Tag Archives: Vision

The INTJ

‘Sorry world.’

I used to tag the apology on whenever my personality type came up in the topic of conversation, as it will do amongst friends who’ve been exploring personality for themselves. But I’m not going to do that any more, and in this blog’s spirit of openness and vulnerability, this is why.

To be able to tell my story I’m going to need to give you a bit of background to the Myers-Briggs personality classification system, or MBTI (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator)*. This is a system for determining and understanding personality differences developed in the last century by Katharine Cook Briggs and her daughter Isabel Briggs Myers after Carl Jung’s work. MBTI is based around four pairs of personality traits, each represented by a letter (capitalised for each pair below), and sees everyone tending towards one side or another within each pair. The pairs are:

  •  Extravert/Introvert – this is about where you predominantly draw your energy from (interaction with others or time on your own) and whether your dominant ways of thinking express themselves outwardly for all to see or inwardly inside yourself;
  •  Sensing/iNtuition (do you tend to be a details person, or someone who sees the big picture?);
  •  Thinking/Feeling (do you tend to solve problems with your head or your heart first, do you tend to consider principles or people more when making decisions?);
  •  Judging/Perceiving, which is actually about how much you tend to need to have things planned out or value spontaneity, rather than anything to do with being judgemental or perceptive (I confess, not understanding where these terms come from, that I’ve come to refer to them as J for planning and P for jumping..!).

Both traits in each pair are neutral; neither is better, so it’s not a measure of how good you are at a certain thing or as a person (for example Ts are not more intelligent than Fs nor Fs necessarily better with relationships than Ts). Everyone can and probably does use all 8 of those traits (ie everyone thinks and has feelings that come into play when they make decisions), but has a preferred one for each pair, in the same way you can use both your right and left hand to write but have a dominant hand that’s easier, and can be more or less practised at using your less dominant hand.

It’s measured using responses to a long questionnaire** to try to tease out which side of each pairing you tend towards. This scores how strongly your answers point towards one side or other of a pair, however the score is more a measure of how certain you are about that tendency, rather than how strong that tendency is, and this is influenced both by how well you know yourself (the more self-aware you are, the more you will know the way you think and react, and the better you will be able to answer the questions about this), and how practised you are at using your non-preferences (for example you may naturally be a ‘P’, a person who craves freedom and spontaneity, but have spent all your life in a work environment that requires you to be very organised and plan everything through, meaning you answer the questions testing your need for planning in a more ambiguous way, or even in a way that suggests you prefer to have things planned!). The result gives you a 4-letter code for your personality type (E or I, S or N, T or F, J or P), and since there are four pairs, there are 16 possible combinations of traits and therefore 16 base personality types.

I like it because it doesn’t put people into boxes; it doesn’t tell you anything about what kind of person you are or how you are going to behave, but it explains people’s underlying tendencies and helps us understand how we work. You remain an individual, because although this is a way to identify the basis of the way you tick, the simplest building blocks of what makes you who you are and from which you build yourself, your actual personality is going to be made up of that plus all the other stuff of life.

I have taken this test more times now than I can keep track of, and probably did it for the first time around 15 years ago. I’ve come out as an INTJ every single time, regardless of how much I have changed as a person over those years, how much I think I have developed different aspects of myself, and how much I’ve pushed boundaries of interpretation when answering the questions! So what does that mean?

Firstly, I. I am an introvert. I can be loud and forceful. I love to be on stage, up front, lead a group or speak in public. If a decision is to be made, you will be left in no doubt what my views are! But my batteries are drained extremely rapidly if I spend too much time socialising, or in intense one-to-one conversation. I need time alone. I can spend many happy hours away from others, content to be with myself and my own inner world. I need people very much, but I’d far rather have a few close friends than many shallow acquaintances (which is a real struggle for me at present as I feel I’m in the latter situation here just now).

