The Judging vs. Perceiving dimension of the MBTI is designed to measure how a person responds and relates to the outside world. Officially, it measures”Temporal and Structural Orientation.”

This is the one dimension where my type is clearly and strongly defined:

I am a Perceiver.

This post is another in my on-going series where I consider the results of various personality, skills, strengths and related tests looking for common themes.

According to the MyPlan Report provided with my September 2014 results, I scored 93% Perceiver. My MBTI results from 1996 also placed me clearly into the Perceiving side of the scale, although not quite as strongly.

Characteristics of the Perceiver

Key adjectives used to describe the Perceiver, according to the 2014 MyPlan report include:

  • Spontaneous
  • Flexible
  • Free-spirited
  • Genuine
  • Relaxed
  • Unorthodox
  • Impulsive
  • Laid-back and calm

Spontaneous, Flexible & Impulsive

This is me. The best examples come from the travel and vacation context.

I'm one of those people who will make an unplanned 25-mile detour to have a look at something called Toad Suck Park—a state park in Arkansas.

I once made an unplanned stop to check out the Capulin volcano in New Mexico and had to spend an extra night on the road. I knew I might not have another chance to see it, conveniently, so I changed my plans.

I have no problem with a last-minute change of plans. In fact, I much prefer to travel without a detailed itinerary.

Sheree at Capulin Monument Entrance 2010

Calm and Relaxed

I'm definitely laid-back, calm and relaxed. I've always been this way in public. I remember a high school classmate once saying to me something along the lines of: “You never seem to let anything upset you.”

Although I forgot the exact words, the message stayed with me because I realized it was true.  Growing up, I faced some challenges that “tested my mettle,” so to speak, and the result was that I developed a resilience and the inner confidence to know that I could handle whatever came my way.

I am human and I do experience emotional stress, but I am pretty good at processing it. I dislike traffic jams and unnecessary waiting, but as I've matured over the years I've worked to develop patience and found ways to reframe my response to situations that are beyond my control.

Unflappable: To the extent that something does ruffle my feathers or unnerve me, I almost always keep my composure.

In all my work life, I can think of one time when I got visibly upset in public. I'd experienced a series of frustrating obstacles that I did not understand. I could not figure out why everything was seemingly set up to be a roadblock. One day, after yet another incident, I slammed my office door, seethed for maybe 60 seconds, and then let it go.

Later, as I learned more about the situation and what was going on, it all made sense. So, once I understood what was happening, I just let it flow through me, like water under the bridge. Completely chill with it all.

Unorthodox, Free-Spirited

The one that I would least likely choose, if given a list of adjectives to describe myself, is unorthodox. I don't think of myself as particularly unorthodox. I'm fairly conventional in my values, but the reality is that I'm a never-married, childless heterosexual female. I suppose that's still a bit out of the mainstream. I never set out to remain single and childless, it just worked out that way.

But I do have a free-spirit. Not in the sense of being avant-garde or some ephemeral, flighty wisp who blows with the wind. My free spirit is more in the sense of just wanting to be myself—not trying to fit in by being just like everyone else.

I've always wanted to stand out a bit, put my own personal spin on things in my life, whether it's style or substance. In high school, I remember a few of us bought these unstructured overalls from the Army Surplus store and created a mini fashion-trend. They were a type of painters coveralls that had string-ties, but they were really cool looking. I wasn't SO out of the mainstream that I started this trend on my own, but we were definitely “fashion forward” with that look.

I tend to be a very early adopter, more than a first-mover. I still have my circa 1989 Doc Martens and wore them earlier this year to the first Instigator Experience.

Perceivers in the Workplace

The report I received in 1996 listed some of the ways a Perceiver likes to approach work. These three describe me very well.

  • Perceivers “enjoy flexibility in their work”
  • Perceivers “adapt well to changing situations and feel restricted without change”
  • Perceivers “tend to be curious and welcome new perspectives on a thing, situation, or person”

As with my commitment to the quest for truth, curiosity is a driving force in my life.

