Marc's INTJ Blog

The Big-picture Value of Little-picture Values

Wednesday February 26, 2020

“What are your values?”

Lately I’ve been reflecting on this question. The nature of the question and the usual answers trouble me a bit, especially after recent progress in cataloguing my interests, which was very much a values-related exercise. (I highly recommend that exercise by the way, if you could use some more energy and enjoyment in life.)

First, when asked “what are your values,” it seems like no one ever answers with little-picture values like, “I value golf,” or “I value donuts,” or “I value spy films”. They’d get laughed out of the room, or possibly even rebuked, especially in a corporate setting.

Instead people will naturally use big-picture words. “I value personal growth.” “Learning.” “Passion.” “Creativity.”

Sure, those are passable answers, I guess. They also lower the mental overhead of finishing a simple group exercise. That’s for sure…

“Creativity? Oh, that’s nice. Who’s next?”

But I’ve never heard anyone talk about the qualitatively frustrating results and potential costs of discussing values at this level. (By the way, I discuss values all the time with my coaching clients, and this also inspires my thinking here…)

First, a big-picture, vague-wording bias can make it hard for individuals to act on their values. A vague word like “passion” looms large as a nebulous cloud of things. And which of them should you choose and act on? Where do you even start with that? Do you remember them all? And which do you choose to the exclusion of which other passion-related thing?

In that way, the issue of acting on values can become front-loaded so heavily with executive function requirements that we can blame no one for finding themselves distracted or bored with values.

Values are boring!? What a thought. I can’t imagine that being anything but the opposite of the real intent of values discussions.

So, are you “passionate” and yet struggle to live a values-centered life lately? Do you value “Creativity” and yet find yourself adrift and uninspired?

Maybe anchoring one’s identity such a vague, big-picture description is part of the problem.

So let’s look at some little-picture, specific values: Do you really like donuts? If so, it’s almost hard to not know what you should do about that: You go and enjoy a donut. Or you put that on your calendar for tomorrow, a near guarantee that the day will be at least a little bit more enjoyable.

In my view, that’s positive energy right there. Good vibes, good feelings, and easy to execute. This is how it should feel to work on any value, whenever we’re in the mood.

Another issue: A single, big-picture answer like “personal growth” can also lead to a state where people wear themselves out unnecessarily, due to work on their values. Doing one thing about personal growth is great! But the risk is that it can grow deadly-boring in the blink of an eye. Even though it answers the “am I doing values-based work” question, the fact is, you can do values-based work and still feel like you’re ready to give up on a values-centered life out of sheer annoyance, boredom, or exhaustion!

And so one of the best advantages of tracking little things like “I like donuts” as a value is that it’s never the only value. Even Homer J. Simpson also likes beer, for example. If he gets bored with donuts, he can switch to beer and still live a values-based life.

This has all only highlighted, to me, the importance of cultivating a broad set of very specific interests-as-values. For many people, INTJs certainly included, the big picture answer can in fact be a psychologically damaging outcome of a values discussion, if the little-picture answers are not also taken seriously.

Bored? Want to live a values-centered life? Like golf? Great! Watch it on Youtube, go hit the putting green, play golf online—at least two of those things are usually instantly doable.

Exhausted with your “Creativity”-values project? Like donuts? Go try a new kind of donut! It’s still creativity. And even if it wasn’t, you’d still be living a life according to your values, because you like donuts.

Feeling down, but like spy films? Go watch one, and pat yourself on the back for successfully completing this values-alignment exercise.

So, if you’re feeling like your values could use some attention, and life is feeling dry or boring or exhausting: Take those little-picture values more seriously. In doing so you might actually discover what it really means to lead a values-centered life.

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Feeling Pressure to Produce? Lower Your Personal Standards for Fun and Profit

Tuesday February 25, 2020

Today I was reflecting on the way I used to feel a near-constant pressure to produce and create. That feeling has really diminished in recent years. It’s diminished so much that its absence is now a peaceful feeling that I absolutely love. And that is something I never thought would happen.

It used to be that writing an article was the thing I just felt I should do, or writing a book was the thing, or just in general making a new thing available was the thing.

So many of my goals were based on this stuff I would make for others to read, or consume, or admire, and so on. If I did those things, I’d be great, special, and everything! Can you imagine? People would react in all sorts of great ways.

