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Freedom vs. Structure …and Productivity

Myers-Briggs (personality type indicator) distinguishes between extroverts and introverts, sensors and intuitors, thinkers and feelers, and judgers and perceivers. The last dichotomy (judgers vs. perceivers) fascinates me the most.

The common description of judgers is that they are organized, have their life structured and everything planned, arrive on time (or even early), want everything to be decided and settled, often seem rigid – but also responsible, and like closure. It is unacceptable to them not to get things done, not to get results, not to finish. (Note: “judger” does not mean judgmental.)

On the other hand, perceivers seem chaotic, are spontaneous and flexible, often arrive late (or not at all), don’t like making decisions, always feel it’s premature to make a decision, always want more information, like to keep their options open, want things to be open-ended, tend to procrastinate, and prefer starting new things to finishing them.

Which one are you?

Now, there is other, much more interesting definition: Judgers try to “lock down” the external world, so they have internal freedom. Perceivers try to “lock down” the internal world, so they have outer world freedom.

And to evolve ourselves to the next level, we need to develop and integrate both our Judging and Perceiving aspects. It is usually our weakest aspect that limits us the most.

Perceivers have problems making decisions. The word “decision” originally comes from Latin, and it literally means “to cut off”. When you decide, you cut the other options off. Perceivers hate that – they want to keep as many options open as possible. However, this comes at a price: When they keep postponing decisions, they might never decide. When they not get on a particular train, because they are afraid they might miss a better one, they might miss all the trains.

That being said, it seems to me that ultimately in the end-game, it’s more advantageous to be an “enlightened” perceiver – and have the outer world freedom. Part of Nathaniel Branden’s definition of self-esteem is knowing you are competent to cope with the basic challenges in life. But how about knowing you will thrive, regardless the challenges in life? Regardless the environment? To me, that seems worth striving for.

However, I also think that if you really want to be efficient as a perceiver, you have to develop your judger muscles. And no, there is no other option (even getting someone else to structure your life isn’t sufficient). Developing those muscles and going through a “judger stage” can be very challenging. You need to structure and organize the outer world (your life), so it pushes you to be efficient and get things done. This also gives you the opportunity to master the control of your inner impulses, and discover which structures give you the most leverage on yourself and when to use them.

The ultimate idea is that as an enlightened perceiver, you have an inner compass so strong and powerful, that you move forward regardless all hell breaking loose. The inner compass must be stronger than the low inner impulses from your reptilian brain, and it must be stronger than distractions and interruptions from the outer world.

All that being said, it will probably always be advantageous (from the efficiency standpoint) to outsource a significant amount of your daily decision making to outer structures (= being organized, having things pre-decided and planned). It just makes sense – the same way it makes sense to buy socks rather than to tailor them yourself.

What once seemed an extreme measure becomes a natural thing and a necessity when the stakes are high (in your life and mission).

For example, do you know what these people have in common?

Obama, Zuckerberg, Jobs, Einstein - freedom vs. structure

They have or had a wardrobe full of completely identical clothes. Why? They don’t want to waste time and energy deciding everyday “bullshit” like “What am I going to wear” – not to speak of having to buy new clothes every 3-6 months.

Einstein is said to be probably the most famous INTP (Introvert, Intuitive, Thinker, Perceiver). But he’s not your common garden-variety perceiver: There is no way he could’ve accomplished what he has done without building his judger muscles.

To sum this up, here’s what you can do to get to the next level:

If you are a perceiver, get organized, embrace structure, stop procrastinating, start finishing things and learn to make quick decisions. Go overboard… for a year. Then, loosen up.

If you are judger, first loosen up, then work on your inner compass (discover your values and goals), and work on your flexibility. Do a lot of soul-searching. Then, play on your natural strength and become as efficient as you can with your new inner compass.

This is true freedom.

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  • http://masongentry.com Mason Gentry

    Fantastic post! I just picked up a couple books on self discipline the other day because of the things you so eloquently pointed out.

    • JiriNovotny

      Thank you Mason! I am glad you liked it.

  • Matt

    Nice post Jiri. Best wishes, Matt

  • Dmitry

    Thank you.

    I’ve never heard of a “perceivers / judgers” concept before.

    • JiriNovotny

      I’m glad you enjoyed the post Dmitry.