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TEN STEPS TO AN AMAZING INFJ LIFE

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?

EXERCISE: INTERVIEW WITH AN INFJ


INFJs, in their desire for harmony, can ignore or not even recognise their preferences. In addition, 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. Directions: This exercise is designed to identify your preferences and strengths, so leave negativity and self-pity at the door. Your answers should be positive declarations (e.g. I love candy as opposed to I eat too many sweets.) 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16. 17. 18. 19. 20. 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.g. quirky, slapstick, dirty, etc.) 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.g. cooking, writing, 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, that flare of anger, that feeling of I HAVE to say something, NOW! I know it well; it has been the precursor to many of my most inappropriate outbreaks of temper. Our emotive energy puts us squarely in the middle of the emotion of any situation. INFJs are easily hurt, and in reaction, we can end up hurting others. However, we do not have to be at the mercy of our feelings, we can learn to recognise them and control ourselves until we can rationally consider the situation. Here is how I do it:

THE FIRST STEP STOP!


Unless you are faced with a truly dangerous situation, feeling the simmer of anger or hurt should always be a signal to stop and take stock. When you feel yourself getting emotional, the first things to remember is, if possible, do not react! When we are in this state, our perception is off and our judgment is impaired these are the times that we say and do things we regret later. What makes it more difficult is when our emotions are engaged we often feel that we urgently must say something, 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.

THE SIX QUESTIONS


Once I have refrained from reacting, I use what I call the Six Questions to sort fact from fiction: 1. 2. What are the bare facts of the situation? (Do not include emotional information or impact) What am I telling myself about it?

3. 4. 5. 6.

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 a realistic assessment of the situation? What is important here?

AN EXAMPLE
To help you understand how the process works, 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. I had assumed that he was flying in on Thursday afternoon and was prepared to pick him up at that time. On Wednesday evening, 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. My reaction was What? Oh, no! I have plans for the morning through lunch I cannot do this! At that point, I became upset, and felt that he did not care at all that he was imposing on me. If I had taken this situation through the Six Questions, it would have gone something like this: 1. 2. What are the bare facts of the situation? a. Michael was arriving at 8:30 AM on Friday and was asking if I could pick him up. What am I telling myself about it? a. He expected me to pick him up and entertain him all day. He made plans at the last minute without considering how they would affect me. If I dont pick him up hell be abandoned in San Francisco. What is the fear (or hurt)? a. My fear is that hed be mad at me if I couldnt, or wouldnt pick him up. Is there something I can ask someone to find out if my perception of the situation is correct? a. I could ask Michael something like It sounds like youre relying on me to pick you up. Is that true? I realised after the fact that he would have answered something like, No, Im fine, I have other friends in the city that I can hang out with, I just thought it would be fun to spend more time with you. Using information from the questions above, what is a realistic assessment of the situation? a. Michael is fine; he does not need me to pick him up. What is important here? a. That I dont make myself responsible for Michael he can take care of himself.

3. 4.

5. 6.

EXERCISES: PRACTICE MANAGING YOUR EMOTIONS


Create a Trigger List - List as many as you can think of for each: negative beliefs you have about yourself, negative beliefs you have about others, and negative beliefs about how the world works. These tend to be your triggers for emotional outbreaks, and being aware of them will help you be prepared. Learn to Use the Six Questions Think of a couple of situations that you were in where your emotions were triggered. Try running them through the 6 Questions and notice how your assessment of the situation changes. Practice Breaking Practice putting the brakes on your reactions when you feel emotional. Next time you feel yourself getting upset just stop do not do or say anything. Retreat from the situation until you are completely calm and then reassess your reactions. Notice any assumptions you might have made and any misconceptions that might have fed into your emotions. 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. Id get up in the morning (too early) and drag myself to work only to end up enduring endless meetings and political struggles. With the tender feelings of an INFJ, I felt assaulted by the environment; I was overstimulated and underappreciated. I felt at the mercy of the corporate tempest, and my natural tendency to absorb the emotions and environment around me made it worse.

