Concrete changes I’ve made because of MBTI and enneagram insights

Concrete changes I’ve made because of MBTI and enneagram insights

I’m a fan of exploring personality types, because I’ve been able to channel what I’ve discovered about my strengths and my weaknesses into some very concrete, practical changes that have improved my relationships with others and the rhythm of my days.

The two biggest kinds of change, hands-down, have been those that relate to decision making and structure.

Neither comes easy for me. In Myers-Briggs parlance, I need a little more “J” in my life. I’ve been reading up on the enneagram lately, and it’s in complete agreement“Making choices can be very difficult [for nines]. You can see the advantages and disadvantages of all options.”

Creating habits that limit choices

Exploring personality types has made me realize how easy it is for me to succumb to decision overload, and I’ve made some intentional changes as a result.

That’s why I ordered my new glasses from Warby Parker (60 frames to choose from) and not from Glasses Warehouse (thousands). It’s why I shop at Trader Joe’s (4000 items) instead of Kroger (50,000).

And even though I’m a frugal girl at heart, I keep my comparison shopping to a bare minimum to prevent myself from going crazy.

I feel like I can only make so many decisions each day without melting down, and if I can spare myself a few hundred by shopping at a different grocery store, I should do it. Deliberately restricting my choices conserves vast amounts of time and energy, and I suffer from decision paralysis a lot less than I did a few years ago.

Fall Scheduling Angst

Creating routines so I can actually accomplish something

Exploring personality types has also helped me realize that even though I fight scheduling, I feel better–and get a lot more done–when I’m working within the boundaries of a defined routine.

My enneagram profile put this a little more bluntly: “If you don’t have some routine or structure in your day, you get almost nothing done.”

Ouch.

But I have to agree: even though I hate to limit my options, I do much better with a schedule. It’s taken me years to learn this.

But of course it makes sense: a schedule is another way of narrowing choices. If I’ve decided in advance that every day I’ll wake up at 5:30, work out at 7, and start homeschool at 9, that’s three less decisions I have to make. I don’t have to decide moment-by-moment what to do next.

For you decisive types this is no big deal, but to someone who struggles with decisions it’s a revelation.

I’ve carried it a little further: I eat pretty much the same thing every day, I wear some variation of the same outfit, and I have basically two hairstyles.

It’s not boring; it’s liberating. I’ve found so much freedom in tightly restricting my choices.

There are still areas I struggle with, daily events that continue to take up more mental energy than they should. (Two words: Kids. Snacktime.) But I’ve made progress these past few years, and I’m grateful for it.

Are you vulnerable to decision fatigue? Any hacks for minimizing decision making? (If you have good advice for snacktime, I’m all ears.)

P.S. I wrote a book about personality! In Reading People: How Seeing the World through the Lens of Personality Changes Everything, I walk you through 7 different frameworks, explaining the basics in a way you can actually understand, sharing personal stories about how what I learned made a difference in my life, and showing you how it could make a difference in yours, as well.

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38 comments

  1. alana taylor says:

    I struggle with decisions also, so it only makes sense to limit them as much as possible. I’ll be on the lookout for ways to do this in my life going forward. Thanks for sharing your wisdom, Anne.

    Also, I am intrigued by the whole MBTI thing {though I’ve not really heard of enneagram}… How does one begin to dip her toe into studying these things? As you’ve pointed out in this post, learning about myself, my husband, my son, and others I come across can only help to nurture those relationships.

  2. Jen says:

    I’m just like you. A total “P” and a 9. I despise structure, yet I know I need it otherwise absolutely nothing gets done.

    One thing I do that allows me to avoid decision making altogether is automate purchases using Amazon’s subscribe and save. I buy my supplements and toilet paper that way. This way I never have to analyze which tp is the best deal at the grocery store. And then decide if it is worth that deal or is the tp a lousy quality. And do I have a coupon that will make it an even better deal? Or a coupon for another brand that would make it better than the tp that is on sale? It used to take me forever just to buy toilet paper at the store! Now I get my favorite shipped to my front door every other month for a decent price and I don’t even have to think about it! We never run out now and I save a lot of time in the store agonizing over what should be a simple decision 🙂 I need to add more items to my subscribe and save list as it really does help me.

