Habits

I had a wonderful thought the other day: Three weeks can be a very short period of time.

It could feel long in some situations – not eating for three weeks would be terrible. The three week mission trip Ben once went on felt very, very long.

But I was thinking about three weeks being the length of time it takes to form a habit, and that is actually a remarkably short period of time. If you could form a habit in only three weeks, and then have the willpower to maintain it, you could change the direction of the rest of your life in those three weeks. Isn’t that crazy to think about?! I’ve been reading Gretchen Rubin’s book “Better Than Before”, and it made me think about the habits I started in 2018. As I went over them in my mind, I had this startling moment of realizing that most of my goals have actually become familiar – they don’t feel strange and uncomfortable anymore, even though we’re not very far into 2018. “But how can that be, I just started doing them!” I thought.

And then I realized – it’s been more than three weeks. If you made any new years resolutions in 2018, and you have stuck with them until now, you have formed a habit! And if you got off track, you can still totally turn things around! Isn’t that a nice thought?!

Dr. Caroline Leaf says if you do something for three rounds of three weeks, you’ve made it part of who you are. I love to think about this. It makes me feel like there’s hope for change in any situation – you just have to figure out how to hang in there for nine weeks, which sounds longer than three rounds of three, so we’ll stick with that!!

Four Types of Habit Keepers

Here’s the thing: I love habits. I think new years resolutions are exciting, but I realize that not everyone does, because I’m married to someone who doesn’t get giddy about a list of resolutions like I do.

It made a lot of sense to find out that according to Rubin, there are four different types of people when it come to habits:

Upholders – have little trouble sticking to habits on their own, and are naturally very disciplined and motivated

Questioners – can stick to habits fairly well, if they believe strongly enough that it’s worth the effort. Will always need to understand the reason behind what they’re doing in order to stick with it

Obligers – are more focused on others than themselves. Need accountability to stick with any habit

Rebels – want to do what they want, when they want. If they know what others want them to do, will often do the exact opposite Everything made sense when I read about these types.

I could think of people who fit into each of these categories. Gretchen Rubin also writes that people can be a combination of two types, depending on the situation. This also fit with my experience, because I think I’m mostly an Upholder, with a bit of the Questioner thrown in. Most of the time, I don’t have much trouble sticking with a habit. I like to do the same things consistently. I still have to work at it, but I actually enjoy the effort.

But every once in a while, the Questioner in me appears, and I can’t make a habit stick unless I understand why. My daily exercise is a great example of this. I see a muscle therapist regularly, and for years, I couldn’t make myself stick to all the exercises and stretches he gave me to do. But one day, when he was working on a particularly painful spot, I happened to ask, “What is that from?” He explained the movement which brought on that particular pain, and then reminded me which stretch would bring relief. Suddenly, I was completely motivated and convinced to keep up with the stretch – I understood the why behind it.

This worked so well that I kept asking the same questions at each appointment: “What is that pain from, and which stretch gets rid of it?” I haven’t missed doing my exercises for a couple of years now, because my actions are connected with results.

What I love about knowing the different types of habit keeping is that once you figure out what type you are, there are all kinds of ways to approach habits which will work well for you.

Even though Upholders have the easiest time with habits, it still helps to know some techniques for starting a new habit, like how to make it as convenient as possible to keep a new habit going, or recognizing what could be the stumbling blocks, and removing those ahead of time.

Questioners need to know the why. If they don’t care, they won’t do it. And if they can’t make themselves care, they either need to research more or ask a lot of questions, or they might need to acknowledge that they don’t care enough to change, and let the desire for a new habit go, and focus on something else.

Obligers need to find ways to be kept accountable. There are many different ways of doing this, and I enjoyed reading the suggestions in the book, because it was clear that there are creative, positive solutions for most obstacles when it comes to new habits. There’s hope for everyone!

And Rebels just don’t care – it seems they don’t concern themselves with habits very much, and they aren’t bothered by the fact that they can’t keep good habits, because they don’t really want to. It almost seems that it’s harder part for the people around them to accept that Rebels just don’t desire habits, than for Rebels themselves. If they really want to do something, they will find a way, and no one will be able to stop them. So it’s possible for all of us to successfully stick to habits, if we want to.

