Journaling and the Importance of Feeling Excited
Wednesday September 13, 2017
Almost 10 years ago, I began working on what I now see as a journal-keeping framework. The more I wrote in my journal, the more I realized that I tended to keep a very plain chronology, and I absolutely hate keeping plain chronologies.
While I thought a journal was important, I wasn’t quite sure how to make it interesting enough to turn it into a habit. The more I tried to keep a chronology, the less likely I was to write.
I thought forward to what my children might want to know about me, by thinking about what I wanted to know based on my past journal entries. As I paged through a few of them (I can’t do this for long—reviewing old works is not something for which I have a lot of patience), I realized they lacked feeling. What was on my mind? What was bugging me? What made me feel upbeat? I had not written any of it down—it was simply a bunch of sketches of things and people, accompanied by notes about where I went and what I did there.
I gave a nickname to this new idea of including more feeling: “Sadnesses and Gladnesses.” This was my first, if one-dimensional, journaling framework. I took this framework with me on a vacation and kept a legitimate travel journal, something that’s still neat to read. While I don’t remember the details of the flight from the US to London, I do remember, still, that I was excited to learn about the newest version of the Linux distribution I was using at the time. The fact that such things stay with me seems to indicate that I was indeed keeping a journal that was more me, no matter how geeky.
Some years after that experience, I read Jordan Mechner’s Karateka and Prince of Persia journals in e-book form and was captivated. He seemed to be focused on his goals, reflecting on how they were or weren’t going, and included little incidentals about his feelings about people, places, software, and so on. Just reading his journals, I knew an adjusted approach to track my goals and progress would be helpful to me, too.
At the same time, my interest in personality type was rapidly increasing. I learned about extraverted thinking, and the way getting one’s thoughts out and onto paper, or into others’ ears, or into a spreadsheet, can be very helpful.
As a result, I started a “Life Improvement Journal”. This journal is my longest and most earnest paper journal to date (though my most current digital journals contain many times the word count) and contains many mini-experiments in journaling. My point in keeping this journal was to experiment with it until it became a legitimately useful tool that would help me improve my life.
In one journaling experiment, I simply asked myself, “is my life improving?” If it wasn’t—and this seemed a very important ingredient—I researched and thought about ways to improve on my improvement process until I came up with something I could try the next day.
In another journaling experiment, pondering the fact that I didn’t know his exact appearance, I sketched the face of Jesus Christ every day. Each face looks different. One of them makes me laugh; it looks as if Jesus Christ might have been imitating one of the Muppets in order to keep a child entertained. However the more I looked at it, the more I had to admit such a thing was possible and, arguably, probable given some ancient Muppet equivalent. How would allowing for this affect my subjective concept of Christ?
These ideas kept my interest and I kept writing and occasionally sketching. This new journal was an exploration of what journaling could do for me, and it helped me identify key factors in motivation while also exploring new ideas.
About two years ago, in a moment of very motivated anticipation, I had my first big cackle in a long time. It was certainly the first cackle in my life that had actually shocked me and made me stop and think. I love the word “cackle,” because no matter how ridiculous a cackle you make, the point of the cackle only becomes more and more clear—you are excited and you feel very good in your current position, probably with some insight into how things are going to turn out for you.
That first big cackle was interesting to me, and I wrote about it. It felt amazing, and quite the opposite of the depression and exhaustion with which I had become so familiar in past years.
I hypothesized that cackles were a very positive sign for increased motivation, energy, and optimism.
What, then, could I do to cackle more?
I backed up a step and realized that my level of excitement is a big hint at an upcoming cackle moment. Since then—to make a long blog post shorter than it would otherwise be—I’ve become a collector of things to be excited about.
Each day, as I write out my daily plan, I try to guess at and plan for some things that excite me. Yesterday, for example, I was excited to write a program on my Casio FX-750GII calculator. How long has it been since I did such a thing? Almost 20 years?
I made the time in my schedule, wrote out some program ideas and immediately wrote an idiot-level program just to quickly learn my way through by trial and error. It felt great!
