What's an ENFJ? Me, for one. One characteristic of ENFJs, and NF types in general, is that we are always searching. This urge can help us to make a positive impact on the world, and it can also make us crazy and ineffectual. A yearning to make life better can sometimes turn into an inability to engage with life as it is. This entry is about how to be a good NF, not a crazy one.
ENFJ is one of the 16 types of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. ENFJ stands for Extraverted, Intuitive, Feeling, Judging. It's known as the Teacher type, and it's no surprise that the first really influential ENFJ in my life was my high school U.S. History teacher, Mrs. Claiborne. One reason we clicked so easily back in 1979 was that we were fundamentally so similar. For more details on what the Myers-Briggs parameters mean, click here, here, and here.
The core of the ENFJ type is the NF part - intuitive feeling. Intuitive in the Myers-Briggs sense refers to observing life by looking at the big picture rather than details, favoring ideas over concrete reality, and enjoying newness for the sake of newness. Feeling in the Myers-Briggs sense means making decisions based on strongly held personal values or on the effects on other people rather than through logic and strict objectivity.
When you mix Myers-Briggs type factors you also get something else, just as when you mix blue and yellow you get green. One characteristic of NFs is that we are, for the most part, endlessly searching - searching for meaning, searching for purpose, searching for passion, searching for the reasons we are always searching. This is true of all NF types - ENFJs, ENFPs, INFJs and INFPs.
Searchers ask lots of questions: What do I really want to do with my career? What do I even like doing? What if what I should be doing with my career is something I haven't even thought of? I like New York but should I really be living somewhere else? Like Istanbul? Or China? Am I meant to have children? Or do I just think I want to have children? Or maybe having children is not something for me to decide, but something that the Universe will just present me... Except that I don't really believe in the Universe as an entity. Except when I do...
You may think that I am making up these questions for comic effect but I can assure you they are all questions that I have asked myself. Recently. I have an ongoing internal dialogue with myself, sort of like the news ticker that runs at the bottom of CNN broadcasts.
Nearly all of my NF clients are very interested in the question of what they should be doing with their lives, and somewhat fearful that they might not make the right choice. They are interested in the coaching process yet can't help questioning whether any process can ever work. They are good at whipping up enthusiasm and also at sowing doubts. They want to be special but wonder whether specialness is possible. I am never surprised by these dualities because they reflect how I think, too.
Here's the conundrum for intuitive feelers. For most of us, no answer is ever going to be the answer. So if we aren't careful, we can end up spending decades feeling in some way dissatisfied with the lives that we've got. If you are not careful, your idealism can exhaust itself. In my case, I was always good at imagining and then achieving things, but never entirely sure I wanted what I ended up achieving. This is one reason I wrote The Creative Lawyer - to give myself the roadmap I never had.
It is possible to be a satisfied searcher. Not by finally getting to the answer, but by having awareness about what our own operating systems are like and consciously managing them.
For me, the trick is to remember that my propensity for searching, wondering and questioning isn't my whole self. It's an aspect of myself. I can use my searching tendencies, and I can get beyond them. So I can wonder about ten different career possibilities, and then actually choose one (for the time-being). I can ponder the roads not taken in the past, and then accept the roads I have taken. And when I get to the downward spiraling place of wondering how I ended up this life rather than another, I can remind myself, "This kind of self-reflection comes naturally to me. But I don't have to indulge it 24/7."
We can use our powers for good. Just because we're never done searching doesn't mean we can't be satisfied with the way life is.