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.

CREATING A STRONG AND POWERFUL ENVIRONMENT


Do not be an empty vessel There are two ways to enter a situation. The first is to come in empty and look for what is available to fill you up. We do this when we walk into a party and think, 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, waiting for others to give you what you need. You want to make sure you conform, that you will be able to align to the party. On the other hand, if you enter the party full, these might be the thoughts that run through your mind as you enter, Oh, I like that group in the corner, theyll be fun to talk to. The food looks great, cant wait to try that dip. Alternatively, your thoughts might be Wow, this is a really loud group, Im not sure Im going to stay very long. 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; and that is how you will assess the party. As an empty vessel, you let the party assess you. A work example of being full is asking for the assignments you want rather than waiting to be selected for them, taking lunchtime as an opportunity to get away and do something you enjoy, or not participating in the office gossip mill. Dial Up Your Personality First of all this does not mean to be loud or to impose your personality on the people around you. What I am talking about is staying firmly connected with who you are, your preferences and beliefs, in any situation. 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. Make Every Decision That You Can there are some decisions that are yours to make and some that are not. You can have a tremendous impact on your environment just by making the decisions that fall into your realm. Rather than always deferring to others (I dont care where we eat, where you want to go?) make a suggestion. If your boss asks you what projects interest you, be specific and clear. If your mother asks you for the best times to call you, tell her. Avoid the trying to please others by guessing what they really want dance and take others answers at face value. If you feel that they are handing over their decisions to you, send them a link to this post!

EXERCISE: LOVE YOUR LIKES


Similar to the Interview with an INFJ exercise from Week 1, this exercise is designed to help you identify and own your preferences. Find a small notebook that you can keep with you at all times, and over the next week keep an I Like journal by jotting down everything you encounter that you like. For example, right now my list be: I like the warm sun pouring in the window and hitting my shoulders, the comfortable pyjama bottoms that I am wearing, the fact that my office is clean and neat, how quiet my house is, that I am going to Arizona tomorrow to visit my daughter, the fact that my house is clean and will be welcoming for my house sitters, the turkey sandwich I just ate for lunch, the TV show Chopped that I watched while I ate. So often INFJs get the message either directly or indirectly, that what they like is trivial. All that ESTP energy, so dominant in our society, can make us feel that we are wrong for liking what we like. Your I Like journal is a chance to:

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. Your journal contains a list of things to seek out, to treat yourself with, and to make sure exist in your life; and, when appropriate, to ask for from others. 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, it is hard for me to say No to someone I care about, and I have the tendency to want to look to others to for happiness. 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. I did not learn much about healthy boundaries when I was growing up, so I have turned to the experts. What follows is the information I found on how to figure out what is right for me.

RIGHTS OF THE ASSERTIVE PERSON


One of our basic rights is the right to say no when we do not want to do something. David Richo, in his Rights of the Assertive Person, from his book How to Be an Adult elaborates further: Richos list of rights: 1. 2. 3. 4. To ask for 100% of what you want from 100% of the people in your life, 100% of the time. To enjoy emotional and physical safety. No one has the right to hurt you, even if he or she loves you. To change your mind or make mistakes. To decide when and whether or not you are responsible for (a) finding solutions to others problems or (b) taking care of their needs. 5. To say No or Maybe without pressure to decide in accord with someone elses timing. 6. To be illogical in making decisions. 7. To have secrets, to decide how much of yourself or your life you choose to reveal. 8. To be free to explain your choices or not (includes not having to make excuses or give reasons when you say No). 9. To be non-assertive when you see that as appropriate. 10. To maintain the same principles, skills and rights of assertiveness with your partner, parents, children or friends.

VISIBLE AND INVISIBLE BOUNDARIES


This is a list I have extracted from Anne Katherines terrific book Boundaries: Where You and I Begin. She describes how she sets boundaries: I set my physical boundary by choosing who can touch me and how and where I am touched. I decide how close I will let people come to me. I set my emotional boundary by choosing how I will let people treat me. One way I do this is by setting limits on what people can say to me. Healthy, safe expressions of anger by people I am close to are acceptable. In appropriate anger from an inappropriate person [e.g. strangers] is not. 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.

