Myers Briggs Type Indicator: Orientation

by Ron Potter

The last of the four functions is known as your Orientation or “Living” function.  The two ends of this scale are judging (J) and perceiving (P).  It’s really about how we want our lives to be lived.

Judging vs Perceiving

The judging (J) preference likes things to be organized and planned.  Perceiving (P) preference likes things to be spontaneous and flexible.  I often see couples land at the opposite ends of this scale.  I have a preference for “J”, planning.  My degree from the University of Michigan is actually in project management, which means it was my job to organize, plan, and keep projects on schedule.  My wife falls on the perceiving end of this scale.  Although she is very organized, it’s something she has to work at and her normal mode is to bounce around from project to project.  For us “J’s”, we like to finish one project then move on to the next.

Vacation Story

You might want to look at the last story about vacations in the April 8th blog titled Where Decisions are Made.  Vacation structure is a good place to look at the difference between natural preferences.  If we talk about your job, you have likely trained yourself to function more like a “J”, even if you have a natural preference for “P”.  Away from work, in environments like vacations, our natural preferences tend to be a little clearer.

You Think Too Much

Recently another family member who happens to be a natural “P” made some life decisions that I found curious.  When we finally spent some time together after these life decisions were made, I asked her if I could ask a few questions about her decision.  She agreed.  I asked my first question and she gave a thoughtful answer.  I was halfway through asking my second question when she stopped me and said “You think too much!”

She was right.  I think through decisions much more completely that she would be comfortable with.  But I had to admit, she was right, I do think too much.  But I also came to realize that I was most happy when I could plan things out.  Yet she was equally happy in her spontaneous approach.  I would say that both of us are equally happy with our lives.

Happiness comes when we’re able to function in our preferred world.  It has nothing to do with one preference being happier than the other.

J vs P Statistics

When we look at the statistics on this function, we see that the US population is roughly evenly split with 54% on the “J” side and 46% on the “P” side.  However, corporate leadership teams are closer to two-thirds and one-third with 63% on the “J” side and 37% on the “P” side.

That difference becomes a little more pronounced with Operation Teams falling 67% on the “J” side and 33% on the “P” side.

Be careful if you have a preference for the Perceiving (P) side of this scale.  Work often demands that teams think and act on the “J” side of this preference.  As with most people, the “J” side can be trained even if it’s not natural.  There are a few things to remember:

  1. Teams need balance.  Bring out your “P” preference when it can add to the conversation or decision-making.
  2. You need balance.  It’s OK to function as “J” in the business world but not let that carry over to all aspects of your life.  You won’t be happy if you can’t live part of your life in your natural “P” preference.
  3. None of the MBTI or other personality assessments have anything to do with skill or ability.  They are simply preferences (When the opportunity exists, I would prefer to live and work in … my world.)

Walking the Balance Beam

Almost all of our education system up to and through graduate school pushes toward the “J” side.  Apprentice programs of almost any type of work also push us toward the “J” side. (Measure twice, cut once).  So you’ll probably be pretty good at working with a “J” bent.  However, if you never allow yourself to have part of your life in the “P” world, you won’t experience the happiness that you would enjoy.

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