Why do some people hate to swim and others love it? Why do some people like broad-shouldered, solid physiques and others are drawn to willowy frames? Why do some people explode with anger when others would pout and withdraw? Why do some people become leaders and others are content to follow? Why do some people always get colds and others never? Why does one person want an explanation for everything and another follows his gut with no questions asked? Why does one eat like a horse and stay slim and another can look at food and gain a tummy?

Is it luck, genetics, environment, the stars and planets, parental conditioning, or something else?

With the four temperaments as a key, you will discover a powerful way of understanding better who you are and, even more important, who you want to be. And you can find out how to use this power to help put more balance into your life so that you can feel, think, and act at your best, in harmony with your deepest self and also at peace with those around you.

The four temperaments are four different clusters of characteristics that tend to appear together because of the dominance in each person of one of four distinct humors. These four humors were postulated in the ancient Egyptian and Greek world over 2,500 years ago. The humors represent the essence, flow, and force of the universe. They were also called ethers, vapors, winds, or airs.

When someone is not behaving like her normal self, do we not still say “she is putting on airs”? Are not the expressions sense of humor and just humor him still heard? Today, we think of humor as something funny, but that idea evolved when playwrights like Shakespeare created amusing caricatures of the temperaments some 400 years ago.

Before chemistry and the microscope, vapors were believed to influence the body, much like energies that come and go with variations in the environment and the weather. Hippocrates associated them directly with four major liquid substances that had been identified in the body. They also were likened to earth, fire, air, and water and the temperatures and moistures associated with these elements.

The names for the four humors are choleric, melancholic, sanguine, and phlegmatic. They sound a bit alien, but we still hear them today, and if we renamed them, we would lose centuries of accumulated wisdom around them.

Here I want to give you immediate tools to put this wisdom to work for you today. I call it training your intuition. Because you probably can already guess certain characteristics that tend to cluster together when you watch your friends, family, or new acquaintances, let your mind play with these concepts as you assess their validity in your life.

People of the melancholic-dominant temperament tend to be tall and willowy, with a fast metabolism in youth but often prone to hyper- or hypothyroid conditions as they age. They store fat in their tummies and backs of the arms and sides of the hips. They are creative, inspiring, passionate people. They like efficiency, value their time, and hate to be bored. They tend toward expressive or analytical careers, as artists, performers, or mathematicians. When angry, they sulk, withdraw, and complain. If this is you, you need to be sure that you are not overdoing sugars and carbs and caffeine, that you have some form of protein within two hours of waking up, and that you get plenty of regular rest. Be sure you get physical exercise and express yourself artistically. Be careful to let others know how you feel. They cannot read your mind, though you think they should. If you are trying to appeal to a melancholic, get to the point quickly, and let him know how you can make his life easier and more exciting.

People of the choleric temperament tend to be squarish of build, with strong jaws and broad shoulders. They will put on weight in the shoulders and chest, never in the legs. They seem to be born leaders, with vision and will and determination to see plans through to execution. They listen to all sides and then move decisively on their gut feelings. When out of humor, they can be aggressive, domineering, and dismissive. They do not worry much about their weight, do not care much for sweets, and think they can operate on little sleep. They usually like beef and simple foods, like baked potatoes. They need to add greens and water to stay balanced. If you are choleric, treat others with patience and forgiveness, and give them time to rest. If you are dealing with a choleric, let him take the lead or appeal to him by showing him how he can achieve the very best in his field.

People of the sanguine-dominant temperament tend to be philosophical and love to share their ideas. They tend to have curvaceous physiques, with well-rounded bottoms in both sexes and hourglass shapes in women. They put on weight on their hips and butts, not much at the waist. They are drawn to teaching and coaching professions. They love to engage people, arrange parties and events, and get together socially. When in bad humor, they become argumentative, bombastic, and sometimes weepy. They are drawn to creamy and spicy—but not particularly hot—foods and need to balance by including lots of vegetables and by avoiding eating too big a breakfast or within two hours of bedtime. If you are sanguine, be sure to stop and listen and give credit to other’s opinions. Get regular exercise, particularly walking or swimming. If you are dealing with a sanguine, let him talk until he is finished and appeal to his interest in raising up and empowering others by meaningful communication.

People who are phlegmatic tend to focus on family and relationships. They set a high value on dedication, loyalty, and hard work. They tend to be small of build, with youthful faces and proportions, which keep them looking young for decades. They complain of gaining weight in the knees, if anywhere. They are drawn to helping professions and careers centered around duty and steady effort. They are drawn to dairy products and sweets but do better with more vegetables and good-quality protein foods other than a lot of milk and cheese. They have slow metabolisms and enjoy regular but not too strenuous exercise. If you are phlegmatic, know that you are the best friend anyone could have, and do not be reluctant to express your ideas and desires. If you are dealing with a phlegmatic, give him time to complete his tasks and you will not be disappointed. Appreciate the high value he places on family and friends and applaud his work ethic, skill, and craftsmanship in everything he undertakes.

The take home message from the four temperaments is that we each contribute a unique and essential force to any situation. If you value and appreciate yourself and your gifts and contributions as well as the gifts and contributions of others, your days and your life will be more joyful and effortless.

** This article is one of 101 great articles that were published in 101 Great Ways to Improve Your Life. To get complete details on “101 Great Ways to Improve Your Life”, visit http://www.selfgrowth.com/greatways3.html

Author's Bio: 

Randy Rolfe, MA, JD, has helped tens of thousands of families for 30 years with her courses, seminars, counseling, coaching, and frequent appearances on national television and radio. Her books have been translated into five languages. Combining her legal background, theology studies, and independent studies in nutrition, addiction, and bioenergetics, she has a unique ability to help you find solutions. Her books include The Four Temperaments, The Seven Secrets of Successful Parents, You Can Postpone Anything but Love, Adult Children Raising Children, and The Affirmations Book for Sharing. Contact her at Institute for Creative Solutions LLC, http://www.instituteforcreativesolutions.com ((610) 429-5869).