Abstainers and Moderaters

The other extremely helpful information from the book was Gretchen Rubin’s explanation of abstainers and moderators. I had read the information a few years ago in a blog post she wrote, and it is one of the biggest reasons I am where I am today, so I enjoyed reading the full version in her book.

Her research shows that people are either abstainers, meaning they are all or nothing kind of people, or moderaters, which means they can handle things in moderation. If abstainers are on a diet, but are confronted with a bag of Oreos, they can’t eat just one – if they start, they will finish, and eat the whole bag. It is actually easier for them to eat nothing than to eat only one Oreo.

Moderaters, on the other hand, have no problem only eating one Oreo. It is easier for them to stick to a diet if they know they have the freedom to treat themselves every once in a while.

I am an abstainer, but for years, I acted like a moderater, and it made me frustrated and miserable. My health requires me to stick to a very clean, natural diet, and if I eat any junk food, I feel terrible. But I kept allowing myself a little bit of junk food, which always turned into the entire bag of chips. I couldn’t stop myself until the food was gone. The day I learned about abstainers and moderaters, everything made sense. I’ve learned to embrace the fact that I’m an all or nothing kind of person. I don’t eat sweets, ever. I will not touch a bag of corn chips. I exercise every single day, because every other day quickly becomes never. Habits are much easier to keep when I make the decision once, and stick with it.

Moderaters are not able to understand how this approach could possibly be easier, but it just is. It’s knowing that I’m an Upholder and an Abstainer, and I’ve found my groove. But everybody has their own groove, and from my experience, quality of life greatly improves once you figure out what works for you.

It’s been a very interesting, helpful read so far, and if you’re wanting to strengthen any habits in your life, I would highly recommend this book!

So what do you think you are – Upholder, Questioner, Obligers, or Rebel? Abstained or moderater? Any tips you’ve found helpful for sticking with new habits?

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Slow Down Right Now, Just For a Second….

My dad is flying off to Germany today, so I called him last night for a little chat, since it had been awhile. Whenever we talk, he always wants to know that we’re all okay, that we’re happy and healthy and feeling good about life, and if we’re not, then he wants to convince me that things are better than they seem at the moment.:)

So we talked about what the kids are up to, and about parenting, and he said, “We need to be intentional. There needs to be a way to enjoy the moment as much as we can, because it passes too quickly.”

It reminded me of something Ann Voskamp wrote years ago:

When I fully enter into the current moment with the weight of all my attention, I slow the torrent with the weight of me all here.

Weigh down this moment in time with attention full, and the whole of time’s river slows, slows, slows.

I’ve thought about that often over the years since I read it – time slows down when I am fully here, in this moment. When I stop being distracted, and stop wishing for anything different than what I have right now. When I use all my senses to savor everything I can about that moment.

And I think Ann Voskamp is right – the moments stay with us in sharp clarity when we take them time to really live them, and become aware to the fullest sense. I can look back over my life and remember times when everything stood still and I was fully there….

The night Anika was born, and I stayed awake all night, even though I was exhausted, just listening to her and Ben breathing softly on either side of me.

Slowly walking through all the rooms of the little house we built for the last time before we moved away to live at camp.

A particularly beautiful sunset at the lake, or a morning when I skipped breakfast and went down to the water because it was like a perfect mirror.

Standing in the hallway of our little house, right where I could see both Anika and Kaylia asleep in their rooms, overwhelmed by the fact that after years of waiting, I was finally the mother of children (plural!!) and my heart was overflowing.

Coming into the room and just stopping right there in the doorway, watching Anika holding Kaylia in the rocker, thinking about all the years she’d prayed for a baby sister.

Walking down the road at camp in winter with my eyes closed, so I could focus on the smell of wood stoves and pine trees, and listen to the snow crunching.

