P on the Weekends

P on the Weekends
The epitome of a P

I'm a P at heart, but with time and experience I've reprogrammed myself to simulate a J (that is, a Myers Briggs P & J). There were largely two forces at play that forced a reprogramming: first, that I needed to become a J to survive as a working professional, and second, because I found that being "excessively P" was beginning to hurt the people around me.

In the spirit of New Year's Resolutions, though, mine is to learn to become a J on the weekdays and a P on the weekends.

Borrowing from the site linked earlier, here are the characteristics of a J & of a P:

J (Judging):

The following statements generally apply to me:

  • I like to have things decided.
  • I appear to be task oriented.
  • I like to make lists of things to do.
  • I like to get my work done before playing.
  • I plan work to avoid rushing just before a deadline.
  • Sometimes I focus so much on the goal that I miss new information.

P (Perceiving):

The following statements generally apply to me:

  • I like to stay open to respond to whatever happens.
  • I appear to be loose and casual. I like to keep plans to a minimum.
  • I like to approach work as play or mix work and play.
  • I work in bursts of energy.
  • I am stimulated by an approaching deadline.
  • Sometimes I stay open to new information so long I miss making decisions when they are needed.

I don't like to put too much stock in the MBTI. They are fun conversation starters and provide for endless debate, but I believe that it's hard to encompass the range of human personalities in 16 types. I also believe that if we're not careful we can tether our identities too carefully around its prescriptions. They're self-diagnosed test results, but we sometimes treat them like horoscopes.

But I enjoy the J - P distinction because it has helped inform my understanding of what I naturally tend towards and what I aspire to become.

I'm a P. As is, I suspect, the rest of my entire nuclear family. Whenever we go on a family trip we have little to no semblance of a plan. We're spontaneous, we go with the flow, and we're perpetually late to things as a result. Growing up, we were late to church on such a regular basis that I have no recollection of the first 10 minutes of any church service.

There are ways in which I have learned to channel this P energy in productive ways. For instance, this J - P essay has been percolating in my head for months now, but it took a random burst of energy one evening for me to sit down and essentially bang this out in one sitting. Many of my friends seek me out for my spontaneity and my energy. I've met so many great people and I've had so many great opportunities by virtue of being generally down to go with the flow.

But while this is very natural to me, this was exactly what led to my downfall in my first year of teaching. Relying too much on spontaneity and bursts of energy meant incomplete lesson plans, confused students, a general state of disorder and chaos in my classroom. My Period 1 students were definitely not getting the same lesson as my Period 5 students.

Which brings me to my next point. As that one teacher that was perpetually forgetting about time and letting students out late, I noticed that this was having a direct negative impact on other teachers. Students scrambling in late with the excuse that "Mr. Kim just let us out" made it very difficult to start lessons in an orderly fashion. With some embarrassment I will admit that it took a very direct intervention with a well-meaning colleague for me to finally understand the relation.

So I worked to reprogram myself. While most of my friends know me as a P, I would like to think that some of my work colleagues would think that I am a J. I'm a fairly meticulous note-taker and I am always on time for work meetings. I create to-do lists, I check them off one by one, and I plan out my work week every Monday morning.

It's also funny how, coming back home to Korea, where I am surrounded by my family of P's, I morph into more of a J. In fact, I believe J's are very well-suited for Seoul. I like scheduling itineraries that coordinate the exact transfer times of buses and subways to get from A to B. I like reading about the thoughtfully designed daily routines of some Korean influencers, and I like going to stationary stores and purchasing Korean planners (that I inevitably never use). [1]

But now that I've been a faux-J, I recognize that it's easy as a J to get intoxicated by the illusion of control. But this is dangerous because there is so much to life that is beyond our control. Life will inevitably not go the way we planned. And I've experienced firsthand the stress and disappointment that comes from meticulously planning out an itinerary, a schedule of events, or even a series of interactions, before a plane is delayed, a restaurant is closed, or a friend cancels last-minute. Man plans, God laughs.

As a teacher, I had to plan like a J and then execute like a P. I now believe that this is the best way to live. This is what I mean by being a J on the weekdays and a P on the weekends.

There are benefits to being a J that I hope to practice more. I've had annual trips with my college friends to Lisbon, Houston, Paris, Nashville, and Costa Rica (in that order). Being a P was great in Lisbon and Paris, because there were so many memories we stumbled upon. But I honestly think we would have gotten more out of our trips to Houston, Nashville, and Costa Rica by being methodical with our planning (is the formula to be a P in Europe and a J in the Americas?). I now try to approach planning like a J so that I'm aware of the realm of possibilities and the histories of every place that we visit.

But traveling is a great example of where there are so many moving variables that things will not go our way. And if we wanted experiences to be curated, exactly as planned, what is the point of traveling when we can watch YouTube vlogs and Photoshop ourselves into photos? Even if I plan things as a J, I hope to use my notes and research as simply backup when I'm actually traveling. Instead, I'd rather go with the flow and live in the moment without worrying about whether I'll be able to make it to my next stop by some artificially scheduled time. If I am to optimize anything while traveling it should be  for the special moments that come that could never have been curated or controlled in the frist place.

There's a realm of possibilities out there, as a P, that is best enjoyed as a J that knows how to let go.

[1] I fought the urge to purchase a 2023 planner and opted for this, instead. Whenever I consume 소람님's content I wonder whether I have died and ascended into J heaven.