Part of this is down to my upbringing. There was a lot of pressure to do stuff. I was taught that a big part of life meant performing in this amazing show one would put on for others. And if I didn’t produce—well, I really had no backup plan. Somehow my internal math told me that I just had to do it, no excuses.

So when I wasn’t making progress, I didn’t feel happy, and I didn’t know what to do about it. Result: Depression, anxiety. And other depressing labels: I’m a “procrastinator,” and so on.

My INTJ dad was in this boat too—he’d stomp around the house late at night, tired, grumpy, frustrated with himself for not publishing one of his 10 to 20 work-in-progress books yet, and stress eating. And imagine the pressure if you get another idea for a book, on top of those! Phew.

If you wanted to get on my dad’s bad side, you’d ask something like, “how’s that book coming?” I don’t think even a good friend could ask him that more than a few times before receiving a withering and deeply emotional reply.

But I also hear about this pressure from other INTJs, all the time. So I thought I’d write about a few things I’ve learned along the way to a more comfortable “production zone”. Here are three big points:

First, I’ve learned that my comfort is super important to me. I never really thought about it much before. but I found that I’m really good at pressuring myself to leave my own comfort zone! And I was tired of being depressed, tired, and grumpy. I started to take better care of myself and just enjoy things more. That made me a lot more comfortable.

Second, I realized that production, publishing, and making things made me uncomfortable. Don’t want to be uncomfortable? Want to be more comfortable in life? Then plan to do less! Think more, do less, make less. (I hope you can see how this plays to INTJ strengths, in part.) Instead of writing for others, I would just write down my thoughts. For me. No one needed to see them.

Third, after these two things made me feel more comfortable than I was before, I no longer placed “production” on a pedestal. So I was comfortable—did I really need it at all? It made me wonder. New writing projects, even if relatively polished, were now just for my pleasure. If others wanted to criticize, that’s fine: Production is hard. And it makes me less comfortable. So no big deal if I don’t produce something.

(Let me just add that I completely understand if this rubs you the wrong way. I don’t know if I could have convinced myself of this, 20 years ago, as a new entrant into the workforce. Visualize something amazing, try hard, produce, repeat. That was my plan. No one ever told me though, that it might not ever feel like it was enough, and that it could leave me with a crippling feeling of near-constant discomfort.)

But I think that third point is what helped me come out the other side of this as a more productive person. I went easier on myself. I developed fewer big, huge, gigantic production ideas, but ended up producing lots of little ones. Once a little one is out there, maybe it grows up into a big one! Who knows.

Regarding the little, fun projects: It’s amazing how those little works really add up in terms of quantity, as well. Ironically, I produce more work now than I ever did. The amount of content on this blog since 2015 easily displaces the content of every blog I’ve ever created since 2001, and every article I’ve ever published online, combined.

And this isn’t even the only place I’m writing—In addition to writing online, there’s journaling, planning, and framework-building to consider. In this work my digital notes have grown to fill thousands of text files.

Then there’s paper. In the last few years I’ve filled something like 20-25 notebooks. That’s at least a few thousand pages, probably more. Prior to that I think I filled up about one notebook per year, and a lot of that was hesitant, precious paper-saving, fantasizing over what I could write and how great it could be.

I used to buy really expensive notebooks. I had my name engraved on one of them, and never filled more than a page or two. I could probably fill it up in a couple of months now.

Nowadays, I don’t exactly buy super cheap notebooks, because I’ve had some of them fall apart on me, but I don’t really feel the need to buy anything expensive, either. I’m way more likely to reach for a Bic ballpoint than one of my fountain pens.

All of this because I realized I was uncomfortable, decided I wanted to be more comfortable, and stopped caring so much about things that got in the way of my comfort.

It wasn’t a fake-out, or a lie I was telling myself. It wasn’t present-me trying to trick future-me into producing more. It was, very seriously: “F*** that.”

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The Howl at the Moon Hack: A Productivity Method You May Not have Expected

Friday February 21, 2020

Lately I’ve been doing a bit of brainstorming on the Fi-Te dichotomy and productivity. One of the outcomes of which I’ve been very proud has been Task BATL.

