The Prisoner: I am Not a Number

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I have always been obsessed with a show called The Prisoner. It is a cult 1960s British series that blew my mind from the first time I saw it and it continues to do so. If you have any memory associated with it, I would love to share my obsession and geek over it so please let me know….!

But why it is relevant (kind of) is that it had a line in every episode where the lead would say ‘I am not a number’.

I think of this every time I hear people describe themselves as their result on a psychometric test “I’m a WXYZ”, “I scored X% on ABC”, “I got X out of Y”, “I’m an X” etc.

I believe that deep self-awareness is where all our potential power comes from, but there is a danger in adopting a score result as a trait (rather than state), a fixed quality that describes our being. If we do, we can become quite resistant to change without really even knowing why or how. Consciously or unconsciously when we have labelled ourselves, it feels as if any behaviour out of  'our type' is so much harder to shift into, or that there can only ever be a temporary change in the face of this ‘fact’. This is exaggerated when numbers or categories are attached.

Studying psychometrics and personality was a large part of my life for a while. I’m not sure I find them helpful concepts when thinking about how to help humans change and grow. Many of the psychometrics that are commonly used in workplaces were not even designed to be trait measures and yet people interpret them that way.

I am not advising that you don’t use them if you find them helpful. However, please use them knowing that they may make it unconsciously or even consciously harder for you to flex your behaviour.

Self-awareness is essential to flexibility, but only if we can use it to adapt our behaviour in line with our goals. If you can’t flex and adapt around your world, the self-awareness piece is less useful.

To make sure your numbers don't start to define you, add the date to your description of your psychometric test results e.g. “In March 2019 I was a xxxx” or “Right now I’m at x%, it will be so interesting to see how that has moved in three months”.

You are not a number.

See here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Prisoner for any more information on The Prisoner, ITV, 1967 or as I say, please contact me!

As ever, I'd love to hear your thoughts on this. 

Amy


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Amy helps teams use the psychology of groups to their advantage. Her programs drive connection, communication and courage for remarkable achievements. Please see The Safe Space and DrAmySilver.com


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