WHAT IS APPROPRIATE?
Katherine also provides a list of what is appropriate based on orientation:

If you are looking up to a person for guidance, supervision, or parenting, you are not his or her peer. If he or she is your dad, minister, therapist, or boss, you are not required to parent or counsel him. If you are looking down to a person because he or she is a child, a client, or a subordinate, he or she is not your peer. She should not be counselling you. In addition, you should not give him or her inappropriate personal information. If you are looking across to a person, he or she is your peer. You support each other. You confide in each other. Giving goes both ways. If you are doing peer things with someone you look up or down to, something is wrong. A boundary is being crossed. If you are looking down or up at someone who is a peer, somethings wrong. A wife is not a subordinate. A husband is not a boss.

EXERCISE: DEFINE YOUR BOUNDARIES


As you read, the lists above you might notice that adhering to them requires many decisions. 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. Create a Will/Wont List This exercise is designed to identify your boundaries with the people in your life. I use Will/Wont 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. 1. 2. 3. On a piece of paper or a Word document, create three columns. At the top of the first column put Who and the other two columns are What I Will Do and What I Wont Do (see sample below) In the Who column, list the significant people in your life or someone who you are having difficulty setting boundaries with. In the next two columns, list what is acceptable and what is not. In the sample below, I have listed my boundaries for my family and in general. 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 dont 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, we can have trouble saying No. We do not want to hurt feelings or create disharmony. However, in order to observe our boundaries we need to get good at saying no. The No Sandwich is a great way to do it. 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, but positive, statement either expressing real regret or an acknowledgement of the other persons position. A statement of regret can be simply I would love to go but , I would really

like to help but The key here is, again, honesty. If you say you would love to go you will be invited again, so do not say it if you do not mean it. If you really do not feel regret, the first part of your statement can be just an acknowledgement of the other person. Examples are I appreciate you including me but or I know that this is important to you but Straightforward No Keep your no simple. You do not need to give a reason (which can imply that negotiation is possible) you just need to say no thanks. Positive follow-up This is just a respectful and kind statement to cement your no and take the sting out of it. They are statements such as thanks so much, maybe next time (but only if you mean it), good luck or have fun. Here are some examples of a No Sandwich: I love that you want to include me, but I cant make it. Have a great time, the weather should be beautiful! I can see that you have put a lot of thought into this, but I am going to do it the way I originally planned. I appreciate your effort, though. That looks delicious, but no thanks. How about giving some to Grandpa? He loves cookies. I know that this is important to the school district, but I wont be able to run the book drive. Why dont you sign me up to help collect books?

If you want to include a reason, do, but do not argue about it if the other person pushes back. Consider a statement of That looks delicious but Im watching my weight as an absolute, and if the other person says Oh, just one wont hurt, smile and move away. You have said no. The truth is, though, that no matter how gentle we are, sometimes people still will not like our answer, which can be painful for an INFJ. Our desire for harmony and our concern about hurting others can feel overwhelming when we say no. However, 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. 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. In addition, one of the hardest things about being a Feeler is how tenderhearted we are! Like most Feelers, I seek harmony; and when one of my friends or loved ones is in a bad mood it is really difficult not to take it personally. My natural tendency is to make it about myself What did I do? or Why is he being so mean to me? However, this is a form of self-absorption: we are focused on our reaction, on how we feel, rather than what is happening with the other person. 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 - When someone else is upset, it is about them, not you. Even if they lash out at you or blame you remember that everyone loses perspective when they are distraught. Keep your cool and give them the gift of your compassion. 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. 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. Watch out for perennial victims - I used to work with a woman who always focused on the worst aspect of any situation. When she started a new job, she would immediately identify who hated her. Every setback was a disaster; every problem was the worst thing she had ever dealt with. For years, I rode these difficulties with her, worrying about her latest insolvable problem or dysfunctional relationship. I finally recognised that her life was spent moving from trauma to trauma. I learned to provide a sympathetic ear and bits of feedback when I thought she could handle it, but I stopped being sucked in to the drama of it all.

