Review of Me, Myself, and Us

Review of Me, Myself, and Us: The Science of Personality and the Art of Well-Being by Brian R. Little

About once a year you read a book that both confirms your beliefs and introduces you to new ways of thinking. Me, Myself, and Us is the book for 2015. It is a pleasure to read a book that is clearly written and humorous yet full of insights. Thankfully it gives neuroplasticity a miss and tries to explain how you can have a happy life without morphing into a sermon on new-age spirituality. Instead Little takes as his mantra that happiness is derived by understanding who we are and what we do and then spends 288 pages explaining how it can be achieved.

The first insight by Little is that there are three sources of our personality traits:

  1. Biogenic referring to the aspects of our personality sourced genetically. (50%)
  2. Sociogenic, those aspects learned from social and cultural factors (25%), and
  3. Idojenic, referring to the aspects of our personality best accounted for by (idiosyncratic) individual factors such as personal values, goals, projects and commitments. (25%)

Personally I think the London Twins study makes the percentages more like 66%-17%-17% but it still is a very useful model.

With regard to Biogenic factors Little begins by dumping on Myers-Briggs saying the test lacks both reliability and validity. In addition he makes the point that it is not Type that counts in personality but traits. I must confess as someone who regards MBTI as a waste of time I enjoyed this section. Instead Little recommends the reader adopt the Big Five model. The five-factor model (FFM) indentifies 5 core traits:

  1. openness to creativity
  2. conscientiousness
  3. extraversion
  4. agreeableness
  5. neuroticism

OCEAN is often used as a mnemonic to remember the traits. Each trait is distributed normally in the population. In other words 67% of the population fall within plus or minus 1 standard devation and have an average level of the trait. So one sixth of the population would be classified as Extravert, one sixth as Introverts, and two-thirds as Ambiverts. The MBTI say you are either an Extravert or Introvert.

Personally I prefer the 7MTF/Humm-Wadsworth with its seven factors to the FFM; however the five most common factors in the Humm are identical to the FFM.

Little then goes on to both list a number of secondary factors and provide for each factor a simple questionnaire. Unfortunately he then slips into the same error as the MBTI by saying you are at one end of the spectrum or the other. For example Self Monitoring refers to the individual’s trait sensitivity and responsiveness to social factors. High Self Monitors are highly responsive to needs and perspectives of others and are apt to avoid conflict at all costs. Low Self Monitors stick to their own beliefs and attitudes which can make them unconscious and boorish but they are not afraid of healthy conflict. The reality is that two-thirds of us are clustered around the mean.

Similarly with locus of control which refers to the extent to which individuals believe are in control of the events affecting them. A person’s locus is either internal (the person believes they are primarily in control of their life course) or external (meaning they believe their life course is primarily controlled by external factors which they cannot influence). Again two-thirds of us cluster around the mean.

However the part of the book I found really illuminating is when Little described the idojenic contribution to our behaviour. Little uses himself as an example. He describes as an introvert who when he is lecturing projects himself as an pseudo=extrovert. I myself have had the same experience. People are often surprised to hear according to the MBTI that I am an introvert. But I am. I have simply adapted my personality to meet the demands of the situation. People do behave “out of character” or counter to their typical disposition.

Little makes great play about how important it is for your own happiness to be doing projects that are congruent with your genetic traits. According to Little most of us have up to 15 projects on the go. He refers to a website 43.com which had been operating since 2005 and collects list of projects from people. Top of the list is losing weight followed by going to write a book. Unfortunately for Little the website closed down in March 2015. Nevertheless his book is first class and well worth purchasing.

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Chris Golis - Author

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"Put in a sales perspective, I loved your presentation! I got a lot from what you talked about and I will read your book."

Peter Morris, Executive Officer, Lomax Financial Group

Your presentation on 'Lifting your Level of Emotional Intelligence" to 10 CEOs scored an average 8.9 out of 10 for the topic and 8.5 for the presentation which is great. A couple of the attendees gave you a 10 out of 10, and the comments were:

- Great presentation. Very informative.

- Excellent presentation.

- made me think.

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