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BY MELINDA ELLIOTT
Ten Steps to an Amazing INFJ Life is an attempt to capture what I have learned throughout my lifetime as an INFJ as I struggled to be heard, to become courageous, to find my boundaries. Most of the articles include an exercise; all of them include tactics to make the most of the unique qualities that INFJs are blessed with. However, all I know is my little piece of life experience so your contribution is needed. Please use the comments section to add your wisdom and unique perspective.
#1 VIEW YOURSELF AS WHOLE
When is the last time you heard an extrovert talk about how they wished they could be more introverted? How they would like to start taking more time to think before they talk, or be able to just sit quietly at a party and enjoy watching the activity? Probably never. You are more likely to hear the reverse: introverts want to be more extroverted, more outgoing, and more comfortable in social situations. When this happens, when introverts focus on what they do not have, they end up ignoring the qualities they do have.
WE CREATE OUR OWN EXPERIENCE
Introverts often equate sitting alone at a party with being unpopular, but that is only one way of looking at it. If you slouch in a corner looking like a loser, sure, your demeanour will telegraph exactly that. Your anxious face will shout your innermost thoughts to the crowd: “I have no friends!” As a result – you guessed it – no one will want to talk to you. Now imagine yourself at that same party, sitting in that same corner, but this time you are calm and interested in what is going on around you. You do not feel like a loser because you are not – you have friends, they just are not with you now. You realise that you can talk to people if you want to but you do not have to, you know that you can leave any time you want. Does it not feel different? Now you are sitting by yourself because you choose to.
YOU ARE NOT A NON-EXTROVERT
INFJs can get in the trap of defining who we are by comparing ourselves to our opposites. We view our introversion as a lack of extroversion; we see our preference for dealing with our inner world as being inattentive. We can believe that our emotionality makes us seem less intelligent, and that our preference for organization is an imposition on those who are more spontaneous and fun. We need to turn that around. We need to take the view that our quietness gives us a lovely depth of thought and creates calm in our environment. In addition, our ability to read between the lines is a perfect complement to analytical thought. We need to value the fact that our orderly lives enable us to help our less organised family and friends. Moreover, the one I like best, our tender hearts are devoted to bringing peace and love into the world – what could be more important than that?
What are the bare facts of the situation? (Do not include emotional information or impact) What am I telling myself about it? . now! The combination of emotionality and a feeling of urgency is a clear tip-off that you need to step back and assess the situation. 15. that feeling of “I HAVE to say something. 19. we can end up hurting others. we can learn to recognise them and control ourselves until we can rationally consider the situation. 14. 2. dirty.) What is your favourite way to relax? What are you smartest about? Who is your favourite person to go to when you need help? Who comes to you for help? What is the most difficult thing you have ever done? What skills did it take to do it? How did you feel afterwards? What kind of books do you like? How would you dress if you had an unlimited budget? What is your favourite type of movie? What are your favourite foods? What pastimes do you enjoy? (e. 2. 7. so leave negativity and self-pity at the door. and in reaction. 18. that flare of anger. 3. Here is how I do it: THE FIRST STEP – STOP! Unless you are faced with a truly dangerous situation. 8. Your answers should be positive declarations (e. the first things to remember is. Directions: This exercise is designed to identify your preferences and strengths.”) 1.g. slapstick. 20. THE SIX QUESTIONS Once I have refrained from reacting. What makes it more difficult is when our emotions are engaged we often feel that we urgently must say something. in their desire for harmony. cooking. INFJs are easily hurt. Our emotive energy puts us squarely in the middle of the emotion of any situation. writing. can ignore or not even recognise their preferences. our perception is off and our judgment is impaired – these are the times that we say and do things we regret later. etc. 6. 17. I use what I call the “Six Questions” to sort fact from fiction: 1. they can end up discounting their strengths and skills and focus on what others can do that they cannot. The following exercise is designed to help you explore and embrace your unique likes and dislikes and better understand your strengths.g.g. What is your favourite time of the day? What time do you like to go to bed at night and get up in the morning? What are your top three skills? What kind of humour do you like? (e. 13. if possible. we do not have to be at the mercy of our feelings. quirky. feeling the simmer of anger or hurt should always be a signal to stop and take stock. 9. 12. 10. 16. do not react! When we are in this state. In addition. it has been the precursor to many of my most inappropriate outbreaks of temper. 5. 4. 11.EXERCISE: INTERVIEW WITH AN INFJ INFJs. NOW!” I know it well. However. “I love candy” as opposed to “I eat too many sweets. dancing) What are the three most important things you have learned in the past year? What would your friends say that they love about you? What do you love about yourself? What are you most proud of in your life? When are you most yourself? What challenge are you facing in your life right now? What can you add? What have you learned about viewing yourself as whole? #2 MANAGE THOSE ANNOYING EMOTIONS You know it. When you feel yourself getting emotional.
