10 Steps to an Amazing INFJ Life: #3 It’s Your Life – Own It

Going to work had become torture by the time I left the corporate world.  I’d get up in the morning (too early) and drag myself to work only to end up enduring endless meetings and political struggles. With the tender feelings of an INFJ I felt assaulted by the environment, I was overstimulated and underappreciated. I felt at the mercy of the corporate tempest, and my natural tendency to absorb the emotions and environment around me made it worse. I finally realized that the best way to deal with those feelings was to  take control of  my environment rather than letting it take control of me.

Creating a Strong and Powerful Environment

Don’t be an empty vessel – There are two ways to enter a situation.  The first is to come in empty and look for what’s available to fill you up.  We do this when we walk into a party and think “Who do I know here that I can talk to?  Did I bring the right gift?Will I fit in?”  This is an example of coming in as an empty vessel, waiting for others to give you what you need.  You want to make sure you conform, that you’ll be able to align with the party.

On the other hand, if you enter the party “full,” these might be the thoughts that run through your mind as you enter, “Oh, I like that group in the corner, they’ll be fun to talk to.  The food looks great, can’t wait to try that dip.”  Or your thoughts might be “Wow, this is a really loud group, I’m not sure I’m going to stay very long.”

Notice how your thoughts when you enter the party “full” are about how the party measures up to your needs rather than the other way around?  You’ve entered with your personality intact – you know what you like and what you don’t like and that’s how you’ll assess the party.  As an empty vessel you let the party assess you.

A work example of being “full” is asking for the assignments you want rather than waiting to be selected for them, taking lunchtime as an opportunity to get away and do something you enjoy, or not participating in the office gossip mill.     

Dial Up Your Personality – First of all this doesn’t mean to be loud or to impose your personality on the people around you.  What I’m talking about is staying firmly connected with who you are, your preferences and beliefs, in any situation.

Some examples of what I’m talking about:

  • Alerting your hostess ahead of time that you don’t eat meat
  • Accepting invitations only for activities that you like rather than being so grateful to be invited that you’ll go anywhere
  • Speaking up when someone tells a joke that is distasteful to you
  • Choosing to leave a gathering that you’re not enjoying
  • Creating an environment that nourishes you in your office or cubicle
  • Wearing clothes that you’re comfortable in

What do these have in common?  They are all decisions based on what you like rather than attempts to please others.

Make Every Decision That You Can – there are some decisions that are yours to make and some that aren’t. You can have a tremendous impact on your environment just by making the decisions that fall into your realm.

Rather than always deferring to others (“I don’t care where we eat, where you want to go?”) make a suggestion.  If your boss asks you what projects interest you, be specific and clear.  If your mother asks you for the best times to call you, tell her.

Avoid the “trying to please others by guessing what they really want” dance and take other’s answers at face value.  If you feel that they’re handing over their decisions to you, send them a link to this post! Exercise: Love Your Likes Similar to the “Interview With an INFJ” exercise from week 1, this exercise it designed to help you identify and own your preferences. Find a small notebook that you can keep with you at all times, and over the next week keep an “I Like” journal by jotting down everything you encounter that you like.  For example, right now my list be: I like the warm sun pouring in the window and hitting my shoulders, the comfy pajama bottoms that I’m wearing, the fact that my office is clean and neat, how quiet my house is, that I’m going to Arizona tomorrow to visit my daughter, the fact that my house is clean and will be welcoming for my house sitters, the turkey sandwich I just ate for lunch, the TV show “Chopped” that I watched while I ate. So often INFJs get the message either directly or indirectly, that what they like is trivial.  All that ESTP energy, so dominant in our society, can make us feel that we are wrong for liking what we like.  Your like journal is a chance to:

  • Identify your preferences
  • Notice and enjoy how elegant and subtle they are
  • Start to own what you like so you can generate more in your life

A caution: Your “I Like” Journal is not a list of demands – it isn’t designed so that you can impose your likes on other people.  Your journal contains a list of things to seek out, to treat yourself with, to make sure exist in your life.  And, when appropriate, to ask for from others. This is the third 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.

What Do You Want?

My friend Ann recently ended a 37 year teaching career and, to her chagrin, she’s not finding retirement much fun.  She’s shocked at how hard it’s been to find something to fill her days, even though she’s gotten lots of well-meaning advice.

