Lifestyle: Structure-vs-Spontaneity--Work First or Play First?

Lifestyle: Structure-vs-Spontaneity--Work First or Play First?

Before launching into our final preference exploration, I am printing one of the still-pondering emails received from a very good friend in response to Sensing and Intuitive to help those in the same boat.

Ruth, I am inconclusive as to whether I am sensing dominant or intuitive dominant.... I found myself agreeing almost equally on one side or the other but didn't detect a preponderance to either side?

Thanks for writing, Jim. Sensing people generally know what they prefer or who they are. Intuitives, on the other hand, tend to waffle around, wanting a perfect score one way or the other. I have no doubt that you are primarily an intuitive who has learned how to use hands-on necessities which keep our physical lives in the middle of the road. Go to my blog and click on Menu: scroll down to ENFP or J and see which one fits.

The final preference is the fun one, having to do with work and play, affecting every day. Again, to be well-balanced we are wise to not only understand our dominant lifestyle preference but also endeavor to learn how to use our less-preferred preference. Since the world is half and half, we will discuss them together.

To utilize the MBTI table, I’ve changed the word Judging to Structured (maintaining the J) because clients froze up at the word judgment assuming it meant judgmental, connoting negative and critical and changed the less-understood word Perceptive to sPontaneous or unstructured (maintaining the letter P).

(Judging)     50% Structured-prefer schedule--Work first, then play.

(Perceptive) 50% sPontaneous and unstructured--Play first, then work.

Differences in lifestyle preferences present a basic source of communication problems explaining obvious friction among any who share relationships, including parent and child, close friends, fellow-workers and bosses. Neither is superior or inferior. Each preference is significant—top notch.

When the two lifestyle preferences are understood, they not only make good sense and ease much tension, but the differences are often a source of amusement. One couple who had been trying to change each other for years just shrugs and laughs. The Structured plan to get up, go to work and hurry home, while the sPontaneous prefer to sleep until the last minute, hope to arrive at work or school on time, unless they stop to pet the cat, have fun working and eventually return home on time if no one needs rescuing on the way.

A recent client who couldn’t figure out if he was more structured or more spontaneous reasoned aloud, “I don’t know which I prefer but I know I have to finish everything I start.” His girlfriend almost fell off her chair she was so certain that he was spontaneous.

My first question to begin the lifestyle interpretation is, “When you leave for the day, do you have to make your bed?” The answers are very entertaining. Structured say, “Naturally”, or “Of course!”, while sPontaneous ask, “Why, would I, I just get in it again? “Why make your bed? Who sees it?” I smiled as I listened to a General give a message to graduating cadets advising them on the wisdom of always making their bed.

Follow a Schedule:  Those who prefer a Structured or Organized lifestyle (J) are work-oriented choosing to get necessary projects finished before they play. In fact, they cannot enjoy leisure unless work is complete. Some structured people have to be away from home in order to play. Actually, their work is their play. Structured/Organized people usually make lists and relish crossing off the items as they are polished off. Some say they add lunch to the list so they can cross it off.

Structured ‘J’ people often judge the success of their day by how much was accomplished. ‘Work, it must be done’ is their motto. “Let’s get started so we can get it over with” is a favorite directive for the Structured and Organized.  Not only do they love to work, but almost everything they do is regarded or called ‘work’--jobs they like as well as those they dislike. Quite often, they tackle distasteful jobs first. Some say that they work at playing. ‘J’s love the word ‘work’.

Making appointments and scheduling give Structured people the organized outline needed for their lives. Without a planned agenda, they may feel somewhat insecure. In fact, Structured people are likely to waste a day that has not been planned, though they hate themselves, afterwards. What they often forget is that everyone needs a certain amount of throwaway time to avoid burnout.

“We don’t mind Structured people doing their thing,” a sPontaneous seminar participant shared, “but we dislike it when they try to organize us. “ The group laughed when he added, “We have a different strategy of getting things done.”

Since meeting deadlines is a serious matter to Structured people, much stress in their lives stems from the fear that they might be late. If they can hack it, they prefer to hand in papers and reports early to play it safe, in case an emergency crops up. Also, they bank on free time at the end to play, which rarely materializes. “Sometimes, we hurry to finish projects and jobs only to discover later that the assignment or order has been cancelled,” a Structured group-member admitted. “The sPontaneous workers kind of smirk at us when that happens.” Those who prefer a Structured lifestyle divide the day into segments and live faithfully by the clock. They are likely to designate certain days for specific jobs. “We have to force ourselves to be flexible,” one Structured individual admitted, “because we allow our schedule and plans to become law. Sometimes our plans and schedules are our worst enemies!”

“I used to really admire people who were organized, but now I realize that you can’t help it,” a sPontaneous observer teased. Some Structured people give the impression that being organized is synonymous with being spiritually and emotionally mature, as though they taught themselves to be that way. Naturally, a certain degree of self-discipline results from an inner determination to control one’s will and inclinations but many highly disciplined and motivated people take the total credit for their preference for organization and structure and getting things done without realizing that is stems mostly from how they were wired at birth.

Follow Your Impulse:   Time-management speakers and proponents of ‘setting priorities’ (including preachers, parents, and teachers) decry the sPontaneous, unstructured lifestyle as though it were inferior or a sign of immaturity. This condescending, and false attitude does intimidate sPontaneous people, who have to struggle in a primarily Structured nation as it is. Our Creator didn’t goof when he created fifty percent of people to be more unstructured. He knew that structured people would need sPontaneous counterparts to balance their tendency for workaholism.

The sPontaneous group gifted with a play ethic, “Work, it must be fun”, as their motto, is qualified by ‘I’ll do it later!’ But they are also willing to tackle extremely dangerous careers including fighting fires, police work, surgeons and the list goes on and on. Many describe themselves as having nerves of steel. sPontaneous people excel in emergencies or crises. They think clearly and do their best work when they are under time pressure. In fact, they become structured in a crisis and work until the crisis is over! That’s why they are likely to let things slide until the last minute and then ‘steam it out’—and even get an A on the project.

Because they dislike being told what to do themselves, they prefer not to be in charge. ‘Independent’ and ‘stubborn’ describe most of them to some degree. The sPpontaneous crowd does not like to be boxed in. Planning their day or following a prescribed schedule does not appeal to them. “I like to do things when I first think of it, rather than plan ahead,” one sPontaneous individual said to the group. “It ruins half the fun if you have to wait for something to happen,” another member continued.” “What you plan to do Friday may not materialize, so you avoid disappointment by not planning. Also, appointments made way ahead may conflict with an opportunity to go the beach,” someone else expounded.

“We do not work from lists,” one sPontaneous group member reminded the others. “We hate lists, lose lists and wish our parents had understood that. We prefer to let little jobs pile up into one huge challenge. We’ll do a better job cleaning if we are working on a disaster area. Please don’t tell us when to begin, just when the job has to be finished,” was the consensus. In their spare time, they may follow emergency vehicles or be involved in a sport or recreation that provides some risk factor like rock climbing. Differences empower.

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Eph.4:2

Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. Rom. 14:19

Lord, thank you for opposite preferences which keep our world balanced.