Myers-Briggs “E” or “I”

Let’s continue riffing on Myers-Briggs.  This time, we can explore the impact on “Introverts” and Extroverts” of transitioning beyond one’s long career.

The Myers-Briggs definition of an “E” (extrovert) is someone who is energized by being with other people.  By contrast, an “I” (introvert) is someone for whom being around other people depletes energy.

Now, you may have in your head that en extrovert is a life-of-the-party, glad-handing, loud person.  And you may have in your head that an introvert is somebody sitting at home with a book.  For our purposes here, I’m talking about the definitions noted in the prior paragraph, not such societal stereotypes as may exist.

People are surprised when they learn that I am an “I”.  This is because I’m gregarious, socially at ease, like to joke around, and so on.  And it’s true that that’s all fun for me.  It just uses up a lot of my energy.  So after a certain amount of that sort of socializing, I need to go be by myself to recharge.  I do this playing piano, riding my bike, eating lunch alone, going to museums, taking day trips, reading, and many other ways.  And all of them are solo, because I am recharging.

“E”s have much more capacity to be with others — because it’s actually a source of energy.  My wife is an “E” and it fascinates me that sometimes she’ll be tired and not wanting to do much, but then a friend calls, or a person stops by, or we run into someone we know.  There’s lots of interaction and magically she’s full of life again — because the interaction recharged her batteries, so to speak.

When your long career is over, if you are an “I”, there’s suddenly a ton of alone time.  It’s soooo refreshing.  In fact, there’s about as much alone time as one could wish for!  What a glorious change from interacting with people all day long.  You may find the transition to a Tapas Life pretty easy, from this particular standpoint.  Of course, you’ll still need to have enough social interaction, because being a hermit won’t likely be so good.  Happily, you’ll be able to have just as much as you want/need, and no more.

But if you’re an “E”, you may find that your are just as suddenly devoid of human interaction, and therefore in a big energy deficit.  For an “E”, action is needed to organize interaction.  Get together with friends or old workmates for lunch.  Join a volunteer organization and do some good while working with others.  See who else is done with their long career so you can do stuff together.  Put lots of social activity on the calendar.  If you don’t, you’ll likely find yourself feeling marooned in a lonely place, and very low on your personal energy.  Human interaction is something that during your long career almost surely happened automatically.  And now it may well require significant effort.

Along with the difference in how life beyond one’s long career can feel to a “P” or a “J” (which I talked about in the last post), whether one is an “I” or an “E” can also have a profound effect on this transition.  It’s a good idea to be mindful of these issues.

For completeness, I note that I won’t be talking about Myers-Briggs “N” vs “S” or “F” vs “T”, as it’s not obvious to me that these aspects will necessarily dictate any particular course of action for people completing their long career.

Myers-Briggs isn’t for everybody, perhaps, but I find it quite useful in our context.


Myers-Briggs “P” or “J”

The Myers-Briggs Type Inventory, aka, MBTI, is used broadly to help sort people by some of their traits.  Some regard the MBTI as gospel, and others as pop psychology or worse.  I personally don’t see it as the be-all and end-all, but have certainly found it useful over many years.

One of the continuums (sorry, Latin speakers) the MBTI measures is that between Judging and Perceiving.  For short these are called J and P.   The definition for our purposes is that people who are Js like to decide things, and people that are Ps like to leave options open.  (OK, now some MBTI humor:  If a person is a J, we refer to their “J-ness,” but if they’re a P we don’t refer to their …)

A “J” likes to gather whatever data they feel is absolutely needed, and then make a decision.  They like things to be settled and clear.  It can be downright difficult to let an issue continue as “open” without deciding on it ASAP.  For a J, making a decision is satisfying.  Meanwhile, a “P” gathers some data and that leads to more data to be gathered;  the decision is often put off as long as possible, sometimes past the deadline of interest.  For a P, making a decision can be agony.

This is a continuum, though.  While some people are all the way at one end of the span, others lie elsewhere along the line.  Some are right in the middle, and can make decisions easily enough, but can also leave things open easily enough.  You get the idea.

If you’re a Myers-Briggs P, you might find the transition to a Tapas Life to be very natural.  You roll along, opportunities appear, and you grab those that suit you when they suit you.  Your life can be very emergent.  In contrast to one’s long career, which often demands that decisions be made, the Tapas Life may feel liberating to a P.  Of course, as in all Tapas Life recipes, you can add as much or as little structure as you wish, so not everything need be wide open.

If you’re a Myers-Briggs J, you might find the transition to a Tapas Life to be more of a challenge.  In your long career, you might’ve found the structure that that world provides comfortable.  You’re perhaps used to goals and making decisions about how to achieve them.  You’re probably accustomed to deadlines and making decisions on how to meet them.  Most importantly, the issue of how to spend the bulk of your waking hours has been settled for decades by the rigors of your long career.  You may find the sudden arrival of the blank calendar that can come with the completion of your long career to be very daunting indeed.

To me, a classic example is that of a medical doctor.  Here’s a person who’s had a huge portion of their time scheduled over the past 30+ years.  All that time, they’ve been making decisions.  Their long career’s attributes have prescribed (sorry, non-punners) what their days have looked like.  If they retire from their long career one day, they suddenly entire uncharted waters where nothing is settled.  Of course, by and by they can get on with gathering data and making decisions about what they want their lives to look like and wind up very fulfilled and satisfied.  I’m merely noting the challenging nature of their transition — it’s a pretty major change!

Other Js may or may not have a similarly disorienting transition ahead of them, but they are likely to experience the arrival of a blank calendar as more of a hurdle than a P.

One other heads-up to Js:  you might experience life after your long career to be a lot less efficient.  But this is a topic for another post entirely.

I’m not a psychologist, pop or otherwise.  If you disagree with my two bits about MBTI Js and Ps, please chime in with your thoughts or experiences.

Meanwhile, whether you’re a P or a J, a Tapas Life can be assembled by anyone who wants one!


p.s.:  Full disclosure — I’m a J, and can act like a P with some effort when I need to…