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"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.

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