10 Steps to an Amazing INFJ Life: #10 Find Your Higher Purpose

Earth from Space
Image via Wikipedia

It’s time to talk about the big picture – who we are in the world.  While self-awareness and self-acceptance discussed in the first nine installments of this series are important, we also need to pay attention to our fundamental need for contribution.  The desire to share our wisdom, values and grace with others can be a powerful force in our lives.

I spent much of my life vaguely aware that I was only part of who I was meant to be.  My jobs most often utilized my N & J skills – I was a whiz at organizing, planning and making stuff happen. But the child I’d been, the “me” that loved helping others, the little girl who played rescue with her Barbies and built tiny homes for pill bugs, had been thrust aside. I was living in survival mode, and, in my desire to succeed in what often felt like a foreign world, I tended to ignore what was really important to me.

I believe that we are all put on this earth for a purpose.  And each individual has been designed to be the perfect combination of life experience, curiosity, ambition, and awareness to fulfill that purpose. I call it my Higher Purpose but you should call it whatever works best for you.

At some level you already have a sense of your higher purpose, whether you’re fully aware of it or not.  It’s an internal awareness – you can identify it by the zing of correctness you feel when you’re on target and by the discomfort and discord you feel when you’re off purpose.  For many people our higher purpose never emerges as more than just a jumble of vague feelings – they’re happy when they’ve done “good” and feel embarrassed or unsatisfied when they’ve strayed.

I want more than that for you.  I want you to get clear on what’s most important to you, and what impact you want to have on the world around you.  I believe that to know our higher purpose, to accept it as such, and to seek to live it, whatever form it might take, is why we are on the earth.

Exercise:  Mining For Your Higher Purpose

Already know your higher purpose?  Great!  Go ahead and skip to the next section.  This exercise is for those of us who aren’t quite clear about it.

Often our higher purpose is right on the tip of our tongue, just out of sight.  We kind of know what it might be, or we know the general category, but it’s still a foggy idea of something that will be great as soon as we figure it out.

Below are some questions that help you start to identify your higher purpose.  Whatever it turns out to be, it comes from what’s important to you.  It can be about the wrongs you want to right or change you want to bring about, or the beauty you want to contribute in the form of art or music.  Its the pure expression of your unique combination of talent, insight and sense of what matters.

Mull over these questions in whatever way works best for you – jot your thoughts in your journal as they come to you or consider a new question each time you exercise.

  1. What did you want to be when you grew up?  While our childhood answers might seem trite and conventional – we wanted to be firemen, ballerinas, or cowboys – even those answers contain information (we want to rescue people in danger, create beauty and grace, or have rough ‘n tumble adventures).  At various times I wanted to run a post office, be a private detective and write books. What leaps out at me from my answer is a love for order, finding solutions and communication.  What information can you extract from your childhood dreams?
  2. What are your “hot buttons”?  When you look at our society what upsets you the most?  I react to any form of bullying – from the tragic high school kids who are bullied into committing suicide to watching Donald Trump verbally abuse anyone who contradicts him.  Our hot buttons tell us what’s important to us, what we feel needs to be changed.
  3. What comes up when you remove all the barriers? What would you do with your days if you had all the money, time and support you needed? If your perfect occupation was instantly available to you what would it be?  So often the logistics of our lives get in the way that we spend our time in maintenance mode and never move into the stuff we planned to do when all the work was finished.

What Now?

Think you know your higher purpose?  Here are some things to keep in mind when you decide what’s next:

  • You don’t have to quit your job to pursue your life’s work.  I have a friend who tutors illiterate adults on weekends, another who works for Habitat for Humanity whenever she can. It’s all about finding ways to fulfill your higher purpose where ever you are, not finding a place where it already exists.  I was still employed when I started training to be a life coach so I tried to use my developing skills to help my co-workers deal with the outsourcing of our department.
  • You don’t need to know how to do what you want to do, you just need to start.  If you wait until you feel you’re ready, chances are you’ll never begin.  When I was training to be a coach, we were encouraged to find clients after our very first class. We had to trust that we’d be ok, and we had to be willing to make mistakes. And even though I goofed up plenty I couldn’t have been that bad – I’m still working with several of those early clients.
  • Living your higher purpose will make you uncomfortable sometimes. Any time we try something new we end up pushed out of our comfort zones in some way.  We may end up having to talk to strangers, travel alone, maybe even make a speech to a room full of people! Creating the impact that we want to make in the world takes courage, resilience and persistence.  Luckily, each of us already have those qualities available, all we have to do is use them.  Feel like you’re not courageous? Take the next step by deciding to do something that takes courage and presto! you’re courageous.  Just like that.
  • Your higher purpose will change as you explore it. One thing I learned in coaching is that as we make progress toward our goals, our goals will continually change.  As we learn what we need to know to succeed, our goals tend to become deeper and more meaningful.  The same is true for your higher purpose – as you bring your passion into the world the world will reward you with more passion, which will fuel a deeper and richer purpose to pursue.

