Ever wonder why you procrastinate so much? Do you struggle to ‘live in the moment’? Ever wonder why you are so forgetful?
The answer to all these questions lies in your personality type. Remember the Myer-Briggs Type Indicator?
Most of us would have come across it in some shape or form during high school or college, and if you’re anything like the average young person you dismissed it as a bunch of nonsensical hogwash.
But there is some truth to be learnt from the Jungian-based system that Katherine Briggs and daughter Isabel Briggs Myers developed.
We all know a procrastinator. That person with a pile of papers stacked to the ceiling in their ‘in’ box, the messy office desk with miscellaneous stationary strewn across it, the giant ever-growing ‘to-do’ list that never gets ticked off.
But why do they procrastinate?
Before we dive into determining personality type, we have to understand the most important part to unlocking it’s potential.
You have to be brutally honest with yourself.
Leave behind any preconceptions you have about yourself.
- Forget what you think you can do.
- Forget what others think you should do.
- Forget what you think you want to be.
“But I want to be an extrovert, because extroverts are popular.” Forget it.
“I want to be a feeler, because feelers are empathetic.” Leave it behind.
Approach this as an exercise in reflection, self-awareness, and self-learning.
You are searching for your innate personality and if you are honest with yourself, you’ll come out the other end much wiser and stronger. You may find some surprises that may be unpleasant to come to terms with but you’ll be better off for it.
Go in with a blank slate and an open-mind.
Which Type Are You?
So, onto identifying personality types!
The system focuses on four basic aspects:
- How do we interact with the world? Where do we direct our energy?
- What sort of information do we naturally notice? Do we trust our senses or try to read between the lines?
- How do we make decisions? Do we use feelings or analyze thoughts?
- Do we prefer a structured way of life or spontaneity?
Each of these questions provides an indicator for where each of us sits on a continuum or sliding scale of:
- Extroversion (E) or Introversion (I)
- Sensing (S) or Intuition (N)
- Thinking (T) or Feeling (F)
- Judging (J) or Perceiving (P)
Some of the questions can be tricky to answer as we often don’t particularly identify with one side or the other strongly. For example, you may enjoy spontaneity when you are travelling overseas, but be an incessant planner back home and in your work life.
It is normal to feel like you sit in both camps, as in reality we use both sides of each scale in our daily lives.
But each of us, no matter how much of a fence-sitter we are, will have an innate and natural preference for one end or the other. You can sit just off-center, like a centrist politician. You don’t have to be way down the extremes (like the far right pollies). Just lean slightly to one side.
Try to pick which side of the scale you would be on if you truly had to pick one.
Have a look at these tables and see which side your preferences lie on:
How do you interact with the world?
What sort of information do you notice?
How do you make decisions?
Do you prefer structure or spontaneity?
Identifying Your Type
Now, you should have 4 letters. Congratulations, you’ve identified your type!
Before taking this as gospel, do a little googling of your four letters or check out the book Do What You Are by Paul Tieger. Read a few paragraphs about your personality type to confirm it sounds like the real you before you go any further.
Some handy books and websites:
- Do What You Are by Paul Tieger
- Please Understand Me by David Keirsey & Marilyn Bates
- Gifts Differing: Understanding Personality Type by Isabel Briggs Myer
If you have any doubts, go back and reconsider whether you might lean to the other end of one of the scales.
Unlocking the Power of Type
Once you’ve identified and verified your type, you can go about unlocking its true power. You can:
- Identify your temperament: understand which jobs, tasks, or situations suit your temperament based off your type
- Identify your strengths: be aware of your natural strengths, pick situations that suit you, and be confident in your abilities
- Identify your weaknesses: accept your flaws and prepare for situations where you may be at a disadvantage
- Find careers that suit your personality, temperament, strengths and weaknesses
- Understand why certain relationships work and what potential blind spots may arise due to your personal innate weaknesses
The Hierarchy of Functions
I still haven’t answered why you’re a chronic procrastinator. Before we get to that, we have to understand one more concept; The Hierarchy of Functions.
Each of us has four ‘functions’ we use in every day life. These come under the banners of:
- How we take in information (whether you are a sensor or intuitive), and
- How we make decisions (whether you are a thinker or feeler)
The hierarchy of functions is a theory where each personality type has a preferred order of functions from strongest to weakest. That is, every person prefers to use one of the functions and tries to avoid using the other functions if they can. So, a hierarchy is formed:
- Dominant Function: the most important characteristic for your personality
- Auxiliary Function: the ‘second-in-command’ characteristic
- Third Function: always the opposite of the auxiliary function
- Fourth Function: always the opposite of the dominant function
An analogy Paul Tieger uses is that the hierarchy of functions is like a family of four on a road trip.
