Entries for year: 2012

Type Under the Tree

My best Christmas had to be the year I first learned about type. I traveled back to my childhood home in Ohio, anxious to share the new knowledge with my large family of ten brothers and sisters. I had a lot of fun as, one by one, they were able to identify their types. 

Happy Holidays!The best moments, however, happened after that. In response to what I told them about their type, they started revealing things to me that I had never known about them. The one that really sticks with me is my ISFP sister. When I pointed out that she was the only perceiver among six judging sisters, she said something to the effect of, “I always felt like I was different from you guys. You were always so sure of things, but I never thought it was that simple.”

This sister had shared a bedroom with me all through my childhood. They used to call her “Me too, also,” because as a little girl she followed me around all the time and wanted to do everything I did. We often talked late into the night, and shared all of our thoughts. In those two decades of being close friends, however, I never knew her as well as I did after she told me that she was an ISFP. I never knew that she wasn’t just my little follower; she was a strong individual with a strong belief in staying open to life and its uncertainties.

When I told my ISFJ mother that her type values tradition, she told us how much it had hurt her in the last few decades to see her traditional ideas of womanhood being trampled on by screaming Beatles’ fans, bra-burning feminists, and the smart-mouthed character of Roseanne. We were all surprised to hear that the cultural changes we had found so exciting were a source of pain to her.

When I told my ESFJ sister that her type was very attentive to people’s needs, she revealed that she used to have nightmares about not being able to take care of all of us. None of us knew that underneath her confidence and social charm there were such feelings of responsibility for her family. 

When I told my ISTJ sister that she was the only thinking type among seven sisters, she could suddenly understand why she had such difficulties with us. “All I’ve ever wanted is to be able to be honest with people,” she said, “and not have to waste time being nice.” After that we understood her direct speaking style much better, and we realized that it was motivated by a desire for efficient solutions, not a desire to hurt. 

When I told my family that I was an INFJ, and intuitives prefer to be original rather than conventional, my mother said, “I never knew what you would be when you grew up, but I knew it would be something different.”

I sometimes take psychological type for granted, as if the knowledge it brings was always there. It’s good to recall how little I knew about people, even the people closest to me, before I knew their types. It’s good to remember those conversations when thinking about the sudden realizations that came from learning about type. The people who meant so much to me came to mean so much more, because I could see not just what they were to me, but what they were to the whole human race.

It’s the best Christmas gift I ever gave, and the best one I ever received.  



Your Own Kind of Meditation

I often read about the benefits of meditation, or hear my friends praise it. They talk about how it quiets the inner voices that are constantly chattering in their heads.

In the woodsI think I’ve been practicing my own kind of meditation lately. The voices that are chattering in my head are usually about the past or the future, so to quiet them, I try to focus on the present. I simply ask myself the question, “What do I see?” Then I try to describe in words everything around me. If I’m walking in the woods I name the shape and color of the clouds (that’s really challenging), the leaves, the tree bark, and the path I’m walking on. If I’m standing in a line, I describe the features and clothing on the people around me, or the view out the window. If I’m driving, I describe the brake lights on the cars ahead of me, the road signs, or the buildings I pass. It’s amazing what I learn about the world when I simply use my senses to observe it.

Or I shut my eyes and ask myself, “What do you hear?” and suddenly become aware of the cicadas, birds, airplanes and soft breezes. While my eyes are shut, I might ask myself, “What do you feel?” and realize that I’m sitting at an angle that hurts my back, or that a glass of water would be nice right now.

If you’re a dominant intuitive, like me, it’s fun to suddenly notice the details in the world around you. It’s like going on a vacation, without ever leaving the place you’re in. It must be the way a dominant sensing type, my opposite, feels when they sit down and reflect on yesterdays or make plans for tomorrows.

I guess I’m suggesting that you don’t have to empty your mind to get relief from the chattering in your mind. You can fill it with something completely new. If your dominant function is thinking, you can ask yourself, “What are my feelings right now?” and try to find the words that accurately describe your emotional state. If your dominant function is feeling, you might try counting things (“how many American cars are in this parking lot?”), pricing things (“what do I spend on lattes a year?”), or giving things numerical rankings (“on a scale from 1 to 10, how would I rate this meal?”).