What is the fear (or hurt)? a. I’m fine. I have other friends in the city that I can hang out with. 5. My fear is that he’d be mad at me if I couldn’t. If I had taken this situation through the Six Questions. Michael is fine. I felt assaulted by the environment. Is there something I can ask someone to find out if my perception of the situation is correct? a. and negative beliefs about how the world works. I had assumed that he was flying in on Thursday afternoon and was prepared to pick him up at that time. Is that true?” I realised after the fact that he would have answered something like. I’d get up in the morning (too early) and drag myself to work only to end up enduring endless meetings and political struggles. 6. With the tender feelings of an INFJ. Notice any assumptions you might have made and any misconceptions that might have fed into your emotions. 3. I felt at the mercy of the corporate tempest. and being aware of them will help you be prepared. 6. Practice Breaking – Practice putting the brakes on your reactions when you feel emotional. and felt that he did not care at all that he was imposing on me. 5. What are the bare facts of the situation? a. I became upset. What am I telling myself about it? a. he called me and told me that he had decided to take a flight that got in at 8:30 Thursday morning and asked if I would be available to pick him up. I was overstimulated and underappreciated. 4. On Wednesday evening. negative beliefs you have about others. I just thought it would be fun to spend more time with you. I could ask Michael something like “It sounds like you’re relying on me to pick you up. If I don’t pick him up he’ll be abandoned in San Francisco. What can you add? What techniques do you use to manage your emotions? #3 IT IS YOUR LIFE – OWN IT Going to work had become torture by the time I left the corporate world. 2. My reaction was “What? Oh. Next time you feel yourself getting upset just stop – do not do or say anything. . what is a realistic assessment of the situation? a. Learn to Use the Six Questions – Think of a couple of situations that you were in where your emotions were triggered. Retreat from the situation until you are completely calm and then reassess your reactions. 4. and my natural tendency to absorb the emotions and environment around me made it worse. Michael was arriving at 8:30 AM on Friday and was asking if I could pick him up. He expected me to pick him up and entertain him all day. what is a realistic assessment of the situation? What is important here? AN EXAMPLE To help you understand how the process works. “No. He made plans at the last minute without considering how they would affect me.3. or wouldn’t pick him up. These tend to be your triggers for emotional outbreaks. it would have gone something like this: 1.List as many as you can think of for each: negative beliefs you have about yourself.” Using information from the questions above. he does not need me to pick him up. Try running them through the 6 Questions and notice how your assessment of the situation changes. EXERCISES: PRACTICE MANAGING YOUR EMOTIONS Create a “Trigger List” . That I don’t make myself responsible for Michael – he can take care of himself. no! I have plans for the morning through lunch – I cannot do this!” At that point. here is an example from my life: My friend Michael was coming into town for a class on a Friday and was planning to stay at my house. What is the fear (or hurt)? Is there something I can ask someone to find out if my perception of the situation is correct? Using information from the questions above. What is important here? a.
be specific and clear. your thoughts might be “Wow. CREATING A STRONG AND POWERFUL ENVIRONMENT Do not be an empty vessel – There are two ways to enter a situation. so dominant in our society. Dial Up Your Personality – First of all this does not mean to be loud or to impose your personality on the people around you. “Oh. Make Every Decision That You Can – there are some decisions that are yours to make and some that are not. in any situation. You want to make sure you conform. Rather than always deferring to others (“I don’t care where we eat. right now my list be: I like the warm sun pouring in the window and hitting my shoulders. As an empty vessel. If your mother asks you for the best times to call you. this is a really loud group. and that is how you will assess the party. You can have a tremendous impact on your environment just by making the decisions that fall into your realm. “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. that I am going to Arizona tomorrow to visit my daughter. that what they like is trivial. they’ll be fun to talk to. What I am talking about is staying firmly connected with who you are.I finally realised that the best way to deal with those feelings was to take control of my environment rather than letting it take control of me. the fact that my house is clean and will be welcoming for my house sitters. your preferences and beliefs. and over the next week keep an “I Like” journal by jotting down everything you encounter that you like. Avoid the “trying to please others by guessing what they really want” dance and take other’s answers at face value. where you want to go?”) make a suggestion. send them a link to this post! EXERCISE: LOVE YOUR LIKES Similar to the “Interview with an INFJ” exercise from Week 1.” Do you notice how your thoughts are about how the party measures up to your needs rather than the other way around when you enter the party “full”? You have entered with your personality intact – you know what you like and what you do not like. tell her. the turkey sandwich I just ate for lunch. the TV show “Chopped” that I watched while I ate. Your “I Like” journal is a chance to: . The first is to come in empty and look for what is available to fill you up. how quiet my house is. or not participating in the office gossip mill. If you feel that they are handing over their decisions to you. On the other hand. the comfortable pyjama bottoms that I am wearing. All that ESTP energy. Some examples about what I am underlining: Alerting your hostess ahead of time that you do not eat meat Accepting invitations only for activities that you like rather than being so grateful to be invited that you will go anywhere Speaking up when someone tells a joke that is distasteful to you Choosing to leave a gathering that you are not enjoying Creating an environment that nourishes you in your office or cubicle Wearing clothes that you are comfortable in What do these have in common? They are all decisions based on what you like rather than attempts to please others. A work example of being “full” is asking for the assignments you want rather than waiting to be selected for them. We do this when we walk into a party and think. the fact that my office is clean and neat. can make us feel that we are wrong for liking what we like. For example. The food looks great. I’m not sure I’m going to stay very long. I like that group in the corner. taking lunchtime as an opportunity to get away and do something you enjoy. So often INFJs get the message either directly or indirectly. Find a small notebook that you can keep with you at all times. can’t wait to try that dip. you let the party assess you.” these might be the thoughts that run through your mind as you enter. waiting for others to give you what you need.” Alternatively. this exercise is designed to help you identify and own your preferences. If your boss asks you what projects interest you. if you enter the party “full. that you will be able to align to the party.