    • Laura says:

      Fabulous idea! What is the best toilet paper deal on Amazon? I haven’t taken the test yet, but I think I might be this personality. I am looking forward to reading more helpful ideas!

  3. Tuija says:

    Nice application of personality type information, Anne!

    I’m still struggling through the Keirsey book. According to its test, I’m ISFJ, but when I read the descriptions of ISFJ in particular and “Guardians” as a group, etc., I just don’t feel like it matches completely. Many of those characteristics apply, but many aspects of who I am and what I love just don’t seem to fit his description of ISFJ. Studying humanities and literature, not commerce. I did the “Four Types Sorter” and ended up with practically the same score for both NF and SJ. Yet I don’t feel that INFJ fits me very well either. It’s all rather confusing and thus not helping me a lot at the moment. 🙂
    On the other hand, Keirsey’s description of the Rational’s courtship and marriage made me LOL and nod my head. I’m pretty sure my husband is Rational, probably INTP. How lucky that I had already figured out the points Keirsey makes about the Rational’s need for autonomy and efficiency… I’ll need to read that section again before taking the book back to the library, as there might be some more good points to consider.

  4. Laura says:

    This is really interesting. I’m a total J, so I LOVE structure and routine. My problem is having patience with the set-backs and interruptions that little kids and–most frustratingly–my own laziness bring to my plans. Also this is interesting from the aspect of being a “satisficer” vs. “maximizer.” I’m always tempted to find the BEST choice but happiest when I stop waffling and go with a merely SATISFACTORY choice.

  5. Tim says:

    Good question on the snacks for kids (you were talking about snacks for the kids, right?). Here’s how I did it when the kids were young. If they asked for something in particular and we had it around and I had the time, that was an easy decision. If I was trying to come up with something without their input, I started with snacks I’d like to eat and then narrow that list down by considering which among my own choices the kids would also like. That way if it turned out they didn’t like it, at least I knew I’d made something that I’d enjoy!

    • Melissa D says:

      I have the same problem with the snacks. I filled up a fruit bowl, told the kids they could eat as much fruit at any time (or veggies) they wanted, and not to ask me for a single other thing to eat outside of mealtime. We also bought a fridge with water and ice that they could easily get themselves, and I stocked up on little boxes of raisins and put them in an open crate in the bottom of the pantry. (All this within reason of course — sick kids or weird days mean flexibility. I can flex as long as there are rules most of the time!)

      And I use Amazon S&S all the time– for stuff that we tended to run out of and would get frustrated by. Cascade pods. Maple syrup. TP and tissues. No more worrying about the important stuff!

  6. Ana says:

    Now see, I TOTALLY get this. And yet I’m a “J”…which is why I am…skeptical..about MBTI 😉
    I completely get decision fatigue, and have arranged a lot of my life these days around minimizing decisions: trader joe’s, amazon subscribe and save (even if not always the absolute cheapest), shopping online at 1-2 stores only, same breakfast and lunch every day (and one dinner for the week that we make a huge lot of and eat for 5-6 days), a workout schedule, etc… I’m working on an “outfit schedule” because I waste a lot of brain space trying to get ready in the morning.
    My kids also have a sort of “snack schedule” but getting them to stick to it and not ask for random stuff has proven difficult…
    I still insist that these traits are more malleable (and affected by our experiences) than the personality tests make them out to be…when I was young and single and had more time (and less real responsibility) on my hands, I didn’t mind driving to a few different stores to comparison shop. I got a lot of satisfaction from finding a better deal. Now, any satisfaction is completely outweighed by feeling overwhelmed shopping in big stores. I changed. Maybe I will change again?

  7. Beverly Kelsey says:

    Anne you are such an inspiration!
    I need motivation to get the schedule going. Any ideas? I know that is a big question just curious. I think the seasonal change has me in a rut hopefully it passes very soon.
    Someone once told me though to do one thing a day when you feel lowly and when you feel great go crazy catching up. But now being married with kids that concept will not work. lol.

