a potter's pen

a collection of non-clay thoughts.

how to screw up a personality test...

A few years ago, I took a personality test - one of the more reputable ones online (in my completely unprofessional opinion). I raced through the instructions because really, how difficult could it be to take an online personality test? And my years fighting the power have instilled in me a firm belief that instructions are for suckers. (I'm working on that) I jumped right into it. A half hour and 145 questions later, I had a nice, tidy personality "type". I finally achieved "full frontal self-awareness". I signed up for daily motivational thoughts designed for my personality type and went on about my quest to change the world and my life with this new self-awareness - referring back to this personality type only when I received advice that puzzled me. 

I'll admit, I wasn't entirely comfortable with the type assigned to me. A few motivational thoughts seemed to hit home, but others had me wondering if something was amiss in the quiz...or worse...me. I was constantly coached on living too much in my head, fantasizing, being deeply introverted and unable to connect to people. While I do have a pretty active imagination...some of the motivationals didn't match my typical day to day behaviors. I went back to the personality profile type and read it, focusing hard on the description.  The first time, I just assumed the type description was me, because my score said so. I blame catholic school for this blind willingness to accept. (Shakes angry middle-aged rebel fist) This time, I questioned if my haste to get to the results directly impacted the validity of my answers. So I took the quiz again, with a few changes. 

First, I cut out all distractions. I'm a notorious multi-tasker. I've always got multiple things going at one time: 20 tabs open on a browser, tv informing no one in the background while I have the phone stuck to my head half listening to the person yammering on the other end of the line. My senses are under a constant state of attack. I am mortified by how often nothing gets my full attention. I'm actively working on shutting up a LOT of noise in my life. But that's another conversation for another time.

Next, I read the damned instructions. Not skimmed. Read. And guess what? I answered the questions based on the wrong assumption. I was supposed to answer the questions based on my behaviors, not my feelings. On the surface that doesn't seem like a big distinction, but then when think about it - sometimes behaviors are VERY different than the feelings that prompted them. For example, you might FEEL afraid and powerless in a situation, but your behavior may be aggressive and controlling to compensate for the feeling of impotence. I answered based on my feelings. But my behaviors were different when I reflected on them instead of the feelings that may or may not have inspired the actions. So I resolved to take the test again - to see if I would net a different response. And guess what...I did. 

As I read my new type, it immediately made more sense to me. The flaws, the challenges and triumphs were no longer "kinda right, or kinda off". This was spot on. The analysis didn't make me question how I could be so blind to some of my tendencies, when I've always prided myself on having a fairly good understanding of myself. It didn't make me feel any less uncomfortable with some of the less than courageous elements of my make up, but at least they were things I could readily identify in myself as opposed to scratching my head and thinking, "how is it I've never observed this in myself?" 

So what's the moral of this story? I guess there's several. Always read the instructions, would be the most immediate. The next one might be, don't be afraid to question an assessment. Particularly if you are guilty of NOT reading instructions. The final one would be...note the distinction between how you behave versus how you feel. That one hit me like a ton of bricks. When reflecting on the difference between the two, I can see how many of us might miss the opportunity to resolve or improve certain behaviors because we assume our feelings match the behaviors we exhibit. For example, I "feel" introverted. Yet, people experience me as an extrovert - particularly in professional situations or personal situations where I am required to be "on". In truth, I'm more of an ambivert. I can deal with and appreciate time both among people and by myself. If I'm only paying attention to how I "feel"...I'm potentially blind to how others might perceive me based on my behaviors. Another example: I may "feel" overlooked or invisible to people around me, while ignoring that that I "behave" as if I don't want/need intimate interaction with people who truly matter to me - isolating and detaching myself - which feeds the feeling of being overlooked and making the originating feeling seem accurate.

Such an important distinction, I'm almost embarrassed that I leapfrogged the distinction. And yet now that I am considering it - I'm excited about the opportunity to work on myself even more.

I'm looking forward to those daily motivationals. 

Take the Enneagram Personality Test

challenge or chaff

Relationships, in my mind, fall into two categories. This goes for all relationships where two people assign a label to their interactions: lovers, friends, co-workers, associates, peers, and so on. It took me a while to simplify the categories to just two. I suppose that's the gift that comes with your time on the earth. The further you go, the more you appreciate simplicity. Or, from a different - more blunt perspective, the older you get, the less time you have to ponder and indulge bullshit. 

The first category of relationships is Challenge. This category holds everyone you love. Why challenge? Because that's what I believe relationships are. An invitation to learn about yourself through the eyes and experiences of another person. The more intimate the relationship is, the more it teaches you, the more it can hurt you and the more you stand to benefit from all those bumps and bruises. The keystone for these relationships and the way to confirm they are valuable is by identifying a surplus of positive characteristics experienced by both parties. They may be basic, primary characteristics like your shared sense of morality and belief system or they may be more routine like a significant common interest or preoccupation. Whatever it is, it is timeless and tends to keep you connected even during difficult times. Beyond the keystone, when trouble strikes, you both feel an inclination to work at the relationship to keep it healthy, honest and beneficial for both parties. That effort means you have both willingly agreed to endure rough moments because you know you will become better people by staying connected beyond your differences. There is a vein of love, or respect, or mutual admiration that is more important than anything else. It is through these trials with each other that tolerance, compassion, intimacy and empathy are born.