Today, my excitement was piqued by the idea of testing a modified daily routine for my business (as unexciting as I’m sure it will be perceived, this routine has a spiritual dimension that I am anticipating with excitement), and also spending some time in each of the three library books I had checked out: Learned Optimism, Change Anything, and The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck. I may post my study notes here, too, because that was fun in the past.
Tomorrow, perhaps excitement will mean a DIY video on Youtube, or a favorite new song, discovered.
As I stalk my next cackle—and these are not as easy to come by as “normal excited moments”, by any means—I feel the way a big game hunter must feel when they have caught a glimpse of the animal they were just meant to encounter. After years of fighting depression and anxiety, this new hunt feels very satisfying. And as a side effect, every day now contains at least a little bit of excitement—before now, the question of any excitement at all appearing on the daily schedule was up in the air.
Coaching Things Learned Lately
Friday August 18, 2017
Meeting with people for coaching sessions recently, some random generalizations:
Some people really like to listen to themselves talk. There’s nothing wrong with that—it’s just how things are. So with those people I’m testing a coaching model which gives them more of the floor while remaining very directive and results-oriented. Today an ENTP told me he really enjoyed our session, and I was very happy with the outcome myself. He has new and effective methods with which to work, and he’s happier. So the model grows a bit. For a while there I wasn’t sure I could effectively coach an ENTP, but the answers to problems came quickly this week as I questioned my previous processes and outcomes.
Some people really don’t like to hear themselves talk. (Example: ISFP; some, not all) They sign up for coaching because they know they should, and they were cajoled by someone. Once in the door, they talk more about how they should do this or that, and less about themselves and their motivations. I have a lot of work to do with people like this, because they’re rare in my practice.
Some people really just need a listener. (Example: ENFP; some, not all) I’m a good listener (I wasn’t always, but I am now), so I can cover that base. Eventually they need to make commitments, but they really want to be the one to arrive at those. They want to make my commitments, not my coach’s commitments. Fine with me!
Generalizing about type is a good way to make trouble for yourself. People develop, they change, they are changed, and so on. As a coach, I make a model for the individual first, not the personality type. If I did the latter, I’d be screwed. If I just Googled somebody’s personality type every time I got a test result (wow that would be unethical), my clients would be onto that in a second. Why? Because they are already Googling things themselves! I love that fact. Google is a great first step. Research is a great first step. But the ENTP above wouldn’t have changed his methods that fast through research.
So far I really like this business, and in consultation with many other wise people I’m learning more and more what it means to contribute to the lives of others.
Not exactly an NT pursuit…or is it?
Written Thoughts: Perennially Useful or Better Just Discarded?
Tuesday June 27, 2017
Back when my life was about to take a huge turn for the better, I started a “life improvement journal.” Every day I wrote about what sucked, why it sucked, and wrote a little about what I might do about it. I was inspired by Jordan Mechner and his Karateka & Prince of Persia journals, which can be found in print or in e-book form and are recommended.
Maybe it was that particular journal that did it, I’m not sure. But two years later, having lost over 35% of my body weight, and having become a healthier, happier, and more responsible human being, I was addicted to journaling. I still can’t get enough of it. (I don’t keep a chronology, which I find really boring—there are more enjoyable ways to journal)
A while back, someone asked me: “When you write in your journal, do you keep your writings around, or discard them?”
The question really resonated with me. I have thousands of journal text files and well over 50 notebooks in which I’ve done a lot of journaling. Sometimes I think, “should I just delete all of that; throw the notebooks away? Those problems are now solved.”
For an INTJ, one of the key problem solving modes is “extraversion of thought.” Basically, we just need to blab somewhere, or to someone. Get our thoughts out. Otherwise we tend to hang out with our intuitions too much and we become these grumpy fortune-tellers who “just know how things are going to go.”