Avoid taking on their pain - Your compassion helps; hurting along with the other person does not. This also goes for all the painful input out there TV news coverage of disasters or violence, commercials showing abused animals, even graphic movies or TV shows. Staying completely will enable you to use your compassion and caring to fuel contributions to solutions, taking on others pain will only weaken and distract you. I know, all this is easier said than done. However, it benefits everyone when you can provide a supportive, calm, 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.

EXERCISE: WHO OWNS THIS PROBLEM?


Like the Six Questions in Manage Those Annoying Emotions, you can use a few of questions to explore the emotions around interpersonal upsets. When you find yourself dealing with an upsetting situation, ask yourself: 1. Who owns this problem? The person who is impacted by the problem is the owner, not you. In the example above, my friends problems belongs solely to her, in no way should they become my problems. The only exception to this is when the other person is a child or a defenceless creature then ownership is shared by everyone. Have I contributed to the problem? If the answer is yes, the question then becomes: What can I do to make it right? (It is often as simple as apologizing). 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. You should always have a final say on how much you want to help, and what contribution you are willing to make.

2.

3.

What can you add? How do you deal with your softheartedness?

#6 STAY CONNECTED TO THE WORLD


INFJs are internal folks. As Charles R. Martin states in the book Looking at Type: The Fundamentals, For INFJs the dominant quality in their lives is their attention to the inner world of possibilities, ideas, and symbols. With this internal focus we can sometimes lose touch with what is going on with the people around us. We might think that our desire for interpersonal harmony would balance this out, but that desire often just makes us more anxious and even more internally focused.

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. Her posts, which are often are overly long, typically contain words and concepts that the rest of us do not understand. She loves to lecture on theory, and can get snippy when she is crossed (and yes, she is an INFJ). I suspect that if you asked her, she would say that she is viewed as highly intelligent, skilful as a coach, and maybe a little feisty when someone oversteps. Unfortunately, it is obvious that many people on the bulletin board see her as an arrogant know-it-all, who is also a bit nasty. What is sad is that she is probably a very nice person who is unaware of her impact on others. In addition, what gets lost in all her noise is the fact that her posts frequently contain excellent advice for new coaches, and she often is able to ground discussions that have gotten out of hand with clarity and common sense. Give people the benefit of the doubt We (everyone, not just INFJs) tend to fill in the blanks. When we do not have full information about others we tend to make up facts to complete the story. Then we act as if our story is true. The key here is to remember that we do not know everything about other people, even those closest to us. When we accept this and stop assuming we know it all, suddenly the grumpy guy up the street becomes a mystery (why is he so sad?), the annoyingly clinging friend gets our compassion (I wonder what her family life is like?), and we recognise that there is probably a story behind that angry co-worker. 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). If she paid attention to how long others posts are, and that they typically offered advice rather than extended monologues about theory, she would realise that she was out of step with the

majority of the participants. If she adjusted her posts to fit in with the rest of the bulletin board, I suspect that she would be seen as a valuable contributor. The same is true for all conversations, both in-person and virtual. Think about the Facebook over-posters, we cannot hide them quickly enough! Or the person who dominates a conversation with an endless monologue about themselves, punctuating it with questions that are seemingly about us but are really just about topics they want to shift to. However, 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. Do not stay quiet when it is your time to speak, do not hide your light in deference to others.