My Higher Purpose isto help everyone (including myself!) become more self-aware, self-accepting, and as confident as possible. Everything I write is about learning about who we really are, and then loving what we discover.  And then simply being ourselves in the freest, biggest possible way.

My gift to you is my deepest and sincerest wish that you experience the beauty and power of who you really are deep down inside.  And your gift to me has been your time spent reading and contributing to this blog.

This is the tenth installment in a series of  weekly articles about making the most of being an INFJ.  For previous articles visit 10 Steps to an Amazing INFJ Life.

 

10 Steps to an Amazing INFJ Life: #9 Stop Trying to Control the World

BossyDon’t you just love it?  That feeling that everything is going as it should?  In my blog post The Illusion of Control I talk about how we fool ourselves into thinking we’ve got things under control.

As “J”s we have a natural desire to arrange circumstances, correct problems, make sure that things run smoothly.  Add our “F” energy to that, all that mushy desire to make sure everyone is happy, and we can end up really overdoing it.

It feels good from our end, arranging things for other folks, but I can tell you from personal experience, it’s not fun to be on the other end of that energy.  When I was growing up my father used to decide what was best for me and then badger me endlessly until I did things his way.  I’ve never felt more disempowered and small than I did after giving in to his pressure.

I talked about defining and protecting your boundaries a few weeks ago, but my topic today is about identifying and respecting the boundaries of others. Because, really, the only person we need to control in life is ourselves. The only circumstances we are entitled to arrange are our own circumstances.  The people in our lives have their own approach to solving problems and if they need our help they’ll ask for it.  And yes, we can organize the heck out of committees, events and special occasions, but the only way we can make sure we’re not overrunning everyone else is to ask permission and accept the answer.

Exercise:  Practice Letting Go

This exercise requires that you step out of your routine and pay attention to your assumptions.  This can be difficult for an INFJ, there is often an inherent feeling of correctness to our opinions, they can feel so right that we forget there are other perspectives.  You can overcome this “assumption of correctness” by stepping out of your personal perspective and taking on the perspective of an “observer self.”  As an observer self, you become neutral, watching yourself interact with others as if you’re watching a movie.

  1. Over the next week, start paying attention to the small decisions you make where you assume that your way, or the way it’s always been done, is correct.  These are the little things, like making the assumption that you and your friend will always have lunch at your favorite restaurant, automatically planning to arrive at a movie 20 minutes early, assuming that you and your neighbor will walk at the same time every day (these are all, by the way, examples from my life).
  2. Start letting the other person decide.  Check in with them to see if they want something different.  A casual way to do this is to say something like “We always go to lunch at Scotty’s, would you like to try someplace else?”  or “What time would it work best for you to leave for the movies?  If you’re in a group and plans are being made, try staying quiet and let the group make the decisions without your input.
  3. For each experience ask yourself the following:
      • What was it like to give up control?  Uncomfortable? Scary? Or was it freeing, a relief?
      • What was the outcome of the new decision?  Did things work out worse, better or the same?
      • How did the other person/people respond to being consulted or making the decision?
      • What did you learn?

Exercise: Who Do You Want To Be?

Who do you want to be when the time for decisions to be made?  Think about your role in your family, friends and co-workers lives and design a set of rules for where you want your limits to be.  By deciding before the fact you’re more likely to be aware as you navigate through this tricky terrain.

