Does life improve with age like wine, or does it grow sour, like milk that has been left on the counter for too long? How we answer this question may have less to do with the particulars of our experiences, and more to do with how we view them.
To see how personality type might relate to our perception of the arc of our lives, we asked our readers whether they agreed or disagreed with the statement, “Your life is generally improving as it goes on.” Here are the results by personality type:
Which personalities are more optimistic when it comes to how their lives are going, and which may have a bleaker outlook? Let’s explore the data in more detail below.
According to our data, most respondents had a rather rosy opinion of their lives – in fact, 83% agreed with our statement overall. Surprisingly, there was a negligible difference among the personality traits that govern our Roles. Diplomats and Sentinels each agreed at a rate of 84%, while Explorers and Analysts each agreed at 82%. We might infer, then, that Strategy is the primary influence over how we see our lives, whether as an upward trend or a downward spiral.
The only Role-related variation to note was slightly higher agreement among Feeling personalities compared to Thinking personalities (84% vs. 81%), which probably reflects the tendency of individuals with the Feeling trait to be in tune with their emotions as well as a willingness to try to look on the bright side, even when facts and logic alone are not encouraging.
People Mastery (93% agreeing)
The data confirms that the key to whether people believe their lives are improving as they go on lies in the Strategies. Extraverts were 12% more likely than Introverts to agree with this idea (89% vs. 77%), and Assertive personalities were 13% more likely than Turbulent personalities to agree (91% vs. 78%). That puts Extraverted, Assertive People Masters at the top of the results.
As Extraverts who are interested in developing personal relationships, People Masters usually have strong social networks. The energy that they draw from their surroundings and the knowledge that there are people they can rely on when times get tough can go a long way toward creating a sense that their lives are improving as they go on. Because of their Assertive personality trait, People Masters tend not to put too much pressure on themselves or drive themselves crazy trying to achieve unrealistic goals, and that, too, can make them feel as though they’re leading successful lives – whatever “success” may mean to each individual.
Of all the personality types, Assertive Debaters (ENTP-A) and Assertive Campaigners (ENFP-A) tied as the most likely to agree with our statement (94% each). Because they thrive so much on accumulating and constantly refining knowledge, Debaters may be uniquely positioned to see life as inevitably progressive. Even incidents that others might characterize as setbacks may be key moments of learning and growth for an Assertive Debater, ultimately boosting their already well-developed self-confidence.
Campaigners, especially Assertive ones, are known for their positive, enthusiastic outlook on life. Interestingly, because of their free-spirited nature, it often takes Campaigners longer to discover their true passions or find their place in the world, and they may come into their own later than some other personality types do. So it makes sense that Campaigners would view their life as a journey that keeps getting better and better.
Confident Individualism and Social Engagement (88% and 85%)
Confident Individualists and Social Engagers, despite agreeing at high rates, demonstrate how the Introvert–Assertive and Extravert–Turbulent combination of personality traits can offset each other in this case.
The self-reliance of Introverts can be both a source of inner strength and, at times, a weakness, when they’re faced with challenges and find it difficult to lean on others for support. Confident Individualists are buoyed by their self-confidence and their relatively relaxed approach to life, viewing their lives in an overall positive light, but for Turbulent Constant Improvers (discussed below), that’s more difficult to do.
Turbulent Social Engagers also tend to have a more positive view of their lives than Constant Improvers. Although both personalities are driven to pursue high standards and prone to self-doubt, the energetic, Extraverted nature of the former often compensates for their lowered confidence in their life’s progression. Social Engagers are also more likely turn to their robust social groups for positive reinforcement when necessary.
Constant Improvement (72%)
Constant Improvers agreed at a much lower rate than the other Strategies. As Introverts, Constant Improvers may feel more isolated when they perceive that their lives are off track. Satisfaction is always a challenge for Turbulent personalities, who are driven to succeed in spite of their belief that there is always room for improvement, making their efforts somewhat Sisyphean in nature. Of course, with a goal that is nothing short of perfection, is it any wonder that Constant Improvers have doubts about how their lives are going?
Turbulent Virtuosos (ISTP-T) were the least likely personality type to feel that their lives were getting better with time (65%). Virtuosos often live their lives just the way they want to, jumping from project to project and relationship to relationship whenever they desire a change of pace or a new challenge. This spontaneous approach to life may mean that they don’t perceive much change in the trajectory of their lives over time and therefore don’t have as strong an opinion on our statement as other personality types did.
It’s also possible, however, that as time goes on, some Virtuosos may begin to view their lifestyle as somewhat empty, unstable, or unfulfilling. This may especially be the case if they begin to compare themselves to others who have settled down, started families, achieved promotions at work, saved up for comfortable retirements, and so forth. Such comparisons may not bother an Assertive Virtuoso (ISTP-A) (80%) much, but Turbulent Virtuosos, who are more likely to second-guess their own actions, may begin to take a more pessimistic outlook on life, or at least consider how they may pursue more than just fleeting satisfaction with their lives.
A chart of anyone’s life is bound to have its share of peaks and valleys, but for most of us, the trend is ever upward. It may only be a matter of perception, but it is this perception of progress, fitful as it may be, that gives us reason to rise from our beds each day, no matter how trying our circumstances have become.
However, while many feel that their life has a natural upward momentum, some personality types may remain skeptical. As with Constant Improvers, some personalities may have such lofty goals that, though they may work indefatigably to accomplish them, they see little progress and doubt whether their lives are improving over time.
How do you feel about your own life – is it becoming brighter with each passing day, or is progress often difficult for you to perceive? Let us know in the comments!