Today I’d like to discuss another outcome that’s been really amusing. This is a new productivity technique that’s rooted in emotion, play, and more balance. I call it the “Howl at the Moon Hack”. Here are the steps:

The Howl at the Moon Hack

  1. Put on a “soulful” guitar backing track
  2. Sing about everything that sucks or that bothers you or concerns you about the work you need to do. Be as corny or sarcastic or serious as you feel you need to be.
  3. Address even the hard, seemingly dead-end problems you don’t want to talk about (break that emotional barrier!)
  4. Keep singing until the singing is no longer fulfilling in any way, and you don’t have anything else to sing about
  5. At that point, it should become a bit easier to plan / organize / move ahead with those difficult projects, as you switch from Fi toward Te-type thinking. Hope you have a list handy!
  6. Consider taking advantage of the momentum of this switch to get up and get moving around, if you can. Even just to get a drink of water or take a short walk around the block. You can work on your to-do list while doing these things as well.

Seriously, try it if you haven’t already, and especially if you’re really into productivity techniques and hacks. I have received good reports from others who have tried it.

The idea is to address any emotional barriers that could be preventing you from getting to the next step.

Sometimes you just can’t force things to happen. As much as we may want to work like a robot / computer / etc., and have a program or be the program, we’re also emotional individuals. And avoiding emotion, or just doing nothing about the emotion while it is buried further down, can lead to some really embarrassing and alarming situations.

Here are a few other techniques that have been amusing:

  • “Hijacking” to-do list bullets to just gripe about everything for a moment
  • Doodling funny pictures of aspects of one’s duties, for stress relief
  • Writing funny, work-related lyrics to popular songs
  • A lot of other unholy and irreverent things

The cool thing about these is that, while they initially seem fickle or immature, they can open up a deeper and qualitatively superior dive into one’s own values, and help us ask really important questions:

  • Do you really feel connected to your work at all?
  • Have you just been buried by too many to-do items?
  • Are you enjoying life?
  • What is needed right now in order to feel better?

Even those last two questions can be absolutely huge.

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On Change

Tuesday February 11, 2020

Learning is changing.

If you can learn, you can change. To value learning is to value change.

Given questions such as “can I change,” “can they change,” or “can we change,” the immediate follow-on questions will relate to learning.

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Blog Updates, February 10, 2020

Monday February 10, 2020

Some new stuff has arrived!

INTJs on Youtube

I’ve posted some links to INTJs you can watch on Youtube, on the front page of the blog. My personal list of Youtube INTJs is longer than this, but you know how it is…those others will be my contingency INTJs for later. ;-) How’s your info-hoarding coming?

New Photo of Yours Truly

I’ve had a beard for a while now, so there’s a new photo reflecting the change in my “personal branding” or whatever.

This counts as personal branding, right? I wonder if there’s a secret Personal Branding Cult out there somewhere with a branding iron and a literal personal-branding ritual. Hm. And may I just offer: A Skull above any other, for those who remember that great film.

Various and Random Updates in the Sidebar

My coaching business continues to grow, and I’ve started to specialize. I never really did this with my web development business, but with coaching I kind of have to because of a busy schedule. Plus, I’ve tried a lot of different types of coaching and now it’s time to set boundaries, placing my focus where I enjoy my work and know I can offer extreme value.

So with that said—if you know tech professionals, business owners, or performance-oriented individuals who could benefit from coaching, I appreciate the referrals as always.

In parting: Please enjoy this video of Louis Cole performing with Vulfpeck. Take care everybody, and have a great week.

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Injecting Interests Into the Itinerary

Monday February 3, 2020

More on this later, but for now: This has been very helpful.

I click a little button in my computer’s desktop environment, and this window pops up. It is a shuffled, random selection of ten items from my most recently-updated Interests file. P stands for “Promising” and NP stands for “New and Promising” which basically means, “you’ve had some luck in mining energy from this interest recently, might as well keep trying to mine that vein.” It’s an integration of the idea of leveraging momentum. LT stands for “long-term interest” which is meant to help me dig for deeper significance in specific interests.

Momentum with…Figs? Well, it’s a work in progress. But to use that crazy item as an example: I like figs. Do I feel like a fig today? If it sounds good, maybe my lunch plan just got that much better. It’s a little thing which is sensory, maybe easy for me to ignore, and yet I find that I enjoy some of those little, easy, sensory comfort points. They make me feel more comfortable during a hard day. For this reason, it stays in the list.