As an example, here are my rules:

  • Don’t try to “fix” anything for my adult daughter.  This means that if even if I see her struggling with something I don’t jump in with a solution unless asked. Letting other adults work out their own issues is a sign of respect, not neglect.
  • When I’m planning something as part of a group:
      • Voice my opinion as an opinion, not as a declaration of the way things should be.
      • Listen to the suggestions of others openly, recognizing that their ideas might be better than mine.
      • Step back from the desire that everything be planned, stop worrying about what might happen and just let it happen, knowing that I can handle whatever comes up.
  • Ask for permission before planning, “fixing” or taking over someone else’s effort.
  • Take “No” for an answer.
  • Recognize the fact that just because I think my ideas are right doesn’t mean that they really are.

This is the ninth installment in a series of 10 weekly articles about making the most of being an INFJ.  For previous articles visit 10 Steps to an Amazing INFJ Life.

10 Steps to an Amazing INFJ Life: #8 Practice Your Opposites

ESTP“You have no idea how hard this is for me…”  That’s how my friend’s boss began when he told her that her job had been eliminated. You see, he’s an “F” and in his mind this gave him permission to focus on his discomfort rather than the fact that he was ending my friend’s 28 year career.

He’s also the guy that whined in meetings that he was a “J” so he needed more information to make a decision.

There’s one thing about accepting and making the most of our types, it’s another to use them to excuse self-serving or inflexible behavior.  Because no matter what our type is, we are fully able to learn to function effectively in the areas that aren’t our strengths.  I had an introvert friend in high school who was more outgoing than most of the extroverts I knew. No, she didn’t become an extrovert, she just learned to focus her attention outward in social situations when she wanted to.

Part of becoming a fully functioning adult is learning to do what doesn’t come naturally.  I have a terrible time with directions but over the years I’ve learned how to manage finding my way around.  Sure it takes a bunch of aids – I have a GPS system, a notebook full of directions and when I don’t have my tools I have to focus hard on landmarks and street names, but most of the time I can get where I’m going without any problem.  It’s hasn’t become easy, I’m not like an “S” with their uncanny way of knowing how to get anywhere they’ve been, but I do just fine.

You Can Learn

With some practice you can learn to function in the areas that aren’t your type.

To Practice Extraversion:

  • Join and participate in a social or professional group or club (find a group where the size and frequency of meetings won’t overwhelm you).
  • Have lunch with one new social or business contact per week to increase your networking circle and to add breadth to your relationships.
  • If you think someone can help you formulate a plan or move it into action, ask him or her for assistance, even if you prefer going it alone.
  • Solicit another’s input; open up with at least one other trusted person and share what you’re thinking.
  • At your workplace, make a practice of getting away from your desk, even if only briefly. Keep your office door open at times, and connect with co-workers.    If you don’t work, or work from home, get out of the house at least once a day and connect as much as possible with the people you meet when you’re out.

To Practice Sensing:

  • Take stock with your five senses periodically. What do you see, hear, smell, taste and touch? What does the air feel like, what do you see around you?
  • When going someplace new, pay attention to the route, landmarks, and what your destination looks like.  Note where you park your car and what entrance you use.   Try to stay oriented to north, south, east and west.
  • Stay in the present – frequently check in with what’s actually happening in the moment.
  • Focus on what you truly experience and what it means vs. what you make up or infer about it.  Take a situation purely at face value without adding any interpretation or “story” to it.
  • Practice relaying direct, specific facts to others.
  • Tell a story in more depth than you typically would including precise, exact and accurate details.
  • Periodically do a mental scan of people in your life – what’s going on with my daughter? spouse? co-worker?
  • Increase your connection with the external world by consistently listening to the news or reading a news paper or news magazine.  Focus on staying informed about key local and world events.

To Practice Thinking:

  • Practice giving simple, direct, to-the-point feedback to others. When feedback comes your way, don’t take it personally; use what’s helpful and ignore the rest.
  • Ask yourself if-then and cause-effect questions such as, “If I say ‘yes’ to this, then what do I need to give up?” “What are the effects that result from these actions?”
  • Make a decision using an objective framework.   List pros and cons, but don’t include any with emotional content (except for what’s in line with your personal values).  Make a decision based on an analysis of the pros and cons.
  • After making a decision using an objective framework, take a tough­ minded stance and hold firm.  Use the information from your analysis to support your position.
  • When you believe that something you’ve said or done has hurt someone’s feelings, check in with them to see if your perception is correct.