“One of my friends suggested I go back to teaching, but I don’t want to do that. Another suggested tutoring, but I don’t want to do that either.  And I don’t want to just sit around at home and do nothing, it’s so boring.  Another friend told me that I would get used to just relaxing, I just have to give it more time. But I feel like I should be doing something.   And my art!  I’m not interested in my pottery anymore, I thought when I retired I’d have plenty of time to work in my studio, but now I don’t want to!”

Yikes, it sounds like everyone Ann knows has weighed in on how she should be spending her retirement.  But the only person that who knows what’s best for Ann is Ann herself.

Here’s how she can narrow down her options:

Step #1 – Clear out the “Shoulds”

Notice all the “shoulds” in what Ann said – she should do something, she should relax, she should teach, she should still want to do her art.

When you pile on the “shoulds” your thoughts and feelings get lost under all those other voices telling you what to do.  Ann has so many shoulds that they cancel each other out – she should be relaxing, teaching and doing her art, all at the same time!

Step #2 – Narrow it down by staying broad

The next step is to start to identify what it might feel like if you already had what you want.  If you imagine that you’re in the middle of doing whatever it is you want to do, in a general, non-specific way, you can begin to identify more specific information.

Start by pretending that you’ve already achieved your goal, whether it’s finding the perfect job, spouse, or  fabulous vacation.  Then ask yourself not what it is, but what it feels like.  In Ann’s situation her questions might be:

  • What does my body feel like? (I’m active, sitting, I can feel the wind, I’m warm and cozy, etc.)
  • Where am I? (outside, inside, with people, alone, in an office, in nature, etc.)
  • What type of activity am I engaged in? (helping people, making something, building something, writing, etc.)
  • What emotions am I feeling (love and connection, freedom, silly, relaxed, in flow, etc.)

An example – If I’d answered these questions when I was figuring out that I wanted to be a Life Coach, my answers would have been something like:

I’m working alone, very relaxed, in a quiet, comfortable atmosphere.  I’m helping people in some way, I’m writing, and maybe doing something artistic.  I’m enjoying a sense of freedom at the ability to do my heart’s work.  I’m challenging myself, but in ways that I choose rather than what others might choose for me. 

Step #3 – Use your insights to start your search

Once you’ve figured out what your job/vacation/retirement activity feels like, you have the information you need to start identifying possibilities. You can use your list when you talk to friends and family and get suggestions based on what you want, not what they think you want.  And you can use your list as criteria when you start evaluating your ideas.

***

It’s clear from what Ann said that she has a lot more information than she thinks she does.  When we get rid of all her shoulds, what emerges is the beginning of a very specific and helpful list: Ann wants to DO SOMETHING (all caps, it’s not a trivial something she’s looking for), she wants to get out of her house, be active and engaged, and, clearly, she wants what she does to be new and different.

It’s easy to get caught up in what we think we should be doing, you can see by Ann’s story that when that happens progress can grind to a halt.  But when we start our search by exploring what the outcome will feel like and then narrow down our options, we’re able to cut though the noise and get to the heart of our desires.

 

 

The Illusion of Control

I love being in control – having things just right and knowing that they’re going to stay that way.  There’s nothing better than the knowledge that if I plan carefully and get the people around me to do things right, everything will go perfectly.   

And that is a summation of the illusion of control.  The belief that by controlling the people and circumstances around us we can make things work out “right”.   And who defines “right”?  We do of course.  Those of us who love control also believe that our vision is the correct one.

You are under my controlIt’s taken me decades to realize the emptiness of that belief.  To understand that it’s all an illusion, that we believe things are in control simply because they’re going as we want them to.  When things go smoothly, we relax, sitting comfortably in the certainty that our planning and preparation has worked.   When things don’t go as planned they’re suddenly “out of control.”

Honestly, it makes me tired just to read this post.  All that energy put into trying to arrange the unarrangable.  The truth is, while our efforts do contribute to positive or negative results in our lives, we can only improve our chance for success, not guarantee it. Most of us can’t pass a test without studying for it, but we’ve all encountered the unhappy truth that studying alone doesn’t ensure an A.

Pursuing the belief that we can control the universe is distracting, wastes our energy and (take it from me) can be extremely annoying to the people around us.  The antidote, I think, is trust.  Trust that others also know what they’re doing.  Trust that catastrophe won’t befall us if we let go of the reins and let life take its natural course.

And trust in ourselves and the knowledge that if things don’t work out “right” we can handle it.

Copyright © 2010    From The Easy Place