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Is Deep, Effective Change Really Possible?

Tuesday November 5, 2019

Do you think people can change?

INTJs are commonly and perhaps even “notoriously” change-oriented, but many INTJs who are in the Energy Reactive zone for one reason or another tend to find themselves in a strange position. On the one hand, they’d love to believe that change is possible. In the big-picture, they even see it as inevitable.

On the other hand, people in this position are often concerned that things in the immediate present could be simpler to attack if they take the position that change is not likely, not possible, and essentially not worth the time.

Here they come, then, approaching a huge problem with only what’s on their back. It’s daring, if not always advisable. Why not build some tools to take along? Some creative weapons, even? Why not…change a bit, before, during, and after tackling that big problem?

Help, I’m stuck on a rail

It can be incredibly frustrating to feel like you’re stuck riding a rail toward a bad place in your life. This type of perception tends to come to INTJs when we are stressed out. I know I have seen some very prominent rails coming. In my mind’s eye, I was already stuck, reality or no. (Repressing the thought of those rails is, I find, a terrific way to end up stress-eating.)

As a result, a sort of change-pessimism forms. This is one of the first symptoms: If what I see coming is truly what’s coming, then almost by definition, meaningful change is impossible…! This is a sort of tyranny of the INTJ’s intuition. Our ego—powerful, strong…now acting against us, as it were.

But the perceived rail, in many cases, is simply that: A strong perception. In other words, be it a genuine oncoming rail or not, what you’re seeing ahead is a terrible and overcoming vision of you meeting that rail and becoming stuck to it. You may start to act like you’re on a rail, but even that doesn’t mean that the rail is really there.

Help, I need to get off the rail in my mind, so I don’t get stuck on the rail in real life

What’s often needed here are tools that assist in executive function. Perceptions strong, judgments weak. Up the judgment quantity and quality—and boom, many rail-riding situations are ended this way.

Measurement and analysis are two really excellent tools for making executive decisions. You know, I’ve blogged about those things before.

Help, I don’t think I have time for that, and I’m not sure it will work

And this kind of sentiment is where real change is avoided: OK, so here’s a new thing to learn; it could go deep, and there’s this change-panic that sets in: I don’t know how much time I have; what if it’s not enough. And what if it doesn’t work; I have no contingency. What else is there? And we move on to something else.

In the end, if you are forced to solve the problem in front of you using the same tools you’ve always used, because you couldn’t really settle deeply into a problem-solving change pattern, it’s really no wonder.

What’s happening here is, there are two broad problem-solving modes:

  • Breadth, and
  • Depth.

Breadth is all about light-touch, quick iteration, and fast results. What breadth lacks in depth, it makes up for in its amazingly good match with life’s hustle and bustle. Socially, very few people will argue with breadth. The “people” organism seeks broad consensus, broad iterations, and genuinely loves it when we tell easily-socially-digestible jokes. Right?

Depth, on the other hand, is all about penetrating, nuanced insights, slow and careful development, and high-quality results. And socially…well, I’m sure you’ve told a few deep jokes before. You know how it goes.

This is where I really like to introduce the opposite-personality type model. A really stressed-out INTJ starts to think like a ESFP Performer / Improviser:

  • I need to solve this now.
  • I don’t have time for all of that change stuff.
  • Let’s do this. I’ll make it up as I go along. I’ll perform as a changed person.
  • Let’s just go.

Some of that is true, good, and honorable. And yet, it’s still worth examining, in all its attractiveness. The problem is, you may be accountable to that broad-thinking, improvisational person inside you, but you aren’t really that person, so much. (If your ego disagrees here, please be very careful with yourself and understand that I can’t cover every last individual case, but this is an important little corner of the personality world)

And as it turns out, INTJs are great at going deep. Really great. Your personality type code tells you this right in the first letter: I is for Introvert. Introverts are deep, as a type of individual. As we integrate more nuance into this single-dimension model, it turns out that everybody is deep in this way or that, but given just I vs. E, Introverts can be said to stand out due to their depth.

  • How many times have you had to stop a sentence short, or not speak at all, due to the hopelessness of communicating your vision?
  • How many times have you been frustrated at the intricate chain of insights that you’d have to communicate, just to show someone why your contingency plan is worth their attention?
  • How many times have you suffered through directive-executive processes that didn’t have the intended effect, because no one could see the big picture?

That is depth. It’s not easy to do socially, but we have to pay attention to it or we become less of who we were in the first place, and even put some of our most valuable mental real estate up for sale at bargain prices.

So it should stand to reason: More depth should never be considered the enemy. And I watch INTJs learn this lesson all the time:

  • Oh, I’m learning that my career values go deeper than just making a good income. Wow, they go really deep. I can be quite a snowflake…
  • Oh, instead of using this person’s software, things would work better if I just made my own from scratch. It turns out I have ideas for how I might use my tools, not just ideas about their output, and those ideas seem like they might be important…
  • Wow, my body feels healthier inside when I don’t treat it like a machine that is meant to work non-stop all day, including working on everything from physical exercise to mental tasks. It turns out there’s this weird health-sense which I’ve cultivated, and I am learning to slow down…

You see, the enemy in that breadth-biased decision making is often breadth itself. Depth has nothing to do with it; it’s more likely that the individual has let their your psychology fool them into thinking that depth is a terrible risk of your time and talent. That depth is all or nothing. That depth shuts out breadth. That depth leads toward ineffective executive processes and drains productivity. And those are lies! All lies.

If you’ve been pushed into that corner where all you feel you can do is scramble to find a way out, you may not feel terribly change- or depth-capable, but there usually is a gradually-deepening approach to depth-based problem solving which can be manufactured on the spot and given careful attention toward the desired outcome.

Deep, effective change is possible. You may temporarily be wearing goggles that hide the fact, but it’s possible and its characteristics even play to INTJ strengths.

So: If you’re on the rail, if you’re feeling the pressure, take this to heart. If anyone can make deep change happen, it’s a creative person who’s in touch with their introverted side. And that could easily be you.

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