So a lot of my most impactful journal entries simply read like this: “I have this problem, what am I going to do, it sucks, oh wait here’s an idea, what if I tried X? OK yeah I should try X. BTW I have an appointment at 3 today. Also so-and-so’s phone number is…”
On the surface, that’s some fairly shallow journaling, or at least that’s how it can appear when I read it now. But there’s a very important step in there. Between “what am I going to do, it sucks,” and “oh wait here’s an idea” my brain kicked in and helped me solve the problem. It’s shocking how little thinking I actually do sometimes, in comparison to say, intuiting or sensing. And a little thinking is often all we need in order to find momentum again.
Journaling is mainly, for me, a way to think in this extraverted way. And most thoughts are not worth keeping around.
However, as I’ve explored the cognitive functions, spending quite a bit of time with Ti, I have this extra thing going on in my journal entries: I’ll start to build a framework. There is a meta-process going on around the journaling, and that process asks:
- Do I have any frameworks or sets of rules with which to attack this problem?
- If so, can I use them right now?
- If not, will this problem happen again?
- If this problem might happen again, can I write down what helped me solve it this time and reuse it later?
So I periodically review my old journal entries, looking for little points of leverage. How did I solve the problem? What did I think would help? Did I try it, and did it work?
I try to extract these points of leverage into their own text files. But I may never complete that gargantuan task, so I keep the journal entries around for now.
Also, perhaps due to its sensate nature (Dario Nardi associates it with our 8th and weakest function, introverted sensing), the journaling-as-collecting-things-from-the-past activity will always be a little bit awkward. INTJs aren’t the best at keeping collections of things. We sometimes swing violently from “I have the BEST POSSIBLE collection of things” to “I just gave them all away to my friends.” From a ridiculously materialistic bent to zen minimalism. Such a black or white tendency doesn’t say much for our maturity on the topic of keeping and storing things, or knowing how to attach importance to things.
Learning to maintain a healthy collection of things, then, can be good. And this is my life’s writing. So while it’s not exactly an amazing work of literature, I’m probably keeping it around.
Frameworks of Late
Sunday April 23, 2017
Here are some frameworks I’ve posted recently, for those who love tips, and self-improvement, and…oh hey, that’s us!
Since starting to use Ti more heavily, I have created about 300 of these cognitive frameworks, as counted by:
find ./Frameworks -type f | wc -l
…and they are mostly really messy, not at all polished like those I linked above.
The goal here is to generate my own original, subjective frameworks. Framework depending, I may include more objective data, but I’m already a very objective person overall so the subjective work just adds a dimension of fun. Well, fun and efficiency, since I can just try stuff on my own rather than waiting for the next study to be published.
One interesting trend I’ve noticed is that many of my original frameworks are now merging with each other and becoming more refined. For example, I learned that I can apply to my recovery from most illnesses (even colds, or the flu) the same tools I was using to treat periodic bouts of depression.
The framework I most frequently update right now is my new “monthly framework”, which kind of tells me what to expect & prepare for as each month of the year goes by. In the last year I noticed that many seasonal transitions and activities kind of take me by surprise, so I hope this will help me prepare my mind for e.g. depressing holiday scenarios next time around.
The frameworks I most look forward to updating and re-reading are those focused on making learning fun (above) and interests like earning certifications, interacting with professional societies, and world-building.
Remember also that my intent here is to realign with the traditional INTJ gifts, after stretching myself toward other-types’-gifts for years and years. So if this all seems terribly nerdy or OCD and you find yourself repressing aspects of it, that may be why. I’ll leave exploration of that possibility as a subjective exercise for those who may be so affected, and just say that this has been really helpful for me.
In other news, my new coaching business is picking up faster than I expected. Referrals are coming in fast, and I was flattered when a doctor asked if he could refer some patients (!) my way in order to aid their recovery toward a healthier mental posture for dealing with the day-to-day.
