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The Year of the Pig

The Chinese New Year starts on the 5th of Feb and this year it is the year of the Pig. Recent Pig years have included 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, and 2007. According to the Chinese Zodiac generally speaking…

Pigs might not stand out in a crowd. But they are very realistic. Others may be all talk and no action. Pigs are the opposite.

Though not wasteful spenders, they will let themselves enjoy life. They love entertainment and will occasionally treat themselves. They are a little materialistic, but this is a motivation for them to work hard. Being able to hold solid objects in their hands gives them security.

They are energetic and are always enthusiastic, even for boring jobs. If given the chance, they will take positions of power and status. They believe that only those people have the right to speak, and that’s what they want.

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Monisha Pasupathi, a developmental psychologist at the University of Utah, has researched why some people believe in astrology and take so much notice it. She has found;

Humans are narrative creatures, constantly explaining their lives and selves by weaving together; their present, future and past. Astrology “provides people with a very clear frame for that explanation.”

It gives one a pleasing orderly feeling, not unlike alphabetising a library, to take life’s random events and emotions and slot them into helpfully labelled shelves. This guy isn’t texting me back because Mercury retrograde probably kept him from getting the message. I take such a long time to make decisions because my Mars is in Taurus. My boss will finally recognise all my hard work when Jupiter enters my tenth house.

This got me thinking that when we look at personality profiling tools on courses and coaching sessions aren’t we in danger of doing something very similar? For example:

I can’t do this very well because my preference for Sensing (MBTI) gets in the way of me seeing the big picture!

I’m good at getting people going because I am a Shaper (Belbin)

I won’t get on with them because they are a Green (Strength Deployment Inventory)

In my experience, most people are really keen to see what’s in their profiling report (regardless of the tool) and are really pleased when they read it because it all feels so true. There are often little things they don’t agree with but on the whole, they recognise the way they think and behave in the profile they are given. For example, I report as an INFP in MBTI. They are described as …

INFP personalities are true idealists, always looking for the hint of good in even the worst of people and events, searching for ways to make things better. While they may be perceived as calm, reserved, or even shy, INFPs have an inner flame and passion that can truly shine. Comprising just 4% of the population, the risk of feeling misunderstood is unfortunately high for the INFP personality type – but when they find like-minded people to spend their time with, the harmony they feel will be a fountain of joy and inspiration.

When I look at that summary I think; it’s so right, that’s me, that’s how I feel, it’s so spookily accurate. It gives me a warm glow and helps me explain my actions and inactions, my successes and my failures.

However, if I just passively accept the profile but do nothing different as a result of receiving it then, in all honesty, I have probably just wasted my time as well as the time and money of my organisation. All I will have done (to paraphrase Monisha) is “taken my life events, actions and emotions and slotted them onto some helpfully labelled shelves”. I have reinforced what I think my strengths are, further undermined the areas I think I am less skilled at and given myself an excuse for future ineffective and inappropriate behaviours. This is a bit like reading a “you will meet a tall handsome stranger” type horoscope in a daily paper and then just sitting around and waiting for something to happen… it won’t! Equally saying things like “I’m sorry I can’t help being like this because I’m an INFP!” simply abdicates all responsibility for our behaviours, actions and results.

At Emerge we always spend a lot of time helping people look for the “So What?” part of any personality profiling tools we use. We help them to think about things like; How their current ways of behaving and thinking are helping and hindering them? How do they want to change what they do? How they could use their strengths more? How they could create strategies to overcome the areas they feel deficient in? and so on. Just to be clear it’s not about them being “broken” and in need of “fixing”. It’s about using the “tool” as a mirror to enable them to really look at themselves and helping them decide what they want to change, what they want to keep, what they like, what they don’t like… and then helping them come up with actions that they feel comfortable with that they think will create the difference they want to be.

After all, we are the masters of our own destiny… it’s not like it’s written in the stars!

By the way … if you are a Pig or want to find out about your own Chinese Zodiac year have a look at .

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