and I have the tendency to want to look to others to for happiness. To decide when and whether or not you are responsible for (a) finding solutions to others’ problems or (b) taking care of their needs. To say No or Maybe without pressure to decide in accord with someone else’s timing. children or friends. What follows is the information I found on how to figure out what is right for me. What can you add? What have you learned about creating your environment? #4 LEARN TO SAY “NO” AND MEAN IT Boundaries are a loaded topic for me. Like many INFJs. 7. 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 is not designed so that you can impose your likes on other people. 3. Your journal contains a list of things to seek out. strangers] is not. To ask for 100% of what you want from 100% of the people in your life. To be non-assertive when you see that as appropriate. One way I do this is by setting limits on what people can say to me. No one has the right to hurt you. I set my emotional boundary by choosing how I will let people treat me. To enjoy emotional and physical safety. RIGHTS OF THE ASSERTIVE PERSON One of our basic rights is the right to say “no” when we do not want to do something.” from his book How to Be an Adult elaborates further: Richo’s list of rights: 1. to treat yourself with. WHAT IS APPROPRIATE? Katherine also provides a list of what is appropriate based on orientation: . 9. 6. VISIBLE AND INVISIBLE BOUNDARIES This is a list I have extracted from Anne Katherine’s terrific book Boundaries: Where You and I Begin.g. I did not learn much about healthy boundaries when I was growing up. 8. To be free to explain your choices or not (includes not having to make excuses or give reasons when you say No). To change your mind or make mistakes. it is hard for me to say “No” to someone I care about. 2. parents. Healthy. 5. 100% of the time. when appropriate. 4. To be illogical in making decisions. 10. to ask for from others. to decide how much of yourself or your life you choose to reveal. even if he or she loves you. In appropriate anger from an inappropriate person [e. It takes work for me to get clear about how far I am willing to go in some situations and to communicate that to others. in his “Rights of the Assertive Person. Setting emotional boundaries includes deciding what relationships I will foster and continue and what people I will back away from because I cannot trust them. David Richo. She describes how she sets boundaries: I set my physical boundary by choosing who can touch me and how and where I am touched. so I have turned to the experts. I decide how close I will let people come to me. and. and to make sure exist in your life. To have secrets. To maintain the same principles. skills and rights of assertiveness with your partner. safe expressions of anger by people I am close to are acceptable.
The components of a No Sandwich: [Statement of regret or acknowledgement] [Straightforward No] [Positive follow-up] Statement of regret or acknowledgement – This is an honest. How much do you want to reveal? Is that person a peer or subordinate? It is helpful to explore your answers ahead of time so that as situations occur you have already figured out where your boundary is. something is wrong. the lists above you might notice that adhering to them requires many decisions. The No Sandwich is a great way to do it. A wife is not a subordinate. a client. In the sample below. or parenting. in order to observe our boundaries we need to get good at saying no. statement either expressing real regret or an acknowledgement of the other person’s position. we can have trouble saying “No. minister. you are not required to parent or counsel him. Giving goes both ways. If you are looking down to a person because he or she is a child. At the top of the first column put “Who” and the other two columns are “What I Will Do” and “What I Won’t Do” (see sample below) In the “Who” column. In addition. supervision. On a piece of paper or a Word document. If you are doing peer things with someone you look up or down to. You support each other. but positive. If you are looking up to a person for guidance. list what is acceptable and what is not.” We do not want to hurt feelings or create disharmony. If you are looking down or up at someone who is a peer. therapist. A husband is not a boss. something’s wrong. EXERCISE: DEFINE YOUR BOUNDARIES As you read. A statement of regret can be simply “I would love to go but …”. 3. 1. Create a Will/Won’t List – This exercise is designed to identify your boundaries with the people in your life. he or she is your peer. She should not be counselling you. or boss. “I would really . In the next two columns. he or she is not your peer. you should not give him or her inappropriate personal information. You confide in each other. Who My Family What I Will Do Understand and accept that they are different from me Be as kind as possible Be respectful Recognise holidays and birthdays Be kindly honest Respond when they reach out to me Be as honest and straightforward as possible Be vulnerable Be proud of my coaching career Extend myself for others when appropriate and to an appropriate degree What I Will Not Do Be submissive Feel guilty Engage in games Respond to disrespectful communications Attend family gatherings when I don’t want to Tell them what they want to hear just to keep the peace Be submissive Do things I do not want to do just to be nice Judge Give unsolicited advice Agree just to be nice Be ashamed of things I like (like watching TV) Others in General EXERCISE: PRACTICE “NO” SANDWICHES As INFJs. list the significant people in your life or someone who you are having difficulty setting boundaries with. 2. create three columns. If you are looking across to a person. I have listed my boundaries for my family and in general. I use Will/Won’t Lists anytime I find myself struggling with not wanting to hurt someone or feeling like I am being asked for more than I want to give. you are not his or her peer. If he or she is your dad. A boundary is being crossed. However. or a subordinate.