Turning to see Everett for the first time after he was born, hardly able to believe he was here, surprised by how light his hair was and thinking about how he looked exactly like Ben.

Feeling Everett put his little arms around my neck, and thinking how I wanted to remember the moment for my whole life.

Lying on a blanket under the trees in our backyard, and consciously thinking about how the sun felt on my face, the sound of the leaves rustling in the breeze, the feeling of having my little family around me, the luxury of having absolutely nothing else to do on a lazy Sunday afternoon.

I could go on and on. Beautiful moments, clear memories that are mine to think over, and add to whenever I choose to slow down and think fully about what I am experiencing in that moment.

I’m learning that it can be done in the most ordinary of moments – this morning I stopped myself just to listen to the silence in our house, thinking about my peacefully sleeping family, filling myself up for the loud, crazy day ahead. Everyone is here, and everyone is happy, and someday, it will not be this way. I don’t want to ruin a beautiful day by getting depressed about that, or bring stress into the moment by adding tons of pressure TO ENJOY EVERYTHING and live a life of scarcity.

Rather, I just want to be aware of blessings, and not take them for granted. I want to be intentional with my moments, my memories.

So if you stopped right now, and sat there really quietly, making yourself aware of what you are feeling in your body, anything nice you might be smelling or hearing or seeing, what would you notice? Can you slow the current down right now, just for a second? I would love to hear what you become aware of!

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Never Stop Swinging

When I was a kid, my dad designed and built play structures. It had a lot of perks – we had a really great play structure in our own backyard, and my sister and I loved to play on the new ones as they were being built, because it was always fun to try something different.

It seems as though a large number of my childhood involved those play structures. We would haul out all the blankets and build houses on the structure railings. We would try to teach our cats to walk across the top of the monkey bars. We would climb and dangle and twirl on the various bars. And we would swing. I remember the feeling of swinging so high, it felt as though I would soar right off into the air.

There was a huge lilac bush beside our play structure, and when I think of my most beautiful childhood memories, I remember sitting on the lawn swing with my mom, memorizing Psalm 23 while the dusk crept in. We smelled the lilac-scented air, and my mom would say, “Let’s see how high we can swing!”

One day when I was in high school, I was sitting on a swing, deep in thought, when my dad walked by. He said, “I miss the days when you girls would swing so much, the grass could never grow underneath the swings, because you would always wear it out.”

After he continued walking to the house, I got down on my knees and began pulling up handfuls of grass, trying to make the dirt show through, even though I didn’t swing enough to wear it out anymore.

I don’t know when I stopped swinging.

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The summer before Everett was born, Ben set up a play structure in our backyard. We’d been debating about it for awhile, wondering if our girls would get much use out of it, but when we were surprised with another baby on the way, we decided to get the structure, because there would be many more years of use with our little guy on the way.

In the beginning, both girls would swing together, shrieking delightedly when they were “double dating” and their swings were perfectly in sync. But slowly, over time, Kaylia often ended up on the monkey bars or in the sandbox, while Anika kept swinging.

I’d notice her going out to swing more and more. She’d take a break from school work to swing. She’d head out there the second we got home from a busy afternoon away. She would swing in the rain, the snow, the dark – it didn’t matter what kind of weather or time of day, she had to swing. I loved to watch her out the window, because she’d usually be smiling to herself, deep in thought as she stretched towards the sky.

It’s been a couple of years since Anika started swinging, and the grass still never grows under her swing.

She had a growth spurt this last winter. In the span of a few short months, she changed from being a little girl, and people started to mistake her for me. She almost looks me in the eye, and she’s borrowing my clothes. She spends hours a day writing fantasy books, and talks about being published, but whenever she’s stuck for an idea, she heads out the door to go swing. Morning, afternoon, and evening, she is out there on her swing.

Because she’s almost my size now, that little play structure built for small children was getting worn out after the intense workout she’s been giving it for three years. It was creaking and groaning, and Anika complained, “It makes so much noise when I swing, people are starting to turn and look from the sidewalk! Dad needs to fix it!!”