It’s been fascinating to discover how easy it is to transition into and expand upon these interests when I open up this window. It’s easier and more interesting than aimlessly surfing the web, a fact which has been pretty amusing. Are others out there like me, just an interests-list away from a more fulfilling day?

(When I select an item and click OK, the interest is copied to the clipboard for use in my text editor. I don’t use that feature much but it’s an encouragement to expand on my journey with that particular interest, logging my progress.)

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Daily Journaling Template Updated, 2020-02

Monday February 3, 2020

I hope everyone is enjoying the new year so far! I just published some updates to my daily journaling template: Daily Journaling Template, Markdown Format, February 2020

The updates include:

  • Various minor formatting updates
  • Removal of unnecessary scheduling information, blanking out the schedule area for a cleaner start (I am moving my presets for scheduling into a text editor snippet)
  • Added information and cues for integrating Task BATL
  • Slots for breaking up To-Do list items (Completed items, Tomorrow’s items…)
  • New section for evening journaling, including pre-sleep questionnaire regarding stressors to possibly improve sleep quality (this is based on my personal experience)

With these adjustments, the template is now more temporally balanced, in addition to covering various aspects of the Jungian-style cognitive functions. It should be something to which one can more comfortably return later in the day.

The evening journaling represents a factor which I have rediscovered recently: About a decade ago I was struggling with insomnia, and I discovered that writing 700 to 2,000 words about my problems before bed allowed me to sleep like a baby. More recently, I have been trying out different sets of questions that help me bring more motivation and confidence into the next day. Some of those are included in this template update.

I’ve also enjoyed doing Task BATL and am really proud of the way it’s impacted my life for the better so far. I’ve heard good things from others who have tried it. It shocks me, sometimes, just how much fun I need to inject into my day to “take the day back,” and what that means. I will continue to share what I’ve learned when I can.

As always:

I continue to use this template myself, and find that it has become one of my most useful tools for near-instant stress relief. Over time, this habit also tends to build a pool of documentation which can be used for knowledge capture.

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For 2020

Thursday January 2, 2020

For 2020: What’s your new reality? What do you perceive it will be?

Perceptions are important. Many INTJs take a bath in their perceptions all day. It’s tough to avoid. They just come to you.

Now. Where do you perceive your new reality needs to go? Slightly different than the question above.

Still a perception question. But more creative.

Creation of beneficial new realities is important.

Next: Where will you take it? What new reality will you create? What do you want to create?

Might as well use that conceptualization gift. Are you creative—not in the hands-on sensory sense, but in the positive conceptualization sense?

And here you are thinking about the big picture; it’s a strength. An opportunity to think in broad terms, grandiose terms.

It’s OK to be grandiose; that might as well be a foundational activity for a big-picture thinker. For others, maybe not so much.

After all that: What seems possible to you?

Does anything not seem possible? Where do your perceptions draw a (grumpy?) line of no-further-possibility-of-growth?

Life is way, way too short to waste on anything less investigative and forward-thinking than such a question. So let’s poke at those grumpy perceptions a bit, let’s hold them responsible for something positive.

And, is life enjoyable right now? If not, what needs to change? Right now, even? Right this second?

We started this exercise with our perceptions, the things that naturally come to us. But then we put a little bit of work into it. Then some more work. (At least, I hope you did—if not, re-read, it won’t take long)

My hope for all my readers: Let’s build the space, set the boundaries, and allow ourselves be more idealistic as we head into this new decade. Let’s start again from that creative place, if needed, so we can envision an outcome that may sometimes seem so elusive. Things will get better,

because we designed them that way.

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2020 New Year's Resolutions Notes & Tips

Wednesday December 18, 2019

Happy Holidays, everybody! As we close in on 2020, I thought I’d share some of the New Year’s Resolutions-related items I’ve learned over the last year. My 2019 Resolutions have gone pretty well so far, with quite a few new lessons learned.

First, A System

Here’s my general system. It centers around Philosophy, Organization, Reminders, and Access.