EXERCISE: EXPLORE YOUR IMPACT


Over the next week, use the tactics below to assess your impact on others. At the end of each day, jot down what you have learned and what changes you would like to make in your behaviour. Ask questions the easiest way to find out how you are perceived is to ask someone you trust about how they see you. Keep the subject bite-sised by asking about a specific event rather than a general question (i.e. Ask Did I seem oversensitive with that woman back there? rather than Do you think Im too sensitive?) Pay attention When you are in a conversation, look, listen and receive rather than just sending. Notice if the other person looks interested or bored; listen to their responses to check in on how the exchange is going, use your intuition to get a feel for the vibe of the conversation. In addition, if your antenna picks up something negative, 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. Sometimes when I am ready to launch into a story about my day, or a review of my opinion about something, I will ask myself Will this be interesting to the person Im talking to? Would I want to hear about this from someone else? The answer is often No, its 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!, I am so sensitive!, He did this to me, 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. However, I was embarrassed because they sounded startlingly similar to the whining that often is going on in my own head. Which made me realise that all that complaining is pretty unappealing. Even though its true that INFJs are sometimes overlooked and underappreciated, it doesnt benefit us to focus on it. In order to reach our full potential in life we need to stop seeking external validation. We need to accept the fact that our power is subtle, our passion is quiet, and our strength is internal. We need to stop relying on the approval of others to feel good about ourselves.

IT IS NOT AS HARD AS YOU MIGHT THINK


Create an internal measure of validation Identify your own values, what is important to you, and determine the worth of your actions based on those. If you are passionate about helping others then your work tutoring illiterate adults is priceless, no matter what anyone says or does not say. In addition, if you get some praise for it, that is nice, but stay connected with the fact that helping someone is what is important, getting external recognition is a reward. Celebrate your accomplishments Do not wait for someone else to acknowledge your triumphs, do it yourself. Just finished the first draft of your book? Treat yourself to a day off where you can do whatever you want. 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 youll be

attending. By acknowledging your own successes you are not only recognizing the value of your work, you are also reducing your reliance on others approval. 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. When that happens, it can feel like my knowledge does not mean anything because no one else sees it. 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. You will always be frustrated until you accept the simple fact that sometimes you will know more than the people around you. Again, it is about understanding that your wisdom is solid, deep, and enough. You do not need the recognition of others to confirm that you know what you know. My coach once called me a silent warrior and that resonated with me. I think that is a great way to look at the internal power, insight, and strength that INFJs carry with them.

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. 1. Make a list of the things that are most important in your life (aside from your basic needs such as food, clothing, etc.). My list, for example, would include the following: loyal friends that I can laugh with, time with my daughter, finding the best way for me to help others people, my home, reading, doing work that matters, creating something meaningful, and learning. Review your list with an eye towards looking for your values they should be easy to spot. The values that come out of my list are friendship, laughter, family, helping others, nesting, reading & learning, creativity and contribution. Keep a list of your values and make it a living document mature it by adding other areas as you notice them. Use it when making decisions and compare how you spend your time with what is on your list.

2. 3.

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 friends boss began when he told her that her job had been eliminated. You see, he is a Feeler and in his mind, this gave him permission to focus on his discomfort rather than the fact that he was ending my friends 28-year career. He is also the person that whined in meetings that he was a Judger so he needed more information to make a decision. There is one thing about accepting and making the most of our types, it is another to use them to excuse self-serving or inflexible behaviour. Because no matter what our type is, we are fully able to learn to function effectively in the areas that are not our strengths. I had an introvert friend in high school who was more outgoing than most of the extroverts I knew. No, she did not become an extrovert; she just learned to focus her attention outward in social situations when she wanted to. Part of becoming a fully functioning adult is learning to do what does not come naturally. I have a terrible time with directions but over the years, I have learned how to manage finding my way around. Sure, it takes a bunch of aids I have a GPS system, a notebook full of directions and when I do not have my tools, I have to focus hard on landmarks and street names, but most of the time I can get where I am going without any problem. It has not become easy, I am not like an Sensor with their uncanny way of knowing how to get anywhere they have been, but I do just fine.

YOU CAN LEARN


With some practice, you can learn to function in the areas that are not your type. 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).