So last weekend, Ben finally built a new swing set (with his usual little helper!). He built it adult-size, so there will be no need for our girl to stop swinging.

We planted lilac bushes by the play structure, and maybe someday, the smell of lilacs will also make her think of evenings on the swing.

We tease Anika a little, because she’ll go off to college, and need to find the nearest park so she can swing and de-stress from college life! She says she’ll know she’s found her soulmate when she meets a boy who will swing with her.;)

We were at the chiropractor at the end of summer, and after finishing Anika’s adjustment, he came to me and asked, “Do you have her doing some kind of athletic activity?” I told him she took dance lessons during the school year, but hadn’t been doing anything during summer.

He said, “She’s in great shape – she must be very active!”

I smiled and said, “Well, she swings for a few hours a day.”

He looked confused. “She swings? Like on a play structure?”

I described to him how she swings many times a day, and how she’s gotten muscular from all those hours of pumping.

The chiropractor was amazed. “Her spine is very strong and healthy – she has the body of an athlete!”

And so Anika has proven that even something as simple as swinging can be good for the mind and the body.

I think of all those phys.ed classes when I was in high school, where I was taught that volleyball and basketball were everything, and competitive sports were the only way to be athletic. There was no value for the things I loved to do, like going for walks, or riding my bike in the sunset.

And yet, long after the phys.ed classes are over, those are the things that remain. There are many ways to move and live and feel your body connect with the moment. What I want for my kids are those beautiful moments of enjoying whatever it is they want to enjoy. To see the value in the unexpected. To find strength and beauty in simple things. To do what clears the head and gets the blood pumping. To smell lilacs and see sunsets, and to feel strength in their limbs and to get outside.

If they enjoy competitive sports, that’s great. But even more importantly, I hope they find ways to relax and move through life in small ways, all by themselves, when there’s no team around and without fancy equipment. I hope they keep balanced and active for the simple reason that our bodies were made to thrive that way.

If Anika still wants to swing when she’s an adult, I hope she does. I hope she never feels silly for loving it, because she’s found the secret for clearing her head and connecting her soul to the peace of the moment.

 

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How Do You Play?

I’m in the middle of a great book about the importance of playing. It’s giving me something to think about as I go about my everyday stuff, because it’s making me realize that I don’t spend enough time playing. It’s making me watch my kids play, and think about how I can learn from them, how to encourage them in their play, and how we can pursue more fun around here.

Play isn’t much of an issue when Ben is at home – he is naturally a very playful person, and when he’s an old man, he will be a more wholesome version of the Taco Bell commercial about the seniors sneaking out of the retirement home at night. He’s always got a twinkle in his eye, and is constantly cracking jokes and reading stories with all the silly voices.

Everett’s backyard version of “water skiing”

And then there’s me – a little on the intense side, often forgetting that life is not one big to-do list. I think I can be pretty funny sometimes, and I enjoy pursuing creativity and relaxation, but playfulness…not so much. I’ve just never thought about it a lot.

So now there’s this book: The Dolphin Way: A Parent’s Guide to Raising Healthy, Happy and Motivated Kids Without Turning into a Tiger. (affiliate link) It’s interesting to be reading about the scientific study and different categories of play, while watching my kids naturally doing these things, and trying to figure out when I lost it. Movement, banging things, building things, imagining, wrestling, storytelling, and rituals. (That last one is actually one of the easiest for adults – ritual or celebratory play refers to birthday parties or the fun things we do for holidays.)

Having kids gets me to do more of these things with them – and I do have to admit that it feels good to build Jenga block towers or get out the puzzles. But how often do I intentionally pursue play for myself? I don’t even know how I would do some of those things. What could I build?!

I can see dramatic improvement in my life when I do take part in any these things – daily walks and yoga have been a huge benefit in my life. Writing and telling stories feeds my soul. Dancing in the kitchen while we clean up from supper is always a good way to get everybody in a good mood. So maybe I’m doing better than I thought, but there’s still lots of room for improvement!

