlining the styles, there’s one more physiological influence we need to understand.
Without getting too deep into anatomy, I think we can all agree that our brain is made up of three distinct elements: the instinctual brain, the emotional brain and the rational brain. Through their research, the authors have identified two different ways the brain is hard-wired and have used these to further develop their system.
First there’s what they have called the Self-Protective System. This is where connections are in place between our instinctual and emotional brains. It’s there to protect us from real or perceived survival threats, and is activated by fear and other associated emotions. The Self-Protective system is where most of us currently are.
Then there’s the Self-Actualizing System. This time, more activity happens between the emotional and rational brains. The system is used to set goals, imagine, and make decisions about our self-care. To truly be who we are meant to be, we need to spend more cognitive effort in the Self-Actualising system – where dreams are fulfilled.
Lesson 5: What’s your Style?
It’s not possible in this summary to help you identify what your alpha and associate styles are. You’ll need to read the book and use the exercises within to help you do that. However, you may be able to pick out yourself in one or more of the following styles:
The Leader: Leaders are outgoing, direct and upbeat. Work and being productive gives them a sense of authority. They have a passion for turning dreams into reality. The leadership style operates from the left rational brain and therefore leaders focus more on thoughts about people rather than themselves.
Leaders are dispassionate. However they have a tendency to exert control. Leader relationships tent to be open, honest and stimulating and leaders are often loyal and committed partners and friends. If we look at the systems above, self-protecting leaders tend to over-power others, and work to deny or repress their feelings and ignore those of others.
The Intellectual: Intellectuals are independent, focused and self-sufficient. They live their life according to their own ideology. They aren’t interested in others and don’t want to influence them. Like the leader, they live out of the left rational brain.
While they don’t need to have control over others, Intellectuals need to have control over themselves. Intellectuals care by being there. Friends and family are important. In social situations intellectuals act as if they are invisible and even though curiosity is key, emotional input is not that important.
do and say what they want irrespective of consequences
seek perfect knowledge
are there in body alone
stay connected with others
live in the real world
are happy to work with others.
The Performer: Goals excite and stimulate performers and they get a kick from doing what needs to be done. Performers are motivated to push themselves beyond what is thought normal. Performers operate out of the right rational brain. This part of the brain leaps to conclusions rather than analysis of facts. Performers focus on attainment of their self-image and love being with others, especially like minded people.
act out in an flamboyant way
need an audience
do everything to excess
share the spotlight
don’t mind their own company
honor their commitments.
The Visionary: Visionaries believe in what they perceive and strive to live to ideals greater than what exists. Their trust in their vision never falters, visionaries are imaginative and conceptual. Visionaries lead from the right rational brain connecting information, events and situations. Visionaries seek to understand and connect with deeper meaning. Visionaries are introspective yet want to find out everything about you.
Keep themselves at a distance in relationships
Prone to conspiracy and paranoia
Don’t live in the “real-world”
Want to be held in the highest regard
Self actualizing visionaries:
Work at sharing within relationships
Take care of their physical and emotional well-being
Take fame in moderation.>
Four more to go. Have you found yourself yet?
The Socializer: The socializer injects energy and enthusiasm into any social event. They like to get everyone into a good spirit. They are quick with compliments and encouragement. They live out of their right, emotional brain. Socializers focus on what’s happening outside of themselves and so spend most time in company rather than on their own. They are the relationship organizer.
Must have validation from others
Take everything personally
Insist everyone does things their way
See themselves as helpful and benevolent
Are helpful to others at work
Recharge at home on their own
Focus on others, not themselves
Stop themselves being martyrs
The Artist: Artists often stand alone, preferring independence and authenticity. While they may operate at the periphery of a crowd, their attire is often flamboyant and individual. Artists are part of what they create – all parts of the same whole. Artists often say they are non-creative although they like to speak of what they have done for others. Artists live out of the right emotional brain with an inward focus. Everything that happens to an Artist is an emotional experience.
Create intense emotional experiences
Get hung up on their weaknesses
Can’t assert themselves.
Express what they need and want rather than expecting others to know
Accept themselves for who they are
Are trustworthy communicators.
The Adventurer: Adventurers are spontaneous, enthusiastic and generate excitement. They can charm themselves out of trouble. Adventurers are competitive, making everything a game. They argue for fun and enjoy banter and camaraderie. They are popular and use this to their advantage. Adventurers live in the left emotional brain: the part responsible for producing sensations. Despite appearing as if they work from the “seat of their pants”, adventurers are organised and logical.
Want to live like Peter Pan
Put themselves in harms way
Follow through on commitments
Take calculated risks
And finally, The Stabilizer. Stabilizers are the pillars of society, demonstrating a strong sense of commitment, responsibility and making others secure. Stabilizers have a good work ethic and believe work creates character. Once committed to something they see it through. Stabilizers help others complete tasks. Stabilizers live in the left emotional brain where an inward focus makes them feel secure. Stabilizers categorise. Right from wrong, good from bad.
Say no before considering something
Become withdrawn and uncommunicative
See everyone as unsafe
Become emotional, insisting others conform with their ideal
Stop making mountains out of mole-hills
Learn to trust
Enjoy people for who they are
Challenge their self-imposed limits
So there we have it: Which of the styles is most like you? Do you align to more than one? Which styles do you aspire to? With these vital insights you can hopefully be who you are meant to be.
You may also like to read:
- Primal Leadership by Daniel Goleman
- Synergist by Les McKeown
- The Winner’s Brain by Mark Fenske
- The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz
- The Progress Principle by Teresa Amabile
- Buyology by Martin Lindstrom
- The One Thing by Gary Keller & Jay Papasan
- Never Split The Difference by Chris Voss
- The Unstoppables by Bill Schley
- The Character Based Leader by Lead Change Group