Have lunch with one new social or business contact per week to increase your networking circle and to add breadth to your relationships. If you think someone can help you formulate a plan or move it into action, ask him or her for assistance, even if you prefer going it alone. Solicit anothers input; open up with at least one other trusted person and share what you are thinking. At your workplace, make a practice of getting away from your desk, even if only briefly. Keep your office door open at times, and connect with co-workers. If you do not work, or work from home, get out of the house at least once a day and connect as much as possible with the people you meet when youre out.

To Practice Sensing: Take stock with your five senses periodically. What do you see, hear, smell, taste, and touch? What does the air feel like, what do you see around you? When going somewhere new, pay attention to the route, landmarks, and what your destination looks like. Note where you park your car and what entrance you use. Try to stay oriented to north, south, east and west. Stay in the present frequently check in with what is actually happening in the moment. Focus on what you truly experience and what it means vs. what you make up or infer about it. Take a situation purely at face value without adding any interpretation or story to it. Practice relaying direct, specific facts to others. Tell a story in more depth than you typically would, including precise, exact, and accurate details. 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. Focus on staying informed about key local and world events.

To Practice Thinking: Practice giving simple, direct, to-the-point feedback to others. When feedback comes your way, do not take it personally; use what is helpful and ignore the rest. Ask yourself if-then and cause-effect questions such as, If I say yes to this, then what do I need to give up? What are the effects that result from these actions? Make a decision using an objective framework. List pros and cons, but do not include any with emotional content (except for what is in line with your personal values). Make a decision based on an analysis of the pros and cons. After making a decision using an objective framework, take a tough-minded stance and hold firm. Use the information from your analysis to support your position. When you believe that something you have said or done has hurt someones feelings, check in with them to see if your perception is correct.

To Practice Perceiving: Schedule a day to go with the flow. Note what turns up that adds value to the day. Allow a reasonable period to elapse (a few hours or a day) before finalising a decision. Use the extra time to gather more information or probe for additional insights. In solving a problem, think of several options besides the one you think is correct. Make a list of the pros and cons of each option and its impact on people. Challenge your original selection. Monitor yourself for a day and see what happens when you allow yourself to be interrupted. Try to increase your tolerance for delays, ambiguities, and unforeseen changes. Do not answer e-mails or voice mails immediately, wait as long as practical before replying. If people want your opinion, try remaining neutral. Give several alternatives and let them decide for themselves. Go on an outing with no plans or schedules. Let others make all the decisions and focus on relaxing and enjoying whatever happens.

What Can You Add? What methods have you used to function in areas that are not your strengths?

#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. There is nothing better than the knowledge that if I plan carefully and get the people around me to do things right, everything will go perfectly. That is a summation of the illusion of control. The belief that by controlling the people and circumstances around us, we can make things work out right. Moreover, who defines right? We do of course. Those of us who love control also believe that our vision is the correct one. It is taken me decades to realise the emptiness of that belief. To understand that it is all an illusion, that we believe things are in control simply because they are going as we want them to. When things go smoothly, we relax, sitting comfortably in the certainty that our planning and preparation has worked. When things do not go as planned, they are suddenly out of control. Honestly, it makes me tired just to read this post. All that energy put into trying to arrange the unwarrantable. The truth is, while our efforts do contribute to positive or negative results in our lives, we can only improve our chance for success, not guarantee it. Most of us cannot pass a test without studying for it, but we have all encountered the unhappy truth that studying alone does not ensure an A. Pursuing the belief that we can control the universe is distracting, wastes our energy, and can be extremely annoying to the people around us. The antidote, I think, is trust. Trust that others also know what they are doing. Trust that catastrophe will not befall us if we let go of the reins and let life take its natural course; and trust in ourselves and the knowledge that if things dont work out right we can handle it. Do you just not love it that feeling that everything is going as it should? In the aforementioned section, I talk about how we fool ourselves into thinking we have things under control. As Judgers, we have a natural desire to arrange circumstances, correct problems, make sure that things run smoothly. Add our emotive energy to that, all that mushy desire to make sure everyone is happy, and we can end up really overdoing it. It feels good from our end, arranging things for other folks, but I can tell you from personal experience, it is not fun to be on the other end of that energy. When I was growing up, my father used to decide what was best for me and then badger me endlessly until I did things his way. I have never felt more disempowered and small than I did after giving in to his pressure. I talked about defining and protecting your boundaries a few weeks ago, but my topic today is about identifying and respecting the boundaries of others. Because, really, the only person we need to control in life is ourselves. The only circumstances we are entitled to arrange are our own circumstances. The people in our lives have their own approach to solving problems and if they need our help, they will ask for it. In addition, yes, we can organise the heck out of committees, events and special occasions, but the only way we can make sure we are not overrunning everyone else is to ask permission and accept the answer.