The truth is. In addition. but do not argue about it if the other person pushes back.” “That looks delicious. My natural tendency is to make it about myself – “What did I do?” or “Why is he being so mean to me?” However. though. Keep your cool and give them the gift of your compassion. They are statements such as “thanks so much. but I can’t make it. so do not say it if you do not mean it. honesty. every problem was the worst thing she had ever dealt with. but no thanks. What can you add? What tactics do you use to define and protect your boundaries? #5 PROTECT YOUR HEART I have said it before – one of the best things about being a Feeler is how tenderhearted we are.” “I know that this is important to the school district.” However.like to help but…” The key here is. Positive follow-up – This is just a respectful and kind statement to cement your “no” and take the sting out of it. I finally recognised that her life was spent moving from trauma to trauma. she would immediately identify who “hated” her. I rode these difficulties with her. but I won’t be able to run the book drive. again. but I am going to do it the way I originally planned.When someone else is upset.” “maybe next time” (but only if you mean it). “good luck” or “have fun. Consider a statement of “That looks delicious but I’m watching my weight” as an absolute. Even if they lash out at you or blame you – remember that everyone loses perspective when they are distraught. but I stopped being sucked in to the drama of it all. though. How about giving some to Grandpa? He loves cookies. do. For years. the weather should be beautiful!” “I can see that you have put a lot of thought into this. worrying about her latest insolvable problem or dysfunctional relationship. rather than what is happening with the other person. You have said no. You can provide a safe and nurturing space for someone who is upset by just listening and encouraging them to talk about how they feel.I used to work with a woman who always focused on the worst aspect of any situation. I seek harmony. one of the hardest things about being a Feeler is how tenderhearted we are! Like most Feelers. Our desire for harmony and our concern about hurting others can feel overwhelming when we say “no. this is a form of self-absorption: we are focused on our reaction. I appreciate your effort. just one won’t hurt. We need to shift the question from “Why is he or she picking on me?” to “What is going on with him or her that is upset him so much?” SOME TIPS FOR DEALING WITH OTHERS’ UPSET S Do not take it personally . on how we feel. which can be painful for an INFJ.” smile and move away. If you say you would love to go you will be invited again. When she started a new job. Why don’t you sign me up to help collect books?” If you want to include a reason. . the first part of your statement can be just an acknowledgement of the other person. Have a great time. If you really do not feel regret. sometimes people still will not like our answer. and when one of my friends or loved ones is in a bad mood it is really difficult not to take it personally. not you. it is about them. You do not need to give a reason (which can imply that negotiation is possible) you just need to say no thanks. I learned to provide a sympathetic ear and bits of feedback when I thought she could handle it. Do not try to fix or soothe them – you cannot – Telling someone the “look at the bright side” or to “feel better” does not do anything except negate what they are feeling.” Here are some examples of a No Sandwich: “I love that you want to include me. and if the other person says “Oh. it is part of life and being an adult to set limits and accept the fact that others will not always agree with our decisions. Examples are “I appreciate you including me but…” or “I know that this is important to you but…” Straightforward No – Keep your “no” simple. that no matter how gentle we are. Watch out for perennial victims . Every setback was a disaster.
what gets lost in all her noise is the fact that her posts frequently contain excellent advice for new coaches. What can you add? How do you deal with your softheartedness? #6 STAY CONNECTED TO THE WORLD INFJs are internal folks. not just INFJs) tend to fill in the blanks. This also goes for all the painful input out there – TV news coverage of disasters or violence. If she paid attention to how long others’ posts are.Your compassion helps. In the example above. skilful as a coach. You should always have a final say on how much you want to help. all this is easier said than done. taking on others’ pain will only weaken and distract you. Then we act as if our story is true. and grounded environment when someone close to you is upset – I like to think of it as giving the gift of being strong when someone is at his or her weakest point. in no way should they become my problems. A FEW WAYS TO TURN THAT FOCUS OUTWARD Be aware of your impact on others – There is a woman who contributes to an online coaching bulletin board who drives me crazy. The only exception to this is when the other person is a child or a defenceless creature – then ownership is shared by everyone. she would realise that she was out of step with the . Her posts. even graphic movies or TV shows. Who owns this problem? The person who is impacted by the problem is the owner. and symbols. calm. Staying completely will enable you to use your compassion and caring to fuel contributions to solutions. and that they typically offered advice rather than extended monologues about theory. Have I contributed to the problem? If the answer is “yes. When we do not have full information about others we tend to make up facts to complete the story. Take up your space but only your space – the woman from the bulletin board that I wrote about earlier is a perfect example of someone taking up too much space (both figuratively and literally). and what contribution you are willing to make. The key here is to remember that we do not know everything about other people. and we recognise that there is probably a story behind that angry co-worker. She loves to lecture on theory. “For INFJs the dominant quality in their lives is their attention to the inner world of possibilities. Unfortunately. you can use a few of questions to explore the emotions around interpersonal upsets. I suspect that if you asked her.Avoid taking on their pain . However. who is also a bit nasty. When you find yourself dealing with an upsetting situation. As Charles R. and she often is able to ground discussions that have gotten out of hand with clarity and common sense. the annoyingly clinging friend gets our compassion (I wonder what her family life is like?). Martin states in the book Looking at Type: The Fundamentals. suddenly the grumpy guy up the street becomes a mystery (why is he so sad?). and can get snippy when she is crossed (and yes. 3.” With this internal focus we can sometimes lose touch with what is going on with the people around us. EXERCISE: WHO OWNS THIS PROBLEM? Like the Six Questions in Manage Those Annoying Emotions. In addition. Give people the benefit of the doubt – We (everyone. which are often are overly long. it benefits everyone when you can provide a supportive. commercials showing abused animals. ask yourself: 1. my friend’s problems belongs solely to her. If the answer is “no” the question then becomes: Do I want to help and is it appropriate for me to do so? What do I want my involvement to be? Make sure that if and how you help is your decision. she would say that she is viewed as highly intelligent. What is sad is that she is probably a very nice person who is unaware of her impact on others. I know. but that desire often just makes us more anxious and even more internally focused. it is obvious that many people on the bulletin board see her as an arrogant know-it-all. she is an INFJ). even those closest to us. We might think that our desire for interpersonal harmony would balance this out. hurting along with the other person does not.” the question then becomes: What can I do to make it right? (It is often as simple as apologizing). not you. When we accept this and stop assuming we know it all. typically contain words and concepts that the rest of us do not understand. 2. and maybe a little feisty when someone oversteps. ideas.