To Practice Perceiving:

  • Schedule a day to go with the flow.   Note what turns up that adds value to the day.
  • Allow a reasonable period of time to elapse (a few hours or a day) before finalizing a decision.  Use the extra time to gather more information or probe for additional insights.
  • In solving a problem, think of several options besides the one you think is correct. Make a list of the pros and cons of each option and its impact on people. Challenge your original selection.
  • Monitor yourself for a day and see what happens when you allow yourself to be interrupted. Try to increase your tol­erance for delays, ambiguities, and unforeseen changes.
  • Don’t answer e-mails or voice mails immediately, wait as long as practical before replying.
  • If people want your opinion, try remaining neutral. Give several alternatives and let them decide for themselves.
  • Go on an outing with no plans or schedules.  Let others make all the decisions and focus on relaxing and enjoying whatever happens.

This is the eighth installment in a series of 10 weekly articles about making the most of being an INFJ.  For previous articles visit 10 Steps to an Amazing INFJ Life.

Before & After: Navigating Transitions

You're Fired!October 26, 2006 is a “Before & After” day for me.  That was the day I was told I was to be laid off from a company where I’d worked for 18 years.  That day marked a major turning point in my life – I will never be the same person I was the day before.

Externally everything pretty much stayed the same for some time.  My employment didn’t actually end for another three months so I still went to work every day, parked in the same lot, walked the same steps into the building, interacted with the same people.

Internally, however, everything was different.  My world had changed, what was true the day before was now an open question.  The part of my life that had contained work to be done and assumptions about the texture and patterns of my days was now open space.  I found that while this space was scary, it was also exhilarating.

In this space I could create what I want.  It was full of choice, I could choose another job in a new place, choose to do something completely different, choose to take some time to rest, decompress (ahh…) , choose new work to be done, new textures and patterns for my days.

This open space that hits in the “After” period is rich with information and inspiration.  It’s a time where there are only questions, and no answers yet, and it can provide you with valuable information.  Even if new plans and life structures are readily available, at this point we have an opportunity to pause and ask ourselves, “How do I want my life to be different?”

Some Tips for Making the Most of Your Before & After:

#1  Don’t assume that the Before & After day is the day of “the big event” –  By the time I physically left the company, I was well in to the “After”.  The Before & After day isn’t when the external change hits – the wedding day, the day she moves out, the first day of college or that new job.  It’s when the internal change occurs – the day he proposed, the day she told you it was over, the day you were accepted to college or received the offer for your new job.  This is where change starts, when we first hit the bumpy pavement of uncertainty.

#2   Even if you have solid plans for your After, see what information is available during the transition –   Even those folks at my company who were moving into new positions seemed to also connect to deeper, bigger dreams for their lives during this period.  One friend immediately got a new job, but during her transition also reconnected with her dream to be a baker.  Practical for now?  Maybe not.  Yet come retirement time, how great would it be to have already tested those recipes and developed a business plan?

#3  Experience the transition – don’t hide from it –  I have a good friend who recently went through a breakup, and I was impressed by how completely and intentionally she experienced all the emotions that came up for her.  She didn’t try to feel better or escape her feelings of loss, she explored them for meaning and information.  She understood that while these feelings were painful, they also held knowledge that would help her succeed in her next relationship.

How have your Before & Afters impacted your life?  A few questions to think about when you consider your Before & Afters:

  • What did you learn during your transition about yourself and others?
  • What commitments did you make as a result of that learning?  Are you still keeping them? Are they still relevant in the “After”?
  • What are you proud of?
  • What do you wish you’d done differently?

I know that exploring your Before & Afters for information is easier said than done.   Major life transitions are emotional, they provide a breeding grounds for insecurity and self-doubt.   But the ability to pause and pay attention in the midst of chaos not only helps you discover new information, it is a powerful skill to have.

Embrace Your Whole Life

Dad and daughter
Image by Peter Werkman via Flickr

How would it be to open your arms and embrace your whole life, to take a fresh peek in every corner, explore every dream, pay attention to everyone and everything that matters to you.  What would it be like to expand your focus to all segments of your life, not just the few areas that feel important to you right now?

It’s so easy for life to get lopsided.  As we struggle to accomplish what we want – get that degree, move up the corporate ladder, raise our children – we can get so caught up in what we’re focusing on that we ignore other meaningful areas of our lives.  We end up missing out on the richness of life, the dessert of life that comes after the meat and potatoes of day-to-day living.

