Finding the balance in yourself

Many people strive for achieving personal fulfillment, reaching long-desired goals in their professional and personal life, and being more successful, productive, focused. There are plenty of guides and methodologies for achieving these goals.

Just take the productivity tips for everyday live.

You can start by creating a healthy habits (The power of Habit, Atomic Habits), getting rid of the procrastination (The 5 second rule, Discipline equals freedom), planning and executing with the right goals in the perspective (168 hours, Do what matters most) and learn how to adapt and accept failure (The lean startup, Good to Great). These guides will teach you about methodologies and give you tools for a better execution of the desired goal. What I have found about myself and the road to success is that the tools don’t make much of an advantage if they’re not used with the right purpose, which is to me balancing the personal capacities and boosting the key skills.

While you can easily assess the knowledge and the capacity to execute certain techniques by obtaining certifications or passing exams, personal aptitudes and characteristics have somewhat obscure and deceptive manifestations.

I have recently stumbled upon a book of Isabel Myers Briggs “Gifts differing”. In the preface, authors mentioned that the original motivation behind the works included in this book was a greater understanding between people who often by differing character styles lead interactions to conflicts. The disastrous experiences of the first world war left Katherine Briggs wishing future military conflicts could be avoided by understanding these differences and engaging in more balanced relations. While this idealistic wish may not have much to do with the actual peace in the world (Mindfulness and Leaving the ego behind is probably a better way to achieve it), both authors created a revolutionary guide to understanding character typologies. 

Those living in the US may actually know the Myers-Briggs indicator already, as the MBTI tests are often done at the end of the high-school, before late adolescents take a decision of the professional direction and specialize themselves and choose their ideal professions.

As I have learned about this quite late in my career (I have just turned 40 recently), it would be unreasonable to expect a radical change in my career. Still, the knowledge taken from this book was a turnaround in the understanding of my own strengths and areas of improvement, as well as reaching a deeper understanding of those around me. 

Let me first explain a few details about the indicator itself. It is based on Carl Jung’s categorization of 8 personality types, defined by the combination of three factors: Introversion/Extraversion, Sensing/Intuition and Thinking/Feeling. According to his theory we have these factors inborn and they become our most significant traits, while leaving the lesser traits somewhat handicapped, existing in the “shadow” of our personalities.

Myers and Briggs’ system added another variable to this list by defining the dominant process in each individual, which can be one of the perception or decisive factors, giving us 16 different types. While this number can be already somewhat overwhelming, it is fairly easy to understand what type we are dealing with by observation and categorization of the behaviors in people around us.

  1.  Introversion vs Extroversion

We all have some public and private part of our lives (thus, we use our extroversion and introversion), one of them will be the environment in which we thrive, and in which we just make our best effort. As Daniel Findlay, an introverted personal coach explains in this interview with Meetup’s CEO,

“an introvert has more to do with your energy. I’m confident in socializing with people. […] I still need some moments to myself. That’s what being an introvert is. It’s conserving your energy, not necessarily about how loud or quiet you are but conserving your energy and knowing where to put your energy.”

This trait is often clearly seen at a very young age. I have an introverted 8 years old daughter and an extroverted 6 year old son. While Myers and Briggs don’t offer much help in telling how early you can make this guess, pre-school children are already quite easy to read in this area.

  1. Interaction with the world via Perception and Judgment

Then we have our preferred ways to interact with the external world, perception and decisive process. While this may be a tougher nut to crack, there are often some hints that can give you an idea what they are.

  • Perception

As of perception, sensing often emerges as an attraction to what can be smelled, touched, interacted with here and now. Sensing people are good at manual crafts, sports, cooking, and working with machinery. Sensing is often a sign of never losing a touch with reality. 

Intuition on the other side is about what is not done yet, what can be made, created. It’s about a future, requires an imagination and often creates these bursts of energy towards a goal. Intuitive people are often entrepreneurs, have facilities for learning languages, math, and understanding theories in general.

  • Judgment

When speaking of decisive processes, there are thinkers who put reason ahead of their feelings. Not that there are no feelings in thinkers, but their feelings may be somewhat erratic, unreliable and leading to results that will be soon questioned. In feeling people this is an emotion that, when developed correctly, will give a correct response to a difficult situation, and any reasoning (regardless of its validity) that opposes that emotion will be discarded.

  1. Preferred process and interaction with the external worlds

Finally there is a preferred process with which every individual will be dealing with the external world. 

Judging people will generally like to decide and settle on things. Judging people like to have things classified, ordered and planned. On the contrary, perceptive people prefer to observe, learn and tend not to interfere with the world around them, unless it is necessary. Their traits include understanding, tolerance, curiosity, spontaneity and adaptability.  

There is a gimmick in case of the introverts, whom this is not equal to the dominant (aka. most developed process or skill). This means that for instance an INFP, also known as an Introverted Intuitive person, will have her dominant process being a Judgment/Feeling, and Intuition will only be an auxiliary process through which she will be interacting with the external world (trying to imagine, see how things could work out and where they can lead rather than trying to change and make them happen). As Myers mentioned in her book,

“A very perceptive introvert student was surprised when she was voted ‘most decisive’ in her high school class. The vote was taken soon after several issues had arisen that touched feeling values she held fundamental. Her inner certainty had overruled her habitual perceptiveness, and she had defended her position on all the issues”

Being a team manager I can observe these Judging and Perceptive personalities among my team and having for instance perceptive/sensing team members lead scrum meetings renders very positive results, as they attend the issues of each team member in detail and don’t rush to take decisions, but once they take one it is a sound and widely accepted decision. Also having a introverted perceptive/intuitive team member helps for designing architecture. These kind of people aggregate complex information and have a vision of a system that will handle the different needs and aspects of the requested functionality. 

So beware of these introverts that seem to be only listening. They may be making a firm decision about what is going on in their heads, whether they decide to take it into action or not.

Once you learn who you are and who are these people around you, you may want to take it to a next level and see what is going on right and what is going out wrong. Apparently the recipe doesn’t have to be very difficult and it should not come with such a great effort. 

It’s worth mentioning though that the recipe for “The meaning of life” has already been said by the Monty Python’s Flying Circus a few decades ago:

“Well, it’s nothing very special.
…Uh, try and be nice to people. Avoid eating fat. Read a good book every now and then. Get some walking in, and try and live together in peace and harmony with people of all creeds and nations.” 

Should this be enough for you, you can stop reading here. For all others who may want to learn more about what our “lesser” traits mean, please subscribe to my feed so you can find out more in the next article in the following weeks.

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