do it yourself. Think about the Facebook over-posters. but stay connected with the fact that helping someone is what is important. use your intuition to get a feel for the vibe of the conversation. it’s actually pretty boring!” What Can You Add? What have you learned about managing your impact on others? #7 SEEK APPROVAL FROM WITHIN I spent some time reading an INFJ online bulletin board and was surprised and embarrassed at how many of the posts just shrieked “poor me!” It showed up repeatedly – “nobody appreciates me!”. what is important to you. I suspect that she would be seen as a valuable contributor. our passion is quiet. IT IS NOT AS HARD AS YOU MIGHT THINK Create an internal measure of validation – Identify your own values.e. use the tactics below to assess your impact on others. Ask questions – the easiest way to find out how you are perceived is to ask someone you trust about how they see you. and our strength is internal. if you get some praise for it. we cannot hide them quickly enough! Or the person who dominates a conversation with an endless monologue about themselves. If she adjusted her posts to fit in with the rest of the bulletin board. At the end of each day. In addition. listen and receive rather than just sending. Even though it’s true that INFJs are sometimes overlooked and underappreciated. “He did this to me. Celebrate your accomplishments – Do not wait for someone else to acknowledge your triumphs. Which made me realise that all that complaining is pretty unappealing. Keep the subject bite-sised by asking about a specific event rather than a general question (i. it doesn’t benefit us to focus on it. do not hide your light in deference to others. In order to reach our full potential in life we need to stop seeking external validation. getting external recognition is a reward. no matter what anyone says or does not say. However. Do not stay quiet when it is your time to speak. and determine the worth of your actions based on those. INFJs also need to be aware of the flip side – we also want to make sure not to take up too little space in our dealings with others. The same is true for all conversations. Had the courage to take on a tough assignment at work? Buy yourself a new leather portfolio to help you feel a touch more professional at the meetings you’ll be . I will ask myself “Will this be interesting to the person I’m talking to? Would I want to hear about this from someone else?” The answer is often “No. Notice if the other person looks interested or bored. she did that …!” I was surprised both by the quantity of the complaints and by the fact that the people posting them seemed to feel so victimised. listen to their responses to check in on how the exchange is going. that is nice. both in-person and virtual. I was embarrassed because they sounded startlingly similar to the whining that often is going on in my own head. if your antenna picks up something negative. EXERCISE: EXPLORE YOUR IMPACT Over the next week.majority of the participants. punctuating it with questions that are seemingly about us but are really just about topics they want to shift to. Just finished the first draft of your book? Treat yourself to a day off where you can do whatever you want. look. or a review of my opinion about something. Sometimes when I am ready to launch into a story about my day. jot down what you have learned and what changes you would like to make in your behaviour. ask about it with a simple question like “Am I going into too much detail?” Put yourself in their shoes – INFJs like to share and can often do it too much. We need to stop relying on the approval of others to feel good about ourselves. However. “I am so sensitive!”. If you are passionate about helping others then your work tutoring illiterate adults is priceless. We need to accept the fact that our power is subtle. In addition. Ask “Did I seem oversensitive with that woman back there?” rather than “Do you think I’m too sensitive?”) Pay attention – When you are in a conversation.