A great way to expand your vision is to use what I call The Whole Life Inventory.  The inventory provides a snapshot of all aspects of your life, giving you information on how satisfied you really are.

Create An Action Plan

Here’s how:

  1. On a piece of paper list the following eight life areas:  Career, Health, Money, Friends and Family, Fun and Recreation, Physical Environment (your house, town, etc), Significant Other/Romance, Personal Growth (includes spirituality).
  2. Rate each area of a scale of 1 – 10 with 1 being unfulfilled, and 10 being very fulfilled.  This reflects how satisfied you are with each area in your life.  Write the scores next to each area.
  3. Next, rank each area by how important it is to you, giving the most important area a 1, the next most important area a 2 and down to the least important area which would get an 8.  Write the ranking next to the scores.
  4. Take a look at your inventory, what do you notice?  Are there any areas that scored high in importance and low in satisfaction?  These are the areas that you may be neglecting, areas that you know are important but can’t seem to find time for.
  5. For those areas that scored high in importance and low in satisfaction, ask yourself “What would make this area fulfilled, what would make it a “10”?  For example, if “Family and Friends” is important to you, but you have a low satisfaction score, examples of things that might make the area a “10” could be to seek out friends with interests similar to yours, spend more time with your children, or schedule more frequent visits with relatives.
  6. Now it’s time to act!  Identify one action step for each area you identified in step 5 and schedule time for the activities in the next few weeks. Some people may feel overloaded at this point, so keep the steps as small as necessary and give yourself enough time.  Just remember that as long as you’re working on one action step you’re making progress!

It’s refreshing and invigorating to step back and look at your whole life.  If you’re like most of us, there are things you love that you’ve been neglecting.  Spending more time with loved ones, exploring a hobby that invigorates you, creating a plan to improve your career or earn extra money – this is the most direct route to adding richness and depth to your life.

The Discomfort Zone

Map of the East Village neighborhood in Manhat...
Image via Wikipedia

We’re all familiar with our Discomfort Zone.  It’s where we’re stretched, where we’re pushing our edges.  Just the thought of traveling there can make us fearful, and many of us work hard to avoid it.  We try to protect ourselves with a list of  ”I don’ts” – “I don’t drive in the city”, “I don’t make speeches”, “I don’t go to funerals”, or simply, “I don’t know how.”

It’s pretty easy to spot the folks who make a habit of avoiding their Discomfort Zones.  It’s the guy who hates his job but won’t look for a new one.  Or the person who ignores a medical issue.  Or the woman who refuses to go to social events for her husband’s work, leaving him to make excuses for her.

If we go through life dodging our Discomfort Zone our lives get smaller and even, in some cases, shorter.  There are things we need to do to take care of ourselves and manage our lives –going to the doctor when we have those mysterious symptoms, or weathering the stress of interviewing for jobs when we’re out of work.  And there are things we want to do that might require some discomfort – learning a new skill or visiting a foreign country.

The trick to conquering our Discomfort Zone is to simply go there and stay – not forever, not beyond our limits, but long enough to move past our fears and learn what’s there to learn.  I’ve found the more often I go into my Discomfort Zone the easier it gets.  The feeling of “I’ll die if I have to do this” fades and I gain confidence as I move into the experience.

It gets easier because much of what we believe about our Discomfort Zone is fiction.  We dream up exaggerated disaster scenarios – the crowd dissolving into laughter as we make our speech, hysteria at the funeral, getting lost forever in the city.  And, fearing we won’t be able to control what happens, we lose touch with the reality that we are capable of handling difficult situations.

What usually occurs when we venture into our Discomfort Zone is that we do fine.  We even may surprise ourselves and discover we’re better than we thought at navigating the city or public speaking.  But even if our outcome isn’t perfect, even if we’re uncomfortable at the funeral, or give a speech that’s merely serviceable – we still do ok, and that’s often enough to get through the Discomfort Zone.

What’s important is that we don’t let our fears get in the way of our growth.  That we trust in the fact that the Discomfort Zone is only uncomfortable because we make it so.

Because yesterday’s discomfort might just be today’s adventure.

Copyright © 2010    From The Easy Place