According to the Greek philosopher Heraclitus, "character is destiny." If that's true, given enough information about a person's character, you should be able to make a decent stab at guessing their future.

But how you do you gauge character? Modern scientists recently proposed a novel technique - just look at an individual's hobbies.

The new approach is based on a classic personality inventory called the Holland Occupational Themes. As author Ben Ambridge explains in The Guardian, this standard test, long-beloved by career counselors, has recently proven pretty accurate at guessing not just your ideal job (its original purpose), but also your fate when it comes to a number of important life outcomes.

"A recent study found that the answers given on this questionnaire could predict a whole host of lifestyle factors ten years later," Ambridge reports.

How does it work?

The test uses a series of questions about your interests and activities to sort people into one of six categories:

  • Realistic individuals like hands-on, practical activities involving tools, machines or animals.
  • Investigative types are most likely to be spotted at a museum or puttering around engaged in scientific pursuits.
  • Artistic folks, you guessed it, like making art and music.
  • Social people, equally predictably, spend their free time with others.
  • Enterprising describes entrepreneurial types who run online shops or have a stall at a weekend market
  • Conventional hobbyists tinker with computers and data.

So what can you tell about your future based on these categories? Apparently, quite a lot, according to Ambrose. Realistic folks often end up as high earners, while the opposite is true of artistic types. Those with social and conventional hobbies are both more likely to marry and have kids, but are also less likely to end up at the top of the income scale (which is pretty surprising given how in demand those with a facility for data and computers are in the workplace at the moment).

And how about those with entrepreneurial hobbies? Enterprising types are "high earners who tend not to marry (or even have a single serious relationship)," claims Ambridge.

Finally, investigative types are moderate in all things, particularly prone to neither wealth or poverty, marriage or the single life.

The hidden dangers of any personality test

All of which sounds like a fun reason to go ahead and take the fast, free quiz. (And hey, you could even use if for career ideas if you're in need of some inspiration.) But if it's not already obvious, I'm also going to go ahead and note its limitations. These "predictions" are clearly just averages, so even if realistic types are more likely to rake in the big bucks overall, that doesn't mean any particular one will. Nor should you despair about your love life just because you're entrepreneurial. (Though, if you're a woman, there may be other reasons to worry.)

No doubt, you know that already. But it should also be noted that personality quizzes of any type can become self-fulfilling prophecies. You think you're an introvert, for instance, so you do less of the activities that would push you to become more comfortable with people. Or you decline opportunities that seem outside your preferred personality label even though they would expand your horizons.

While self-knowledge is a good thing, it's most useful when paired with an understanding that personality is highly flexible across people's lifetimes, depending on their situation and goals.

In other words, character might be destiny, but character can change. And therefore so can destiny.

Published on: Oct 28, 2016
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