you are also reducing your reliance on others’ approval. we are fully able to learn to function effectively in the areas that are not our strengths. creativity and contribution. 3. It has not become easy. reading. helping others. it can feel like my knowledge does not mean anything because no one else sees it. My list. you can learn to function in the areas that are not your type. You do not need the recognition of others to confirm that you know what you know. but I do just fine. clothing. it takes a bunch of aids – I have a GPS system. insight. and learning. 1. The values that come out of my list are friendship. What can you add? Do you look to others for approval? How have you dealt with it? #8 PRACTICE YOUR OPPOSITES “You have no idea how hard this is for me…” That is how my friend’s boss began when he told her that her job had been eliminated. 2. she just learned to focus her attention outward in social situations when she wanted to. laughter. Because no matter what our type is. I have a terrible time with directions but over the years. reading & learning. Make a list of the things that are most important in your life (aside from your basic needs such as food. By acknowledging your own successes you are not only recognizing the value of your work. family. I have learned how to manage finding my way around. it is about understanding that your wisdom is solid. You see. No. and strength that INFJs carry with them. she did not become an extrovert. Again. doing work that matters. I am not like an Sensor with their uncanny way of knowing how to get anywhere they have been. You will always be frustrated until you accept the simple fact that sometimes you will know more than the people around you. I think that is a great way to look at the internal power. this gave him permission to focus on his discomfort rather than the fact that he was ending my friend’s 28-year career.). I suspect that most INFJs encounter this – our insights are often so subtle that they can appear to have been pulled out of thin air to our less intuitive companions. Sure. He is also the person that whined in meetings that he was a Judger so he needed more information to make a decision. for example. etc. . time with my daughter. creating something meaningful. Use it when making decisions and compare how you spend your time with what is on your list. and enough. he is a Feeler and in his mind. EXERCISE: IDENTIFY YOUR VALUES One of the best ways to determine the value of your actions is to make sure you have a clear understanding of your values. Keep a list of your values and make it a living document – mature it by adding other areas as you notice them. My coach once called me a “silent warrior” and that resonated with me. There is one thing about accepting and making the most of our types. would include the following: loyal friends that I can laugh with. deep. I had an introvert friend in high school who was more outgoing than most of the extroverts I knew. nesting. a notebook full of directions and when I do not have my tools.attending. my home. it is another to use them to excuse self-serving or inflexible behaviour. finding the best way for me to help others people. I have to focus hard on landmarks and street names. When that happens. YOU CAN LEARN With some practice. Review your list with an eye towards looking for your values – they should be easy to spot. To Practice Extraversion: Join and participate in a social or professional group or club (find a group where the size and frequency of meetings will not overwhelm you). but most of the time I can get where I am going without any problem. Understand that you can still be right even if no one else agrees with you – There are times when I just know I am right about something and no one around me will acknowledge it. Part of becoming a fully functioning adult is learning to do what does not come naturally.
and touch? What does the air feel like. Keep your office door open at times. If you think someone can help you formulate a plan or move it into action. Note what turns up that adds value to the day. wait as long as practical before replying. or work from home. check in with them to see if your perception is correct. Use the information from your analysis to support your position. do not take it personally. to-the-point feedback to others. To Practice Thinking: Practice giving simple. Try to increase your tolerance for delays. Make a decision based on an analysis of the pros and cons. Ask yourself if-then and cause-effect questions such as. exact. At your workplace. landmarks. make a practice of getting away from your desk. taste. 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. including precise. what you make up or infer about it. ambiguities. but do not include any with emotional content (except for what is in line with your personal values). Focus on what you truly experience and what it means vs. even if only briefly. Solicit another’s input. open up with at least one other trusted person and share what you are thinking. east and west. think of several options besides the one you think is correct. direct. south. After making a decision using an objective framework. Have lunch with one new social or business contact per week to increase your networking circle and to add breadth to your relationships. pay attention to the route. hear. and unforeseen changes. specific facts to others. Note where you park your car and what entrance you use. Allow a reasonable period to elapse (a few hours or a day) before finalising a decision. Let others make all the decisions and focus on relaxing and enjoying whatever happens. When feedback comes your way. Take a situation purely at face value without adding any interpretation or “story” to it. What Can You Add? What methods have you used to function in areas that are not your strengths? . To Practice Sensing: Take stock with your five senses periodically. then what do I need to give up?” “What are the effects that result from these actions?” Make a decision using an objective framework. In solving a problem. To Practice Perceiving: Schedule a day to go with the flow. even if you prefer going it alone. If people want your opinion. Make a list of the pros and cons of each option and its impact on people. smell. and what your destination looks like. take a tough-minded stance and hold firm. What do you see. “If I say ‘yes’ to this. Periodically do a mental scan of people in your life – what is going on with my daughter? Spouse? Co-worker? Increase your connection with the external world by consistently listening to the news or reading a newspaper or news magazine. ask him or her for assistance. try remaining neutral. If you do not work. When you believe that something you have said or done has hurt someone’s feelings. and accurate details. use what is helpful and ignore the rest. Go on an outing with no plans or schedules. Practice relaying direct. List pros and cons. and connect with co-workers. Tell a story in more depth than you typically would. Monitor yourself for a day and see what happens when you allow yourself to be interrupted. Try to stay oriented to north. Challenge your original selection. Focus on staying informed about key local and world events. Stay in the present – frequently check in with what is actually happening in the moment. what do you see around you? When going somewhere new. Use the extra time to gather more information or probe for additional insights. Give several alternatives and let them decide for themselves. Do not answer e-mails or voice mails immediately.
