The fishermen know that the sea is dangerous and the storm terrible, but they have never found these dangers sufficient reason for remaining ashore. – Vincent Van Gogh
More hinging on martial arts today!
So one of the reasons that Southern Praying Mantis Kung Fu appeals to me is that it’s aggressive and decisive. One of the changes I’d really like to see/make in myself involves fostering those qualities. I’m naturally sort of an engineer, I guess. I love details, planning, plotting, and drilling down into reasons and ramifications. That’s a huge strength in many situations; I’m pretty good at financial stuff, math and science, logic (arguably), and other sorts of technically-oriented things. The problem with it largely stems from a tendency toward analysis paralysis. I’m prone to second-guessing myself, scrapping and rebuilding plans at the first sign of resistance, and just plain stopping at the planning stages of a given pursuit.
One of the great ways I’ve run into for characterizing personality types is the STAR system, popularized by Jim Hoyt. The premise is that most people have one of four tendencies as a primary personality trait, usually with a pretty huge influence on their perspective on the world and interactions with people. S is for Structure – people who like systems, processes, rules, and SOPs. A is for Action – people who buy cars because they’re fast, who like being loud and visible and paid attention, and prefer to act from their gut rather than think a question through. Rs are Relationship people. They’re the kind of people who are genuinely hurt or distressed if you don’t accept two pops, a cup of coffee, dinner, and dessert when you visit their place.
Ts… Ts are Theory or Technical people. At the extremes, a few things might be true. If they own a fancy car, they can take the whole thing apart and reassemble it in better shape in one afternoon. If they have a great stereo, they know all the circuit schematics and maybe have added an “11” to the dial because of the technical challenge. They build their own computers if they’re chipheads and they’re power users in any program they latch on to. They don’t keep pictures of people in their houses. Ts, I prefer to think, are not misanthropes, but really do tend to exist in a very detail-oriented, mechanical, and intellectual frame of reference. A thing that isn’t practical or functional is hardly a thing at all.
I also like to think that I mitigate some of the social issues that arise from being a strong T. When I’ve taken STAR assessments in the past, that aspect has always been primary for me. Usually, though, R and A are also fairly high. To some degree those compensate for the “weaknesses” of a pure T. I’m not all that often inclined to be social, but it’s not for lack of love for friends and I absolutely cherish time that I spend with them. There are times when action is required and having some A in me has saved my hide on a few occasions. I feel like that A also plays a lot into my spirituality, incidentally, since I consider myself largely intuitive and spontaneous despite relatively rational foundations.
What really throws me, and where I want to find a better balance, is in long-term action. Like I said, I tend to be a pretty thorough planner. I can incorporate ratios, statistics, scheduling, daily activities, etc etc. I can understand (I think) how to get from A to B in a lot of different circumstances, especially with time to research and learn where I feel like I’m lacking. The disconnect is in the doing. I might stick to a long-term plan for a few days or a week, or stay on top of record-keeping for a long string of related tasks, or whatever else before getting distracted or reconsidering or second-guessing or just becoming disenchanted by whatever plan or by the labor and focus involved…
…Huh. Maybe I’m thinking backwards about this. Was going to get back to hoping SPM would strengthen my A streak, but that can wait for another time. I had in mind that I’m too much of an extreme – such a T that I naturally exist in more or less constant planning and not much doing. On the other hand, though, maybe I’m having issues not because I’m too much of a T, but because I let too much of my gut-checking, immediate gratification, easily-distracted A butt into my headspace while I’m acting on my grand and far-reaching plans.
That’s probably a thing worth paying more attention to. As tend to have trouble with things that aren’t immediately visible or visceral. If I have a 1, 3, 5, or 10-year plan involving amounts of money, situations, rewards, and sensations that I don’t know well-enough to feel in my gut, it makes some sense to me that the A side of me gets bored and restless when I’m acting to make progress on those long-term and lofty goals. Trying to make the execution of said plans appeal to my T side for the sake of validation and realization might be more helpful than giving my A side such detailed parameters to work in, even if I am trying to be proactive, aggressive, and in motion.
So maybe a lesson learned – or remembered, more properly – during my writing today: Sometimes it’s better to be constructively unbalanced than to strive for equilibrium.
You don’t bring good to the world by suffering; you do it by getting off your ass and doing good in the world. – Me