We usually think of our least preferred functions as the source of all our problems, but they’re also a source of energy and refreshment. It’s nice to know that we all have an unexplored wonderland inside us, waiting for those days when we feel we’ve had enough of our usual way of thinking, and want to experience something completely new.



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Time Management for Perceiving Types

Let’s face it…nearly all time management techniques seem written for Judging types.
Now some qualitative research of successful college students by Meri Hicks Beckham actually documents what seems to work for Perceiving types in “managing” time and why. 

Beckham notes, “At the core of Judging is the issue of control—control of time, control of space, and control of self….At the core of Perceiving is a sense of freedom—freedom in time, freedom in space, and freedom for self.”  Her findings follow and seem applicable to Perceiving types of all ages:

Regarding conventional academic tasks, most Perceiving students

  •  Read only some of the textbook assignments
  •  Wrote papers close to deadlines with little or no proofreading
  •  Took notes but reviewed them only once when the exam was imminent
  •  Kept urgent things within sight and did not need a clear workspace to study
  •  Preferred comfort for studying, not necessarily desks
  •  Studied just before the deadline
  •  Used time well, but did not manage it

Beckham answers the “why” of Perceiving students’ academic work styles with these six theory elements:

  1. Momentum. Progress is propelled by energy that carries through to completion.  Going back is to be avoided. By waiting to start at the right moment (i.e., when they are ready to begin) and acting decisively, they can ride the wave of energy to completion. An approaching deadline is not stressful, but rather energizing. One time through works best. 
  2. Unconstrained time. Time is seen as available, fluid and usable. When time is running out, the rate of thought and action increases.
  3. Entirety.  Processes are whole, complete and cohesive, not compartmentalized. Efficient work processes are not those that break tasks into small pieces, but rather follow the flow and do all the tasks at one time.  One thing naturally leads to the next and feels complete.  A piece at a time feels incomplete.
  4. Continuity.  Processes are flowing and interruptions of that flow are potentially destructive to both process and product. Breaking into or interrupting the process makes it difficult to regain needed momentum; repeating a step may be seen as a time waster and making the learning boring.  Those interrupted tasks then become work and are not fun or even challenging and may be perceived as empty tasks, lacking purpose.
  5. Awareness. Any objects that might be useful to the task at hand are left in sight to enhance recall, intention, and use of time.  Out of sight objects may be lost or forgotten.  It’s not about a messy desk, but a workspace full of useful information!
  6. Augmentation.  A variety of experiences will augment learning; it’s not just about studying.  Extracurricular activities, friends, social engagements, etc. are all ways to enhance the learning process. 

I occasionally coach Judging types who are upset with Perceiving types ways of getting work done.  In the past, I would always ask, “Is the work done on time, done well, and done legally?”  If the answer to all three questions was “yes,” my advice was to “Then shut your eyes and let them do it in their own ways.”  If the answer was “no” then we began to identify the performance skills needed and work from there. 

I can continue to give that advice, but now I can explain more of the “whys” of how Perceiving types get things done thanks to this research study.  A messy desk does not equate to a messy mind.  A stitch in time doesn’t necessarily save nine!


Kummerow, Jean M., Barger, Nancy J. & Kirby, Linda K. (1997). Chapter 3, “Time Management.” WORKTypes. New York: Warner Books (Hatchette). 

Beckham, Meri Hicks.  (2012).  “Building Momentum: The Unconventional Strengths of Perceiving College Students.”  Journal of Psychological Type, 2, 27-40.




So what is the creative process of coming up with something novel?  Why do we usually attach that word to Intuitive types and not Sensing types?  Are there different kinds of creativity?

I have long been fascinated by Michael Kirton’s model of creativity. There are two poles to his continuum: adaptive (to do better) and innovative (to do different).

 Adaptive creativity seems like the creativity many Sensing types use.  They can often point to exactly where they started in the creative process – what concrete thing gave them the spark.  It involves taking something that is and changing a feature or two about it to make something new or better.  In marketing terms, it is “extending the line,” such as changing an existing product about “10 degrees.”  The many sizes/shapes/colors of post-it notes come to mind as an example. 

