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So how would you pack for a week long trip to Maui in May? Especially if you are not flying South West and don’t want to dip into your (rapidly diminishing) retirement savings? The answer is lightly.

That’s what my wife and I tried to remember, as we packed for our Memorial Day vacation earlier this year…

  • One of us packed the obligatory backpack full of hard cover books that would never be read. The other packed a light-weight, technologically advanced reading device

(My wife is behind the curve and refused to make use of the latest technological advances. She is still on the Kindle and WILL NOT upgrade to the iPad. I read books the way God meant us to read them – on paper!)

  • As usual, for some strange reason, I insisted on packing about twice as many sets of PJ’s as the length of our vacation. This generally causes a lot of consternation because it interferes with my wife’s desire to use up most of the space in my suit case.
  • My wife packed the snorkeling gear. I am terrified of water, but showed the foresight to pack the life jacket. (Just in case I was brave enough to jump in the kiddies’ pool.)
  • We did not pack any gloves, sweaters or ski-masks. Why would we – we were going to Maui in May!

Maui was every bit as beautiful as we thought it would be! The hills, double-rainbows, beaches, ocean and sea-life were unbelievable. But the best part for me was the sunrise at Haleaakalā!

Haleaakalā is a volcano on Maui with the summit at an altitude of 10,023 feet (3055m). And the Sunrise at Haleaakalā  was one of the most recommended attractions. There were only two problems –

  • Sunrise was around 5:45 AM. (It was ridiculous! They should schedule it at a more convenient time, especially on an island that relies on revenues from lazy tourists like me.)
  • It would take us three hours to get to the summit, so we had to be at the bus-stop by 2:30 AM.

Turns out that there was a third problem –

  • The temperature would be around 35 degrees with winds of about 35 mph. And we did not have any warm clothes 🙁

T-shirt and shorts would not cut it. Clearly, we had not packed for these conditions. So we did the next best thing – we improvised. We bought gardening gloves from the grocery store, borrowed blankets from the hotel room and used the jackets we were smart enough to pack. It was not ideal, but good enough for us to enjoy watching the sun rise up through a carpet of white clouds.

So what’s the moral of this convoluted tale?

When preparing to travel, lay out all your clothes and all your money. Then take half the clothes and twice the money.

-Susan Heller

Perhaps, this applies to life, as well…

  • We cannot carry all the things we need during our journey of life. That much baggage would just slow us down. We need to pack just enough to deal with the likely scenarios, and carry money to deal with the rest.
  • There is no form of money more powerful in the face of adversity, than the currency of self-awareness.

In every crisis that I have ever faced, the difference was not so much how many resources I had at my disposal, but how well I understood myself to

  • Select what works for me
  • Ignore what doesn’t
  • Find or create whatever is missing

But how does one accumulate the currency of self-awareness? Introspection helps, but one can easily get lost in the wilderness of one’s thoughts. I needed a guide who would help me, and was blessed enough to find one – my Life Coach, Joy Perkins. Joy used her training, expertise, intuition and core values to guide my enquiry with thought provoking questions, books and tools.

She began my journey by introducing me to the world of Archetypes through Carol Pearson’s book – ‘Awakening the Heroes Within’. It helped me understand how I could harness the positive power of archetypes and avoid the dangers of the shadow (negative) forms of Archetypes. The biggest insight was that the shadow form of the Warrior Archetype was active in my life. What this means in plain English is that I was often getting in trouble with management about the choices they were making. Joy challenged me to understand why this was happening and find a better way to harness my passion without being a Warrior.

This led me to two questions-

  • Why did the shadow (negative) form of the Warrior Archetype pop up in my work life so frequently?
  • Was there a more constructive way to handle conflicts than to respond with the Warrior archetype?

To help me answer the first question, Joy introduced me to the MBTI, or the Myers Briggs Type Indicator. The MBTI is a personality type assessment based on the work of Swiss Psychiatrist Carl Jung. Developed by Katherine Briggs and her daughter – Isabel Briggs Myers, the MBTI helps us understand and appreciate the differences between normal, reasonable, healthy individuals. It liberates us from getting frustrated with those who are different by teaching us how to  use those very differences to reach our goals.

The MBTI generates a personality type report based on a series of multiple choice questions. This report suggests  the kinds of activities in which we are most relaxed and comfortable, where we are most likely to ‘be in the zone’. The report proposes a four letter code to get us started on the journey of self awareness. This four letter personality type does not imprison us in a pre-defined box of characteristics. We are way too complicated to be reduced to a simple four letter code! All individuals who share the same four letter MBTI personality type are unique, special and evolving. However, this four letter code does suggest some questions we can ask ourselves and provide a high level map to navigate the journey of life and inter-personal relationships.

My MBTI assessment helped validate some things I already knew about myself, and taught me some things that I did not know. In particular I learned that…

  • I was a reflective, introspective person who gained tremendous energy by reading, writing and thinking – usually in quite, calm places. Too much social interaction especially with large groups of people left me drained and exhausted.
  • I loved to take a step back from what was happening here and now, to derive patterns based on what had happened in the past and what might happen in the future. The abstract, intangible world of ideas, intuition and patterns was way more fascinating than the concrete, tangible world of here and now.
  • I cared deeply about people and wanted nothing more than the ability to help people meet their goals and live fulfilling lives. The crucial decision making question often was…

“How can we make the best possible decision to meet the needs of the business without sacrificing the needs of the team?”

  • I chafed at rigid controls and deadlines and craved the flexibility to adapt a plan based on developments.

In MBTI lingo, my four letter personality type was INFP, which expanded to-

  • I – Intravert
  • N – Intuiter
  • F – Feeler
  • P – Perceiver

My preference for taking care of people caused me to switch into the Warrior mode whenever I felt that management hadn’t tried hard enough to meet business needs without sacrificing the needs of the team. Although my intention was to find the best possible way for the long term success of the organization and employees, the way in which I reacted was counter productive.

I really love this quote…You cannot control what you do not understand.” The MBTI personality type assessment, coupled with the PMAI archetype assessment helped me understand my core values, preferences and goals, so I could better control my response in situations where my default auto- response would be counter-productive. This insight was also invaluable in selecting and customizing an entrepreneurial venture that aligned my professional life with my deeply held personal vision, mission and values.

As usual, some questions for you to noodle on, until the next blog…

  • Are there some areas of your life where you just don’t understand why people (including you) behave the way they do?
  • Does this lack of understanding prevent you from controlling the course of your life?
  • What steps do you take to improve your understanding and gain a higher degree of control?
  • Who do you rely on to guide you on this journey?
  • What kind of an impact might this level of self-awareness have on your life?

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