Understanding You: Personality and Healthy Lifestyle Choices

The word personality comes from the Latin “persona”, the masks worn by actors in ancient Greece and Rome, indicating the emotions driving their behavior. Today the term personality refers to the sets of predictable behaviors by which we describe or “profile” a person.  Our sets of behaviors are known as traits or types. Personality traits are on a continuum, they are not one or the other, but varying degrees of some attribute, behavior and overall patterns. They can change over time; see Martin Segilman’s “Learned Optimism” for a well researched example.  Our personality traits influence what types of decisions we make, and how we make them.

There are various psychometric tests used to profile sets or clusters of traits, for example Meyers-Briggs, DICS, or the Big Five that research has shown to hold up across cultures. Maybe you have taken one or more  of these. The Big Five has a public domain free scale, known as BFAS (Big Five Aspects Scale). The Big Five Aspects are Will, Control, Affection, Energy and Emotionality with 13 sub factors. These are UK labels, which I prefer because in my experience there is less inherent value weighted in these here in the US . Each Aspect in the BFAS has the ability to promote or inhibit healthy lifestyle choices. No one Aspect in the Big Five is inherently best.  Here is the BFAS for you to score yourself or to see all the factors and subfactors.

Will is the promotion and defense of one’s own ideas. Score high on Will you are good at setting objectives and pushing ideas through but you may come across as stubborn and arrogant (think autocratic boss). Score low on Will, you are flexible and willing to listen but you may  procrastinate or be too easily swayed.

Control is a measure of one’s own internal standards of the right/wrong way to do things. Score high on Control you are organized, procedural and hard-working. You may come across as over-cautious, inflexible and authoritarian (think stereotypical civil servant). A low score indicates freethinking and creativity, however, you may come across as disorganized with no follow-through.

Affection is a measure of how we treat and relate to others. A high score means you are understanding and sympathetic, very good at getting people on your side. The flip side of this is that you may be too soft even naive. A low score indicates you are pragmatic and business-like, not easily taken advantage of. The risk is that you can come across as only looking after number one.

Energy is a measure of our interaction with the social world. A high score means you are involved, lively and enthusiastic (think extrovert). This means you may get bored easily, talk too much and interrupt others. A low score indicates that you take time to get to know people and can work independently, however, you may come across as distant and a poor communicator.

Emotionality is a measure of our emotional reaction to, and our ability to cope with events and people.  It is an interpreting factor that can exaggerate and distort how the other factors are seen. Highly emotional people are easily upset, anxious (lose sleep) and lack self-belief and self-confidence. Low emotionality is demonstrated by people who don’t get panicked and take things as they come. Taken to extreme low emotionality can make people appear cold and unexciting.

Your unique constellation of personality traits influence what types of, and how you make decisions. They underscore the ways you choose to invest (or not) in a healthy lifestyle that fits your needs, likes and reality. Consider your dominant personality traits as you respond to questions below. To get the most  out of answering these questions, take the BFAS for yourself before you answer them.  

  • What personality trait supports my healthy lifestyle choices? How? In what way?
  • How else can I leverage it to support my healthy lifestyle choices?
  • What personality trait interferes with my healthy lifestyle choices? How? In what way?
  • How can  leverage my personality traits that support my healthy lifestyle choices to overcome the interference?
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2 thoughts on “Understanding You: Personality and Healthy Lifestyle Choices

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