Marc's INTJ Blog

Becoming Aware of Low Exercise Motivation

Monday March 12, 2018

One of the most important things I’ve learned about exercise is that it is meant to be an ever-changing game for some of us. I’m one of those people. I did the /r/bodyweightfitness routine for about 6 months, and while it was amazing for the bulk of that time, toward the end it was excruciatingly boring, even the progressions part. Especially the progressions part.

My results indicate that exercise is much more sustainable for me if I progress through a variety of forms of exercise (perhaps increasing in intensity over time as a general attribute) rather than progressing through ever-more-challenging same-exercises.

When I exercise, I usually derive some major benefit. Today’s benefit from exercising, for example, was realizing that there is a huge leverage point in an existing project that will help me reach a goal. I call this exercise-benefit loop an “exercise-benefit loop”.

Hmm! Well, too lazy to rewrite that sentence.

The following steps seem to form a positive input to my exercise-benefit loop:

  1. Recognize and name any psychological resistance
  2. Recognize [resistance name or resistance type] as a stressor
  3. Unburden myself of the psychological resistance by attacking the stressor

For example, “I’m not enjoying this at all. I’m totally bored,” is one way to name the resistance. I named the resistance “boredom.” To follow that, I need to recognize that I have a stressor on my hands: Something that creates a problem in my exercise-benefit loop. I need to solve the problem. With the stressor named, I ask myself: What can I do about it? And this is where it gets a bit more interesting.

My subconscious is usually way ahead of me by this point. In many cases it seems to know what I need sooner than I do. So I like to ask my intuition (the INTJ’s dominant gift, so to speak) what I should do about it. I engage this process by doing things like visualizing myself doing some fun exercise, and accepting whatever I see myself doing. Or imagining that an exercise coach walked through my door, and listening to his advice.

But let’s say it’s raining right now (which it is) and I see myself jumping on a trampoline (which is now wet). OK, I accept that my subconscious seems to jump right to that, and it really does seem like what I need, in some intuitive way. Let’s fold in some analysis (introverted thinking) and ask: How can I get that activity to be where I’m at right now? I don’t want to get all wet as I don’t have time to change clothes.

In my case I decide: I’ll put on some upbeat music and jump around in my office here. Maybe I’ll dance, do some jumping jacks. Maybe I’ll do some somersaults on the floor.

Well, I just tried that (key point: You have to try the thing!) and I’m sitting here sweating. When I was done, I opened my office door, and the cool, humid air just poured in. Perfect.

As an INTJ, I’m accountable to my intuition, and things work much better if we cooperate. However, you never know when a problem in the exercise-benefit loop will appear, and when that occurs it’s crucial to accept it, name it, and consciously attack it.

"Just" is a dangerous word for your personal development

Friday February 23, 2018

I really dislike the word “just” lately. “Just” is very commonly used—and unintentionally, I will add—as a sneaky nuance-avoidance word. Such nuance avoidance can perpetuate really awful problems.

Here are some examples of the kind of usage I’m talking about:

  • I just need to get that project started.
  • People need to just stop [insert bad behavior here]
  • He just needs to go get a job.

There went three opportunities, right out the window. Each one of those conclusive judgments is a lost opportunity to reflect, analyze, and solve a problem through the leverage provided by a resilient cognitive model.

The ability to detect, sort through, and operate within nuanced situations is a reflection of intellectual development. Conversely, the black-and-white view espoused by the “just” statement often reflects a low level of development regarding the topic in question. If someone has a black and white view on a thing, you can be assured that their level of education vis-a-vis that thing is relatively low.

Sure, there are times when “just” spurs us to action. It says: “Take action now, we have passed the point of thinking.” But I have observed that when INTJs use the word “just” in that way, it can be a result of an unbalanced mental process that could use some review. Although the process is biased toward decisive action, it can actually be biased toward avoidance when it comes to open-mindedness and rational thinking.