I found it interesting that in this author’s mind, competitive sports don’t count as play! She’s referring specifically to recreational play, where there is no pressure to win or perform, and the focus is on freely playing without worrying about improving skills or striving to reach goals. Just plain, simple fun.

I want more of that! How can I intentionally pursue play in my own life? Maybe we all need kids to lead the way! How do we keep them from losing their sense of fun and ability to play? I’m so curious to hear your thoughts!

Are you like Ben, and find it easy to incorporate play, or are you more task-focused? How do you play? I need some fresh ideas!!:)

Your Success is Not My Failure

It was the summer Anika was five, and she still didn’t know how to ride a bike.

Her little friend next door was a year younger than Anika, and had already learned how to bike the summer before. As a first-time, up-tight, over-achiever kind of mom, I was stressed.

Her little friend also learned how to swim earlier than Anika did, so pretty much, I was worried about her future. Suddenly, biking and swimming were no longer fun activities for her to take part in that summer – this was serious, and she needed to learn fast. We were falling behind. How would she grow into a well-functioning adult if she was behind on basic life skills and athletic abilities?I was pretty sure this was a sign that we were failing as parents, and I was passing on a nonathletic curse so strong that Ben’s athletic genes could not overpower it.

But one day, I went next door to visit our friends, and was waiting in their hallway for some reason I can’t remember. As I stood there, I suddenly noticed something hanging on the wall that I had never paid attention to before.  It was a rack full of medals – medals for bike competitions of some sort. A huge wave of realization swept over me – our friend was hugely into biking. He was incredibly passionate about it, and it was a hobby he spent a lot of time enjoying and perfecting. As a family, they took biking very seriously, and they had spent a lot of time teaching their daughter to ride a bike.

As I thought about these friends, I suddenly remembered that she was a lifeguard. Swimming was something she was passionate about, and she had also spent a lot of time helping her daughter learn how to swim.

If I could pick two activities that defined our friends, it would most definitely be swimming and biking.

This made me curious – what were Ben and I passionate about? It didn’t take me long to identify what was most important to us – reading and music. These were both hobbies that Ben and I enjoyed, and as I thought about it, I could see the ways in which we were passing on these joys to Anika, in the same way our friends were focusing on swimming and biking.

I read to Anika for hours and hours each day. She learned to read at a young age, and at five, she had the vocabulary of a 10-year-old. And Ben would often pull out his guitar and sing with her. I had taught piano lessons for years, and I loved seeing how Anika was becoming a very natural pianist, catching on quickly and playing confidently.

We had chosen to put our time, energy, and passion into the activities we enjoyed, and wanted to share with our daughter. It made no sense to assume that because someone else was naturally good at something, and had put in the time to increase their skill, we needed to do the same, and expect the same results, without the same amount of passion or practice.

I had been comparing my weakness to another person’s strength.

The comparison game never makes anyone a winner, but that day I realized how completely unfair I’d been with myself, and even with Anika. No one can be good at everything, and there isn’t enough time in a day to be passionate about too many things.

At that point, we were fortunate enough to have Anika share our love for books and music, but this would not necessarily always be the case. We could pass on our hobbies, but we also needed to allow room for the things she wanted to pursue, without that being a reflection of our skill as parents.

She did learn to swim and bike that summer, and now it doesn’t seem important anymore. I had to think very hard to figure out how old she was the summer she learned to bike, because it doesn’t matter anymore when it happened. She spends hours a day writing fantasy books, and is signed up for Musical Theatre classes this fall, and we love watching her enjoy things we enjoy.

And I often think about that rack full of medals, and how each family is unique, free to develop their own passions and interests, and even the culture in their own home. This is right and good – something to celebrate, actually.

The strength and success of another person does not take anything away from me. Why is that so hard to remember sometimes?

Anika once said to me, “Just because my friend is very pretty doesn’t mean that I’m not pretty.” I’ve made lots of mistakes as a parent, but if she’s figured this truth out at the ripe old age of 13, I think she’ll be okay.

