Being Lost

I once traveled a lot with an INFP. As an ESTJ, our styles were quite different.  I would notice, for example, that we could be within two blocks of the hotel and he would have no clue as to how to get there, yet he would never admit he was lost nor would he ask for directions.  Perhaps this was a guy thing, but perhaps it was a type thing, too! 

On one trip I finally asked him for his definition of “being lost.”  His reply:  “Gaining no positive benefit from my current surroundings.”  With that definition in mind, I could see how he rarely thought he was lost!  There is usually something interesting happening in the world around him. 

So what is my ESTJ definition of “being lost?”  Here it is: not knowing how to get from point A to point B in the shortest, most efficient way possible.

On that same trip, I suddenly found myself lost (my definition).  I applied his INFP definition and suddenly noticed buildings in a whole new way.  Landscaping looked different and more inviting. I took the time to people watch in a way I didn’t usually do.  All these activities were quite fun.  But this only lasted for about 15 minutes – I can pack a lot in quickly!  Then I started looking for someone who could direct me to where I wanted to go.  My definition ruled, once again!

The next day we had agreed to explore the city we were in on our own, meeting at a theater in the evening.  I was quite surprised that he wasn’t there when I arrived.  I know one of his values is to arrive early at every event; it is rude to be late!  He slid in the seat next to me just as the play was starting. 

At intermission I asked him what had happened in his day of exploring the city.  He said he had a wonderful time wandering around and began looking for the theater location early.  He couldn’t find it!  He was lost according to my definition!!  He decided to hop in a taxi to get there.  The cab driver said he’d be glad to drive him, but suggested he exit out the other side of the cab and walk the half block up the street to the theater marquee that was clearly visible – how could he miss it?! 

An ENFP recently added to this ongoing discussion by giving me her view of getting directions when going somewhere. “It's not just that I don't want to take the time to get directions or I don't think they're necessary – sometimes I actively work to avoid having directions (deliberately don't listen, leave them at home or whatever) so I can have the fun/challenge of figuring it out as I go. Of course, I'm an adult and sometimes I just have to be somewhere at a certain time... for that there are Google maps.”

So what is your definition of being lost and how do you react to asking for directions?


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  1. Sonya

    #1 by Sonya - July 26, 2012 at 4:21 AM

    My definition of being lost is not being sure where I am and not knowing the way to where I want to go. I have ISFJ preferences. I don't mind asking for directions at all, but I make sure I ask a reliable, safe source, such as someone in a shop or security person!
  2. Karen

    #2 by Karen - July 26, 2012 at 10:04 PM

    Hi, Jean!

    I should probably first mention that I rarely get lost, by any geographic definition. I have a really good sense of direction that saves me from that happening. However, when I do get lost and if I'm not late for something, I think of it as an adventure. What a great opportunity to explore new streets and sights and to add to my mental map of the world! I often take streets just to see where they go and love varying my route to familiar places.
  3. Hayley

    #3 by Hayley - July 30, 2012 at 8:55 AM

    This was a fun read. :) I'm an INFP, but my definition of being lost is more similar to yours, minus the efficiency requirement. If I don't know where I'm going, I'm lost. Not that I always find that distressing, because like you noticed, there are always interesting things to observe -- which is good, considering I have no sense of direction.
  4. Jean Kummerow

    #4 by Jean Kummerow - August 5, 2012 at 1:58 PM

    Hi Sonya, Karen and Hayley - thanks so much for your responses to my post on getting lost! You've enhanced the discussion! Best, Jean
  5. Mary Lyn

    #5 by Mary Lyn - August 7, 2012 at 3:34 PM

    My definition of being lost is when there is a specific place I have to or want to be at a specific time and I am not in the mood to wander, and can't find where I am going, so I am "lost." Otherwise, I don't care how I get where I am going if I get there before I am tired of wandering or in time not to miss something I want to see or be a part of. I recently took a new job. Only after about 4-6 weeks did I settle on one route to get there. Prior to that, I tried a different route each day and loved the creativity of finding the prettiest but fastest way. I am an ENFP.
  6. JJ

    #6 by JJ - August 7, 2012 at 11:34 PM

    INFJ here. Thanks for the interesting article. I never feel lost unless I'm supposed to be somewhere new at a specific time. Then I worry about not finding it and about being late. Generally, I like to know where I am in relation to the big picture. I use the compass on my phone a lot. And I'm fascinated by the differences between absolute distance and perceived distance, between the linear route and the actual topography. I hate it when people give me detailed directions. I just tune out and look it up on a map later.
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