Imagine an INTJ, beset by anxiety, who is pushing herself harder and harder to work on her chemistry paper. Nothing seems to work. “I just need to get started,” she says as she starts her third argument on Facebook, or starts her second feature-length movie of the day. This happens all the time. This is someone who is perfectly capable of starting things, even now, but who cannot start on the chemistry. It’s not a curse, it’s not witchcraft, it’s a system to analyze! A real opportunity.

To wrap this up, a few examples to consider:

What if Einstein had said, “I just need to buckle down and be a good patent examiner!”

And what if Feynman had said, “sometimes shuttles just crash!”

And what if Newton had told himself: “Why do apples fall? Well, sometimes things just are how they are.”

we went into the garden, & drank thea under the shade of some appletrees, only he, & myself. amidst other discourse, he told me, he was just in the same situation, as when formerly, the notion of gravitation came into his mind. “why should that apple always descend perpendicularly to the ground,” thought he to him self: occasion’d by the fall of an apple, as he sat in a comtemplative mood: “why should it not go sideways, or upwards? but constantly to the earths centre? assuredly, the reason is, that the earth draws it. there must be a drawing power in matter. & the sum of the drawing power in the matter of the earth must be in the earths center, not in any side of the earth. therefore dos this apple fall perpendicularly, or toward the center. if matter thus draws matter; it must be in proportion of its quantity. therefore the apple draws the earth, as well as the earth draws the apple.”

Maybe watching for that “just” word will help us become more curious, take more of those deep, rewarding intellecutal dives, and become nuanced, even in the face of complex information.

Modeling and Detecting, Two Important INTJ Skills

Friday February 23, 2018

One of the happiest, most effective INTJ roles is the detective, so I thought I’d share some of my detecting work here.

A good detective first detects, then constructs a model that accounts for their perceptions, and then refines the model as they do more detecting. This is a perception-judgment loop.

As my first example, here is some detective work I’m doing. This is a model I’m working on that places depression as some product of inflammation, and positions it within other factors like an “exertion->sleep-quality->depressive outcome” chain (click/tap/blorb for large version):

Photo of a highlighter and pen drawing of a depression model

This really needs an upgrade both in graphical quality and in communication effectiveness, but it was exciting to capture the model on paper. I wrote it just after I observed that anti-inflammatory medications could get me out of the depressed zone very fast. This was a big surprise to me. Add in some other ingredients like some pull-ups, upbeat music, and maybe a bit of food or caffeine, and the outcome was just as good as it would have been had I taken a nap (naps were my previous go-to resolution for the depressed state and they still work very well). This was great news for me because I can’t always sleep on command, especially not when I have to wrap up a big project, or do some other stressful thing.

I could go on for days about depression, but so far, as far as I can tell from my measurements, or my detection-and-modeling process, it’s less of an “illness” and more of a symptom. It’s a necessary element in the human system in the same way that physical pain is necessary when you put your hand in a blender. While the pain is a bummer, you can learn a lot of helpful things from it, and maybe the pain quickly saves you from further complications. So this is how I describe overcoming depression: I have conquered depression not by eliminating it, but by reducing it to a non-chronic state and increasing my ability to detect the symptoms, leverage a model, and overcome the pain in a short period of time.

As a second example, here is a model I developed for using my time at the public library for maximum leverage (click/tap/ think in Russian for large version):

Photo of a highlighter and pen drawing of a depression model

This model is simpler, still requires more refinement, but captures the essence of what’s working for me when I visit the library. I really enjoy the library environment and I try to walk over there at least a few times a week. As I reflected on this model today, I came up with a new clue and potential leverage point, which I’m excited to try.

The model as drawn here captures two loops, one meta-loop where I write freely about my problems to unlock detective mode, which leads to motivation and courage-to-work, and an inner loop where I classify or call out my problems as I write about them (sometimes simply assigning them a number and a highlighter color), then find a different part of the page or notebook to dive in and write more about the details of each problem and any steps to completion.

