Southern Man

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Self-Improvement Week: Personality and Goals

This installment was inspired by this post at Steve Pavlina, which he points out that your goals should not conflict with your personality.

So what is Southern Man's "personality?" According to the Helen Fisher Personality Test, he's mostly Director, followed by Builder, Negotiator, and Explorer. The Meyers-Brigs test pegs him as INTJ, with I and N hard against the wall. Both indicate a rational temperment ruled by reason and logic with little room for emotion. In reconcilliation counseling with the incomprable Dr. Jim Talley Southern Man tested three standard deviations from the norm on the rational/unemotional side, while his ex came in at the 99th percentile on the feeling/emotional metric. In retrospect, that explains a lot. But most believe that these simply describe our dominant components and that there's a little bit of every type in all of us. So Southern Man is going to list some of his goals and match them with some of the general personality types (some from the Meyers-Briggs list, some from Helen Fisher, and others he simply made up), in much the same fashion as Pavlina's blog post referenced above.

The Mastermind

Southern Man's dominant personality component is analytic problem-solver. It's no surprise that his favorite teaching assignment for many years was a graduate course in mathematical logic. He loves to solve problems using computer programs, sometimes to gain a practical solution but often simply for the love of the challenge, and he'll often pick a problem off of Project Euler and solve it just for the fun of it. Put him in enforced down-time (waiting for the doctor or for a flight) and he'll be doing Sudokus; one of his favorite computer games is DOS Sherlock, which generates "five-house" logic puzzles. Sadly, current research indicates that solving puzzles does not keep you smart as you age; it merely makes you better at solving puzzles. But such will remain one of Southern Man's favorite leisure activities.
Goal: put those abilities to work not only as an educator but as a consultant. The air force base is just down the road, and surely they need analysts and programmers with Southern Man's skills...not to mention his ability as a naturalized citizen to obtain the necessary security clearance!
The Teacher

Oddly enough, the Meyers-Briggs "Teacher" type, ENFJ, is very nearly the polar opposite of Southern Man's type. But he's always loved to teach, ever since his first assignment running the sophomore electronics lab as a graduate assistant. So it makes perfect sense that he works as a STEM educator, teaching in fields that map well to his dominant personality type where the principle activity is teaching others how to solve problems.
Goal: maintain a career in STEM higher education.
The Builder / Craftsman / Architect

The Meyers-Briggs "Craftsman" (ISTP) and Helen Fisher "Builder" (Guardian) are strong secondary types. In a sense, this is the real-world "engineering" complement to Southern Man's strong theoretical side. This shows in his leisure activities as well; Southern Man loves games that require him to build a system to win. He also loves to build and is constantly planning his next project out at The Land.
Goal: continue to design and construct the facilities he desires out at The Land.
The Dreamer

Unfortunately, Southern Man tends to allow his Builder / Craftsman tendencies to verge into imaginative fantasy rather than reality. He often dreams (literally) of accomplishments out at The Land that are, frankly, impossible. And by "impossible" he means requiring technology from Star Trek. That's no surprise; when he plays Star Trek: Armada (a game in which you must design and construct organized structures in order to win) he gets totally immersed in the game. It is disturbing that he always plays as the Borg. It is even more disturbing that he often slips into an elaborate, well-constructed fantasy world, to the point that he prefers this world to ugly, mundane reality.
Goals: be wary of allowing plans for the future (particularly at The Land) to verge into fantasy and steer that overactive fantasy life into creative outlets. Southern Man already has one Star Trek trunk novel, written the year he finished his dissertation. He ought to finish that (it's held up surprisingly well, considering it was inspired by and written during The Next Generation's first season) and put some of his elaborate "Borg History" storylines on paper. In this era of self-publishing, why not?
The Composer / Performer

Although he scores very low in these areas on the standard tests Southern Man does have a streak of composition and performance in him. He was actually once a fairly accomplished pianist (through hard work, not any particular musical gift) and has some performances under his belt of which he's still very proud. And he's pleased to have arranged a classic hymn (Praise To The Lord, The Almighty) for piano, organ, and brass quartet and hear it performed as the bridal processional at his wedding. Southern Man has a deep and abiding love for classical music, which often brings him to tears with the power and depth of its emotion. Like many reserved people, Southern Man's emotions may not be apparent on the surface but they run strong and deep.
Goals: regain lost skills on piano, acquire new ones on acoustic guitar, and occasinally perform for others.
The Explorer

This type comes in dead last in the Helen Fisher test. Yet Southern Man does enjoy travel and seeks to follow roads less traveled almost daily. His primary outlet for this is (as regular readers already know) geocaching, which he's followed with considerable enthusiasm for several years now. In part, geocaching also helps sate his tendancies towards OCD as there is a "statistics" page and Southern Man revels in maintaining his day-to-day streak and finding caches in every county and so on. This has become more apparent in just the last few years; when Southern Man drove Navy Daughter's car up to Maryland last year the main attraction was geocaching in several new states, and Southern Man recently took a vacation all by himself (for the first time ever) to Branson and, again, did a lot of 'caching. Southern Man grew up as an introverted bookworm who was quite content to stay in his bedroom and read all day but even then spent lots of time outdoors in the big undeveloped field across the street riding the bike trails. It gives Southern Man a good deal of pleasure to stomp about outdoors, and his next major purchase will be a small motorcycle to allow him to have even more outdoor fun.
Goals: continue to use geocaching as a means of getting outdoors and exploring. Purchase a starter bike, learn to ride, and have (safe) fun with it.
The Member

Southern Man is by nature reserved and quite content with his own company. To combat this he made a resolution some years ago - when asked to go to a social event, say "yes" even if you'd rather stay home - and he's held to it pretty well. He values his membership in the church singles group and Sunday-school class and has had a lot of good times with them. It doesn't come easy for Southern Man to socialize and he has to work at it, but it's always worth the effort.
Goal: continue to maintain an active social life, cultivate existing friendships, and develop new ones.
The Master / Commander

Increasingly, Southern Man is learning to take more control of his own life and his own destiny. He enjoys being in charge, both professionally and in his personal life. He's pretty good at it - it helps that he stays calm under pressure and has mastery over his own emotions - and it helps fulfil his need for structure and order. This is a new turn for him, having spent most of his life putting the needs of others ahead of his own to an extent that it was damaging to both him and those around him. He's getting better at it, and the benefits are already apparent.
Goal: find and maintain the proper balance of mastery and control in every aspect of life.
The classical approach to setting goals is to focus on different areas of life - financial, social, professional, whatever - and set appropriate goals in those areas. This works well for many people much of the time, and in some areas it's still the best way to go; for example, Southern Man's financial strategy is very much based on a classical budget-based plan. But in others it may be better to identify those parts of your personality that crave expression and find ways to give them voice.

So The Explorer will go geocaching today (as he does every day) and will along with The Member attend a geocacher's lunch meet-up on Saturday. The Builder will put in a few hours at The Land to continue to transform ideas and plans into reality. The Dreamer will enjoy many hours of fantasy play over the weekend. The Master / Commander will control and direct activities on a date this weekend, which will result in much mutual pleasure. And on Monday The Teacher / Mastermind will put the finishing touches on the remaining material for the summer physics course. The Composer wrote a poem a few months ago and may polish it up a bit and post that sometime soon. Sadly, The (musical) Performer is on hold for the time being as both the keyboard and guitar are gone (long story) but The (social) Performer will have some fun this weekend at a Christian dance on Saturday evening.


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