In another interesting experience, a friend asked for some of my time and said, “my relative would never come to you because she’s concerned that you know her and would judge her, but she needs help with the sort of thing you’re good at. Her life is incredibly hard right now. So I was thinking you could tell me what you would do for her and I’ll do those things with her.” That one still makes me smile. I was glad we spoke though, because she was complaining about the way her own therapeutic solutions were rebuffed by her friend. In general I find it’s not a great idea to try to convince a very anxious person to solve their problems your way. :-)
In response to these inquiries, I find myself googling reasons why I’m not a therapist, and coming up with a very, very subjective set of possible answers. This must annoy actual therapists to no end. And I don’t really want to be a therapist at the moment, so I’m actively looking for ways in which I will need to set boundaries. Still, looking at the Jungian cognitive model(s), one uncomfortable yet very powerful truth is, if you share psychological traits with someone, yet are not a professional yourself, you still may do more therapeutic good in your interactions with that person than a licensed therapist with different or opposing traits could. Yikes.
Things I'm Changing in Order to Change Myself
Thursday April 20, 2017
OK, this is some more Ti fun with some definite extraversion thrown in. So be warned, your built in, INTJ “is that really a good idea?” perceiver alarms might go off.
Me, I’m just over here trying stuff.
But here are some things I have altered lately:
- The way I name things
- The accessories I wear
- My handwriting
- My voice
- My worlds
The way I name things
When I have fun new ideas for things, I now get way more into them and give them project names. My new weight loss plan for the summer? “Astronaut Camp.” The name was originally 90% fun and 10% a reminder to keep a formal chart of how I’m doing. I’m two weeks into it, and now I find myself looking further into the astronaut archetype for guidance. For example, I might ask myself, “how would a healthy astronaut deal with this situation at work?” And of course I’m suddenly interested in watching more Star Trek. This is funny. And good. My past self was far too emotional and simply not astronaut enough.
Also this kind of subjective naming process gets me into Dymaxion territory, which is perfect. I hope to be inventing some Dymaxion-like names soon, because A) that is a seriously cool name and B) Buckminster Fuller is a very INTJ-attractive historical figure.
The accessories I wear
I find myself looking for ways to remind myself to be more of a chart-and-spreadsheet guy, I think because I get so much benefit from that. So as a sort of reminder of that, I bought a new calculator watch (non-affiliate link). I still have my old calculator watch (I have a small watch collection), but this one is better. And it’s got a data bank built in, which is officially meant for phone numbers, but I put it into use for tracking my calories and hydration levels. I mean, if you get 8 full alphanumeric characters and a ton of digits, and you know how to write shorthand, there is no limit. I’m looking forward to using this watch more, and it definitely works as a reminder to be more head-focused and maybe a bit less heart-focused for now.
Anybody else using the data bank watch this way? Let me know, email’s in the sidebar. Or just let me know what watch you like for nerd purposes, and why.
It sucks to have to tell you this, but I am almost done with my handwriting analyst certification. Why does it suck to have to tell you this? Well, to many INTJs, this is pseudoscience at best. But let me just say that if you feel that way, I used to too, and after actually going through the experience, I think that pseudo-scientific perception (remember, INTJ perception is a very subjective cognitive function) deserves some extraversion. Handwriting analysis definitely seems to be intractable to science, but I don’t really care about that, at least not any more than I care about personality typology being intractable to science. (I do have my own qualitative framework for experiencing and then gauging this stuff, and I think you should too.)
Anyway one of the “reminder” things you can do via handwriting (similar to my calculator watch) is to change aspects of your handwriting to more closely align with the person you want to become.
Now, as a graphic designer: This makes total sense. Graphology doesn’t even figure into that assessment.
So I have started modifying my handwriting to be a bit more aggressive and angular, large, and I’m modifying that darn capital M which has always bugged me. Turns out it was a very low-confidence M. So we’ll see how this goes.
Maybe this is mad science, which has always been more fair to the subjective world, methinks.
Oh and I’m kind of thinking I might go full graphologist. Not sure yet. I joined AHAF and if it seems interesting to you, I have to say it’s a very well-run organization with gobs of resources and interesting meet-ups.
To balance that out, I also joined NSS and am SO pumped to get involved with “space stuff”.
(Can you see how all of this interest-chasing is helping me conquer depression? Seriously, it works. At the end of even the worst day I always have my interests to catch up on.)
I once received a life-changing compliment on a conference call with a group in Ireland. The US rep who was working there chuckled a bit and said, “everybody here thinks your voice is very soothing and pleasant.” You never forget stuff like that.