I wasn’t planning on ending this post with a collection of quotes, but when I went looking for a suitable thought to share, there were so many fantastic quotes that I couldn’t pick just one. Here’s a bit of inspiration to hang on to next time we start feeling the temptation to compare:

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https://a-joyfuljourney.tumblr.com/post/151409968453/a-joyfuljourney-acsliving

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For the Love of Introverts

This post is part of a series, sharing my favourite products and discoveries from this last year. (You can find the first post here.) If you have any favourite ideas to contribute, please feel free to comment. Anyone who comments during this series over the next two weeks will have their name entered in a draw for an Amazon gift card. Let us know what you’re loving!

Today’s favourites are related to the post I shared yesterday on personality types. As I mentioned, I’m an introvert and I love my alone time!! But as a homeschooling mom of three kids, it can be hard to recharge, so today I’m going to share three things which have been really helpful this year. If you’re an extrovert, take notes, because you’re bound to have an introvert in your life who could benefit from these things, too!! (affiliate links included)

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking

This book has been showing up everywhere, and for good reason – it is AMAZING!! It’s such a good read for anyone, extrovert or introvert. It’s been crazy for me to read the ways in which our culture is built for extroverts. I’ve actually needed to read this book slowly, because I need to give my mind time to keep up with all the shifts that happen as I read it! I’m constantly recognizing ways in which I give in to pressures around me, or how I’m parenting my own little introvert in ways that aren’t helpful or healthy, but it’s just the way things have always been done.

Susan Cain has done a phenomenal job researching this book, and it is so well written. Her interviews are fascinating, and she questions many things we consider normal, but are really geared for extroverts, and make introverts miserable and uncomfortable. I keep realizing how much I’ve come to accept being uncomfortable! It’s hard for me to be honest and stand up for myself, and say no to things which don’t work well for my personality type. No, I’d rather not shake hands with complete strangers in church. (No offense!) No, I’d rather not answer my phone…like, ever. (I bet an introvert invented texting!) No, I’d rather not work with a group of people on anything I could just do it by myself.

As I shared in yesterday’s post, I truly love people, and I don’t like to be alone all the time. But there are certain interactions (small talk, gossip, strained conversation, etc.) that drain me quickly, while deeper conversations about topics which interest and inspire me are life-giving. It’s interesting to think of ways to recover from energy-sucking interactions, and add in more of the life-giving ones.

This book is great for introverts who want to find out what’s awesome about being an introvert, and for extroverts who need to grow in their appreciation for all that introverts are capable of, and why we need them to keep things balanced.

Headphones

Best purchase of the year. All of my kids looooooove listening to music, but most of the time, I just want it to be quiet and peaceful. I don’t like multi-tasking, so my favourite time to listen to music is when no one else is around, and I don’t have to listen to people talking to me and listen to music.

We’ve struggled with my low noise threshold for years, but finally figured out that headphones would save the day for everybody. It’s been the best thing ever – I have my peace and quiet, and my kids take turns listening to as much music as their little hearts desire. They think it’s far more fun to listen to music with headphones than without, so it’s suddenly become a special treat, and great entertainment.

Podcast Episode: How Personality Types Manage Energy

I used to think being alone was enough to recharge me, but listening to this podcast episode was very eye-opening. There are 16 different personality types (take the test here), and each type recharges in a different way. Each one has it’s greatest area of strength, and when we utilize that strength, we are recharged. For me, that strength is thinking! Specifically, it’s thinking about how my day is going, noticing patterns in my kids’ behaviour, trying to think up solutions to make our home run better and keep everybody in a healthier place. When I have the chance to be alone, I make myself set aside the phone or the book or whatever would distract me, and I just think. At first it felt weird and like I should be doing something more productive, but it’s been amazing for me! I could think for hours. However, there are also times when I need to get out of my head, and so the best way for my type (INFJ) to balance out is to do something that physically connects me to the moment of enjoyment, like yoga, a walk, or a hot shower.

