Saturday, October 30, 2010

A 3 Gets a Life

I know that I blog an unduly large amount about 3s. But they make themselves so darn easy to spot, whether it be on television (see this post), in politics (see this post), or in books (see this post).

My latest round of 3-spotting is in a book called Getting a Life. This text is a follow-up to a book called Your Money or Your Life, which is famous within the voluntary simplicity movement. The basic idea here is that you get rid of all your unecessary stuff, figure out how much you really need to live, and then get your activities back in line with your real values, rather than just chasing more and more money. I am reading this stuff beacuse, as a 5, I find the idea of spending as little money as possible very appealing.

Anyway, Getting a Life was written by Jacqueline Blix and David Heitmiller, a couple who followed the steps prescribed in Your Money or Your Life, and had their lives transformed. There is a section in Getting a Life where Jacqueline and David each answer the question "Who Am I Now?" -- meaning: now that I no longer have a career with which to identify myself, how do I identify myself? This question gets right at the heart of the 3 issue, and Jacqueine's answer is quite telling. Here is some of what she says:

"The issue of identity is one that I've always had trouble with. I've never been sure of who, exactly, I was, or was supposed to be. Early on in life I took cues from the media. I watched television almost every night when I was growing up. We lived close enough to Hollywood to feel its influence and I read Time magazine and the Saturday Evening Post as well as the Los Angeles Times. I began to think of myself through the eyes of these oracles that made the rest of the world real to me. I thought of my life in terms of the accomplishments or behavior that led people to be featured in the pages of a magazine or the front page of a newspaper, not in terms of what I liked to do or how I wanted to spend my life. Because I saw accomplishment from the point of view of a magazine article, my goals were impersonal, and had little to do with me and more to do with what other people might think was good or important. I looked outside myself to answer the question of who I was and what was best for me. Therefore, I believed success or accomplishment had to do with outward acheivements, appearances, and financial rewards, and judged all my efforts by these standards.

As I aspired, as all of us do, to find what is worthwhile in life, I sought answers in a corporate job, in a bigger salary every year, and in material acquisition. I was always trying to make myself into someone who could fit into the world I found myself in -- sales and marketing. I never asked if this world was suited to me, only if I were suited to it. Over and over I heard the message: Get out there and sell yourself and your product, don't take no for an answer, become your client's best friend, be outgoing, aggressive, jump on any and every opportunity, etc., etc., etc. In addition, my job required technical skills and knowledge, another area that I had little interest in and no real aptitude for. I wanted to be a technical consultant because it sounded impressive and, oddly enough, it was so foreign to my essence I wanted it all the more because I didn't trust my own talents or abilities... The problem was I didn't have the makings of a supersalesperson or a technical whiz, but I did want to fit in and keep my job.

This desire to be something in the eyes of the world also drove my academic ambition. If I couldn't be a business tycoon, then maybe I could be a brilliant professor and do important research. This first manifested itself when I began taking MBA classes in 1979, and then appeared full-blown when I went back to school and acquired three more college degrees, ending with a Ph.D. in communications... I was "successful" in all of these endeavors. I was awarded a teaching assistantship, got good grades, published an article in an academic journal, and completed a doctoral degree. What was missing during all of this, however, was a sense that I was doing these things in fulfillment of dreams that I held near and dear, that I was doing the above with a sense of purpose. I had more personal purpose in academic life than I had in business, but, overall, I still couldn't answer the question, 'Who am I?'
During this time I did an exercise in which I thought about what I wanted as an epitaph to my life. I realized that if I were to write about where my current ambitions would lead me, my life would look like this:

Jacque Blix took great vacations, had all good-hair days, wore beautiful clothes, was lean and toned, ate gourmet food, owned exquisite china and crystal, and never missed a sale at Nordstrom. She is sorely missed my the reatailers and credit card companies in the community.

The emptiniess of such a life prompted me to evaluate what I was doing, shedding activities and pursuits that seemed inauthentic along the way. Reading Your Money or Your Life gave a direction to this process. I haven't yet come up with some grand purpose for my life, althouh I have eliminated many aspects of my life that don't fit. (The idea of having a 'career,' dressing for success, pampered traveling, dining in trendy restaurants, and earning the income necessary to support these have all fallen by the wayside.) Even though I haven't discovered exactly what I am supposed to be doing in life, I seem to be having more 'success' just being myself. I have uncovered an interest and devotion to making my own life more simple and meaningful. In the process I have made new friends, achieved more piece of mind than I've ever had before, become more creative, and enjoyed everyday life more than I thought possible.The final irony is that in becoming more true to myself I have turned up in the pages of a national magazine and now have the opportunity to write a book, another long-held dream. I take this turn of events to prove what philosophers have been saying over the centuries about 'going with the flow' and 'not pushing the river.' As long as I was trying to be someone else, life was difficult. As soon as I let go and accepted myself, my life began to unfold in unexpected ways." (Emphases mine.)

As you can see, there are 3-ish themes throughout Jacqueline's story. First, there is the central quest for self-identity, and the common type 3 mistake of looking outside oneself, to oters and even to television and movies, to find it. This leads to image-consciousness, workaholism, and careerism. Jacqueline, like many 3s, abandoned her own true interests to pursue the goals that she thought would impress others. Emptiness and inauathenticity were the results.

In their book Personality Types, Don Riso and Russ Hudson describe personality type 3 thusly:

The personality type Three exemplifies the search for the validation of the self, and so Threes look to esteemed others to determine who they must be, what they must do, in order to feel valuable and worthwhile as human beings. With this particular focus, Threes frequently become successful in the eyes of their society because they make it their business to acheive those things which their peers find valuable... Threes stand to gain the most attention and success from the society, but also end up among its greatest victims -- estranged from their own heart's desire, empty, and emotionally isolated, while never knowing what has gone wrong."

Bravo to Jacqueline for having the self-awareness and the courage to reverse this pattern and make a better life for herself! May we all take a lesson from her.

As for Jacqueline's husband David, I think he is probably a 9. More about that in a later post.

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