Just recently, I had noticed that my voice pitch shot through the roof under stress. So, if I’m changing my handwriting…why not aim for a low voice as a way of possibly controlling my mental game on phone calls?
I’m trying it.
BTW this stuff is not going to change overnight, so please don’t misunderstand me as a guy who’s about to leap off a tall building wearing a self-improvement cape. I’m mainly excited about the ideas at this point, really, but I expect to give them some time and see how they go.
In my introvert retraining process, in which I intentionally realigned myself with the healthy INTJ model, I kept reading that introverts have a “rich inner world.” This bugged me, because what was that supposed to mean? I had no idea. I feel like my inner world was mostly just other peoples’ ideas floating around.
But now I think I’m starting to get it. But only after I started world-building. And then exploring those worlds.
Well, you can only do that in your head.
And to make a long story short, one of those worlds has a rather advanced medical science institute with amazing staff. And whenever I’m feeling overwhelmed, a bit depressed, or whatever, I intentionally make a little visit to that place and get some ideas on how I should be recuperating. And every time, it makes me feel better, faster.
Now just in the last couple of weeks, my subconscious has kind of latched onto this place. I know this because it suddenly brought the institute building to the forefront of my mind one afternoon, and I thought, “why would that place come to mind? Am I feeling kind of down and out?” And I was! My subconscious told me what needed to happen via mental imagery before I consciously figured out how I was feeling. Pretending I was in a medical bed, I watched some interesting Youtube videos and took a nap in a hammock, which are, confidentially, steps 1 & 2 of my personal anti-depression framework.
That was a pretty neat experience. I’ll keep developing the rich inner world, and I highly recommend world-building as at least one aspect of it. (I have at least a descriptive text file and maybe a digitally-drawn map of each of these worlds on file.)
I should also mention that the subjective inner world-building really spurs some more objective research as well. I find myself establishing space stations, asking myself what science is carried out within, and then learning new things about e.g. exobiology.
Some Final Words
Why do I feel the need to change myself? There is a bit of a cultural stigma about that, I think. Why not just be OK with who I am, and accept myself?
I think broad wording like “change myself” can cause trouble. Because I think there’s a sort of culturally-obvious, intuitive answer, which is “I must therefore be hating who I am right now,” but is really not as accurate as it needs to be. In fact what I’m doing is aligning myself more closely with my natural gifts, instead of trying to be more “normal” or spending lots of energy to fit some less-comfortable cultural norm.
So maybe my best answer for now is, “I already tried changing myself, I found a healthy direction in which to change, it worked wonders, and now I want to do more of it.”
A Place for My Business
Wednesday March 29, 2017
I just hit “publish” (or rather, “upload”) on the public persona for my new Personality Type Coaching business. I’ve been blogging quite a bit about type right here, but the type coaching business was mostly under wraps until I could properly launch it.
It was a lot of fun to finally bring the website into being, to cement the “who I am and what I’m doing explanation” a bit more, and to share it on Facebook. As usual my ENFP friends & family jumped in to enthusiastically share my announcement with their friends, so I’ll just call that good enough for now. It’s still a side job.
And by “a lot of fun,” I guess I mean “holy cow do I feel overexposed right at the moment.” I’m pretty sure I lost most of a business day just out of sheer, overstimulating, excitement and anticipation. My thoughts are everywhere.
And then a new fountain pen arrives in the mail and I start fiddling with it, getting ink all over myself, and I’m just all over the place. Get it together!
So far I’ve successfully told my wet-blanket dominant INTJ function, introverted intuition, to stop bothering me about how much this new venture is a bad idea. Man, I was having all kinds of weird ideas of what would happen should I continue making this official. However, it’s nice to have two separate, real-life, INTJ mentors backing me up, two absolute stalwarts of coaching standing there like gigantic sentinels pointing down the road toward my future. Those guys seem immovable from where I stand, and I respect their advice.
Over the holidays at the end of last year, my sister introduced me to a friend by saying, “this is my brother Marc. He’s a psychologist.” I was tripping all over myself to correct her, but the truth is that though not a psychologist, I’m psychologizing all the time now. It seems to be a really good fit for me.
