written by LOU BLASER

A version of this essay first appeared in Midlife Cues, a weekly newsletter about intentional living in our middle years. Get it in your inbox; you're going to love it.


Don’t you like taking tests?

No, not THOSE kinds.

These kinds. MBTI, Enneagram, Clifton Strengths (previously StrengthsFinder), The Four Tendencies, etc.

We take these tests, these assessments, to discover who we are and help us better understand ourselves. Why we tend to act the way we act. Why we tend to think the way we think.

These are helpful tools.

Because we cannot effectively lead ourselves onward if we don’t understand the basic ingredients we’re working with.

So knowing the basics of what we’re working with (i.e., our tendencies) is great but it’s only the first step.

Because the real benefit of understanding ourselves is that we can now make tweaks and changes.

Not necessarily change who we are (though, that is obviously a choice).

Rather, we can work to adjust the situation so that we can respond better and in the manner of the person we want to be.

Which is always the goal, isn’t it? Being the kind of person we want to be.

Myself, as an example:

In Gretchen Rubin’s The Four Tendencies, I am a Questioner.

The simplest description of a Questioner is someone who questions external expectations and honors internal expectations.

The thing that’s required of me must make sense to me before I will commit to it.

And sometimes, no matter how logical, or fair, or obvious the thing may be to others, I just don’t get it and therefore don’t do it. (This causes frustration with some people around me, lemme tell ya.)

Some tweaks I’ve made so I can do a little better:

  • I ask questions to understand. In the past, I felt awkward asking too many questions for fear of annoying people. So I don’t ask. I just reject and say No. Now, I ask because I want to be able to respond better.
  • With the people I interact with the most, I explain where I’m coming from and why I’m asking so many questions. I think this is helpful because they’re not having to guess what I need to move forward with anything. In return, I ask them about their process too.
  • Before I reject an expectation, I consider if I’m just missing some data points.
  • But when I do reject something, I no longer feel guilty about it and can explain myself better.


Someone wise said, “The most important relationship we have is the one we have with ourselves.”

And just like other great relationships, an important step is to truly understand ourselves.

Not to justify bad behavior, or give ourselves a way out, or to eschew responsibility.

But to help ourselves so we can be the kind of people we intend to be.


“Do the best you can until you know better. Then, when you know better, do better.” — Dr. Maya Angelou

Knowing ourselves better IS an opportunity to do better.

For ourselves and for others.


Vivek Chakrabortty: A Case Study on Personal Growth and Transformation

Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.”

In this latest episode of the podcast, I’m joined by my friend and colleague Vivek Chakrabortty who has graciously shared the confluence of events that led to a significant transformation and personal growth.

I titled this episode a “case study” because, in true rare form, we get to hear Vivek’s analysis of not just what all transpired but what about those events triggered a change and how that change became embedded in his approach to life and work.


This past week was Thanksgiving Week in the US.

This time of the year officially kicks off the holiday season in my head.

This also means I have to prepare for the alternating periods of melancholy and excitement for the coming new year that are usually the hallmarks of my Decembers.

I don’t know why this is the case. There’s probably an assessment out there that will help me understand this. 😉

But I’ve done enough work on myself to know this is when I need to honor my boundaries and lean on my tried-and-true self-care routines.

Best wishes for a joyful and easeful week ahead.

Cool Beans,
Lou Blaser


A former management consultant and IT leader, Lou Blaser is the editor of Midlife Cues and the host of the Second Breaks podcast. She is also the author of Break Free: The Courage to Reinvent Yourself and Your career. Lou’s work is focused on exploring how to navigate, thrive, and turn midlife into the best phase in our life.