  8. Rachael says:

    An idea I read, have tried a few times and liked it each time I did it. For snack: put together the snack tray at the beginning of the day. Snack time comes and the tray gets pulled out. That’s what they get. The few times I did it, it had a variety to meet the needs for 3 or 4 snack moments during the day (and one of those is ‘lunch’) and Little Man got to ‘choose’ what he wanted to eat. I could see doing a plate for each child even if you had more. It takes 5 minutes (maybe 7?) at the start of the day, but snack time is so easier. Otherwise, Little Man eats what I eat (or is it that I eat what he eats?).

  9. Anna says:

    Yes, yes, yes, yes! I don’t think I’ve ever verbalized it, but I do some of the exact same things to narrow my choices. I know I have actually said before, “Don’t make me decide. I can’t decide anything else today!” Probably the biggest way I’ve changed my life based on MBTI is to release the notion that I need to be as “social” as everyone else. Embracing the way I gain and use energy has helped me be much more productive, healthy, and happy. I’ve actually had people mistake me for a high-energy person which is laughable – I just guard my energy flow closely so I have enough for what is most important to me and have plenty of time to recharge.

  10. Carrie says:

    I love limiting choices to combat decision fatigue. For one, I keep paring down my wardrobe, for one. If I don’t absolutely love something AND it isn’t flattering too, out it goes.

    I find that being a mom of several kids makes guarding my willpower reserves very important, because my life requires so much decision making (dealing with sibling squabbles is just one part of that). I’m a much happier and better mom when I don’t waste my mental muscles on minutiae…

    One area I could definitely simplify is meal planning. It’s a sanity saver, but I tend to over-emphasize variety in our diets. My hubby and kids want the same 7 things every week if I ask, but I’m the one who wants to cook something new every night. At least when it comes to lunches, I’m thinking of going with a simpler repeating menu (veggie soup, quesadillas, bean/cheese burritos, fried rice, repeat). My inner French woman wants to serve up sexy meals and fights with my inner Zen master. LOL!

  11. Rachel says:

    Thank you for this post. You have perfectly articulated something that I have been trying to put my finger on for a long time. I just discovered your blogs a few weeks ago through a FB friend and have so enjoyed them. Keep up the inspiring work!

  12. Chris Cason says:

    Very Interesting. I enjoy planning and following a schedule too, but I also love variety in everything, making decisions, being in a crowded conference networking, listening, observing, analyzing. My twitter handle is mbti_estj and I match the traits of my personality type too.

  13. Mary says:

    Oh Anne, I’m sorry to be trite but it must be said…I feel you and I are such kindred spirits! Thank you for your insights.

  14. Alison says:

    Wow, wow and WOW!! I just hopped over to Shauna’s site and read the type 9 description, and saw myself described with amazing accuracy (especially ‘When you confess your tendency to avoid and begin to receive God’s love…..’) – which would be why I *totally* got what you were saying about making decisions! I have much reading and exploring to do, I have a feeling this is going to be life changing.

  15. sheila says:

    I have studied the enneagram for over 20 years and it just becomes more and more powerful the deeper I am willing to go with it. (I’m reading a smattering of your posts and just read the one about spending money on yourself.) I made the commitment to see a spiritual director (who is grounded in the enneagram) once a month. I have done this for over a year now, and although I still (slightly) hesitate at writing that check every month, it is money well spent. Her website has some great suggestions per type. http://alchemyworksevents.com/

    So glad I found your blog through simple homeschool. I just love it.

  16. Shannon says:

    I came to this post from your yard post this morning. I suffer from this badly (perfectionism at its finest!) Something I’ve started doing lately is asking for professional help in areas that really overwhelm me ~ such as decorating, picking a paint color and shopping. The $200 edesign service of a designer I really love helps me narrow down the one billion choices out there. I’ve asked friend who are fashionable to shop with me to help me focus & make decisions, especially if I need something besides Old Navy! I’m also enjoying Stitch Fix because the choices are narrowed down so much. I can handle weeding through five items! 😉 I’m learning to let go of the need to make all the decisions myself and it frees up so much mental energy/anxiety. I love it.

  17. Carly says:

    Do you have any tips or other blog posts on learning to wake up earlier? I am really struggling with this right now… I am an INFJ (with some P tendencies…)

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