Dr. Jim Bailey
Guiding You to Work that FIts

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Living with iNtuitive, Feeling and Perceiving Preferences

A disproportionate percentage of my clients have iNtuitive, Feeling and Perceiving personality preferences. This article is designed to help them find peace.

Most people with N-F-P preferences (ENFPs and INFPs) approach life in terms of the ideal; they expect that any endeavor they embark upon will achieve the best possible or IDEALIZED outcome that they have imagined. But if, along the way, they discover they can’t or won’t be able to attain that highly sought ideal, then they can become disillusioned, lose motivation and start looking for that next highly prized IDEAL.


However, this scenario isn’t always how an N-F will respond. Life-seasoned or mature N-Fs develop an ability to accept a less-than-ideal outcome, a Realistic-but-Acceptable Case. The Realistic but Acceptable Case is based on an individual’s balance of the desired Ideal and their sense of what life will actually allow. Most people with N-F preferences know, at some level, that perfect outcomes are rare and that life rarely turns out like the flawless scenario they have in their heads. Increasing maturity leads the N-F to determine the acceptable range of outcomes they can live with.


In addition, increasing maturity also leads most N-Fs to determine which of all the possibilities they imagine or want, are the most important to them. This isn’t as easy as it sounds. Over the years I’ve watched many of my clients and friends who have N-F profiles agonize over the Values Exercises I use in my career counseling process because they have such difficulty narrowing their choices. They seem to live by the rock and roll classic I Want It All and experience great distress when forced to prioritize and choose the top five from the twenty (or more) things they want in life.


As a result, they experience a life path of pursuits and disillusionments as each subsequent ideal fails to provide the ultimate experience they’d imagined.


Frequently I watch my young friends with N-F preferences begin this pattern in college. When they finally select a major they pursue it with gusto, only to find that the long hours of study and dedication needed to attain their idealized outcome requires much more effort than they’d anticipated. In addition, they often find that even with more effort they may never be as good at that career as they’d imagined or worse, they watch a less-gifted or enthusiastic classmate achieving better results with far less effort than themselves. In time, they often opt to change majors to another ideal or become discouraged and drop out of school altogether.


Intuitive Feelers often drop their pursuits and projects because they discern that the attainable outcomes won’t measure up to their idealized expectations. They determine that their estimates were off and shift their pursuit to another goal that they believe is more attainable. The pitfall in these shifts is that unless the N-F has developed their sense of what makes for more reasonable or attainable goals then they are likely doomed to a pattern of repeated disappointments.


I see this pattern in my N-F friends who become good but not great at the things they pursue. They start a career, a hobby, a sport, an activity, and work at it; improving their skills over the years, then suddenly abandon it when they determine they’ll never attain the iconic standard for excellence they carry in their head or heart. In simplest terms, “good enough” simply isn’t good enough for many N-Fs.


Establishing Mature Estimates

In addition to narrowing the options to one’s key priorities, another useful key to a more rewarding life as an N-F is to establish more realistic expectations based on accurate estimates of “who you are” and “what you can do”. While I admire the admonition of a local radio talk show host that “Anything is Possible”, this is only true if you are willing to accept how your natural limitations, the steps in a process, and the hard work needed to attain lofty goals will affect your efforts to get there.


Here, the two most important elements involve researching what was required of those who have attained what the N-F desires and establishing a realistic view of one’s self to determine realistic expectations. The first of these elements dictates that the N-F take the time and effort needed to make an informed decision. This is easier said than done, as the decision-making of most N-Fs is usually driven by passion and spontaneity, not well-informed reason. Making an accurate determination of the steps, efforts, and time required to attain a goal will often push the N-F up against that crucial question “How bad to you want it?” and force one to consider the path to be taken before launching out on the journey.


The second element of establishing a realistic understanding of your self is often more difficult, as it requires an N-F to be objective about their own strengths and limitations. As intuitive feelers healthy N-Fs live in a world of possibilities and are driven to see these become realities, but there is often a thin line between optimistic possibilities and delusional grandiosity. As such it’s usually good for the N-F to enlist the assistance of kind and empathetic, but more logical and systematic friends to help them accurately evaluate themselves and the process required to attain the desired goal. As with any of us, increasing maturity in the N-F should lead us to seek contrasting inputs and views, and not just the roaring chant of other intuitive feelers to “go for it!”


Ultimately, a full understanding of the process required to reach a goal and an objective understanding of one’s self will help the person with N-F preferences attain a more accurate estimate of “what may be” than their imagined ideal outcome. Doing these two things helps an N-F establish more realistic expectations on which to base the decision of whether to undertake an endeavor. And while it requires the N-F to consider lowered expectations, it can yield something more valuable in return – the possibility of doing more and better than they expected.


James Bailey