If you’re an INTJ and have any interest in psychology and specifically personality type, I can only recommend getting into it further. It’s been an incredible benefit to me.
Finally, thanks for checking out my new website. I plan to continue writing useful INTJ things right here, but I’ll post some generally-useful information over there, too.
"I get stuck in these little ruts"
Tuesday March 21, 2017
I recently asked an INTJ friend if he had experience with a specific cognitive model, and he said, “yes, and I don’t like it.”
Then he clarified.
“Well, I haven’t really dug into it the way you might, so you might find it useful. I get stuck in these little ruts…”
I was glad he said that. I knew exactly what he meant by “little ruts.” Probably other INTJs know what he meant too, but just in case, I’ll explain it.
As INTJs, we’re not extraverts. But we are generally really perceptive people. As a result, we often hold new things (opportunities for extraversion) in suspicion, and find it easier to begin enumerating their probable faults rather than just opening ourselves to them and experiencing what they have to offer.
What my friend was saying, in effect, was: “I’m an introvert. And I am a bit too suspicious of things sometimes; I hold back when there might actually be some value to be found. So you should check it out yourself if you’re interested, and see how it goes.”
By the way, extraverts can experience the opposite problem: Getting too excited about new things without really grasping how some of the deeper, less obvious aspects might impact the overall experience.
I do find it useful to tone down my introversion and consciously extravert myself toward new things, try them out, and then judge. This falls under my mental category called “making inquiries” and is one of the highest-leverage problem-solving tools available to INTJs.
I still get stuck in those little ruts pretty often though. Introversion will always be home for me, and all things considered, we have to work from the position that’s most comfortable to us.
Taking Measurements as a Way of Extraverting Oneself
Monday February 13, 2017
Sometimes I think “being more of an extravert is healthy,” but I get stuck in the cognitive dead end of “that means I should get out more.”
In fact, Jung’s extraversion concept is not just about getting out or enjoying crowds.
One form of extraversion that works very well for me is measurement. Dario Nardi defines extraverted thinking (Te), the powerful INTJ problem-solving function, as “taking measurements and refining measurement systems.”
If you are struggling with something, look for a way to measure your performance or current level. By weighing myself 3-4 times a week, I keep my BMI at “healthy” levels. By periodically measuring my anxiety via a brief test in a book I own, I help myself prevent crises of mental health—I can plan to get more sleep, get more exercise, or both, for example.
Measurement turns out to be a very good start for INTJs who want to break out of whatever “stuck” they’re in.
Changing Jobs to Suit Personality: Victor Prokofiev's View
Saturday January 28, 2017
From time to time I check in with the world of Socionics and do a bit of research there. I find Socionics very useful as it focuses on providing models for human relations based on personality type, as opposed to just modeling individual psychology based on personality type.
(By the way, I will continue to use “INTJ” in this article, but in Socionics, the INTJ type would be written as an INTp or an ILI type. In the four-letter format, the “J” and “P” are swapped for introverts and made lowercase. ILI stands for “Intuitive Logical Intratim” and indicates that our intuitive perception preference precedes our logical judging preference, and we are introverted.)
Among many great quotes I extracted from the source interview with Victor Prokofiev, this quote stood out to me (emphasis mine):
Victor Prokofiev: And there are often questions such as: “I can get money for what I really love, really?”. People often think that we are all the same, consequently, we all have to do the same things in life.
Interviewer: So you pick the type of activity that is as comfortable as possible?
Victor Prokofiev: Yes, or do we just say that if someone likes his work, he just needs to change the priorities within the job description, change daily routine. Job Description consists from the list of works. We need to try something to pay more attention to, and something – to pay less attention to. [He means making decisions of what we prioritize based on our psychological preferences, in order to bring us more comfort in our work -Marc] And you have to see what would happen to the demand for your work, whether people work with great pleasure. Here the knowledge of socionics purely helps. And in fact, it turns out great. After all, people begin to work with great pleasure. Sometimes people change their position, profession. If you have gained the rich experience, than dramatically change everything from that point is not a good choice, it does not make sense. But to change your behaviour, change priorities – this is what really useful.
