Personality tests are a multi-million-dollar industry with a continued growth rate of 10% to 15% annually. According to the Harvard Business Review, it's common for employers to require workers to take personality assessments to identify who to hire and how they can best collaborate and work as a team member. In the post-pandemic era, personality tests are likely to only increase as more workers move to remote working. In such work environments, a personality test may be the best indicator of one's personality and work style.
The Myers-Briggs test developed in the 1960s has continued to be the most popular personality assessment test in the workplace and for interpersonal use. Now, we have a multitude of personality systems with which to define ourselves, such as astrology, human design, and the enneagram. However, the Five Elements based in ancient Taoism is arguably the earliest of all personality indicators.
The Five Elements were first introduced in the ancient text, known as the I Ching, or Book of Changes, as the foundational building blocks of everything that exists. They were not originally viewed in terms of the individual until thousands of years later when Chinese Medicine applied the Five Elements for purposes of medical diagnoses. Chinese Medicine used the Five Elements to determine an imbalance in the organ systems, which we now know as Acupuncture.
It was after Chinese Medicine migrated to the West when the Five Elements were also used as a system for individual personality types. While there is no exact marker for when this evolution took place, it most likely occurred as a result of the depth psychology movement spearheaded by psychoanalyst Carl Jung. In fact, Carl Jung looked to the I Ching as a guide for the archetypes that became a significant part of his work.
Considering that the field of psychology was developed only 150 years ago and only became mainstream approximately fifty years ago, we've had a relatively short amount of time in our evolution to consider who we are, what we want, and what makes us happy. Until then, the individual ego that gives rise to one's personality was not examined to the extent it is today.
Perhaps our fascination with ourselves can be attributed to having more options than ever in choosing what career or relationship is best for us, particularly for women who were historically exempt from such choices. It's now rare to commit to one career or one person and stick with it for the rest of our life. The pursuit of what will make us happy is not as easy as it seems and takes self-inquiry to help find what will bring us satisfaction.
You may be wondering what makes The Five Elements different from the other personality systems. The Five Elements consist of Water, Wood, Fire, Earth, and Metal, which exist as the cycle of birth, growth, death, and rebirth in nature. According to Taoist philosophy, everything on the planet consists of the Five Elements, including us humans. It's the one system that doesn't separate us with all living or non-living beings. We are all a microcosm of the Universe, a mini-Universe, so to speak, and thus all connected. And yet we all have our unique concentration of the Five Elements.
At our base, we all share these core energies. Our individuality is expressed with each one of us having a slightly different concentration of each element. In other words, we all have the same recipe, just a different amount of each ingredient. For example, some people have more yang energy, meaning they embody more Wood or Fire elements, while others are naturally more yin and thus embody more Metal or Water elements. This individual makeup of energy will play a role in one's physical characteristics, energy level, and even personality traits. Some people may have a high concentration in one element, while someone else may be more evenly balanced among all five elements.
Not only do we each have our own Five Elements constitution that makes us unique, but your profile may change as you go through different phases and experiences in your life. Knowing that we fit into a category can be comforting, but it can also be limiting to the full breadth of who we are and who we can become. Instead of stuffing yourself in a box, you can truly be all categories by what you put your attention on. Thus, the Five Elements allows expansion of ourselves.
By reading the following elemental descriptions, you'll probably glean some insight as to which elements you are stronger and weaker in. Usually, there are one or two elements that feel natural to us and at least one element that feels foreign or challenging. Knowing your strengths and weaknesses can be an invaluable tool in understanding yourself in work and relationships. While the full characteristics of the elements are beyond the scope of this article, the following descriptions provide a quick look at each element as personality types.
Water Element: The Water Element is the Philosopher. They are quiet and typically introverted, and yet so unassuming. They hold a quiet strength. They may seem fragile at times, but they are anything but weak. They are deeply creative, contemplative, and introspective. They will most likely be the ones to figure out the key to world peace or an invention that saves climate change. It will be up to the other elements however to implement it.
Wood Element: The Wood Element is the Pioneer. They are the leaders, inventors, seekers, and visionaries. They will take the lead in groups and take action steps to create movement in projects. They can easily vacillate between being introverted and extroverted depending on what a situation calls for. For example, they can work solo on creating a new business or work well with groups. Wood elements keep things in forward motion and their challenge is to know when to contract their energy or take a step back.
Fire Element: The Fire Element is the Manifestor. They are high energy and generally extroverted. They are often the life of the party and enjoy life. Like a flame, they create the highest expression of energy in the form of enthusiasm and passion. Fire elements provide the fuel in projects in order that they manifest in its highest and truest form. While the idea may have been born with the Water element, and the Wood element provided forward motion, it is the Fire element that brings something to full culmination.
Earth Element: The Earth Element is the Stabilizer. They are the grounding force that keeps the status quo maintained so that change doesn't happen too quickly. The Earth element is the container or stage on which we all get to play. They are highly supportive people that bring harmony to groups and help maintain the peace. Think of the Earth element as the parent that keeps harmony among the children when bickering ensues. They go out of their way to not ruffle feathers. Worry is their default emotion, especially when something seems out of their control that could lead to possible change.
Metal Element: The Metal Element is the Organizer. They are natural organizers and keep things in check and on schedule. They make great accountants, engineers, scientists, editors, architects, personal assistants, and professional organizers. They are guaranteed to be detail-oriented, focused, and precise in anything they do. They tend to cut to the chase in conversation without the need for embellishments. They also love an orderly environment with even their storage items labeled appropriately.
For a deeper dive into identifying your primary element and your missing element, you can take the Five Elements Quiz in the book, Missing Element, Hidden Strength. Once you determine your missing element, you can learn how to integrate it into your everyday life, along with all Five Elements. You'll likely find that your missing element is what has kept you from starting projects, finishing tasks, or even sticking with relationships. Once you identify it, embrace it, and embody your missing element, it will soon become your hidden strength to unlocking your full creative potential.