I am an N. This is the trait I’ve long been most unsure about, as I’ve not really understood what it means. As a scientist, I’ve always thought of myself as someone who bases her understanding of things more on facts and evidence than on gut feeling, so how can I be an ‘intuitive’ rather than a ‘senser’? However, I’ve never been assessed as an S, and when I’ve read about S types, none of them ring true for me. Last year I took part in a workshop with an experienced MBTI practitioner and got to explore it a bit more, and it seems this pair is more about how much we tend to focus on the detail or see the bigger picture. And that clicked! I am absolutely a big-picture person, and actually that’s probably the single most important way to understand me. It’s also been one of the most helpful concepts for me to grasp in terms of the differences between how different people think. It’s not that I disregard detail, or evidence, the tried and tested or the importance of ‘now’. But so much of what goes on inside me is big-picture stuff. I’m always in the wider context for whatever it is I’m dealing with at any particular time. Don’t try to appeal to me with individual case studies; explain to me the scale of the problem and I will be dreaming of solutions and how we might get from here to there.

And this ties into the next pair; I am a T. Anyone who knows me at all knows I have feelings!! They tend to explode on me at full force, and quite often you’ll see that explosion externally too, be it anger or love or grief or whatever. I care deeply about others, whether I know them or not, because people really matter to me. But I am so much more a head person than a heart person. I say that relates to the last point, because so much of my care for others actually stems from the idea, the knowledge, the theory that the other and their situation is important, rather than an emotional response. Going back to the case study versus the concept of the problem, if you tell me about a poor cocoa farmer who is struggling to feed her family because she isn’t being paid enough for her crops, I care because of the idea of the injustice of that situation and knowledge that there must be so many farmers out there, not just cocoa growers, in similar situations because world trade is set up to pay them as little as possible, rather than an emotional connection with her as a person. I still care. I can be quite reserved because I’m not great at knowing what to do with emotion, especially other people’s emotions, and that’s compounded by my introversion. And if a decision is to be made, it matters much more to me that that decision is correct in terms of it working, than it being correct in terms of it pleasing everyone.

Finally, I am a J. Spontaneity really stresses me out, which is great when you are married to someone who finds having everything planned out stressful! His idea of a perfect day out, and my nightmare, is to just wake up one day and decide to set out not knowing where you are going, and just wander. I want to have put that day aside for a day trip at least a few days in advance, and to have agreed where we’re going the night before at least, with a map and at least a rough idea of the route, and to know the weather forecast, where the loos are en route, what time the bus home goes and how long it will take to get to the stop! We’re both learning..! I need to have an idea what to expect and to be able to plan responses to scenarios in advance, and hate last minute changes of plan being foisted upon me.

So that is my type; the head-based, big-picture-thinking, introverted planner.

So why apologise? What’s wrong with that? Well. My type is the one that frequently gets typecast as the evil genius! You see it in all sorts of fictional villains, and alas there are real evil geniuses that fit too. It’s a combination of traits that easily lends itself to a person being quite detached and calculating, wanting their own way, and also being able to apply knowledge and understanding to achieve it. There are many very basic MBTI type summaries out there that give this sort of thing as the short and pithy description of what my type is like, portraying us as cold, reserved and scheming. Not great. Especially when you are neither particularly evil nor a genius! But there is more. Digging into my profile a bit more, you’ll see we’ve a tendency to ‘be right’. We know we are right, and we will say so! What is more, even if others disagree, or are trying to take time to come to a decision together, we are headstrong and independent enough to just go off and act on it ourselves regardless, without waiting for a go-ahead or a consensus. There’s a tendency to be inflexible, both to ideas and plans of action, and to the feelings of others. Argh! Now that does hit home! I have many a time made myself very unpopular in that sort of situation, both at work and in social scenarios. It’s an unattractive arrogance. I’ve been working hard to become more aware of that in myself and to learn better ways to handle situations and treat others, but it’s not easy.

My ‘sorry world!’ response was a little tongue-in-cheek, but in truth I was always a little embarrassed by my profile, and envied other types. The trait pairings are neutral, and so are the personality types; they do not dictate who you will be, or how you will react, or what you will be like as a person. But they do explain your underlying tendencies, and I can’t deny it, some types have much nicer starting points to work from! I read some profile descriptions and frankly they sound lovely. Mine is not that!! But you can start from a profile with tendencies to be big-hearted, creative, energetic lovers of harmony, and still act like a jerk. You can start with basic materials that tend you towards arrogant independence, and build a compassionate life upon them.