A key outcome of this model is a schedule or a plan for my time. (Or heck, let’s just say it in German: Zeitplan, because I like how that word sounds.) I used to sit down and try to schedule things directly, but I found that those things were usually still too big-picture (like the classic: “JUST FINISH THE PROJECT”) and it didn’t help with motivation. Right now, scheduling as an outcome of this detecting-system just makes more psychological sense (it’s easier and more effective) and usually the schedule doesn’t need to be changed as much later.


My modeling meta-model is also being fleshed out:

  • I find that going meta is a strong leverage point for me. Zooming out one level and modeling the outer layer.
  • If I am getting resistance while working on the details, I can often go meta, describe the model, diagnose the problem, and come to a satisfying conclusion. This gives me guidance and motivation to work on the details again, because maybe some details just needed to be ruled out, or rearranged for more leverage, or whatever.

There’s more to this model to come I’m sure, but I think it is starting to answer the “how do I work with details successfully” INTJ question.

Implications of the Perception-Judgement Loop

Because the “detective loop” requires perception and judgement, it’s a good idea to 1) stay open to new information and 2) conduct experiments (use the executive functions of your brain, not just the perceptive functions).

INTJs sometimes rule too many things out in advance by intuitive perception alone, while committing to too little experimentation. Too much attention to a single intuitive perception can bias the “judge, jury, and executioner” processes, which is not always ideal. You could call this “too much Ni (introverted intuition) and low-quality Ni at that” if you are familiar with the cognitive functions, but for most INTJs the major tip here is to stay mentally open and describe/test your models often.

If you’d like some good examples on the topic of staying mentally open and running experiments, see Clifford Stoll and Richard Feynman, below. Feynman’s book, Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman, is a masterpiece in open-minded thinking.


So: If you’re a detective, like most INTJs are, then detect. If you haven’t (consciously) tried it yet, give it a shot. Make observations and start building your own models for things. If you can get those models on paper, you’ll find that you can enter a model-refinement loop and really come up with something elegant and effective.

I’d love to hear about your models, too—email’s in the sidebar.

Here are some of my favorite detectives, both fictional and non:

Finally, I placed some toy cars in the photos here. More on those later!

Why I Like Using Highlighters

Monday February 19, 2018

Yesterday I was drawing a sketch of a (speculative) model for inflammation and depression, and I began to realize why I love using highlighters. As I fleshed out the reasoning, I thought I’d share it here:

  • Highlighters allow us to color-code information.
  • Color-coding is one way to easily classify information.
  • Classification is an important activity because it divides information into types.
  • Types are important because they generalize information and create an abstract view.
  • Generalization and abstract views are important because they easily communicate the highest-impact information.
  • High-impact information is important because it increases our ability to influence and solve problems.
  • We must increase our ability influence and solve problems in order to feel like successful human beings.
  • When we are at our most successful, we consider ourselves as uniquely-qualified problem-solvers.

I couldn’t stop thinking about this last night. I am always buying highlighters. I must have about ten different sets. My favorites are:

  • Rite Aid “Wexford” highlighters. Low price, vibrant ink, good hues. Just a really good cost-to-performance ratio, especially if you buy them around mid-September when they’re on clearance for, say, $0.10 per pen. (Yes!!!)
  • Zebra Kei Koat highlighters. Versatile double-tip, vibrant ink, small size.
  • Sharpie Clear View highlighters. Vibrant ink, fat design that’s fun to hold.
  • Bic Brite Liner Flex Tip highlighters. Brush tip (surprisingly versatile), relatively dull ink, but fun to use.

I like to have three to five highlighters nearby when I’m working or thinking. More than five is too many colors, and even three highlighters can be combined to make more than three colors. For example, yellow and blue make green, yellow and pink make orange, blue and pink make some kind of purple color.

Highlighter color chart

When you want to go for more nuanced colors, you can use stippling. Tiny pink dots on top of yellow can make a passable skin color.

Highlighter color chart

Going beyond aesthetic, beyond “I don’t know why, I just like highlighters,” there comes a time when a theorist must look at his ten sets of highlighters and think, “why?” The theorist naturally seeks leverage by deepening their search for knowledge about their own habits and those of others.

