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Spontaneity and It’s Evil Twin Impulsivity

prefrontal cortex

If you were to look in a thesaurus, you would probably find the words spontaneity and impulsivity listed as synonyms for each other.  Both states are unplanned,unconstrained, and governed by natural impulses.  To be impulsive or spontaneous is to be flexible, able to bend in a new direction at a moment’s notice.  However, they really aren’t the same when examined more closely.  Impulsivity is actually the evil twin of spontanaeity.

It’s a sunny day and your best friend calls you in the morning to see if you can take the day off to go on a picnic.  If you’re spontaneous, you consider the offer, take stock of what work is mission critical, and decide if your co-workers can cover for you.  If all of these variables check out, then you clear it with your boss and you enjoy the day.  On the other hand, if you are impulsive,  you say “yes” immediately, call in sick, and head off for  a day of fun giving no consideration to the long range consequences or who is affected by your actions, including yourself.

Impulsivity is seldom a good thing. It is one of the variables that lead people toward high risk behavior. It sabotages follow-through and leaves good ideas unfinished.  It is rash, erratic, and unpredictable.  It is frequently present in individuals who have had damage to the pre-frontal cortex area of the brain by way of head injury or stroke.  However even without a neurological event,  impulsivity is commonly seen in children, adolescents and many adults.  There are impulsive  shoppers (compulsive shoppers are driven by a different psychological force), people who say whatever comes to mind,  or those who find it difficult to stay on task when a new possibility presents itself . Just because one has reached a certain age does not guarantee that impulse control has been mastered.  Impulse control takes physical maturity, self-awareness, and often strategies to bring it under control.   The brain develops in response to the demands one places upon it. For some, this is requires great effort but the pay-off is well worth it.

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Coaching By Type: A Perspective Worth Considering

October has been a month to add new skills and perspectives so that I may assist clients as effectively as possible.  oak_variations_fallEarlier this month, I learned the use of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator  Step III instrument. Recently,  l  attended a seminar titled, “Using Type in Coaching”.  This was an excellent class that I would recommend to anyone who is certified in the administration of MBTI instruments.  The course materials were particularly informative with many practical suggestions to enhance type maturity and effectiveness. In addition,  behavior that suggests an individual  is operating from the 4th or inferior function or behaving out of character was discussed. This is also known as the grip. It also raised awareness that coaches and counselors need to be aware of their own biases and mindsets, characteristic of their own types, in order to provide effective guidance to those that they serve.

In order to illustrate these concepts, I will use myself as an example.  My MBTI type is ENFP which means that my dominant or strongest cognitive function is extraverted intuition.  Therefore, I am inclined to view the world by noticing patterns, relationships, and new angles.   My tendency would be to extravert my thoughts via brainstorming rather than experience them as “psychic flashes” or a vivid imagination as an introverted intuitive (INTJ, INFJ) would.  My auxiliary or supporting cognitive function is intoverted feeling.  That means as I am actively generating possibilities, seeing connections and patterns, I am also quietly appraising these ideas  in terms of my internal value system, or my subjective judgment (as opposed to an extraverted feeler, such as an ESFJ who tends to wear his heart on his sleeve). My tertiary, or third cognitive function is extraverted thinking.  So when I am trying the evaluate the plausibility of an idea through thinking, I am likely to do this out loud although it may not appear as smooth or as a logical as an argument put forth by a dominant thinker such as an ENTJ. Finally, my inferior or 4th function is introverted sensing.  Introverted sensing is  an individual’s archive for past experiences especially facts and details. Since it is my least preferred function, I have to really concentrate to use this effectively. ENFP’s  tend to be optimistic about tapping the potential of other human being and that is their strong suit, seeing a bright future for others.  However,  they must also guard against unbridled optimism that has no consideration for logic or details.  An ENFP must ask how can I fulfill this vision?

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MBTI Step III Day 3 of Training: Case Studies, Practicing Interpretation, Q & A

Today was the final day of training for the MBTI Step III. After 2 days of studying the theoretical underpinnings of the instrument as well as the construction and validity, today we practiced interprettingusing it under the watchful eye of our esteemed instructors.  We examined 3 different cases  of people who had donated their Step III report for the purposes of training.  Therefore, these were real people who had answered inventory questions and received a report that was based on the rules they triggered resulting in specific statements about their current behavior and accompanying suggestions for personal growth.  Everyone had the opportunity to play the role of the client, the coach and/or counselor, and the observer.  Final questions and answers about our own reports or any other topic were also discussed.