” Moreover. all that mushy desire to make sure everyone is happy. examples from my life). Pursuing the belief that we can control the universe is distracting. like assuming that you and your friend will always have lunch at your favourite restaurant. or the way it has always been done. is trust. The belief that by controlling the people and circumstances around us. I talk about how we fool ourselves into thinking we have things under control.” As an Observer Self. There is nothing better than the knowledge that if I plan carefully and get the people around me to do things right. my father used to decide what was best for me and then badger me endlessly until I did things his way. and can be extremely annoying to the people around us. they will ask for it. and we can end up really overdoing it. really. we can organise the heck out of committees. 1. It feels good from our end. we have a natural desire to arrange circumstances. we can only improve our chance for success. it makes me tired just to read this post. All that energy put into trying to arrange the unwarrantable. everything will go perfectly. Most of us cannot pass a test without studying for it. Start letting the other person decide. Trust that catastrophe will not befall us if we let go of the reins and let life take its natural course. who defines “right”? We do of course. yes. Trust that others also know what they are doing. When I was growing up. In addition. I think. there is often an inherent feeling of correctness to our opinions. When things do not go as planned. but the only way we can make sure we are not overrunning everyone else is to ask permission and accept the answer. we relax. would you like to try someplace else?”. correct problems. I have never felt more disempowered and small than I did after giving in to his pressure. it is not fun to be on the other end of that energy. 2. The antidote. sitting comfortably in the certainty that our planning and preparation has worked. but we have all encountered the unhappy truth that studying alone does not ensure an A. we can make things work out “right.” Honestly. Check in with them to see if they want something different. or “What time would it work best for you to leave for the movies?” If you are in a group and plans are being made. they are suddenly “out of control. arranging things for other folks. To understand that it is all an illusion. The people in our lives have their own approach to solving problems and if they need our help. start paying attention to the small decisions you make where you assume that your way. but I can tell you from personal experience. Those of us who love control also believe that our vision is the correct one. not guarantee it. EXERCISE: PRACTICE LETTING GO This exercise requires that you step out of your routine and pay attention to your assumptions. watching yourself interact with others as if you are watching a movie. is correct. Over the next week. Add our emotive energy to that. As Judgers. It is taken me decades to realise the emptiness of that belief.#9 STOP TRYING TO CONTROL THE WORLD I love being in control – having things just right and knowing that they are going to stay that way. but my topic today is about identifying and respecting the boundaries of others. make sure that things run smoothly. A casual way to do this is to say something like “We always go to lunch at Scotty’s. try staying quiet and let the group make the decisions without your input. and trust in ourselves and the knowledge that if things don’t work out “right” we can handle it. I talked about defining and protecting your boundaries a few weeks ago. events and special occasions. These are the little things. by the way. You can overcome this “assumption of correctness” by stepping out of your personal perspective and taking on the perspective of an “Observer Self. When things go smoothly. wastes our energy. The only circumstances we are entitled to arrange are our own circumstances. This can be difficult for an INFJ. Because. That is a summation of the illusion of control. The truth is. you become neutral. assuming that you and your neighbour will walk at the same time every day (these are all. the only person we need to control in life is ourselves. that we believe things are in control simply because they are going as we want them to. Do you just not love it – that feeling that everything is going as it should? In the aforementioned section. automatically planning to arrive at a movie 20 minutes early. . while our efforts do contribute to positive or negative results in our lives. and they can feel so right that we forget there are other perspectives.
I call it my Higher Purpose but you should call it whatever works best for you. not neglect. whatever form it might take. ambition. For each experience. As an example. knowing that I can handle whatever comes up. However. For many people our higher purpose never emerges as more than just a jumble of vague feelings – they are happy when they have done “good” and feel embarrassed or unsatisfied when they have strayed. I want you to get clear on what is most important to you. Recognise the fact that just because I think my ideas are right does not mean that they really are to others. By deciding before the fact. I spent much of my life vaguely aware that I was only part of who I was meant to be. better. What was the outcome of the new decision? Did things work out worse. you are more likely to be aware as you navigate through this tricky terrain. had been thrust aside. At some level. I was living in survival mode. and awareness to fulfil that purpose. This means that even if I see her struggling with something I do not jump in with a solution unless asked. is why we are on the earth. and co-workers lives and design a set of rules for where you want your limits to be. Take “No” for an answer. not as a declaration of the way things should be. and making stuff happen. we also need to pay attention to our fundamental need for contribution. How did the other person/people respond to being consulted or making the decision? d. the “me” that loved helping others. When I’m planning something as part of a group: o Voice my opinion as an opinion. you already have a sense of your higher purpose. and to seek to live it. . a relief? b. stop worrying about what might happen and just let it happen. I believe that to know our higher purpose. My jobs most often utilized my Intuitive and Judging skills – I was a whiz at organising. to accept it as such. friends. o Step back from the desire that everything be planned. EXERCISE: MINING FOR YOUR HIGHER PURPOSE Already know your higher purpose? Great! Go ahead and skip to the next section. and what impact you want to have on the world around you. While self-awareness and self-acceptance discussed in the first nine instalments of this series are important. whether you are fully aware of it or not. I tended to ignore what was important to me. and each individual has been designed to be the perfect combination of life experience. “fixing. I want more than that for you. the little girl who played rescue with her Barbies and built tiny homes for pill bugs. planning. o Listen to the suggestions of others openly. or the same? c. What was it like to give up control? Uncomfortable? Scary? Or was it freeing. Ask for permission before planning. values and grace with others can be a powerful force in our lives. What can you add? What have you learned about the desire for control? #10 FIND YOUR HIGHER PURPOSE It is time to talk about the big picture – who we are in the world. 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.” or taking over someone else’s effort. here are my rules: Do not try to “fix” anything for my adult daughter. recognising that their ideas might be better than mine may. This exercise is for those of us who are not quite clear about it. curiosity. the child I had been. Letting other adults work out their own issues is a sign of respect. and. in my desire to succeed in what often felt like a foreign world. I believe that we are all put on this earth for a purpose. ask yourself the following: a. The desire to share our wisdom.3. It is an internal awareness – you can identify it by the zing of correctness you feel when you are on target and by the discomfort and discord that you feel when you are off purpose.