I personally did this in my own career. At first I wondered if I should change jobs. I knew I was an INTJ, and I knew I wanted to be happier in my work. But looking at other “INTJ jobs” was disappointing. I could see where what we think of as a “job” is really just a discrete set of people, tasks, and goals, and those could change from job to job even if the job title stayed the same, and I lacked important background interests for many jobs. It also seemed like a huge waste to just put my current career behind me.
Then I took a job-to-personality matching test, and it suggested the job I already had! That was a funny moment.
So I reexamined my current job. There’s a lot of amazing stuff there—I own a technology business, I get to evaluate and deploy different technologies, I get to determine my hours and working style, I choose my clients—it’s really great in a lot of ways. So after thinking it through, I started altering my focus at work from long-form, detail-oriented work to higher-level planning and organization, with a focus on just the details that are important to me for the success of the project. In addition to that, I take advantage of my flexible time and make trips to the library to combine playful research with planning for work projects, and I make use of the opportunity to combine things I’m learning through playful research with my work projects.
I also—and Prokofiev doesn’t mention this but I’m sure he’d suggest it—have benefited from looking at Socionics intertype relationships and deciding on how I want to alter my communications style or work style from client to client. I even allowed myself to, for example, not take on another client of type X if I already work with other clients of that type. Or even not work with that type at all if I can’t do it well. Changing communications style or work style requires shifting into a lower gear, in a sense. The anxiety is a bit higher when trying this, but the potential gains in personal development are huge. So it’s seriously nice to be able to just say, “no, I don’t have the capacity for even more personal development right now.” The victories have been worthwhile. Learning to downplay my Ni in conversations with an ESTJ was a very fulfilling step in the end.
I’ve only really done this sort of adaptation / development with clients that are a bit more difficult than normal. In the case of the ESTJ it has worked amazingly well. In another case, it’s taken longer to figure out but I picked up some important clues today from Prokofiev’s interview, and I’m still working at it.
This alteration of the way I mold my job to fit myself has provided me a lot more peace of mind. Work has a better feel to it now. I’m open to more change and hope to tweak the parameters within my job in the future, so to speak, but I like the change that I’m experiencing so far.
Coping with the Holidays
Monday January 23, 2017
As I begin to recover some lost productivity at the end of January, I’m reflecting on the fact that the holidays were bad for my health. It feels blasphemous to say so, but it’s true.
First, I found myself struggling with illness. Right around the end of November, I caught Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease (HFMD). I caught this from my children, who caught it from their peers at school. It hits adults harder, so while my kids barely showed any abnormal signs, I could hardly use my hands, it was painful to walk, and I had to cancel several work meetings as a result.
Second, after finishing my first big weight loss cycle, losing 100 lbs. / 45 kg. to reach a “healthy” BMI, I had decided to start a “bulk” up to 190 lbs. from 175. I overestimated my free time and understanding of this process, didn’t account for illness, and ended up injuring myself early on in November, in my hurry to make muscles appear (ha) while gaining weight. Did I reach my goal of 190 lbs.? Definitely! Am I more fit and muscular as a result? No! So now I’m losing the weight again…
Third, not just my physical health, but my mental health suffered. My anxiety floor went up a bit due to my illness and injury. But it went way up due to things like:
- Having family around for holidays and the accompanying family needs
- Social outings that happen every year with friends of various kinds
- Schedules changing to accommodate this or that
- Inability to keep my normal work pace
- Cold & rainy weather making otherwise easy exercise like outdoor walking, harder
- Going to sleep later and getting up later, as a result of family activities
- Eating extra holiday food, with opportunities to eat being unscheduled and more frequent, or scheduled and less frequent.
- Interestingly, there was LOTS of food, but sometimes we were traveling around in e.g. a state park and had “oh we didn’t plan on what to eat” moments, leading me to a sort of feast/famine mentality. (You can tell I didn’t plan the food, because “contingency” is my middle name…)
When your weaknesses are called upon to do extra duty, it almost always results in anxiety, depression, irritation, boredom, or some combination of those. So I had to “put myself in therapy” several times, in order to address these problems directly and resolve them before they got worse.
