Core Project

Professor Brian Little argued that people are more than just a bunch of traits. There may be many people out there who have the exact same personality traits as you (maybe all of you tested as INTP in your MBTI personality test) but there is something about you that makes you unique (from the rest of other INTPs), regardless.

In psychiatry, we have many trait theories and of course my personal favourite is the MBTI personality theory. I always tested as either INTP or INTJ. 

But we also have other personality theories/tests. The common and easy one we usually learn in our Part A Psychiatry exam is the OCEAN personality theory.

O stands for Openness to Experience (how open are you about exploring new interests – being creative/flexible/ curious and adventurous. Personally, I rate my openness to experience as moderate. I am not creative and I am not that flexible. Once I have perfected my point of view and my principles, I rarely change my mind. But I am very curious in nature and that’s why I read on many genres and on various issues. And I am quite adventurous especially when it comes to outdoor activities. I like to travel and learn about new cultures. So, I think I am pretty open in certain things.)

C stands for conscientiousness (how organized, how thorough, how much planning you put in your work. How hardworking you are. I also feel I am moderate in this. I must care ENOUGH in order to give a good effort. I care about my studies and my work, so I am organized when it comes to those sort of things. But I can give up easily when it comes to doing things that I am just not interested in.)

E stands for extraversion. (Extroverts are those who are recharged by having social interaction. The more they interact, the more energy they have. Whereas, introverts are those who are recharged by having some alone time. The more they interact, the lower their energy level becomes. Introverts do enjoy social interaction with people they know well, but even so, they NEED some time alone in order to recharge before they can come back to interact some more. I am very, very introverted. Outside office hours, I really just want to be by myself and do my thing.)

A stands for agreeableness (how kind, how ‘nice’, how affectionate you are. I am not that agreeable. I am not universally nice. I am only selectively nice. If you do something that I feel is very irresponsible or cross a certain principle, I won’t mince words in how I let you know that you are a slacker and you better buck up now and meet the standard! But I think I am nice to my friends and my family….. but still…if they do something that I think is unacceptable, I will let them know….eventually.)

N stands for neuroticism (how tense/moody/ anxious you are. I think I can be quite neurotic… but again, only about things I really care about. Like exams. Hahha. Or when I am planning for something important, I get a bit tense…. ehem, or a lot tense. When things go awry or opposite to what I want, I cannot even hide my displeasure and it would show on my face… or show through my words. I guess I am moderate to high in neuroticism).

But remember, Brian Little said that we are more than our traits. What makes us unique, he said, is what we have undertaken as a core project in our life.

Brian Little used himself as an example when he said that we are more complex than just our traits. He said, that he is an extreme introvert. But because he is a professor and his personal project is TO PROFESS, therefore he has to act in an extrovert manner when he is teaching his students, be more jovial and more animated, so that his students will be interested in what he has to profess.

In his TED talk ‘Who Are You, Really? The Puzzle of Personality’, he said,

“How about the idiosyncratic you? As Elizabeth or as George… you may BOTH share your extraversion or your neuroticism. But are there some distinctively Elizabethan features of your behaviour or Georgian of your behaviour…. that makes us understand you better than just a bunch of traits… that makes us… love you. Not just because you are a certain type of person….. So what is it that makes us different? It’s the DOINGS that we have in our life. The personal projects. You may have a personal project right now, but nobody may know it.”

He continued to say that the personal project can be anything. It might be your mom. You might be an agreeable person. But you act disagreeably in order to remove the administrative barrier that keep your mom from getting the kind of treatment she needs at the hospital, for example.

He termed this ‘out of character’ event as adopting a ‘free trait’.

 

Take myself as an example: I am an introvert. I am not universally friendly and very slow to warm up to strangers. But if I am suddenly being placed in the position of asking for a sponsorship in order to organize a non-profit event, won’t I have to adopt a ‘free trait’ (out of character traits) and act like an extrovert with people I have never met before just because I need their sponsorship? Yes, right? That’s what I have to do, isn’t it?

