When I was a 7 or 8, I’d spend forever putting my socks on. Getting caught up in thoughts about reptiles and amphibians, future possibilities, or a deep question was too easy, and before I knew it, 3 to 5 minutes had slipped away. In fact, that still happens to me, only I’m usually thinking about personality psychology, the mind, or an exciting idea.
Needless to say, staying in the moment and enjoying it is anything but my forte. I feel as though I mainly have a mind and my body is just an appendage, to borrow Susan Storm’s analogy. (AJ Drenth also describes this experience here.) And this seems to be the case for many INFJs.
But there are definitely times when it’s important for you and me to be in the moment. We need to be present, for example, when listening to family and friends; they find out all too quickly when we’re lost in our thoughts and not paying attention. We also need to stay present when working with coworkers, clients, and customers because our work depends on it.
So how can an INFJ stay in the moment?
1. Build your life around your greatest strength.
Start by making time to think about the future, imagine, explore, create, and do what your introverted intuition (Ni) desires. It is, after all, the biggest part of your personality.
(Want to learn more about Ni and how it drives you as an INFJ? Get a Free copy of my book The INFJ Personality Guide.)
If you don’t give yourself time to operate the way you were created to operate, you’ll eventually feel frustrated and start drifting into your default mode of thinking anyway. So honor your legitimate needs.
Additionally, remember that Ni is the source of your greatest strengths. You’d be wise to make the most of it because, statistically speaking, only about 8 percent of the population uses it as a first or second function, but you have the potential – or ability – to use it with ease and excellence.
Lean into and leverage that strength. That’s what Peter Drucker says the best executives do in his classic book The Effective Executive. He also advises that we avoid focusing on our weaknesses and suggests we shore them up only when they’re becoming major stumbling blocks.
2. Consider the timing.
A big part of being in the moment is engaging at the right time. You, for instance, will have a much easier time connecting with others, staying present, and being in the moment when the end of the day rolls around and all of your work is done. Part of this is because many of the tasks on your to-do list will have been checked off. Another part is that you’re wired to relax and enjoy the moment late in the day thanks to the fact that extroverted sensing (Se) is your fourth cognitive function or mindset.
If you haven’t already done so, you may want to consider using time blocking. Designating which parts of your week you’ll devote to work and which you’ll invest in relationships and downtime – and sticking to your schedule – can help you stay in the moment. If, for example, Monday is a writing, research, or creation day, be sure to honor it. And if Sunday is your recreation day where you hang out with friends or go for walk, connect or relax wholeheartedly. Having chronological containers for different aspects of your life in an increasingly boundary-free world can help you stay present no matter what you’re doing.
If you’re interested in this topic, Tim Ferriss has some good thoughts to share, and this video is a helpful starting place.
3. When possible, combine Ni and Se.
Some of my favorite memories are of times when a friend and I were creating, brainstorming, or entertaining with our wit. Oddly enough, I do like to be the center of attention from time to time, but it’s almost always when I’m with close friends and family. When I’m relaxed, I love to think up puns, tell jokes, and generally act sillier than normal.
These activities help me stay in the moment because they allow me to wed Ni and Se. Thus, I get the best of both worlds, stay interested, and have fun.
Playing the role of an interviewer can help you stay in the moment too. If you’re tired of a drab conversation, try to pitch a deeper question to your conversation partner or the group. Today, I celebrated a family member’s birthday, and I asked her a few questions like these:
- What was one of your favorite memories from the year?
- What was the best book you read and why?
- What’s one thing you’re glad you learned or that you enjoyed learning?
- What did you do or try this year that you want to spend more time doing in the coming year?
- What’s something you know now that you wish you knew 10 years ago?
4. Spend time with close friends and family.
Along with engaging your Ni and Se at the same time, you can also try to exercise your extroverted feeling (Fe) and Se simultaneously. And the easiest, most natural way to do just that is to spend time with people you know, love, and respect.
INFJs are known for being extroverted introverts. Whilst we need time alone, we also crave the fellowship of a group of close friends. Getting together with people you know and love and carefully listening to what’s going on in their lives will help you stay in the moment because you’ll be motivated to invest in those mutually encouraging relationships.
5. Save your ideas for later.
Finally, always have a place to capture your ideas. If you’ve ever sat down to focus on one task only to be deluged with thoughts and ideas, you know how easy it is to get distracted and lose touch with the present. A great way to combat idea overflow is to keep sticky notes at your desk or beside your computer so that you can jot down your ideas and come back to them later.
You can also take a notebook with you wherever you go. Personally, I often carry a 100-sheet composition book to write or draw out thoughts, ideas, and anything I’m learning. You can snag a bunch at Walmart during the back-to-school sale for only 50 cents each.
I also use Evernote on my phone and computer. I love that I can press “command” + “control” + “N” on my Mac and type or paste whatever is on mind into a note and then come back to it later. But if you’re not into Evernote, any note-taking app will get the job done and free up your mind to focus in the moment.