Have you not felt abysmal or unproductive in certain times and places? Every time you forget who you are, where you are, what drives you, when and where you thrive, sub-par things seem to happen.
The obvious example is introversion versus extroversion. The morning after a party, introverts are better off chilling by themselves, reading a book and doing their thing. But that does not mean you put yourself and live permanently in the introvert box i.e. you avoid parties and external contact and social settings.
There is a difference between understanding yourself and utilising that information and behaving around it, versus using that framing to define and stifle yourself.
Let's take a different example - being present- versus future-focused. Quoting Derek Sivers,
Some people are mostly focused on the present moment. They live for today and do what feels good right now.
Some people are mostly focused on the future. They use today as a stepping stone and do what’s best for their future selves.
The idea is not about identifying what your skew is. But using that to switch to the appropriate focus for the appropriate situation.
Too much present-focus could mean you are leaving out something in the long term. For a variety of goals, you need delayed gratification to be a factor. Long-term visions take time to plan and execute.
Too much future-focus could mean you are missing out on being in the moment. You are failing to appreciate what's going on around you.
It is imperative to find the balance between the two mindsets. Finding the right mindset for the current situation, even more so.
Too often, we box ourselves based on our beliefs and ideologies. I used to use my introversion as an excuse to avoid meeting people. But that's not the point at all. The point was to understand my introversion and my energy and to tailor my week based on that. I do not want to be a hermit and for all of my friends to forget me. At the same time, I know I will be a wreck if I meet them too often, or in social situations that are not my cuppa tea. Knowing this has helped me connect and interact with my friends a lot more often than I used to while leaving me with a lot more energy.
If I could turn back time and teach myself three concepts as a teenager, they would be
- Lifting weights.
Not only does awareness seem to be key, it seems to be the lever around which anything can happen. Knowing what you are, what is required at the present moment, and pivoting is a superpower.
If you don't know who you are, can you do what you are here to do? Spoken like a true over-thinker but that's another label I realise I do not have to be tied to. Whenever I realise I am diving into my over-thinker syndrome, I catch myself and I attempt to switch into a different line on enquiry.
Previously, I would be unaware and continue digging the overthinking hole. And leave myself paralysed after exploring so many choices. And feel drained and end up with " do something already!" As I write this out, maybe that's why I was never good at chess.
What labels have you given yourself? Instead of defining yourself by those labels, can you instead use them as a tool? Use them when they are required. Use the complementary tool - introvert vs extrovert; present-focus vs future-focus; over-thinker vs go-with-the-flow - and explore both options.
Balance does not mean 50/50. Balance simply means to move away from your box, to move away from 100/0 to find your sweet spot.