EXERCISE: PRACTICE LETTING GO


This exercise requires that you step out of your routine and pay attention to your assumptions. This can be difficult for an INFJ, there is often an inherent feeling of correctness to our opinions, and they can feel so right that we forget there are other perspectives. You can overcome this assumption of correctness by stepping out of your personal perspective and taking on the perspective of an Observer Self. As an Observer Self, you become neutral, watching yourself interact with others as if you are watching a movie. 1. Over the next week, start paying attention to the small decisions you make where you assume that your way, or the way it has always been done, is correct. These are the little things, like assuming that you and your friend will always have lunch at your favourite restaurant, automatically planning to arrive at a movie 20 minutes early, assuming that you and your neighbour will walk at the same time every day (these are all, by the way, examples from my life). Start letting the other person decide. Check in with them to see if they want something different. A casual way to do this is to say something like We always go to lunch at Scottys, would you like to try someplace else?, 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, try staying quiet and let the group make the decisions without your input.

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For each experience, ask yourself the following: a. What was it like to give up control? Uncomfortable? Scary? Or was it freeing, a relief? b. What was the outcome of the new decision? Did things work out worse, better, or the same? c. How did the other person/people respond to being consulted or making the decision? d. 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, friends, and co-workers lives and design a set of rules for where you want your limits to be. By deciding before the fact, you are more likely to be aware as you navigate through this tricky terrain. As an example, here are my rules: Do not try to fix anything for my adult daughter. This means that even if I see her struggling with something I do not jump in with a solution unless asked. Letting other adults work out their own issues is a sign of respect, not neglect. When Im planning something as part of a group: o Voice my opinion as an opinion, not as a declaration of the way things should be. o Listen to the suggestions of others openly, recognising that their ideas might be better than mine may. o Step back from the desire that everything be planned, stop worrying about what might happen and just let it happen, knowing that I can handle whatever comes up. Ask for permission before planning, fixing, or taking over someone elses effort. Take No for an answer. Recognise the fact that just because I think my ideas are right does not mean that they really are to others.

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. While self-awareness and self-acceptance discussed in the first nine instalments of this series are important, we also need to pay attention to our fundamental need for contribution. The desire to share our wisdom, values and grace with others can be a powerful force in our lives. I spent much of my life vaguely aware that I was only part of who I was meant to be. My jobs most often utilized my Intuitive and Judging skills I was a whiz at organising, planning, and making stuff happen. However, the child I had been, the me that loved helping others, the little girl who played rescue with her Barbies and built tiny homes for pill bugs, had been thrust aside. I was living in survival mode, and, in my desire to succeed in what often felt like a foreign world, I tended to ignore what was important to me. I believe that we are all put on this earth for a purpose; and each individual has been designed to be the perfect combination of life experience, curiosity, ambition, and awareness to fulfil that purpose. I call it my Higher Purpose but you should call it whatever works best for you. At some level, you already have a sense of your higher purpose, whether you are fully aware of it or not. 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. 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 more than that for you. I want you to get clear on what is most important to you, and what impact you want to have on the world around you. I believe that to know our higher purpose, to accept it as such, and to seek to live it, whatever form it might take, is why we are on the earth.

EXERCISE: MINING FOR YOUR HIGHER PURPOSE


Already know your higher purpose? Great! Go ahead and skip to the next section. This exercise is for those of us who are not quite clear about it.