I believe curiosity explains why I need flexibility and change in my life—I need to be in situations where I can continually learn and grow. Once I have reasonably mastered a certain skill I'm ready to learn a new one. I love figuring out ways to connect unrelated skills to do something I haven't done before.

I decided to make academia my career focus in 2002 as freelance writing opportunities disappeared. The academic environment has, historically, been dedicated to learning, discovery, growth and new perspectives. What I've discovered is that someone with multiple interests and skills (like me) doesn't always have an “academic home.”

Case in point: In my doctoral program, I took classes in management theory and research, communication theory and research, film studies and information. As a result, I don't have a body of research in a narrowly-defined discipline. And, according to the traditional structure of academia, I don't have place where I “fit.”

On the other hand, I am a great fit for today's world where leaders must be multifaceted to connect-the-dots across disparate technologies and systems. The challenge for me comes in finding ways to show this through stories, not simply tell it on a laundry list of skills and accomplishments on a CV.

Strengths of the Perceiver

According to MyPlan, 2014, Perceivers:

  • “Adapt well to change”
  • “Are fun to be around”
  • “Can be entrepreneurial”
  • “Are not afraid to take risks”
  • “Work well under pressure”

Perceivers are all about flexibility. MyPlan 2014 says Perceivers “abhor strict hierarchy and prefer to work to the beat of their own drum.”

But just because we like flexibility and spontaneity, doesn't mean we aren't focused and prepared. In fact, the best squirrel chasers are always prepared for unexpected contingencies. That's why we thrive on change. We prepare for and embrace it.

dog sees squirrel copyright 2011 Sheree Martin

Desire to “Be Prepared”

Although I'm not a structured person, I am the person who anticipates contingencies and is ready to deal with them.

In spite of my preference for spontaneity and openness to change, I have a strong tendency to always be prepared and ready for whatever might come my way.

package of toe warmer heat packsI'm the person who keeps a pair of running shoes in the car, just in case I need to walk somewhere. And last winter, during Birmingham's Snowmageddon, I was the person who had running shoes, foot warmers and an extra jacket in my car–making it easy to walk home from work 7 miles, uphill in the snow.

For me, the unexpected Snowmageddon was a fun adventure because I was prepared. I live-tweeted my trek.


In other words, I like to know how to do things so that if I get in a jam or some type of emergency arises, I'm prepared.

I'm not sure where my emphasis on preparation fits into the MBTI, but I mention it here because it really is a big part of who I am.

Characteristics of the Judging Orientation

MyPlan describes the Judger as someone who “prefers order to chaos” and has “little tolerance with the free-spirited ways of the perceiver.”

Judgers want:

  • Order
  • Planning
  • Tidiness
  • Schedules
  • Control
  • Decisiveness
  • Structure

I like to be in control of myself and my choices, but otherwise I don't have much in common with the Judging side of the spectrum. My desire for control over my life sort of feeds my desire for flexibility. I want to be flexibility, which means I need to be in control. If that makes sense.

Applying the Results

One of the biggest takeaways I have from my review of the Perceiving vs. Judging dimension is a much better understanding of how my desire for flexibility and spontaneity can be at odds with the preferences of those who need structure and rules.

I had already begun to figure this out. But I was really astonished to learn that the strongest Judging types can find it difficult to relate at all to the flexible nature of the Perceiver. As a Perceiver, I think I'm pretty open to trying to understand others. Maybe that's just the nature of my type.

What is YOUR orientation to the Judging vs. Perceiving scale? Have you considered how your approach might be impacting your daily life?

I'd love to have a conversation about rules and structure vs. flexibility? Which do you prefer?


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Into Happiness, Social Business, Leadership, Entrepreneurship, Real Food. Hiker. Runner. Friend to Animals. Beekeeper. Idea Explorer. Dot Connector. Writer.