we end up pushed out of our comfort zones in some way. and write books. Living your higher purpose will make you uncomfortable sometimes. our goals tend to become deeper and more meaningful. resilience. Then simply being ourselves in the freest. we were encouraged to find clients after our very first class. be a private detective. insight. It is the pure expression of your unique combination of talent. It can be about the wrongs you want to right or change you want to bring about. Everything I write is about learning about who we really are. not finding a place where it already exists. WHAT NOW? Do you think you know your higher purpose? Here are some things to keep in mind when you decide what is next: You do not have to quit your job to pursue your life’s work. Just like that. As we learn what we need to know to succeed. Luckily. which will fuel a deeper and richer purpose to pursue. At various times I wanted to run a post office. chances are you will never begin. each of us already have those qualities available. create beauty and grace. but it is still a foggy idea of something that will be great as soon as we figure it out. Your higher purpose will change as you explore it. What comes up when you remove all the barriers? What would you do with your days if you had all the money. and your gift to me has been your time spent reading and contributing to this guide. What did you want to be when you grew up? While our childhood answers might seem trite and conventional – we wanted to be fire fighters. it comes from what is important to you. Whatever it turns out to be. Feel like you’re not courageous? Take the next step by deciding to do something that takes courage and presto! You are courageous. just out of sight. One thing I learned in coaching is that as we make progress toward our goals. What information can you extract from your childhood dreams? 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. 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. ballerinas. 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. The same is true for your higher purpose – as you bring your passion into the world the world will reward you with more passion. all we have to do is use them. . or the beauty you want to contribute in the form of art or music. maybe even make a speech to a room full of people! Creating the impact that we want to make in the world takes courage. and persistence. another who works for Habitat for Humanity whenever she can. We rather know what it might be. Any time we try something new. 1. you just need to start. When I was training to be a coach. If you wait until you feel you are ready. 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.Often our higher purpose is right on the tip of our tongue. our goals will continually change. I could not have been that bad – I am still working with several of those early clients. My Higher Purpose is to help everyone (including myself!) become more self-aware. and we had to be willing to make mistakes. and sense of what matters. and then loving what we discover. what would it be? So often. Our hot buttons tell us what is important to us. or we know the general category. 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. time and support you needed? If your perfect occupation were instantly available to you. or cowboys – even those answers contain information (we want to rescue people in danger. Below are some questions that help you start to identify your higher purpose. It is all about finding ways to fulfil your higher purpose where ever you are. 2. finding solutions and communication. We may end up having to talk to strangers. In addition. I have a friend who tutors illiterate adults on weekends. 3. What leaps out at me from my answer is a love for order. biggest possible way. what we feel needs to be changed. We had to trust that we would be good enough. self-accepting. or have rough ‘n tumble adventures). and as confident as possible. travel alone. even though I goofed up plenty. You do not need to know how to do what you want to do.
they should inform both who you are and who you want to be. and tossing out what is not. when I took the time to really think about what I wanted to say. Therefore. However. What are your Rules For Life? Feel free to share them with other INFJs by following the steps above. Your rules for life reflect who you want to be in the world. they are an expression of what is important to you. what can you add to the list? Take your time in creating and exploring what you come up with – your rules are important. Next. and best person I can be. strongest. breathing list that grows and deepens as you go through your life. we all know that not all INFJs are the same. or share them with someone else who can benefit. From the context of your life. Here is how: Go back and read each of the previous ten steps in this series with a critical eye. so create them thoughtfully. this is the final instalment in Ten Steps to an Amazing INFJ Life. my awareness deepened and I learned even more about how to deal with my challenges. Make sure they do not get lost. They should reflect not only what you have learned but also what you want to learn. and let them help you stay clear and focused during tough times. adding what is needed. it is your turn. exploring what is true for you and what is not. You can use the following questions to help you flesh your new rules out: o What is important about this rule? Why is your rule worth thinking about and working on? o What is lost when you do not follow the rule? o What do you gain when you do? Honour your rules in a way that works for you. You might want to record them in a beautiful journal. on what I have learned in my life. You can use them as guideposts when making decisions. When I started creating this series.EPILOGUE – IT IS YOUR TURN The steps in Ten Steps to an Amazing INFJ Life are based on my challenges. I love all the connections that I have been able to make with other INFJs through this series. and I love hearing from you about your experiences as you discover the beauty of being an INFJ. Your rules for life should be a living. They are the rules I try to follow every day to be the boldest. Redefine each step so that it suits you. Thank you for going on this journey with me. . it is time for you to create your own list of steps.
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