And this leads to where I am today; I am starting to love what I am. Yes, after 15 years working with it, starting, though I’ve loved who I am much longer. I’m beginning to recognise the beauty and wisdom of what God has made me out of. I’ve known in my head that all the types are needed to make the world work, but in practice have struggled to appreciate why such a potentially difficult character like myself might be necessary. But this is the good news isn’t it? All of us are full of potential, and none of us are sorted yet. We can all, particularly walking alongside the God who put us together and knows us, has a plan for us and gives us strength to be our best, build something amazing from the basic building blocks we’ve been given. I find the MBTI tool incredibly useful in understanding myself and my strengths and weaknesses, and in developing my character, and also in understanding the different perspectives those around me are coming from and so working better with them (particularly understanding that different styles of thinking are not wrong, just different perspectives as innate as my own). So there’s a fair bit in my make up that requires self-awareness just to behave decently. But we all have a bit of that, and I’m discovering that actually my type have some really beautiful characteristics waiting to be developed. I’m finding God has been at work in me, at least over this past year, helping me to uncover this, and I hope with God’s help I can grow into it in future.

So far in my journey with MBTI I’ve found it easier to see what I suspect others see of me; my tendency to put forth my ideas. What I have overlooked is what goes on inside me all the time; the vision. What is that inner world that I feel so at home in? It’s full of big ideas, concepts, dreams and an ache for justice, for the Kingdom of God, for restored relationships in all things and everything to be put right. That is where the INTJ mind can be a thing of beauty, and I’d never really grasped that before! In Switchfoot’s words, the tension is here, between who you are and who you could be, between how it is and how it should be… I see what things are like and where they’re headed, but I also see the potential. I may be short of the practical details on how to get from here to there but I am forever dreaming up vague roadmaps. The big picture drives me. As a scientist, activist and Christian, it makes sense. Somewhere inside I see before me the coming Kingdom of God, the world put right. I see the potential of humanity to not only turn around and overcome problems such as climate change, xenophobia and unjust trade, but actually be a creative force for good in the world, shaping it into something better than we started with (probably way outside my lifetime and even this era of history…). Big dreams! I think God can use that.

I recently wound up my latest round of counselling with an amazing session with my therapist*** in which she had me go over some of the damaging labels that had been put on me as a child (weirdo, daydreamer etc), and we worked through them (I won’t go into detail here, it would make a whole other blog post!) until I recognised I could replace those unhelpful labels with a better one: Visionary. I may have been a bit weird, and I was frequently off in my own world, elaborating in my own head ideas and stories based around what I’d been taught and read, which would have frustrated a teacher trying to keep me on track with the lesson. But there is the seed of the person I am now.

I may not be the person with the wild and original ideas, or the practical sense to make something work, or the patience to see a project through, and certainly not the people-person with the natural warmth and sensitivity to bring people together and look after others’ needs along the way, but there is a place for the ones with vision, especially vision grounded in the present reality, who can see the potential in the wild ideas and lift the collective expectation above the everyday. I have a way to go to work out what my place is in the world and how to harness a mind like this to make a useful contribution to the world. There’s definitely more for me to work on when it comes to working with others. But it’s exciting to see what’s always been in there!

So, no more apologies. I am an INTJ, I offer the world this perspective to work alongside yours, and I believe in us together. 🙂

 


*Disclaimer – I am not a psychologist, just someone who’s been using this to understand herself and how she relates to others for some time now, so apologies for what I’ve undoubtedly got wrong! This piece is really about my own journey.

**You can try a version here or here, these sites also give you a bit more background, plus you can read more about all the different personality types too

***Incidentally, the same tendency to see the big picture and resist inertia probably put me in therapy in the first place; if I wasn’t so bitten by failure, I’d be the sort of person who would much rather aim at the big vision and fail than to accept things as they are, and that is likely exactly what I’ve done with myself, to the point that I now have failure issues…

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Wonder

Can you see the sparkles in the broken glass?

Can you see the stars through the streetlights?

Can you see the grass growing through the cracks?

Or the daisies on the wasteground?

Can you see the hurt child inside the hard man? Inside your enemy? Inside yourself..?

What innocence do your child’s eyes see in the broken places?

This is wonder;

Lifting your sights

Opening your eyes

Awakening you by surprise

Imagination calling you forwards

Where cynicism has no place

This is hope.