Adaptive creativity is how I ended up writing/editing The Type Indicator for Pets. A client mentioned how much he enjoyed type including typing his family and his pets; I thought it might be fun to write up a little tongue-in-cheek guide in how to do so (the pets, that is, not family members!).  

An ISTJ friend told of organizing track meet events for various charitable fundraisers.  He couldn’t always find people to hold the finish banners for the winners to break through at the end of the race.  His solution came to him one day watching the crowd cheering on the runners when he spotted some cancer survivors wearing their special t-shirts.  He thought they deserved a more prominent role and quickly asked them to hold the banners – they were thrilled.  He also got his announcer friend to call out their names making it even more special. 

At the Thomas Edison Museum in Florida, you can see the many, many attempts to find the right filament for the light bulb.  Edison said, “Creativity is 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration.” He is seen as a quintessential adaptor.

Innovative creativity is that idea that comes out of nowhere – the “light bulb” idea so to speak.  It can be a “180” degree turnabout of the topic at hand, at times.  By the way, because the symbol of the light bulb is associated with creativity, apparently having it present actually encourages creativity. 

Innovative creativity likely comes from accessing Intuition.  It may come from an association or “reading between the lines” and cannot always be linked to the concrete of what is at hand or literally in the hand!  Einstein’s theories of relativity quickly come to mind with this kind of creativity.  He is purported to have had a sign hanging in his office, “Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.”

Innovators and Intuitives are often searching for what is new and different.  Doing something the same way is unmotivating, and they are more likely to leave an organization if their ideas and innovations are not valued. 

Just as we acknowledge and value two ways of Perception – Sensing and Intuition – we can acknowledge and value two ways of creativity.  We need both in this complex world of ours!

NOTE: Damian Killen and Gareth Williams expand on this topic even more with their Introduction to Type® and Innovation. They provide portraits of how all 16 types innovate. 


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Blessing or Curse?

They say that Js spend as much time preparing for a task as they do on the task itself. I spend more. This summer, I realized that for every week that I went on vacation, or entertained relatives, I spent about two weeks preparing for it. And when I say preparing, I mostly mean worrying. I tried to anticipate every need my family would have on vacation, and every need my guests would have when they came.

It’s hard work being a planner, because you’re focused on what can go wrong, and trying to avoid it. It can cast a cloud over those days before the big events in your life. I wish I could only plan so much and then let it go, but it’s hard to know when I’ve planned enough. I keep remembering something I hadn’t thought of, and of course, I have memories of all of those other events where no matter how hard I planned, something went wrong anyway. 

I look at my ESFP friend, who always seems carefree and cheerful, and deals with everything as it comes up, and not a minute sooner, and sometimes I wish I could be more like her. She just came over the other day with a big box of invitations to her daughter’s wedding. She had asked friends and relatives to help her send them out, and we were making a party out of it. I thought, what a nice way to do a boring, difficult job -  to bring all of these people together and turn it into something fun. And with her smiling, happy personality, everyone looks forward to an evening with her. 
After a few minutes, however, it became clear that she had not spent much time in preparation for this. We had a total of 14 separate tasks that needed to be done for each invitation, (no, really, it’s true) and she had not thought ahead as to how she would organize people and materials. It became a case of, “Do it first, think about how to do it right, then do it over again.” And with six people all talking and trying to be helpful, I often had to go to a “Zen place” in my head to keep my outer calm.

What should have taken one evening, ended up taking a whole week to finish, with everyone doing separate jobs at home and my friend driving all around the city trying to bring it all together. In the end, people were annoyed at her for the extra work she caused, and her daughter wasn’t speaking to her because so many of the invitations didn’t go out right.   

I was thinking about what I had learned from all that, and I realized that I’m stupid to envy people who don’t do much worrying beforehand. Life will take its tax from us when we try to increase our income of happiness, whether we pay by quietly worrying beforehand or, like my friend, running around trying to repair damage afterwards. In the end, we all have to pay.

What I really wish is that I could have my friend’s always cheerful personality, but keep my ability to plan and organize. Then I would be perfect. That’s probably never going to happen, but what has happened is that I have a new attitude about my tendency to worry. I now think of it as part of my charm.


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