The second category is Chaff. You can love people in this category, but still determine that they need to go. This category is deceptive. Deceptive because many people that fall in this category were actually placed in the challenge category, first. These are people you probably once invested in, who also invested in you. Don't let the word "chaff" distract you...I am not calling these people a waste. I am suggesting that their presence in your life is wasteful. They can be good, well-intended people who, for some reason or another - don't bring any significant lessons or value to your existence. The relationship repeats negative experiences that neither of you grow from. The belief systems or personal needs are in such conflict that you bring out negative, destructive tendencies in each other. Sustaining the connection begins to feel exhausting or even suffocating. 

Both categories require your honesty, courage, compassion and integrity to determine what comes next. For the challenging ones, honesty and integrity will draw you closer. Compassion will allow you to express your differences without demeaning or arrogantly attempting to "correct" the other. It will also allow you to hear each others viewpoints and find a thread on which you can both agree. That thread builds the tapestry that will hold you together. Integrity will ensure you stay true to the bond and take actions that demonstrate your commitment to the wellness of the connection. 

Alternatively, in the chaff relationships, these same concepts apply - though a bit differently. For these relationships, you must possess the compassion to realize your conflicts bring no growth opportunities, or...that you fail to capitalize on them when they come. You will be able to acknowledge that even when attempting to find the common thread, you fall short - and therefore understand that no real tapestry can be built to fortify your bond. And of course, integrity will ensure you allow them to depart from your life and you from theirs, to serve the better good for you both. You know you're here when the only way you can get back to nurturing a fondness for the person is by releasing them. This is as kind an act as any. 

I've learned not to be sad when you see a relationship is chaff and decide to cut the tie. It is a gift to you both. If they are bringing out the worst in you...it's probably a safe bet that you are bringing out the worst in them, too. The other party might not see it at the time...but if they have the patience to release expectations, in time too - they will see the benefit in an end. There is no good or bad person and to attempt to assign blame is an exercise in futility. There is only the opportunity to acknowledge incongruity and therefore make space for the type of interaction that challenges you in a more constructive and meaningful way. 

This is my theory. In a decade, perhaps it will become something else. But for now...this feels about right. 

relinquishing control of the details.

We are taught very early on in life to be detail-oriented. It is the key to a job well done and marks us as efficient and productive. We wear our attention to detail proudly, and associate it with maturity, skill and sometimes even intellect. But like everything else, the ability to work things out to the smallest detail has a place...and newsflash...it isn't everywhere. 

Life...like relationships...or our very happiness, cannot be mapped to the tiniest detail. The biggest and best elements within our lives are often organic, magical events that we may try to predict, but often fail. The problem is, from our middle school years on, we're taught that planning and preparation are the key to our future successes. That philosophy doesn't jive with the biotic and mysterious, which leaves us trying to apply filters and controls to things that were never designed to work according to our schedule. And that often leaves us feeling anxious, isolated, unfulfilled, invalidated and deeply unhappy. 

I'm not proposing we flip our office tables, toss our business processes in the shredder and hope for the best. After all, the best laid plans also require a paycheck for some essentials. Anything the requires a paycheck requires those old detail skills to be readily applied. I AM proposing that in the personal areas of our lives, we consider relinquishing control on the details of our personal contentment and stop trying to manage them like we do our work projects and deadlines. Instead of knowing what we want, then trying to manipulate things and people into our neatly established constructs...what would happen if we just identified the experiences we would like to have, then gave up trying to project plan them into existence?

My theory is...we could do more in our personal lives just by putting the intention out there, then living happily and with full hope that what we're seeking, finds the way to us - regardless of what the landscape looks like in the current moment. I've done a lot of worrying and fretting...and I can tell you, it puts out a bunch of energy (all of it negative) and accomplishes nothing. That leads to those feelings of despair - which most of us turn into fuel to convince ourselves that we are not deserving, that our desires will never manifest and we are somehow...less than. So...why not come at it from a different angle? Why not release the desire to control the details and all the anxiety and emotional stress that comes with it? Why not just trust that if we continue to put good, unfiltered and genuine positive energy in our lives, eventually and organically, it will be returned to us in time? Even if it all doesn't work out perfectly...isn't the practice of proactive positivity a better use of our time? 

Lately I've been feeling happy. As things are. Right now. Incomplete. Unfinished. Undefined. I'm worried less about comparing myself to others. I avoid evaluating the quality of my life based on defined "markers" of perceived success. I'm practicing this proactive positivity, and I like it. I'm assuming things are going to work out, releasing the need to know when, how or why. I'm telling myself that all will be as it should be and that whatever that it, its ultimately, good. And I'm finding that there's less anxiety, less bitterness, far less worry and much more energy left for me to devote to things I can control.

It's okay to be happy and to expect some things, even if you can't put your finger on the details. Enjoy it and see how long you can make the feeling last.  Perhaps while you're grinning and gazing without care into the horizon, your wishes and wants will tap you on your shoulder and ask to come along for the ride.