The first thing I noticed about using the Step III report in a real life setting was even though it was rich with information and feedback,  there was infinite flexibility in how this information could be used to promote a discussion. Because the report is not a diagnosis or a final rendering of an individual’s personality, a statement contained in the report could be discussed in any number of ways.  For example, a statement might read: “You seem to be indifferent to or ignore logical consequences in matters that are of immediate concern to you, perhaps because other things are more important to you at the time.”  From there, a client might say, “Well yes. I don’t tend to worry too much about what I consider small stuff.”  Or, “You know, I am just not myself these days. I usually pay my bills on time but lately, they have been piling up on my desk.   My mother broke her hip 3 months ago and it seems all I do is tend to her needs.”  For one individual, ignoring certain things that are of immediate concern is simply a reflection of their laid back attitude. For another, it is recognized as an important problem that requires further discussion.

Another observation I had about the report is that it is important to keep an individual’s known type  as well as dominant function in mind when evaluating the data.  For example, an INFP  and an ENTJ might both receive the following statement in his Step III report:  “You find it hard to deal with situations that require you to take a detached and logical approach in making a decision.”  Well, for INFP who is a dominant introverted feeler (and whose inferior or least preferred function is logical, detached thinking, this statement might no raise any special concerns only to point out that many INFP’s do not tend to use “detached, logical thinking” when approaching a situation.  They are more likely to think of people or values first.  They may add logical thinking into their cognitive mix but it is likely to require a little extra mental energy.  An ENTJ, on the other hand, IS a dominant thinker and should therefore be using detached, logical thinking competently and with relative ease.  If this is not the case, it may be important to probe for some sort of stress that might be compromising optimal functioning which is often the case when someone is not using his dominant function well.

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MBTI Step III Training Day 2 (Construction, Validity, Practicing Interpretation)

Welcome again to Portland, Maine where I have just finished day 2 of lobster cartoonthe MBTI Step III training.   To review, yesterday the theoretical basis of the instrument was discussed including the allocation of mental energy based on type,  type development theory and defining what is considered good type development versus ineffective type development.  Also a general overview of the factors that generate the Step III interpretive report were discussed, namely, sufficiency scales, developmental scales and patterns that trigger “rules”, which ultimately  create  an interpretative report of statements (verbal descriptions of current behavior) and corresponding suggestions for personal growth.  It is worth repeating that even as the construction of this instrument is highly complex, the end product is user friendly and highly personalized for the  client.  The ultimate goal of the instrument is to initiate and give some direction to a productive dialogue between the client and the counselor/coach regarding personal growth and insight.

Construction: The questions that make up the MBTI Step III come from 3 sources: the items from the  MBTI Form M; the items  from the MBTI Step II Form Q; and questions from the MBTI Form F.  The reason for the inclusion of the Form F items is that they were used to produce the original “Counselor Report” in 1972, a report that described how well a person perceives and judges. Recall that type theorists assert that the  basis of  good type development and ultimately, success and satisfaction in life was based on optimally developed perception and judgment.    Furthermore, a large archived data base of Form F responses had been gathered by Isabel Briggs Myers that provided evidence to back this assertion up.  This was in fact her unfinished work, developing patterns and scales of behavior that described type development

The  MBTI Step III was constructed using MBTI forms M, Q, and F.  However the interpretative report needed updating from it’s precursor, The Counselor’s Report,  so that the language describing a client’s current behavior (statements) and the corresponding suggestions for personal growth were understandable  irrespective of a client’s knowledge of type.  This is perhaps the  greatest strength of the MBTI Step III,  the notion that  often complex patterns of behavior based on how well a client is using his perceiving and judging functions can be described in layman’s terms with easy to understand suggestions for self-improvement.

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The Talent Code

"When Gallimore and Tharp studied John Wooden in 1974, they were surprised to find that he distributed praise and criticism unevenly.  What's more, he was open about this: ...Wooden would say, "The good Lord, in his infinite wisdom did not…

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The North Going Zax and the South Going Zax

There is a Dr. Suess short story called The Zax. If you click the link, you can enjoy a 3-minute rendition of this story via YouTube.  The essence of the story is that there are two Zaxes, equally stubborn, who…

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