But that’s just my type. There’s a type that recharges by going back to a familiar book or movie, and a type that feels most rested when they’re learning, so listening to a podcast feels very restful. Extroverts feel energized and refreshed by different types of social interactions. There are many different ways to recharge, and it makes a lot of sense to get intentional about it. When we just blindly stumble along and do whatever feels good, we could be wasting valuable down time that’s not leaving us recharged. This episode is definitely worth listening to, for all personality types!!

Alright, let me hear it – what are your favourite ways to recharge? What gives you energy?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Personality Types

This post is part of a series, sharing my favourite products and discoveries from this last year. (You can find the first post here.) If you have any favourite ideas to contribute, please feel free to comment. Anyone who comments during this series over the next two weeks will have their name entered in a draw for an Amazon gift card. Let us know what you’re loving!

You guys, today’s topic is my favourite of all the favourites. It’s shaped my thinking in some big ways over this last year, but it’s a huge topic, so I’ll only be able to give you a bit of an overview. If anything peaks your interest, I’ll point you to some great resources so you can dig deeper if you’d like.

Today we’re talking about personality types and the Myers Briggs tool. Most people are at least familiar with this tool, so you probably know about it, but this was the year I dug into it and got a much better understanding. In case you’re not too familiar with it, here’s how it works:

There are 16 different personality types, but this doesn’t mean each person with the same type will be exactly the same. We give our personality our own individual twist, and there are many factors playing into it, but these generalizations can be extremely helpful in exploring how we think and respond to people and situations.

Each 16 types is given a combination of four letters which stand for words describing your personal preferences – Introvert or Extrovert, Sensing or Intuition, Thinking or Feeling, Judging or Perceiving. My letters are INFJ, and Ben is an ENFP, for example. Here’s what that means:

Introvert or Extrovert

Do you need to be alone to recharge, or does being with other people make you feel energized? “Do you prefer to focus on the outer world or on your own inner world?” (source) Although people have a preference one way or the other, people are usually a mix of the two. For example, I’m an introvert, but I really love people and don’t like to be alone for endless amounts of time. I need to be alone to recharge, and get super grumpy and overstimulated if I don’t get enough alone time, but if I’m alone for a whole day, I actually start getting depressed and feel very out of balance. Ben, on the other hand, is an extrovert, but says he would have no problem being alone for a couple of days. We are opposite in how we prefer to recharge, but because I’m an extroverted introvert, and he’s more of an introverted extrovert, we’ve found it pretty easy to find balance in this area.

Sensing or Intuition

Sensors are very present in the world around them. They take in information with their five senses and are very aware of their environment. They are focused on facts and experiences as they actually happened, while intuitives are all about reading between the lines and picking up on undercurrents. Their thoughts leap all over the place, they love new ideas, and they are more abstract. Ben and I are both intuitives, so our conversations go deep and wide, with lots of new thoughts to explore. Both of us use metaphors a lot to explain things. I find that most of my friends are intuitives, but I have great appreciation for the sensors in my life. My mom is a sensor, and there is no one like her when it comes to throwing a party. Sensors are all about holidays and traditions, and when I look back on my childhood, I can see how consistent she was with traditions that meant and still mean a lot to me. Unfortunately, I have a lot of trouble with repeating the same practice for my own family. I used to feel a lot of guilt about this – being a “good mom” meant being like my mom, but I just didn’t have the energy to do a lot of things she did. It’s been very freeing to discover this past year that a “good mom” can actually look many different ways, and when we spent Canada Day at the cabin with my parents,  I was delighted to let her decorate and make the whole thing beautiful and festive so we could enjoy the tradition without me needing to do all the work. I’m absolutely not lazy, like I used to worry about – I just have different priorities, and get excited, energetic, and motivated by different things.

Thinking or Feeling

When making decisions, Thinkers focus on facts, logic, and effectiveness, while Feelers focus more on people’s emotions, and think more about keeping everybody feeling happy, understood, and cared for. Thinkers still have feelings, and Feelers still think, but it’s their preferred way of processing. Ben and I are both Feelers, so things in our home are very focused on the deep conversations to get everybody connected. Anika may very well be a Thinker, though, because sometimes she’ll suddenly say, “Okay, I get it, can we stop talking about this now?” I used to think she was being totally disrespectful, and while I still think tone makes a huge difference, I’ve come to recognize that she reaches her limit for conversation on certain topics. Sometimes I’d feel a little shut down when she’d say it, but now I can understand that my efficient daughter is just ready to move on to the next thing, and I choose not to take it personally.

