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How to Deal With Ever-increasing Expectations of the Self

Monday December 3, 2018

Another reader question:

“Ratcheting expectations”, how do you beat them? I’ve done a lot of impressive stuff, but I frequently judge that I can/should be doing more, or can/should have done more. This is described well in Please Understand Me (p189).”

The first big goal here is awareness. So congratulations. It is now on your radar, and you have the ability to make a full range of experimental decisions for dealing with the problem.

My general recommendation here is to treat it like you are a Starship Enterprise crew dealing with a foreign object. Use that INTJ gift of metaphor and ask yourself what physical object the set of expectations most resembles.

Then ask the various members of your crew: How should we respond? Listen to them in turn. And most importantly, try out their suggestions! This is really the introverted intuition (Ni) approach to this problem. Ni is the INTJ’s dominant function and ought to be very helpful—take it as deep as you like, because that’s what the introverted functions are meant to do.

As you process this, keep a log or a simple journal. Try to get at the nuance and establish levels. Maybe Level 0 is “I have to do this whole thing perfectly.” Maybe Level 1 is “I will engage with my audience and assess their most basic needs, and only speak to those.” And so on.

The driving function here is Se, extraverted sensing. The ever-broadening search for high-impact results. This gets all tangled up with Si, introverted sensing, the need for a high-quality result, something of lasting consequence. Our sensing functions can tag-team us in this way, leading to a spiral of productivity exhaustion. As a response, use your big-picture thinking to keep coming back to that big picture. Address the problem as a whole, like you have in this question. Then when you drill down into it, apply the big-picture lessons you’ve learned from the metaphor. If the metaphor you received is that this problem is a piece of space junk—maybe that’s all you need to know. If the metaphor calls for an away team and more sensation of its various properties, that’s helpful, too. But all of this work is directed by the intuitive side, rather than the sensory side, and that’s really important to keep in mind.

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