Picking A Theme For Next Year

Are you planning to set a New Year’s resolution for 2021?

After the way 2020 has gone, I’m not sure what most people are thinking about this. Do you plan specific resolutions hoping to make 2021 a better year than the last? Avoid resolutions because you’re just in survival mode?

At the beginning of 2019, I shared a post called “Encourage Your Hopes, Not Your Fears,” which talked about the idea of setting an intention for the year rather than making specific resolutions. Resolutions are notoriously easy to break. It’s far more rare to meet someone who actually stuck with a New Year’s resolution and saw it improve their life than it is to meet someone who broke their resolutions almost as soon as they’d made them.

Abandoning resolutions can be disheartening, even though it’s pretty much expected. Resolutions are usually about some kind of positive change–loose 15 pounds, read 1 new book each month, eat less sugar–and when we don’t meet those goals we send ourselves the message that making positive change is hard/impossible. We might laugh at our weakness or joke about how hard it is to keep resolutions, but I think it still discourages us if we set goals that we know we’re unlikely to meet. You’re not going to convince yourself change is possible by setting yourself up to fail.

Just because resolutions aren’t a great form of goal setting, though, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t resolve to make steady improvements each year. Personal growth is about forward progression over time. We don’t have to get all our growth work out of the way within the next couple of months (nor should we expect that’s possible). Growing is something we do our whole lives, and it often happens in cycles. We go through periods where it feels like we’re spinning our wheels and times when it’s easy to see our progress.

It is often far more useful to have a broad intention or theme for growth, which can adapt as our lives change, rather than a more specific resolution that we’re likely to break. This idea brings us to a video from CGP Gray that I’d like to share:

Whether you call it a theme, intention, or something else, setting a broad and adaptable goal for the year (or for parts of the year) can be a fantastic alternative to the traditional New Year’s resolution. This is about changing the trend of your life in manageable ways. For example, CGP Gray talks about his “Year of Novelty” and “Year of Order,” as well as suggesting “Year of Reading” or “Year of Health” as possible themes. Themes are what he calls a “fuzzy, high level, longer-term way to navigate your brain” that help you “build a life you want to live.” Themes like this might last a year. Or you might pick two themes and devote half the year to each. Or you could change themes with the seasons. It’s up to you.

You could even pick a theme that you’re already working on. For example, I’ll be starting my second semester of grad school as the New Year begins. I could call 2021 my “Year of Learning” and make it my intention to take opportunities to learn when they come up. That could involve making the most of classes I’m already taking, saying “yes” when opportunities like publishing an article or attending a conference open up, or reading a few more non-fiction books that don’t directly relate to my classes. If I have the time, maybe I finally take a class in sign language or first-aid like I’ve been wanting to do for years. Or I could learn some of the baking techniques that intrigue me when I’m watching The Great British Baking Show. I don’t have a specific resolution so all of these could work, and if I only do some of them (or do something else learning related that’s not on this list) them I’ve still participated in a Year of Learning.

What do you think of choosing a theme for the new year instead of a resolution? Do you have an idea of what sort of theme or intention you’d like to set? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

Featured image by Dung Tran from Pixabay

How To Be A Better Peacemaker As An INFJ

Several weeks ago, I wrote about the traits people with an INFJ personality type have that can make them wonderful peacemakers. One thing I didn’t cover in that post was how to develop those traits in order to become a better peacemaker. Just because we’re “hardwired” to have certain personality traits doesn’t mean they’re all equally well developed or that we’ll be comfortable using them. Peacemaking comes more naturally to some individuals than to others. That doesn’t mean, however, that we’re stuck with whatever traits and quirks we have now which might make it challenging to be an effective peacemaker. We can always grow and improve, even if we’re already pretty good at dealing with other people.

Learn To Handle Conflict

Raised voices are one of my biggest anxiety triggers. Even a hint of conflict used to send me scurrying for another room. But we can’t help create peace if we run away any time there’s a lack of peace. In other words, if you’re paralyzed by fear in the face of disharmony, you won’t be a very effective peacemaker.

