How Making Hard Choices Becomes Our Identity

So, if you read my last post, you’ll remember that I’m going through some kind of self discovery mission. Or identity crises. Call it what you will, I’m trying to find out where this is all going. Deep, huh? I guess I’m quite contemplative and reached a point where I feel I’m more of a by-stander than actually in charge…

I came across this book by Paul Tiger, Barbara Barron and Kelly Tiger: Do What You Are. (I’ll add it to the shop section so you can easily find it.) It’s based on the concept of Personality Type – also known as the Myers-Briggs Personality Type. If you’re not familiar, it’s something that I also came across for the first time in grad/post-graduate school only five years ago. Essentially, it measures your preferences across four areas and determines how you might fit an organisation, for example. A lot of companies apparently use this, and in our university, it was an experiment for putting us into groups and observe the performance, the theory being that compatible personality types will work effectively and efficiently. My group did very well, but it certainly wasn’t without its struggles! In hindsight, although I wouldn’t necessarily class any of my group members as “friends”, there may have been something to this. So I got curious.

You’re assigned four letters which makes up a personality type (out of 16). This isn’t to say that you don’t have some tendencies from other personalities. Some preferences are stronger than others and you could fall anywhere on a spectrum of Introvert – Extravert, for instance. I couldn’t remember my letters from the comprehensive test at university, so I have had to go back and self-assess based on preferences I’m aware of, and by reading examples. So it tells me I’m this combination: ISTP – Introverted, Sensing, Thinking, Perceiving. I don’t want to bore you with the details, so here’s a summary: A realist. I’m very analytical and see things as they are. Practical, fair and logical, base decisions on hard facts. Quiet and reserved, can give of impression of shyness, cool or aloof.

There it is. LOGICAL. It’s almost fair to say that I’m obsessed with it. Things need to make sense. That’s probably why I used to love mathematics in school so much. My husband often jokes that he should get a shirt made up for me that reads ‘Maths makes sense’. Reading the full personality type description, it fits me like a shoe. So what’s my career? What should I be doing with my life? Ah, it’d just be all so easy if the answers were written in a book like some kind of formula, wouldn’t it? And then randomly, last night, I couldn’t find anything I wanted to watch and stumbled across some TED talks on Netflix.

I watched a playlist, and some I’d seen already so I wasn’t paying all that much attention until Ruth Chang started. She talked about how to make hard choices. Ultimately, this is what has lead me down this path, isn’t it? Read my previous post and you’ll see that my head is just a jumble at the moment. I can’t seem to make much sense of the chaos within – should I or shouldn’t I return to work? If I do, what will I do? Is it worth it if there’s a chance that we might move again? What’s the most transferable career that I can do in case we do move again? These are big questions! To me, anyway. You may be a bit more pragmatic and find it easy to come up with a solution. I could just do any job, but as I find myself in a rather privileged position of having time to find myself, I’m being choosey. Too choosey, even. It’s like being a vegetarian in a vegetarian restaurant. I’m used to having two – if I’m lucky, three – choices on the menu. I’m overwhelmed in a vegetarian restaurant. Everything sounds SO GOOD. How do you choose? So Ruth Chang, in this TED talk, has this incredibly LOGICAL way of explaining (which utterly appealed to me, obviously) that hard choices are not founded necessarily on facts or one being better than the other. It’s just not clear-cut like that most of the time. She explains that it boils down to what is it that I want.  Where do I see myself going with this? Where do I want to be?  These hard choices we make, make up the person we want to be. Take a look.

A lightbulb went up in my head. So I’m back to square one. I won’t find the answer spelled out in a book. I won’t find the answer by looking around; I have to look within. While this personality type book explains in what setting I probably would be most satisfied – certain criteria that are more or less met – I need to figure out what life I long for. How I want to live my existence.

So start number 2: Do I start with what I enjoy doing? While I have a long list of things I class as hobbies, I never take the time to really immerse myself in any of them. Sewing, drawing, painting, pottery, photography, going for walks. Or perhaps meditation and taking a time-out each day is that way forward…?

Where would you start?

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