  • Philosophy: Nothing is Set in Stone. I think about, review, and edit my New Year’s Resolutions throughout the year. If something’s not working, I might delete it. And even if I think of something important in July, it’s going on the list. If I want to start on 2020 resolutions in 2019, great.
  • Organization: I have learned to keep multiple years in the same file. In my case, that’s a text file in Markdown format.
  • Reminders: I have calendared reminders every few months to review my resolutions.
  • Access: I have learned that I really benefit from instant access to my list of resolutions. I added a launcher button to the XFCE panel which opens the file in Geany, a text editor I like to use. Within Geany, I have assigned Ctrl+Shift+J to open Commander, where I can usually type “ye” (part of “year”) and switch to the file quickly.

Organizing the File

Within the text file, I have sections for:

  • Table of Contents
  • General Tips
  • Resources (third-party websites; here is an example)
  • Yearly Resolutions (This goes back some years, and it’s nice to review the changes from year to year)
    • Lessons Learned for each year
    • List of Resolutions, including notes as I work on each one
  • Log (Containing meta-notes on changes to the file organization, etc. I add logs to everything, because I find that they help me understand my history better, when I review them—like, I started this file in 2014, and this other one in 2016, I see I really started organizing it in 2017, etc. This way I can share with other people, “it took me 2 years to get to this point, and then after another year I changed this thing…” and generally that’s good to know)

Some Lessons Learned in 2019

First, I learned even more in 2019 that New Year’s Resolutions are really whatever I make them. There’s no set “thing”. And I think this messes a lot of people up. The way we communicate them, they’re these hazy, single-line, “I will ___ more often”-type things. That’s kind of unfortunate considering the vast number of people who really do want to change, yet aren’t using critical organizational gifts. Many of them are INTJs.

By personalizing my philosophy and system further, I developed a system that encourages me to reflect and change my goals over time. It’s flexible and it performs well, and it’s based on principles I’ve developed in the past years.

Second, I learned that with lots and lots of text files (thousands now), I have to periodically address questions of organization from another outside level. For example, even though my text files are organized by folder, I found that the time spent navigating between folders was annoying. So I developed a new panel button with quick access to my resolutions file and several other key files. I also configured new software to help me get quicker access to files I need. The “Commander” plugin for Geany is a good example of that.

Third, I reflected even more on the principle of identifying phases of work. So let’s say I have a really ambitious project ahead, and I break it into four or five phases. What does Phase 1 look like? How will I know when I’ve started Phase 2? This has been really helpful, and it’s taught me that in many cases, Phases 1 and 2 cannot be made simple and clear enough. It’s important to gain traction fast. If something sits at Phase 1 long enough, it’s no longer a “Phase 1 Problem,” but rather an issue in the overall approach to either the design of phases or the understanding of the goal.

Reaping Benefits

I’ve really noticed this year that my executive process has sped up. We all know people can change, but I keep catching myself on this one and it’s been very surprising overall. It’s gotten to the point where I will stop and say, “HOLY COW how am I doing this?” If you’ve ever caught that rush, the feeling like “I can accomplish anything,” that’s very similar to how it feels.

It’s a long way from my days of chronic anxiety and depression, that’s for sure!

This work on executive processes is an outcome from my efforts to measure myself back in 2017: I wanted to decrease my use of perception time on a day-to-day basis, in favor of more execution time. Since INTJs are Ni-dominant, we can become stuck in a sort of perceptive hazy-zone. At our worst, this can contribute to a sense of foreboding, or at least convince us that we are not as productive as we could be. Further, it might even convince us that we are “stuck” with a bad outcome approaching. Not good!

Focusing on the development of a more flexible and adaptive executive style has been a huge learning process for me, and I’m really grateful that the professional personality type community helped me learn more about this.

I’ll also mention that I’m getting to be more of a fan of messing things up. Diving in, seeing how things go wrong, and then getting smarter for next time. Building a base of knowledge. It’s good stuff. Long ago I was very much a contingency-planner in the “let’s avoid failure” sense, and all that work on contingencies made me pretty brittle when it came to active, tactical knowledge-capture.

Looking Ahead to 2020

Some of my resolutions for 2020 are:

  • Refine my meta-organizational system for documents, frameworks, and general information
  • Enhance my publishing system. Right now if I want to publish to PDF or e-Book or HTML it’s not too bad, but it could be a lot better.
  • Become more of a this-or-that kind of person (not quite ready to share this yet, as 2020 is oddly specific…but I thought I’d mention the type of goal, as it’s been helpful in years past)
  • Make more use of my Coaching website for publishing.