If you accumulate more than some average amount of a thing, chances are your subconscious is sending you a message about that thing. I’ve found that to be a very reliable assumption, as long as you leave the interpretation wide open. But it’s usually not just that you like that thing so why not buy ten of them. I have been why-ing about my highlighters for a while, and I discovered the schema above as I used them yesterday. It gave me a feeling of completion, with a satisfying little “click” sound in my brain as my mostly-unknown thought mechanisms slammed some coherent little bits of meaning together.

If you want an extra INTJ-related brain click, consider that modeling, classification, and systematization are associated with introverted and extraverted thinking (Ti and Te). Highlighters can help with all of that good stuff.

I believe there is a Highlighter Martial Art lurking in here somewhere. “Highlighters classify information” can give us a bit of insight into graphic design theory, perhaps. Highlighters do more than just randomly highlight sentences that might be on a test. It’s now obvious to me in a way that might open a path to doing even cooler things with highlighters and information. You never know.

Following Holmes Around

Wednesday January 31, 2018

My local public library subscribes to Hoopla Digital, and it’s been a really great experience as a library patron. The app works great, the video and audio streaming and download functions seem flawless, and even reading comic books is enjoyable. When I found that I could watch/read/listen to the media not only on my phone but also in a web browser and on a special Roku channel on my TV (I think this last one is for videos only), I was even happier with the product.

I’m 25 minutes into the film They Might Be Giants (1971), and so far this is a fantastic INTJ-ENTP bridge movie. I say “bridge” because developing some of those INTJ-useful ENTP characteristics is probably made easier by observing the main character’s ENTP-style actions. If you are looking for inspiration as you become more of a scientist (of any kind, professional or not), this film has some real promise.

Geoge C. Scott plays a credible eccentric who believes in himself and his work, who chases down leads, and generally remains open to—and smart about—new information. He is mentally engaged, creative, excited, and fun. He’s an original thinker, developing his own theories and models. In short, he models what should be very creditable behavior for any INTJ in combination with the typical INTJ skillset.

If you’re looking for a direction in which to head as you seek more pleasure in life, I think this is a good lead to check out. You might not (even probably won’t) become the caricatured jumpy eccentric, but turning the knobs just a bit further in that direction could prove very beneficial.

Another potential ENTP-thought-model lead here, and a favorite book of mine, is Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!

By the way, here’s my current model for using Hoopla:

  • I make heavy use of the recommendations given beneath any item shown.
  • I find that four or five-star reviews are generally pretty reliable, and lower-scored items are usually worth avoiding. (In some other systems this is not the case)
  • The filter function to narrow down searches is very helpful; you can filter by media type and quickly narrow down the number of results. The thumbnail images between media types don’t change much, so it can be easy to accidentally check out a 16-hour audio book when you just wanted a text to skim.
  • I keep a sharp eye on the number of pages for books. A book on psychology that is 15 pages long might, or might not, be the kind of thing I’m looking for. With films I find that I look at the actors’ names just to know if the film is made in my native language; sometimes I watch movies with people who just aren’t into reading subtitles.
  • It has been really useful to bombard the search tool with a variety of keywords that are remotely linked to my interests. I found a lot of really interesting titles this way. Sometimes when I just want to browse I’ll search for “the” or “and” or other really general terms to get started.
  • When I enjoy an audio book’s narrator, I tap on their name in the credits and often find other books that are similarly enjoyable. The same goes for authors, actors, etc.
  • I make liberal use of the Favorites function and use it as a kind of to-read or to-watch feature. I have at least 200 favorites stored. My tastes fluctuate by the day, so it’s useful to keep the favorites around. When I’m going for a long walk or a hike and want to choose something to listen to, the Favorites area is a great place to start looking.
  • If you live with or know anyone else who has a library card but doesn’t use it much, see if they’ll register for Hoopla and give you access to their account for when you run out of check-outs. One patron account gets 15 items per month, and this can easily be expanded to 60-90 items with a bit of networking among those less technically-inclined.
  • If you can’t do that, be very selective about films and TV shows, as you don’t get to check them out for as long as books, audiobooks, and comics. It sucks to hit the middle of the month with no check-outs left.