Often our higher purpose is right on the tip of our tongue, just out of sight. We rather know what it might be, or we know the general category, but it is still a foggy idea of something that will be great as soon as we figure it out. Below are some questions that help you start to identify your higher purpose. Whatever it turns out to be, it comes from what is important to you. It can be about the wrongs you want to right or change you want to bring about, or the beauty you want to contribute in the form of art or music. It is the pure expression of your unique combination of talent, insight, and sense of what matters. 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. 1. 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, ballerinas, or cowboys even those answers contain information (we want to rescue people in danger, create beauty and grace, or have rough n tumble adventures). At various times I wanted to run a post office, be a private detective, and write books. What leaps out at me from my answer is a love for order, finding solutions and communication. 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. Our hot buttons tell us what is important to us, what we feel needs to be changed. What comes up when you remove all the barriers? What would you do with your days if you had all the money, time and support you needed? If your perfect occupation were instantly available to you, what would it be? So often, 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.

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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 lifes work. I have a friend who tutors illiterate adults on weekends, another who works for Habitat for Humanity whenever she can. It is all about finding ways to fulfil your higher purpose where ever you are, not finding a place where it already exists. 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. You do not need to know how to do what you want to do, you just need to start. If you wait until you feel you are ready, chances are you will never begin. When I was training to be a coach, we were encouraged to find clients after our very first class. We had to trust that we would be good enough, and we had to be willing to make mistakes. In addition, even though I goofed up plenty, I could not have been that bad I am still working with several of those early clients. Living your higher purpose will make you uncomfortable sometimes. Any time we try something new, we end up pushed out of our comfort zones in some way. We may end up having to talk to strangers, travel alone, maybe even make a speech to a room full of people! Creating the impact that we want to make in the world takes courage, resilience, and persistence. Luckily, each of us already have those qualities available, all we have to do is use them. Feel like youre not courageous? Take the next step by deciding to do something that takes courage and presto! You are courageous. Just like that. Your higher purpose will change as you explore it. One thing I learned in coaching is that as we make progress toward our goals, our goals will continually change. As we learn what we need to know to succeed, our goals tend to become deeper and more meaningful. The same is true for your higher purpose as you bring your passion into the world the world will reward you with more passion, which will fuel a deeper and richer purpose to pursue.

My Higher Purpose is to help everyone (including myself!) become more self-aware, self-accepting, and as confident as possible. Everything I write is about learning about who we really are, and then loving what we discover. Then simply being ourselves in the freest, biggest possible way. 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; and your gift to me has been your time spent reading and contributing to this guide.

EPILOGUE IT IS YOUR TURN


The steps in Ten Steps to an Amazing INFJ Life are based on my challenges, on what I have learned in my life. They are the rules I try to follow every day to be the boldest, strongest, and best person I can be. However, we all know that not all INFJs are the same. Therefore, it is time for you to create your own list of steps. Here is how: Go back and read each of the previous ten steps in this series with a critical eye, exploring what is true for you and what is not. Redefine each step so that it suits you, adding what is needed, and tossing out what is not. Next, it is your turn. From the context of your life, what can you add to the list? Take your time in creating and exploring what you come up with your rules are important. When I started creating this series, when I took the time to really think about what I wanted to say, my awareness deepened and I learned even more about how to deal with my challenges. Your rules for life reflect who you want to be in the world, so create them thoughtfully. 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, or share them with someone else who can benefit. Make sure they do not get lost, they are an expression of what is important to you.

Your rules for life should be a living, breathing list that grows and deepens as you go through your life. You can use them as guideposts when making decisions, and let them help you stay clear and focused during tough times. They should reflect not only what you have learned but also what you want to learn; they should inform both who you are and who you want to be. What are your Rules For Life? Feel free to share them with other INFJs by following the steps above. Thank you for going on this journey with me, this is the final instalment in Ten Steps to an Amazing INFJ Life. 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.