Personalities & poetry

Posted on November 15, 2012


When writing yesterday about introverts and their attraction to distance running, it struck me that just as personality tests are often used to pinpoint the best career paths for us, so too should such tests determine our ideal sports. There seems to be quite a bit of overlap between the work we are best to do and the sports we want to play …

I know from studying sports psychology that when it comes to fitness and sport, we need intrinsic motivation, such as motivation that stems from doing something you find naturally rewarding and that matches your personality.

Take the eight main personality types and you start to see some obvious patterns:

Competitors v Co-operators

Those with dominance as a defining trait are the greatest competitors in the professional world. Independent and self-confident, these types thrive in jobs like cut-throat sales or trading stocks, jobs where winning is a key motivation. Tennis, as an example, is an ideal workout for competitors. They don’t have to rely on others for success and a strong mental game is equally as important as a great serve or backhand.

On the other end of the spectrum are the co-operators. At work, the co-operators tend to seek regular reassurance and prize harmony. As a result they’re best suited to sports in which winning isn’t the ultimate goal but having fun and working as a strong team is.

Social Butterflies v Solo Artists

Social butterflies are the extroverts, the ones normally found far by the water cooler or in the office kitchen, chatting to, or up, fellow colleagues. They thrive in interactive careers such as PR. Play-wise, this lot prefer sports that blend with socialising … running or biking in groups, team leagues etc.

On the other hand, the solo artists aka the introverts, value solitude. They will email instead of call (me written all over it!) and are more task-oriented than relationship-oriented (me again!). Ideal sports include long-distance running, yoga or swimming … sports that don’t require other people and that focus on the movements of the exercise.

Finer Detail v Bigger Picture Thinker

Those who are very detail-oriented like the certainty of structure and rules. They’re masters of spreadsheets and when it comes to their sport, they love to consider why they are doing the activity and what researchers say about it. They love rule-based, technique-heavy sports such as golf.

On the flip side, bigger picture thinkers are more tolerant. They welcome risk and uncertainty. They like flexibility and experimentation. This lot like activities that involve a degree of intuition and creativity such as dance or Pilates … activities that allow for personal interpretation.

Slow & Steady Movers v Multi-Taskers

Slow & steady movers are highly patient people. They like stability and consistency and need specific programmes that define and work towards their goals. These people love the likes of group ex classes … the reliability of meeting at the same time each day / week for a consistent and predictable training session.

Multi-taskers on the other hand are the low-patience counterparts who tend to be more intense and do everything with a sense of urgency. At work, their constantly changing up their tasks and responsibilities … and at play, they’re well-suited to things like circuit training where they can spend a few intense minutes at each station before moving on. Triathlons are a great option for this lot too.

I talked about this to my someone special the other night and came, not for the first time, to the conclusion that we really are all so text-book.  We all love to think we’re unique and individual beings but not so … perhaps this is why defying convention and making you a truly bespoke being is so important!

I wonder if mums and dads consider the blooming personalities of their kids when deciding what sporting activities to sign them up for? Sadly, I think, they often fail to do this.  Instead, they push their past failures onto their kids and apply great pressure on them to reverse any disappointments from their own past.

Remember that poem by Philip Larkin,  you know, ‘This Be the Verse’ … the one with the f word in the first line?

It says it all!

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