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Give Attention to Fi Daily for Best Results

Wednesday August 22, 2018

I’m going to start this post by communicating the simplest model for Fi, or “introverted feeling,” that exists and still applies here.

Introverted feeling is a cognitive function concerned with the question of “what feels good or interesting to me?”

That’s it. There are additional dimensions to Fi, but that’s a really solid and helpful one.

In my observations, INTJs try to use Fi with too much (on average) of a far-ranging approach. “What sounds like a good job for the rest of my working life?” Is an example. There are two problems there: 1) Your interests, needs, and goals not only can change, but will change, and 2) It allows you to put aside the question of “but wait, there are all of these other things that I like.”

Prioritization “wins” too easily for INTJs, and we tend to discard some really interesting and great things while in that mindset. I’ve seen that problem break people over and over.

“What sounds like a good job for the foreseeable future?” is even a risky question. Your INTJ feelings and values are incredibly nuanced and flexible. Nailing those down “once every so-many years” is not going to be enough, in most cases.

Scope really matters when we try to solve problems. During times of stress, you might find that a shorter-term use of Fi is really helpful.

When I detect or foresee a lot of stress in my daily schedule, one of the first things I do is ask myself: “Aside from all the difficult things on my to-do list, what sounds fun today? What sounds interesting? Can I do anything fun while I do those difficult things? Can I intentionally add fun things to my to-do list, and even start with those items?”

Some examples:

  • Yesterday, while getting my three kids ready for bed, which is an activity that’s full of little sensory tasks like “blow dry Lucy’s hair,” I added in some randomly fun sensory stuff, like listening to favorite songs. (When watching my kids, upbeat music at low volume in headphones often really helps me out)
  • Today, while finishing up a big project (lots of little loose ends), I watched an old BBC documentary called Being Japanese. This documentary, incidentally, contains one of the best love letters ever, read aloud at one of the most painfully vulnerable times ever, and if you have a Fe-Si or a Si-Fe personality in your life (ESFJ, ISFJ), or another personality type with similar values (even INTP, ENTP, etc.) you should take notes on the contents of that letter (37:10). And also, poor Hiroaki! Wow, I felt for that guy.
  • Recently while attending and running a huge meeting and feeling over-extraverted, I made a lot of new notes about theories and mental models I’ve been kicking around. I did this consciously, knowing it would help, which is different from “randomly letting my mind get carried away.” Carving out this time here and there during the meeting made me a much happier meeting attendee and organizer.

On other days I’ve invented role-playing games, arranged my office in a better way, meditated over my future, jumped on a trampoline, talked to people in distant locales via ham radio—all things that align with my values and interests.

Under severe stress, I’ll warn you: You’ll probably have to force that stuff into your day, but it will work and you’ll feel better.

Over time, some of those interests and little experiences I listed above will have a profound effect on my future. I love that open-horizon aspect! They may put me in touch with other people who change my life, or perhaps they’ll give me the mental clarity to make difficult decisions. Or maybe they’ll inform new directions in my work and work projects. You never know.

[These Fi-related items are also variously related to other cognitive functions—it’s a bit like trying to pull pumpkin seeds out of a pumpkin. You know what the individual seed is, and where it is, but it’s connected to other stuff too. So this is a very simple model for Fi, but I hope that aspect makes it easier to understand how Fi works.]

So next time you’re doing one of those personal exercises where you consider your “life values,” try going smaller in scope, instead of broader. Ask yourself what sounds interesting right now. What would be fun? Don’t feel guilty if you sit down to plan your entire life out and instead, you play your favorite video game again, or whatever it is. You may find that you actually get better big-picture, long-term results that way. Sometimes living life a day at a time for some period is really healthy and even the best possible option.

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