One thing INFJs need to keep in mind is that what seems to us like a frightening disagreement often seems like a harmless debate to someone else. What we interpret as a voice raised in anger, for example, might come from someone who merely thinks they’re proving their point in an emotionally neutral way. This is not to say that INFJs should let others bulldoze their boundaries or that they should make themselves stay in genuinely threatening situations. But we do need to learn how to recognize when we might be over-reacting to conflict and learn how to step down our fight-flight-or-freeze reaction.

Learning to handle conflict in a healthy way can be a long process. You might even want to get professional help (that’s what I did, and I highly recommend seeing a counselor if you’re struggling with any sort of anxiety that impacts your quality of life).

Practice Seeing Others’ Points of View

How To Be A Better Peacemaker As An INFJ | LikeAnAnchor.com
Image by David Mark from Pixabay

An INFJ’s favorite mental process is a cognitive function called Introverted Intuition. Personality Hacker nicknames this function “Perspectives” because it’s so good at seeing things from different angles and it’s not tied to just one perspective. We INFJs are still human, though, and it’s a very human tendency to get comfortable with one way of looking at things and then not notice (or not be open to hearing) contrasting points of view.

Learning how to take responsibility for our own feelings and talk about complicated issues is not an easy thing to do. When I wrote an article on that topic a little over a year ago, some of the things I recommended for learning how to do that included assuming positive intent on the other person’s part, refusing to insult them, really listening instead of assuming you know what they’ll say, and reading articles like “How To Talk To People You Disagree With” and “We Should All Speak to People We Don’t Agree With. Here’s How.”

Learn to Listen

Since INFJs are so good at seeing patterns, we can very easily fall into the trap of assuming we know what someone will say and then not really listening. But no matter how good we are at predicting what will happen and how people will response, people are still full of surprises. If we want to mediate conflict, we need to learn to really listen to every person involved. Only once we understand each person’s point of view can we help smooth relationships and fix miscommunication.

In most of the opportunities I’ve had to be a peacemaker, I find myself acting as a kind of interpreter for emotion and intent. So many times, conflict happens because people just don’t understand each other. I find there are often times when two frustrated people just need a bit of help to rephrase their arguments so they can sort out misunderstandings and resolve the conflict.

Take Action

INFJs often find theory more comfortable than action. We like to read about how we can grow, but then hesitate to take those steps. I’m as guilty of that as most anyone else. But if we want to become better peacemakers (or improve in any other area of our lives) at some point we need to put theory into practice.

Peacemaking gives INFJs a chance to use skills that come naturally to us because of how our brains work. It can also be an incredibly satisfying use of our talents. Most INFJs want there to be harmony between people, and if we learn to act as peacemakers we have a chance to actively create harmony rather than passively wishing it would happen. We won’t always enjoy perfect success. Sometimes our efforts might even make things worse. But if we are invested in peace, build our peacemaking skills, focus on trying to help others, and strive to act with their best interests in mind we can grow to become effective peacemakers.


If you’d like to know more about personal growth tips for the INFJ personality type, check out my book The INFJ Handbook. I’ve updated this second edition with a ton of new information and resources. You can purchase it in ebook or paperback by clicking this link.

Featured blog image by StockSnap from Pixabay

Featured image by Comfreak from Pixabay

Why INFJs Make Such Good Peacemakers

When you read about INFJ strengths or dig-in to tips for personal growth, one of the things that often comes up is the potential for INFJs to act as peacemakers. As an INFJ, you might have mixed feelings about that idea. Sure peace sounds nice — we love peace — but peacemaking assumes that there’s a lack of peace when you start out. In order to make peace out of conflict, you need to be able and willing to wade-in to that conflict.

Many INFJs, including me, find conflict extremely uncomfortable. Our palms get sweaty. Our insides start to shake, and possibly our hands or whole bodies as well. Our throats start to close up and our thoughts race to worst-case scenarios for how this might end. We’d often far rather quietly slip away from the conflicts, hold our tongues, or give-in on issues that don’t seem “all that important” right now than risk escalating a conflict. If we can get past that fear, though, INFJs have innate skills that we can build on to become good at conflict resolution.