It seems that many times, hurt feelings come about because of these differences. Feelers tend to share thoughts and emotions which Thinkers don’t always connect with. Thinkers are more straightforward, and think all the fluff and emotions Feelers use to communicate are unnecessary and maybe even a waste of time. These are vastly different styles of communication, and I’ve seen (and felt!) these opposite approaches bring about misunderstanding and hurt where it was never intended. As a Feeler, I find it very helpful to have another point of view to examine when someone doesn’t respond to me in the way I expected and anticipated.

Judging or Perceiving

The easiest way for me to differentiate between these last two preferences is to figure out if someone has a “work before play” mentality, or if they just love to have fun anytime, throwing in a bit of work here and there, wherever it fits in best. Or make the work fun! I use judging, and it’s all work. I don’t want to even think about having fun until the to-do list is done, and then I can move on to the fun part feeling guilt-free and ready to enjoy myself. But Ben is the fun one in our home, and he’s all about turning on the music while we work, and thinking up ways to make it more enjoyable. Life with him has definitely made me learn to be less intense. Sometimes there’s a bit of frustration because I have a list and I’m on a mission, which is not his style at all, but it’s pretty much the only area where we have to work on things in our relationship. I read an article recently about what it’s like for an INFJ and ENFP to be in relationship, and it said we’re the perfect match, comparing us to levitating unicorns, which sounds quite magical to me. Our relationship is not perfect, but it’s pretty great! I’m very happy with my unicorn.:)

So all of that is only the beginning of the 16 personality types, and it can go in a million different directions. In the last year, I’ve used it to deepen my understanding of myself, my relationship with Ben, in parenting, extended family relationships, friendships, pretty much anywhere I interact with people. It’s been eye-opening and sometimes slightly uncomfortable, but mostly fantastic. Interestingly, not all personality types like personality typing! Some types see no use for it, while other types are drawn strongly to it. Ben’s type doesn’t like to put people in a box, but he sees some value in the tool. My type finds it a huge relief, because I finally feel understood and like I’m not completely weird in the way I respond to stuff!

If it’s something that interests you, the best place to start learning is by taking a free personality test here. I love the podcasts by Personality Hacker, which you can find here. The profile descriptions at this site are very informative, and to get a better understanding of what the difference is between Extravert/Introvert, Sensing/Intuition, Feeling/Thinking, and Judging/Perceiving, I really like the list format provided at this site.

The best book I’ve read this year is MotherStyles: Using Personality Type to Discover Your Parenting Strengths (affiliate link). A lot of things started making sense to me when I read this book, like why I parent the way I do, my relationship with each of my kids, why I was the way I was as a kid, and our family dynamics. I’m just finishing it up now, and I’m eager to see how it will positively impact things in our home.

Earlier this year, I was searching for a book that would help me figure out how to survive as an introvert parent when I’m with my kids all day. I love them like crazy, but I was feeling overwhelmed because of never having enough alone time. I’d feel guilty when I took alone time because I felt I needed to be with them to be a loving, attentive mom! I couldn’t find a single book for introvert parents, which made me feel very frustrated, but then a friend mentioned this book to me, and it’s been so much more helpful than I was even hoping for! Because it covers all 16 personality types, as well as the different personalities our spouse and children bring to the home, it is very informative and useful for absolutely anybody interested in learning more about Myers Briggs. Such a great resource.

And a big favourite around here is the Myers Briggs Disney princess site, because it’s become vitally important to understand which princess everyone is most like, and it makes me Elsa, so it’s a big topic of discussion around here.

Are you a fan of the Myers Briggs tool? Bonus points to anyone who takes the test and comes back to tell me what you are! 🙂

 

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