There are two adults in the front seat, the driver being the dominant function and the passenger or navigator being the auxiliary function. The two children in the back seats are the 3rd and 4th function.
As long as the dominant and auxiliary functions are in command, the two adults, the car is safety and smoothly moving along to its destination. But if the 3rd and 4th functions took over, it’s as if the children climbed over into the front seat and started driving the car.
You want to known your dominant and auxiliary function, and allow them to ‘drive’ you in every day life.
Which one is your dominant and auxiliary function?
The Hierarchy of Functions
The Answer to Procrastination and Life’s Other Mysteries
So why do people procrastinate?
The answer lies in the imbalance between the dominant and auxiliary functions.
Think about how balanced your dominant and auxiliary functions are. Do they complement each other well? Are you much stronger in your dominant function? Does your auxiliary balance your dominant function?
People that have a dominant information-gathering function (Sensors or Intuitives) naturally like to spend a lot of time collecting facts and thinking about all the possibilities.
Think of that ‘organizer’ friend who plans your entire holiday down to the minute. They are great at scouring the web for information and deals, and even find you the cheapest flights.
But then comes the analysis paralysis. There are too many dates for flights, there are too many hostels to book, too many sights to see. Can’t we see them all? How can we fit them all into the itinerary?
Here, a weak auxiliary function has become their downfall. For Dominant Sensors or Intuitives, the auxiliary function is always related to decision making (Thinking or Feeling).
So they naturally have weak decision making. They are unable to move from the information gathering stage to the decision making stage. They struggle to make a decision.
These are your chronic procrastinators and indecisive friends.
Have you ever been called out for a lack of empathy?
I certainly have, and strangely enough it has never bothered me that much.
If this sounds like you, you’re probably a person who aligns more with ‘Thinking’ rather than ‘Feeling’ when making decisions.
As thinkers, our decision making is driven by logic and an impersonal objective thought process. This may be great when you have to make tough business decisions, but in other situations you may come across as being cold and lacking compassion.
So there are two sides to the coin.
There is not right or wrong, good or bad personality. You simply have to understand your personality and play to your strengths and weaknesses.
Is your company struggling to stay afloat because of a few bad but loyal team members? You may be the perfect person to cut them loose.
But be cautious in your approach, as you may unwittingly come across as cold and cut-throat if you don’t dial it back a little.
And what about your forgetfulness? Why can you never recall details?
I’ve watched just as many movies and television series as my friends, but they seem to constantly be able to recall endless strings of quotes which I can never remember. Why is this?
It comes down to our preference of how we collect information.
I am an Intuitive person, someone who reads between the lines and understands patterns and the big picture.
When I watch a movie, I experience the emotion that is the sum of dialogue, music, sound effects, acting, scenery, and setting. I don’t focus on individual lines, as funny or memorable as they may be, but I experience the movie.
On the other hand, people who are Sensors focus on using their five senses. They listen and watch the movie intently (you can’t really touch or smell a movie), and grasp onto memorable moments as their experience of the movie.
Again, there is no right or wrong here. It simply comes down to the different ways we collect information from the world around us.
Why can I never seem to live in the moment?
You and a good friend go on a long walk out in the forest. During the walk, you talk incessantly about your upcoming trip to Lithuania and where you want to go after that. One moment, you’re in the forest at the start of the trail, and the next you’re at a lake at the end of the walk.
You can’t remember the trail in between. You didn’t notice the birds chirping overhead, or the dappled light streaming through the canopy. You just remember being in the forest.
This is another characteristic of Intuitive personalities.
Intuitive people naturally look towards the future, whilst Sensors are able to live in the present moment and absorb their surroundings.
Knowing this can help you live a little more in the present.
All you have to do is accept your natural tendency to look to the future.
Stop for a moment and tell yourself to slow down.
Look around you. Breathe. What do you feel? Is there music in the air?
Looking into your personality type is the first step of your journey in self-awareness and learning.
Learn to be a better, more rounded person by working on your weaknesses and playing to your strengths. Learn what careers suit you, and how relationships work. Learn how to live in the moment, and how to achieve greater productivity.
Be honest with yourself, and you will unlock the true potential of your personality.
Tables from: Do What You Are, Paul D Tieger