20180420_215737.png

I will have to smile when I don’t really feel like it, and act like I don’t mind when you are not on time or when you don’t deliver your sponsorship on the day you said you would. I would have to be so conscientious in following up on things I never really care before. Normally, I won’t ask people for their help and I won’t bother to follow up on whether or not they can help if they can’t immediately say yes to my request. Because usually, I can always find other ways to accomplish the same thing without having to ask for help multiple times. But because I have to run a state-level event, I will have to act like asking people for money and sponsorship, and keep on messaging them to find out their answers are something I don’t feel embarrassed about. Like it is something I don’t hate doing. Like I do things like this all the time and I am not stressed about it.

When you are running an event, you have to be patient in dealing with many people. Person A complains to you about Person B. Then Person B complains to you about Person A. Then Person C complains to you about Person A and Person B. Or your boss tells you to change something (multiple times!) in the Program Booklet, so you then have to go to the booklet designer and apologize to him for troubling him again but can he please, please, please do the changes again, you beg. Or you are stuck in a war between 2 committees; BOTH insist that the job does not belong to their committee. So, you resist the temptation to be your usual character and say “I will do it myself lah kalau dah susah sangat” (you resist saying that because you know you can’t do it yourself, this time) and be patient and listen to their problems, ‘pujuk-pujuk’ /cajoling them with soft words, in order to get things done.

So in the above example, I adopt a ‘free trait’ (that of extraversion and agreeableness) in order to advance a personal project. Because I care about my work (and unfortunately sometimes it involves organizing events), I have to adopt ‘out of character’ trait to advance a personal project that I care about.

And I am not the only one who does this. Everyone behaves outside their character because of their personal project. And Brian Little said, that’s what makes you unique… that’s what makes you MORE than just a bunch of traits that you share with many people. It’s the things we DO and the core projects that we embark on (that necessitate us to behave in a counter-dispositional manner) that make us different from one another.

That’s why at the end of the day, our traits are our traits (something we in our own self know about ourself if we are self-aware) BUT where it counts most (in reality, when things must get done), we are what we repeatedly do. Or rather, we BECOME what we repeatedly do, even as we know that it is against our biogenic trait.

Aristotle-Quote-1
I guess, that is the basis of attending occupational therapy and training,right? Why train if we can never change?

 

However!!! He also said, even though adopting ‘out of character’ free traits may enhance well-being when we become successful at the project we pursue, it can also COMPROMISE well-being because it challenges your autonomic nervous system (The fight or flight or freeze reaction! With me…. I tend to fight than flight or freeze.)

Indeed! Behaving out of character is stressful. Pretending to enjoy excessive social interaction is stressful. Forcing yourself to be okay about asking for help, managing conflicts between people, dealing with people you cannot stand, dealing with sudden multiple changes because there are too many heads and different ideas to follow…. are stressful. Prolonged excessive environmental stimuli is stressful to an introvert.

See? There is an EMOTIONAL COST to adopting ‘free traits’ behaviour when it is done in a prolonged and excessive manner. Continuous ‘free-traited’ behaviour means dealing with chronic stress. In which case, I suggest you find a different core project that most of the time complement your real personality.

Choose your core project wisely. Make the cost worth it.

20180421_210807.png

Advertisements

The Grit of A Beloved Patriot

I grew up when Tun Mahathir was the prime minister of Malaysia.

My whole family adore this guy. Like, seriously.

It almost felt like I was indoctrinated to adore him. He was my Prime Minister throughout my whole schooling years. In school, the concept of ‘Wawasan 2020’ envisioned by Tun Mahathir never failed to grace the lyrics of our dikir barat or the sub-theme of our choral speaking. His famous words of ‘Leading By Example’ (Kepimpinan Melalui Tauladan) was used numerous times in our debate speech. His ‘Look East Policy’ (Dasar Pandang Ke Timur) was also a favourite theme in any elocution contest.

You see, the reason Tun M was very quotable was because he was very original and very visionary. And remember, in his student days he was a writer, writing scathingly against the British and Tun Abdul Rahman by using the pseudonym of CheDet. He is quotable because he is talented with words and know how to use them to describe his vision.

My admiration in him remained strong even after the Anwar scandal. It was made even sturdier after he successfully steered our country out of a painful financial crisis.