In addition to Hoopla, the Libby app is tolerable if your library supports it, and you can also check out some scanned books from the Internet Archive if you create an account there (no library card required). IA’s in-browser reading software works really well for me (on mobile devices, hit the magnifying glass icon and use the hamburger menu on the left side of the screen to adjust the zoom level). IA is a really fun information-excavation site, but that’s probably for another post.

Healthy INTJ Tip: Start a Crazy Wall

Thursday December 21, 2017

Feeling beaten down? Scatterbrained? Conspired against? Start a crazy wall!

For the perceptive INTJ, one of the key problem solvers is written right there in the Tumblr subtitle: Get it out of your head. You see, we’re in our head lots. Our brain imagery can go from “inspirational idea” or “clear impression” to “big disorganized mess of impressions that don’t easily lend themselves toward planning, making decisions, optimizing, etc.” in no time.

Even if it’s not a literal string theory, it’s a great idea to find some format that helps you just get the information out of your noggin.


  • Journal
  • Mind map (digital using e.g. Freeplane or on paper)
  • Outliner or tree-based organizer software
  • Personal wiki or website
  • Gigantic sheet of paper
  • Spreadsheet (digital or paper)
  • Talking to yourself (suspend disbelief for a moment and consider that lots of healthy people do this)
  • or someone else

Next time you see one in a movie, remember that crazy walls, while crazy for some, may actually be good for your psychology.

(For those who think a crazy wall is a bad sign no matter what, I have some news for you about information technology and hypertext.)

Happy Holidays, INTJs

Tuesday December 12, 2017

Since I’ve been sending these out recently, I’ll share them with you. Here are my introductory notes, sent to my INTJ clients: Getting the Most out of Coaching as an INTJ. (PDF)

If you’re meeting with a coach, advisor, counselor, etc. you may find the above document useful, even if your coach is not me.

If you’re interested in meeting with a coach, or finding out what that means, I offer a free hour-long coaching session to see if coaching is a good fit for you. Take a look at the document above first, maybe. My current rate is $125 USD for an hour-long session (via Skype, Whatsapp, phone, etc.) and some phone calls and/or emails during the month. It’s a ridiculously cheap investment aimed at improving your entire life, really. If you could use personal feedback and advisement, and prefer to talk to someone who shares large chunks of your psychology, we should talk.

With that business out of the way, here are some things I’ve been interested in lately:

Integrating Film & Practice

I’m incorporating movie scenes and little clips into my coaching practice. The cool thing about psychology is…well, it’s a frustrating thing, really: Everything applies to some principle within psychology. I’m watching a film thinking “oh, great moment, I should send out a clip of that” and then I think of ten more clips I want to share.

Like, let’s say this is you phoning your brain for help when you have just encountered a huge new problem in your life. I mean that’s pretty much exactly how it goes. So what are you going to do, Condor? What did he do?

Specific Films

Have you seen Sorcerer? This is IMO a great film for an INTJ to embrace and understand. You’re the truck driver, we’re all that truck driver. The payload is your state of mind, your life experience, right? Watch the film.

Another great film from the same period: The Changeling, starring George C. Scott. How do you handle those outside factors that pester you, the subjective unknown? As an INTJ this is high-leverage territory but so few have explored it. And I don’t mean ghosts, just the unknown. Simple stuff. Fun stuff.


My gesture-analysis skills are totally sick, or so I was told by a group for whom I did some art and handwriting analysis recently. In this case, “gesture” indicates handwriting, drawing, doodling, etc. I have developed two new drawing exercises that help me guide a client to a better viewpoint from which they can observe themselves. The range of psychological color you get from markings on paper submitted by different people is simply amazing. It’s a real treat to look at. Strengths pop right out. Weaknesses are obvious but if you talk about strengths you can work around to a better position from which to attack weaknesses.