Will you follow its playful way?

Dreams

Dreams are very odd things. One week recently I had a whole series of particularly bizarre ones every single night, which I feel I need to share:

1 – The scene: some sort of stately home. A robber breaks in and demands money of everyone present. Being scared he might search us and get violent if he finds we’ve held any back, we search wallets and hand over £10 notes. But he is also… an entomologist. And he also wants any dead bees we happen to have on us. And we do happen to have a couple to hand. So we give them to him, along with the cash. And then we see him outside after he’s robbed us, looking round the garden for more. (?!?!) ‘Your money and your bees!’ 😀
2 – The scene: a beach somewhere. My husband is tasked with hosting a fundraising dinner. It is banana curry because it has to be Fairtrade. The bananas are whole and unpeeled, and for some reason we need to do a photo shoot of the whole bananas being poured out of something (a teapot..?!) onto this curry.
3 – I’m trying to navigate a city, which is supposed to be Birmingham but is full of imposing and awe-inspiring medieval buildings with tall walls all coloured in reds and blacks, including streets that begin in the open but become interiors as you go down them. I get lost because Birmingham doesn’t usually look like this (for reference, Birmingham is not a medieval city at all!), and end up having to wade through a water feature where objects placed in it eventually get turned to stone (it wasn’t dangerous, you’d have to stand in it for years…) including walking over the back of a crocodile sculpture…! 😀
4 – I’m in Birmingham again apparently!! But it’s not the medieval one this time, it looks more like the real thing. But we have to infiltrate some company HQ to sabotage… something. I’ve no idea what. And it involves going undercover via a Chinese restaurant. And awkwardly after we’ve succeeded in our mission, we end up eating out there and trying not to get recognised…

And then a dream in which we had to drive up a flight of steps in some seaside town, and another in which I met a very oversized cat, and yet another toilet-anxiety dream (I confess this is a recurring theme!) involving all-too-public and laughably non-functional loos… I began to wonder what I’d been eating!

But even with all this going on somewhere in the recesses of my brain, it’s the other sort of dream I’ve been thinking about more this year, the sort that keeps you awake at night instead.

It began in earnest on February 24th. Back in 2015, my hero Jon Foreman had fulfilled a bizarre dream of his own by playing 25 shows in 24 hours around his hometown, and in the process created something far greater than the sum of its parts that left me absolutely in awe, both of him as an artist and of the potential of art itself to change lives. That whole day was filmed, and the beautiful and moving finished film was finally premiered worldwide on that day in February. Watch the 30-second trailer here to get a flavour for it. In keeping with the spirit of ‘25 In 24’, the idea was that fans like me would host house parties (the more random the location the better!) during which we’d watch the film and be inspired to open up conversations about our own crazy dreams. I did. And we were.

We embraced it, going to the beach, bodyboarding, having coffee and tacos, and then watching the film. Although only an hour long (frustrating; what happened to the other 23?!), it is very beautiful. We see snapshots of the event itself, stunning locations, amazing performances, the wonder of a sort of community coming together around it, the tension when things didn’t go to plan, moments of both humour and great depth, insights into the dreaming that went into making it happen, and through it all, Jon musing on what it means to dream, including a moving realisation that we are God’s own dream. We were encouraged to think what our dreams might be.

It stirred up a lot of thoughts in all of us that for a time left us in silent contemplation. And then it sparked conversation. We went out to the park nearby and walked up the hills to think and talk and pray. We talked about dreams we’d forgotten, lost or buried over the years. We found them coming to life again as we talked about them, realising that maybe we’d begun to settle for something less than perhaps we should, and that the dreams were still there underneath, calling us to bigger things.

M and I found ourselves rediscovering our own big dream; one day we would love to buy some land and live there in community somehow in a way that might re-envision what society could look like, challenge the way things are, and reconnect us with the land itself. I’d been terrified of that dream, and had put it aside the past few years, not knowing what to do with it, seeing the enormity of it and our complete ignorance about how to go about it and who to work with. The gap between where we are and where we dreamed of being is just too big, too painful to face. It’s been easier to focus on just getting on with normal life now. And in a different way, so had he. But as a result, we’d grown apart a little, thinking maybe the other didn’t still share our dream, and we’d not made any real efforts towards it either. Talking about it, we realised the dream was indeed still there inside us both, and that was a beautiful, exciting and challenging discovery. We’ve begun to think and talk a little more about where we’re headed, and how on earth to get there from where we are in our normal and so very isolated life here.