My tools for dealing with this actually helped quite a bit, so I’ve got to give them credit. They were:
- Talk to spouse about any problems
- Take as much free time as you need
- Write your thoughts and feelings as much as you want
- Make meta-plans—plans that sit on top of others’ plans for the group. For example, let’s say we’re hiking through the woods in a place I’ve already been about 20 times. I’d tell myself, eat a piece of candy every 20 minutes if you’re feeling tired and irritable. Or we go to the beach—I bring my sketchbook and some watercolors. Or we go out to eat: I plan what I want beforehand.
- When feeling extra anxiety or depression, all normal social rules, etc. are off. Just take care of yourself until you feel better again. (I’ve learned that if I don’t do this, things just get worse)
I remember one day, close to Christmas, when I was struck by a deep feeling of depression. In a fog of confusion and exhaustion, I walked out to my backyard office and started to write & think about the situation. I realized I had been trying for the last while to make chit-chat with a friend for whom extraverted feeling was the inferior function. This friend wanted nothing more than to engage in some idle chit-chat as a way of relaxing, and the act had drained me of whatever was left in my battery. I ended up taking the rest of the day off for “me” time, actually avoiding this person. However, after about two hours of heavy introversion—writing, reflecting, Youtube, Netflix, etc.—I was feeling good again. He had no idea that what felt relaxing for him was really discharging my energy; luckily for me, I did.
Should I fix myself?
When I scored 100% on the “J” dichotomy of the Majors PTi (a psychometric instrument which yields a four-letter Jungian personality type code), my mentor Mark Bodnarczuk remarked, “looking at this score, I’d tend to think: Maybe here’s a guy who needs to loosen up a bit.” And of course, I’ve been deeply cognizant of that ever since. Our strengths, magnified, become a liability.
However, you can’t just turn around and “fix” a problem like that. To even begin such an attempt, it’s wise to have a lot of scaffolding from your gifted side to help you out. Otherwise you’re just asking for anxiety problems and some awful results, like awkward extravert outbursts, etc.
For now, I’ve decided to keep reflecting on realistic and unrealistic behaviors, and find areas where I can keep my sanity and loosen up a bit more than usual. This low-hanging fruit method has helped me make significant progress in other areas.
The first low-hanging fruit I identifed were my new years’ resolutions. I realized that these were adapted for a holiday schedule, rather than my normal work schedule. They were actually quite far down my priority list, and while they sounded fun, I believe that they were in fact tips from my subconscious that it would be a good idea to get back to my normal, organized schedule. I have already reduced them in scale dramatically and have started on a framework for a more fulfilling resolution-achieving process (this started with my evaluating, and then changing, the idea of SMART goals to VERY SMART goals; more on that later probably). But mostly, I see the goals in a healthier perspective, and I’m more laid back about achieving them, or not.
Going into the 2017 holiday season
I’ll probably have lots more holiday seasons to celebrate. I’m healthier than ever, I’m more in control of my life than I’ve ever been, and things are looking up overall. But I am changing my outlook on the holidays a bit. From now on, I’ll attempt to see them more as they are: A bit of a test. Some of the test questions will be:
- Am I learning to adapt to changes and uncertainty?
- Can I let myself relax and improvise when needed? What are some problem scenarios?
- Are my goals for this time period very realistic?
- What are common risks of this season, and how will I deal with them?
- My weaknesses will be tested—sociality and ability to go with the flow, etc. How will I rate myself and allow for deficiency?
That’s my scaffolding for next time around.
For the record, my favorite moments of the 2016 holiday season were:
- Keeping up with my ISTP son on a hike through the woods
- Playing board games with family
- Sketching at the beach
- New art supplies for Christmas
- Getting excited about new areas of study
- Messaging other INTJ friends
- Watching favorite Youtube channels
Well, that’s pretty introverted, and not a big change from any other holiday season. Both are fine with me.