I am extremely glad I have pushed through just about every “you’ll shoot your eye out” warning I’ve received in the last few years. Examples:

  • What are you researching that topic for, it’s long dead!
  • Don’t study that topic, it’s pseudoscience!
  • Why are you using that technology, it’s obsolete!
  • That alternative mental model for solving this kind of problem is outdated!
  • Why are you inventing your own method for doing X, when we have established method Y!
  • I’ve heard of that exercise technique / diet plan /etc. and I’m suspicious! You’ll shoot your eye out!

Then guess what—I get a great result, discover some new stuff, and the same people tell me, “it’s great that it worked out for you, but I could never let myself learn/do that.”

At least they’re being honest.

Improvised Forest Hot Tubs



I’ll bet a lot of INTJs can benefit from watching this video on tutorials and analyzing the author’s approach to the problem he encountered. Big tip…


Humans are generally in a huge bind on the question of perfection, growth, and change. We hesitate to grow because it’s not possible, or is it? Pushing yourself is not desirable, or is it? Don’t worry about changing yourself, just relax…or should you?

I’ve been studying this topic for a while now, writing about it, thinking about it. In my opinion, you should head toward perfection as if it’s absolutely achievable. Take change very seriously. And while you’re doing that, make the rate of change comfortable in order to make your growth sustainable. That last point will be the hard one for the average INTJ with a handful of goals.

Also, if something is nagging you, like some bad habit or a tendency to think your future is gloomy, analyze the problem as soon as possible, inside and out. Talk it out with someone else or write it out in a journal. untitled(6).txt :-)

New Year’s Resolutions

Tip: Keep a log of your anxiety levels in the days following the setting of any resolutions for next year. Log any other factors you can think of. Remember: To increase control, add instrumentation.

Tip: Calendar a few days spread across next year to review your resolutions. Set an alert.

Tip: After all that, write down your findings.

Question: What goals do you already have in mind for next year? Let me know.

There’s no way to summarize all this so I’ll just say: Write me if you want to chat, my email’s in the sidebar. Enjoy your time off if you take some time off (you should!) and hang in there if you’re suffering.

Ham Radio as an INTJ Hobby

Tuesday November 28, 2017

I’ve always enjoyed listening to shortwave radio, reading about numbers stations, and so on. I looked up to people who knew how radio worked, and I enjoy planning projects that involve electronics. But I never thought I’d be a ham radio operator myself.

So why become one now? In recent years my mindset has shifted:

  • I now realize I get most leverage by doing INTJ things
  • It’s easier, and I get better results from doing that kind of thing
  • So let’s try more INTJ things.

I knew I was on to something with ham radio when I told my also-INTJ business coach about my new interest. He came back a month later and told me he was excited now, and was also studying to become an amateur radio operator! Bingo, one INTJ hobby identified and near-triangulated.

Now that I have my license, here are the results:

  • I find it easy to talk about ham radio
  • It’s been easy to find friends in the hobby, friends who are doing really cool stuff (Just yesterday I made friends with a guy who invited me over to his home observatory for some astronomy)
  • My interests within the hobby are shared by others within the hobby (it’s a very broad hobby). If I don’t care about talking on repeater nets all day and just want to learn more about AMSAT, it’s like an all-you-can-eat AMSAT buffet!
  • It doesn’t take much effort to start making plans for a really cool future ham shack. And some of them make even an awesome PC battlestation look boring.
  • People start inviting me to contribute, because I seem interested!
  • When I contribute back, it’s usually easy for me and very fun.

These activities within the hobby are very highly-INTJ-leverageable:

  • General research
  • Learning about the theory
  • Teaching and training, e.g. writing tutorials or making Youtube videos
  • Suggesting small technological fixes or changes that make a big impact
  • “Introvert” modes like CW (morse code) and QRP (low-power transmission; think going on a long hike with a morse code transceiver that fits in an Altoids tin, powered by a 9V battery)
  • Emcomm (Emergency communications, even though I’m not really into it)

These activities within the hobby seem less INTJ:

  • Rag-chewing (sitting on the air and talking with others)
  • Actually putting up antennas and towers and mucking with hardware all day (not that it can’t be done, it’s just very sensate and fiddly)
  • Contesting (I find this pretty annoying TBH even though I will probably try it just to make sure)
  • Club socializing and politics (have only heard about this; have yet to go to a club meeting)

So I’d recommend the hobby to other INTJs. You did that radio thing that one time, you enjoyed it, right? Give it a shot.

