Many people lack a sense of meaning and purpose in their lives.  In some cases that can lead to considerable discomfort, emptiness or distress.  So how can meaning and purpose be found?  That’s something I’d like to consider in this two-part blog (next part 1st January 2023).

Fulfilling relationships or work or hobbies can make a big difference.  For some people family life can be central to everything they do.  For others work will be key.  On that front, perhaps the most fortunate individuals are those who have a clear sense of vocation, bringing a deep fulfillment and purpose.  Sometimes they will have known from an early age that they wanted to be a doctor, hair stylist, astronomer or whatever.  Alternatively the vocation may have come to them later in life as a chance discovery or an evolving awareness.

Those who’ve not found their professional vocation

There are a lot of people, however, who haven’t found their professional vocation.  Perhaps it’s never too late to keep looking and to be open to serendipity – that random opportunity that takes you down an unexpected and fulfilling path.  Perhaps, though, if the search remains unsatisfactory other interests or passions can take a very rewarding priority.

The word ‘vocation’ can also apply to a relationship – a sense of rightness and fulfillment in being with a particular person.  Vocation can even apply to ‘extra-curricular’ activities in life, for example a feeling of being bang on the money when writing, painting, playing sport or making music.  There’s a feeling of ‘I need to do this’.  I once asked somebody about his writing – a sideline to his main job.  ‘I can’t not write’, he said.  All this is what I had in mind when talking about interests or passions taking priority.


So relationships, work and hobbies can bring enormous meaning to life.  But so too can spirituality.  That’s what I want to focus on in each part of this blog.  Christmas and New Year are times when when it’s particularly apt to think about spirituality.  New beginnings are implicit in both celebrations.

I mention Christmas but I’m not just thinking about Christian spirituality.  Spirituality exists in all the main world religions and may be one of the chief areas where a common understanding can be found among them, not least in their mystical traditions.  And spirituality is not limited to religion at all.  Humanists, for example, may possess a rich and profound spirituality.

Spirituality could be defined as a personal search for meaning and purpose in life which may or may not be related to religion.

Spirituality and temperament

The ways in which spiritual experience comes to us vary enormously as does the extent to which innate spiritual awareness is present in us.  But temperament seems to play a key role.

Two useful tools that people employ in thinking about temperament can also shed light on a person’s spirituality.  They are the Myers-Briggs Temperament Indicator and the Enneagram.  Both are psychological tools that people use to help them understand themselves and others.  But each can be extended to make greater sense of personal spirituality.

For reasons of space I’ll concentrate just on one of them – the Myers-Briggs approach.


In 1920, the famous Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, Carl G. Jung, published a study of personality called ‘Psychological Types’.  In it he suggested there are eight different types.  Then, in the 1950s, two American women, Katharine Briggs and her daughter Isabel Briggs Myers developed Jung’s ideas further, producing a theory of sixteen distinct psychological types.  It’s important to note that both Jung and the American authors recognized that, for all the neat categorizing, life is messier than this and the human individual is a profound mystery.

Introversion and extroversion

The fundamental divisions between people made by these writers concern firstly introversion and extroversion.  These are both about where we get our energy from.  An extrovert might be fired up by a party and leave one ready to go to the next whereas an introvert might be drained by the experience and need to go home to re-charge their batteries through reading, listening to music or sleeping.

The four ‘Functions’

Then there’s the question of how we perceive new data and make judgements and decisions for acting on it.  There are four basic ways of doing this:  using sensation, intuition, thinking or feeling.  These are called ‘Functions’ and everyone will have their preference.  Sensation and feeling aren’t the same.  Sensation is about seeing, hearing, touching, tasting and smelling whereas feeling is about the use of the heart and inner experiences.

Open or closed?

Finally there’s the question of whether individuals prefer to have things brought to closure or whether they prefer to leave matters open and more unresolved.

There’s far more to what Jung and the Briggs-Myers partnership came up with than this but it gives you an idea of some of the foundations of their theory.

I will pause here.  In part two of this blog I’ll explore how Myers-Briggs thinking can be applied to spirituality.  But before then I’ll take this opportunity to wish you a peaceful and happy Christmas.