My father always talked about the brilliance of Tun M in bringing back Malaysia from the brim of disaster that was the 1997 financial crisis. We talked about how he defied the IMF formula in managing the financial crisis and how with great courage he did the unconventional thing and went counter-current by choosing to peg our Malaysian ringgit at 3.80 ringgit to 1 US Dollar. How he turned a deaf ear to all the uproar of criticism when he firmly stuck to his decision of ringgit pegging. He was so resolute. So determined.

 It took balls to ignore criticism and do it your way. And when it turned out to be the best way anyway, the sweetness of victory must taste like the manna of heaven.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying he is perfect in my eyes. Because no one is perfect.  But we cannot deny that during his leadership, our county made progress in leaps and bounds. His style of leadership was so different from the usual inefficient, timid ways of the Malays. He has the willingness to put forward unpopular strategies, the courage to be confrontational, the desire to instil discipline and introduce competition. He is gutsy! And I admire guts in anyone because that is something Malays are very lacking in.

I read a book written about him when I was in standard 6. I still remember the title of the book; ‘Mahathir Di Sebalik Tabir’.  The book was written by Zainuddin Maidin in the early 90s. I remember how proud I was when I read about The Dawn Raid (of The London Stock Exchange) and The Buy British Last Policy.  When the book was written, the financial crisis  did not yet happen. But I came across that book in Sekolah Rendah Asma school library when the financial crisis was ongoing. Reading that book gave me a glimpse of what kind of man Dr. Mahathir was and it gave me hope that he would be the man to turn the financial crisis around, God willing. I never doubted that SOMEHOW, SOMEWAY, Malaysia would get out of the crisis successfully in his premiership. It was at the age of 12 years old that I learned to really admire this patriot, thanks to the book ‘Mahathir Di Sebalik Tabir‘. I particularly enjoyed reading the episode of the Buy British Last Campaign which had ended with Lady Margaret Thatcher having to strike a deal with Dr. Mahathir to end the campaign. I particularly loved his firm witty words in his letter to Margaret Thatcher. At last our former colonizer had to acknowledge the power and sovereignty of a small developing country like Malaysia. That is a sweet victory!

A few years ago, I also bought his autobiography: A Doctor In The House, his famous memoir. I have finished reading all the 1000++ pages some time ago. But I found myself re-reading some of the chapters recently after I came across his HILARIOUS facebook status regarding the recently held Sinar Harian forum “Adakah Tun M terlalu tua untuk jadi PM.”

Screenshot 2018-04-01 23.18.11

He wrote in his facebook status “I am here guys. Say it to my face.” There was a picture of him sitting at the front, directly facing the stage where the panelists were talking about whether he was too old to be a PM. (Hahah. ROFL.) One panelist in particular was made uncomfortable by his presence. Such a stomach-tickling moment that one was.

That’s how you fight your enemies. Boldly seek them out. Go face-to-face. With bravery and a flash of humour.

Below is the you tube video of the whole forum session. The forum wasn’t that factually stimulating, in my opinion.  But I watched it anyway just to see the moment when pandemonium broke loose as  Tun M calmly sauntered into the room. Haha.

So funneh!!

Tun M reminded me of one of my favourite TED talk in YOU Tube about the power of grit. In the end, it wasn’t your IQ that made you stand out and succeed. It was grit. The not giving up. The persistence. Grit makes you try one more time. Do it again and again. Until you get it right. Until you attain what you wanted. Until you excel at things.

Listen to this 6 minutes TED talk, guys. It would totally inspire you, I promise.

Tun M, a 93 year old man, is surely one gritty man! A passionate patriot! A great sophisticated statesman.

I wish him luck in his political career at this age. And I hope he will win his parliamentary seat, wherever it is he will be contesting for the upcoming general election. Even if he is too old to be a prime minister (but if anyone could do it at this age, it is him, God willing), I don’t think he is too old to be an MP.

Tun M has my utmost admiration. Forever shall he be remembered as the best Prime Minister Malaysia has ever had.

Screenshot 2018-04-01 23.18.45