And that same evening, we went to see a play that made me look again at my calling, the dream I’ve sensed God dreaming in me ever since I’d first explored the idea of what I was to do with my life, that I was made to ‘care for and work’ this earth. It got me excited again about the way I know God reveals Godself through the wonder of scientific exploration, and the potential for science, environmental science in my case, to work towards God’s coming kingdom. Yet it also confronted me with the pain of having a vocation outside of the Church taken less seriously and supported less than vocations to ministry within the Church.

Big dreams…

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All this comes at the point in the working year where we are having our annual appraisals, and having to set objectives and personal development plans for the coming year. Thinking about it, this is probably the main factor behind my mental health having taken a slight turn for the worst lately. I’ve been worried about it, knowing that though I’d met many of my objectives, there were some I’d barely touched, and finding the thought of having to make some sort of career plan with goals around how I might get there utterly paralysing.

But I decided to face up to it, look full at it, and try and figure out what was going on in me. I realised the objectives I’d avoided were ones that touched on my lack of self-belief, and that going forward I’d need more support to achieve those sorts of goals, and in doing so, carefully rebuild my self-belief. And I had to admit that whilst I have bigger aspirations than my current role, I’m not up to forming any specifics; right now, my goal is simply to stay put, get good at what I do, learn to believe in myself, and be a real asset to my team.

I told all this to my managers at my appraisal and objectives meetings, bared my soul as deeply and honestly as I could possibly stand, and they were brilliantly supportive (thank God I’ve found myself in an environment where this is possible!). It’s now looking like these seemingly short-term aims might well make up my objectives for the coming year, and instead of being forced to come up with a long-term plan, I might instead regain the headspace and confidence to be able to start dreaming again. And there’s a dream in itself…

I took all these things to my counsellor (well… maybe not the silly dreams!), and she thought about it and asked me had I been expected to have a dream and a plan as a child? Well… not particularly, although what child does not get asked regularly what they want to be when they grow up?* No. This fear is rooted in my experiences of having my dreams knocked out of me time and again I’ve run up against career dead-ends rather too many times after having thought I was finally on the road somewhere. Honestly, I could well be there again right now, career-wise, though I’m hoping keeping my hopes non-specific and focussing on doing well now will help if this doesn’t lead anywhere this time. We’ve a lot to work through to help me find a balance between the now and the dreams where I can begin to overcome the fear.

The truth is, I’m afraid to dream… To dream is to see a vision, believe in it, trust your soul to it and pursue it. I’m afraid of this – afraid that I might in visioning see a future too wonderful to attain; afraid of believing it only for it not to come about; afraid to believe in myself for fear I’ll let myself down; afraid to trust my soul to something that may again be snatched away and leave me wounded; afraid in case I find myself pursuing a mirage…

Yet where would we be without vision? I believe passionately in living in the now, and personally it’s where I have to be focussed just now to be able to relax about my future dreams. We also need to ground dreams in the present reality to be able to know how to get there, or they remain pie-in-the-sky. But we need the dreams too, or we stagnate! The thought I may just comfortably doze off into an easy life that goes nowhere is more terrifying than the thought of daring to dream but running into the recurring nightmare of failure. I want a sense of direction to show me which next steps would be a good idea. I don’t want to be unprepared for opportunities to do the amazing things I may one day be able to do. I don’t want to sleepwalk through my life and miss the chance of adventure and of really making a difference somewhere.

The ‘Godincidences’ around dreams just keep coming, so I know this is where God is at work in me just now. I’m truly thankful that this season of life is reawakening me to my dreams, reminding me that they are still there inside me, scary as they are, and I hope through it all that we’re able to start bringing them to life.


*I wanted to be a writer, and ‘do something with wildlife’. Here I am, living the dream, right?! To be honest, at 34 I’m still trying to figure out the answer to that question, as I suspect most of us are. I’d like to think if parenthood ever happens I’d ask my kids who they want to be instead, and help them see that that’s a different question to what career they might be interested in pursuing…