Oh and by the way, here’s my basic framework for approaching the hobby:

  • Don’t do the INTJ thing where you assume it sucks
  • Don’t do the INTJ thing where you assume you know what it’ll be like
  • Try things before you declare them unfit for your attention
  • Have fun, first and foremost
  • Plan out your approach and keep a log of how it’s going
    • For an example approach: Focus on (I)ntroverted, i(N)tuitive, (T)hinking, (J)udging parts of the hobby and stay away from e.g. ESFP improvised, sensory, unplanned performance ragchewing stuff.
  • Don’t fall into the trap of listening to complainers
  • Decide in advance the type of friends you’ll look for within the hobby
  • Build your own hobby-explorin’ website. Here’s mine. This was and continues to be very useful from day 1.

It’s a hobby, sure, but ya know…any truly sustainable INTJ hobby has got to respect that organized J side somehow, so why not plan things out?

Lose Weight or Ace Your Extraneous Goals? Pick One.

Tuesday November 28, 2017

While I was recently cramming for my FCC amateur radio exams, I had a sort of diet revelation that was worth learning but mega-frustrating.

In a very high-stress situation, it was nearly impossible to stick to my diet plan. I had started a cut, but I had so much going on, including the exam studies, that I was pushing myself way too hard psychologically for the cut to work. I had two businesses to run, a volunteer leadership role on the side involving traveling & public speaking, family obligations, and then along with all that, this new, exciting hobby which requires studying for exams.

I wrestled with the problem, which I first figured was just a diet thing. Was I losing my touch? I lost 100 lbs. before…but had I now reached that point where my luck had run out, and I’d just gain it all back?

(People periodically ask me: “Aren’t you afraid you’ll just gain it all back?” And I’ll just say that you should never ask big weight-losers this question, because they will insta-unfriend you if you’re lucky, and smile at you and make plans for your demise if you’re not. You have now identified yourself as the face of the annoying voice in their head that has posed this question literally hundreds of times.)

So I tried all kinds of alterations to my diet, really fixed up my macros, got more sleep, less exercise, then later I tried more exercise, injected more fun into my day, avoided the kitchen at mealtime, tried more frequent eating schedules, heavy doses of stress-journaling, meditation, dream analysis, and asking friends for help. Intermittent fasting, just skipping breakfast, even skipping dinner and going straight for dessert, in case there was some dessert-calories limit I’d naturally reach (there is not). I tried more bodybuilder recipes off of Youtube, but you know—you can eat too much of those, of course, and that’s essentially what I did.

In the end, stress-eating (more like stress-gobbling) is just what I do under extreme stress, and it was alternately hilarious and terrifying to watch how much I was overshooting my caloric intake goals. I would swear up and down in the morning that I would not cheat, but come lunchtime it seemed that no amount of calories would fill me up. 1600 calorie goal? Still hungry, maybe I have some disease! Try 1800. Nope! And then 1000 calories after that, you simply can’t eat more.

Stress hunger is seriously hard to distinguish from actual hunger.

My “diet” ended with me gaining 5 lbs. by the time my exams were done. Ugggh.

If you’re a big person like I used to be, 5 lbs. might seem like nothing. But keep in mind I was fighting this dragon tooth and nail. Those weight loss tools I listed above—they work! But this time I had too much stress on my plate.

Regarding the stress, beyond the stress journaling I tried developing new frameworks for approaching high-productivity living, I tested my executive functions, I swallowed frogs (metaphorically), I attacked the stress head on, and I used special tricks of the intuition to attack them asymmetrically. But nope.