We Value Harmony

Because external emotions affect us so much and we’re quick to notice disconnects between people, INFJs typically have a heightened sensitivity to conflict. We notice when something is off between two people (whether or not it directly involves us). INFJs place a high value on peace and we’ll do almost anything to preserve it.

For many INFJs, that means avoiding conflict even when something really should be addressed. We fear conflict rather than resolve it because we want harmony so much. But we need to learn that sometimes in order to create harmony, we have to deal with conflict.

Read more

Writing (Like Life) Is an Individual Growth Process

I started graduate school last week! It’s a Master’s program of Rhetoric and Writing, and it means I suddenly have less time for blogging than I did before. But it also means I’ve been reading a number of books and scholarly articles that are prompting me to think more deeply on topics related to teaching and the writing process.

That might not sound, at first glance, like something that has to do with “finding our true selves in the people God created us to be.” However, I’m struck by similarities between best practices for teaching students to improve as writers and what I know about personal growth. We don’t all follow the exact same patterns for personal growth, nor do we all grow at the same pace and in the same way. Similarly, one-size-fits-all is not a great approach to teaching writing. There are, of course, certain things we look for in “good writing” — a strong thesis, structure that supports the thesis, integration of quotes and examples, etc. But to a certain extent, whether or not something is “good writing” also depends on the individual writer. Read more

Psychology Isn’t Enough, but It Sure Helps: The Need for Personal, Spiritual Growth in Christianity

Someone once asked me if there are any aspects of Myers-Briggs® theory that I disagree with. I told them that my main issues have to do with ways it can be misused rather than with the actual theory. But as much as I like this type theory, I also acknowledge that it’s not a complete system for personal growth or even personality. Myers-Briggs® theory just describes how your mind works by talking about the psychological functions that you use most comfortably.

You can use type theory to help you develop those psychological functions, but they’re still not the whole story of your personality. There are other things we layer on top of that like personality traits, lived experiences, and personal beliefs. The functions are like a canvas we paint on; a foundation for building. They’re not the only things that make us who we are.

One of the dimensions that a system of psychological type does not cover is spirituality. That’s not to say that psychologists like Jung (whose work Myers-Briggs® theory is based on) would have denied there’s an essential spiritual component to humans. Far from it! It’s just that type psychology wasn’t designed to be a path in and of itself for spiritual growth. For that, we need something else.

A Connection Between Psychology and Spirituality

I had the idea to write this post last week, when I was listening to a podcast from Joel Mark Witt and Antonia Dodge of Personality Hacker. They’d recently attended an Enneagram workshop where one of the hosts, Uranio Pae, made the statement, “Spiritual work without psychological work is dangerous. Psychological work without spiritual work is incomplete.”

Read more

Personality Type Myth-Busting: Does Personality Type Change Over Time?

Whether or not your personality type can change is quite a point of debate in the Myers-Briggs® community. Officially, Myers-Briggs® theory holds that your personality type is inborn and does not change. In other words, you cannot start out as an ISFP and then transform into an ESFJ (or any other types) over the course of your life.

Practically, though, we know that people take personality tests all the time and get different results. It’s one of the big arguments leveled against Myers-Briggs® theory — that the tests don’t deliver consistent results and are therefore not valid, repeatable, or scientific. On top of all that, you might have seen articles about new research over the last few years that indicates your personality can change over your lifetime. How do we make sense of all that in relation to type theory?

Personality Traits vs. Personality Type

On the surface, it seems that Myers-Briggs® disagrees with psychology studies that say personality can and does change. But when you take a closer look, you’ll see there’s not really a disconnect. There’s a big difference between personality traits and personality type. The personality model that most psychologists favor today is called Big Five. It includes five key traits — extroversion, agreeableness, neuroticism, contentiousness, and openness.

Where you fall on these traits can change, though they’re considered relatively stable. When change happens it tends to do so gradually over many years (change is more likely and more rapid when something significantly life-changing occurs, such as  a traumatic experience) . We also tend to be more stable in some traits and less stable in others. You can read more about this in the following articles: Read more