I’ve already started work on some of this. I’ve found I can’t write it down without feeling like, “hey, let’s use some of this momentum right now to get started.”

What are your resolutions for 2020? What did you learn from 2019? Let me know! Email’s in the sidebar & enjoy the new year.

For Fun

Here are three resolution-related links I enjoyed, which are not related to New Year’s Resolutions:

Some really cool high-resolution Hayao Miyazaki film backgrounds

An astoundingly informational high-resolution map of Europe

And finally, a pretty impressive super-high resolution 365-gigapixel image Zoom

(I guess we are narrowly skirting that one relevant dad joke here…TTFN)

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Cognitive Functions: Some Si in Practice

Thursday December 5, 2019

One of the cognitive function-perspectives that can be valuable to INTJs is “introverted sensing,” or Si. It’s dead last in the traditional model of functions to which INTJs give their attention. Which means we don’t usually give it that much attention at all. This can have some serious implications for our health.

What is Si?

Si has many facets and aspects. Some people say it’s 100% this facet and definitely not that other one. But I like a lot of the theories and possible facets of Si. And I think it’s a good idea to be inclusive where thought models are concerned. After all, we’re humans, and as humans one of our special gifts is entertaining all kinds of ideas, even conflicting ones.

A couple of facets of Si I’d like to highlight here are: 1) Si is about your internal feeling of health and comfort and 2) Si is about finding your “thing” or preferred sense of being and feeling, as an individual, sensory being.

(You might have also heard that Si is concerned with memory, tradition, history, duty, etc.—all of this still OK and valid I think, but for this discussion I like the health-perspective. I’d say ISFJs are one of the best personality types for demonstrating this type of Si work.)

Attacking a Problem by Attending to Si

Today, I needed to become comfortable in the physical, sensory sense, so I decided to attend to Si more than I might usually. I gave it some time and watched it develop.

It took me about 5 hours to finally figure out how I could get more comfortable, but it worked really well.

First: What was it? I just felt off. So I started thinking about what felt off. Or, “where” felt off.

  • First, my shoes. I was still wearing my hiking shoes from an earlier hike. So let’s change shoes. That felt much better.
  • Next, there was much to do. My mind felt full of information, just swimming! I laid down on my office couch, rested a bit, and got all of my information out. I info-dumped into Google Keep for a bit.
  • After that, I realized my eyes were feeling fatigued. Oh, maybe my computer monitor shouldn’t look like a lamp in terms of brightness. Confirmed after brief research, and added to my notes on eye health and ergonomics.
  • After this, I was still feeling stiff, worn out…sitting down felt annoying.
  • Back to the office couch. (If you have an office, do you have an office couch? I got one after a therapist friend bragged about the epic naps she took on her couch.) A 10 minute lay-down. Deep breaths. What a difference that made. Nice.
  • While laying down, I also picked up a portable radio that was nearby and found a nice station with some music I hadn’t heard in a while. I could tell it was really good for the emotions.
  • With the monitor brightness turned down, with my body relaxed, I felt great about getting up and continuing with my work. If you read my recent post about a new to-do list method, my afternoon work ended up with five circles filled in, five squares, and some progress on a couple of diamonds. A great result.

How my Si perspective differs from my usual thing

Previously I would have thought about my comfort or health in terms of sensory “ideas” which are not really interlinked. I should stretch, I should exercise, I should meditate. I should optimize my workspace. Don’t you know about that? All of us should know about that! (This is really an extraverted style, in that it starts with the outside idea, usually someone else’s concept, or a group’s shared and known concept, first.)

But introverted sensation is different in an important way. It says, “Forget all those other peoples’ ideas and methods. What thing or combination of things would be just right given your current condition? Which part of your body seems it needs attention right now? How can you take better care of your whole self right now?”

And maybe it’s one thing, or maybe it’s a chain of things. Maybe it’s your body, but maybe it’s just your wrist. And maybe it will change throughout the day, as a tight muscle here also affects muscles over there.

It takes time, too. I think “introversion equals depth” is a really good perspective with which to explore this set of introverted perceptions. Depth takes time. One can’t expect to be good at this right off the bat. And the journey is usually worth it.

So if you’ll be working for the duration, really diving into your career, or if you just want to extend your life as best you can, I really think it’s worth exploring Si and giving some serious attention to Si in practice.

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