So in addition to the weight gain, I also have a journaled collection of depressive episodes that I worked through during the same period. I was exhausted and I literally put myself to bed multiple times on some days.

(Of course, it wasn’t a total loss…err, gain. I’m now an extra-happy Extra Class radio operator. Burp!)

After all of that, though, I figure I came out a bit ahead of the game. I had been running an analysis right along with all the troubles. No matter how I felt—depressed, stressed, whatever, I was right there with the problem, keeping pace and taking notes.

Once the exams were done, I had an incredibly valuable bit of information: Fast-paced self-improvement on top of other life duties is going to come at a cost, and for me that cost is probably going to start with weight gain and depression.

I could have spaced the radio exams over the course of 30 years and no one would have said a thing, but it would have bugged me. So I went through with the exam studies even after I figured this out. That’s a bit inflexible—I have now been warned. I know multiple people who have dropped out of university studies completely due to depression and anxiety, and their situations almost immediately improved. And this hobby is nothing compared to university studies.

Now that the exam studies are done, my weight is going down again. Of course, it feels like it’s so easy to stick to a diet now, as long as I work the plan I’ve known all along. All my tools work again: The analysis, logging, the macros, hydration, everything. I torched about 500 calories on exercise today and I’m still on track to meet my no-exercise caloric intake goal. Where was this superpower when I needed it?

So: I’ve done a lot of stuff this year, and I’m super proud of everything I’ve accomplished. This has been one of the highest-achieving years of my life. But that middle ground between “high achiever” and “low achiever” is not the most comfortable to me, and I can benefit by exploring that fact a bit. This aligns with what I know of other INTJs I’ve coached.

This may be really good timing, though. Last year was the first year I personally correlated extreme New Year’s resolution-setting with depressive episodes, and I’m excited to absolutely dominate next year’s resolutions by more carefully tweaking the engagement level and required time allotments.

I’m curious: What was the most difficult goal you ever achieved? What did you have to give up to reach it? Did you have any out-of-control habits that went back to “normal” after you achieved the goal?

My email’s in the sidebar. On Twitter, I’m @systematikk. (And on the ham bands, I’m KM6NHH, doing some AMSAT hobbying lately.)

Can I Defend This?

Wednesday November 15, 2017

Still thinking about yesterday’s blog post, here’s a question I ask myself a lot, in different ways:

“Can I defend this?”

For example, let’s say I’m studying some new topic. I quickly become aware of the strengths and weaknesses, benefits and common criticisms of that topic.

The inner critic now has a voice. Now I tend to feel accountable—for whatever reason—to this inner critic.

I recall many times when I’ve imagined myself on the witness stand. Grilled by myself, essentially, for some decision I made or didn’t make. Or some belief system, or an interest into which I pour my spare time. “What good does this interest in X do for you?”

“Well,” I start. “I’m glad you asked, strangely familiar inner prosecutor guy.”

Now if I don’t pass the examination by the prosecution, maybe I keep running into the same issue that I can’t argue successfully—sometimes at that point I become disgusted (not always that I am disgusted—feelings may elude detection) and start to dissociate from the interest. At that point I’m ready to grump out of there. The risk is that I do so with little justification other than “I lost an argument about it in the People’s Court of my brain”.

Part of the natural answer to this for someone with INTJ-like psychology, perhaps, is learning to listen to the “I just wanna / I just don’t wanna” point of view so often associated with Jung’s introverted feeling function.

I mean, if I “just wanna” study some topic that feels vulnerable to intense debate, it’s usually OK simply because I just wanna—that’s enough justification. Making judgment based on a feeling may be pretty foreign to INTJs on its face, but we really do it all the time in little ways.

On top of that, maybe there’s some intuition at play. Something tells me this interest is good for me. Great, but the inner critic would tend to be uncomfortable with that because it’s terribly subjective.

So can I defend it? Maybe. Do I need to defend it? Usually I think the answer is no. But such questioning plays to my strengths; I do it anyway and reap some brain chemical reward for acting like a rational / theorist. Hmm.

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