The Types of Self-Discipline

When discussing personality types, one of the most natural and dangerous pitfalls is assigning a value judgment to one personality trait as superior to another. Just because something is not a preferred style either by an individual or a society doesn't mean it's somehow wrong. When it comes to ideas like "self-discipline", it's easy to define that according to our own ideals and to dismiss anything that doesn't fit those.

But what if there are as many "flavors" of self-discipline as there are personality type roles? Let's look at the different type roles and explore how those types might see self-discipline.

Sentinels (_S_J types)

The idea of self-discipline that Sentinels embrace is also the one most people think of when they hear the phrase. It's an attention to detail. They admire tasks done correctly and "by the book". It's making sure that when a person makes a bed, they fold the sheets at the corners in a hospital fashion. Sentinels' desks will more than likely be neat. "There's a place for everything and everything has a place," is their motto. Being on time is crucial. Keeping to a schedule and working hard is essential. If you own a business, hire a Sentinel bookkeeper who will keep your books precisely. The world sorely needs Sentinels to help us keep our lives in order and make sure the right things are happening when they should.

Diplomats (_NF_ types)

Diplomats, on the hand, see their ideal self-discipline almost in opposite terms. For them, the Sentinels' definition may feel like a trap. The important "stuff" of the universe is not in the tiny details. Self-discipline is about separating themselves from the minutiae in favor of diving into the bigger picture. Their desks may not be so neat, but who cares. That's not where anything happens for the Diplomat. In a world filled with little distractions, it's not always easy to step away from it all and explore the inner world of the imagination.

But that's where Diplomats can play their more cosmic game of "connect the dots" best. Their heads may be up in the clouds by conventional standards, but they are working hard and purposefully while they are there. And we need disciplined visionaries like the Diplomats to help us see the bigger picture and to make the world a better place for us all.

Analysts (_NT_ types)

For Analysts, a detail must carry some significance to receive much notice. Their focus on solving puzzles and taking apart and putting things back together supersedes anything else. That is their self-discipline. They may have little use for conventional matters that are considered an expression of self-discipline if they don't feed the greater cause of figuring out things. Their desks (or labs, etc...) may not be neat either, but Analysts will most likely know where the important items are. They honor systems and practical theories but may not pay much attention to small but sometimes practical matters.

The cartoonish absentminded professor is a caricature of the Analyst. But give them a problem to solve and they spend hours, days or years working on the task in an intensely disciplined manner. And world needs someone who has the focus and the discipline to work on our puzzles until they're solved.

Explorers (_S_P types)

Explorers may keep their desks neat if there's nothing else going on and they feel it's useful that way. They won't do it simply because they feel it's a standard set by someone else. Explorers may disregard the rules and even other people to accomplish their goals. They sometimes come across as "loose cannons". They usually ignore reasonable risks. But that doesn't mean there isn't a type of self-discipline there - just not one that is universally accepted. Chasing after one new idea followed by another, as Explorers like to do, may not appear orderly to the Sentinel, but it feeds their talents for finding solutions and innovating.

In addition, Explorers certainly show self-discipline when they find something that holds their interest and they master it. So while they may not always look self-disciplined, particularly when they are younger, the contrary is true. It's just a question of what type of self-discipline we're talking about and where they're placing their focus. We need the style of discipline that will go to all lengths, no matter how unconventional, to create new solutions and to master needed skills.

To Each Their Own

So, is it alright for an Analyst to forget to pay the electric bill? Of course not. We would encourage him or her to set up a system of reminders or some other automatic system to make sure the bill is paid. Or perhaps we would find someone who could take care of it for them - a spouse or a hired assistant (preferably, a Sentinel). It would be unrealistic to advise everyone to indulge exclusively in the style of self-discipline which is unique for each personality. Even if we offered such advice, society is just not built that way. The real world makes demands on all of us regardless of our personality types. Learning new things and improving our personal habits is always something that is recommended.

On the other hand, sometimes in life, we continuously try to push a proverbial square peg into a proverbial round hole. Whether we condemn ourselves for not being self-disciplined in the ways we think we should be, we condemn others or someone else condemns us, the condemnation may show a lack of understanding. Understanding the different personality types not only allows us to be tolerant of such things but it may even lead us to learn to value each person's uniqueness more.

The problem is not about conflicts among the different personality traits. They are just... there. The problem is not understanding and accepting the qualities that make us different and special.

What are some of the traits of your personality type that you would like other people to understand better? Let us know by leaving a comment. We'd love to hear from you.

10 months ago
A German comedian once talked about the two different ways of ordering things that he encountered and compared them with physics: His own model was perfect outer order, because he was messy in his head. So he said that his desk is always empty except for a pen. And that pen is just there if he doesn't need it. As soon as he needs it, it's gone. He said that's probably because of matter and antimatter. He's so orderly that he perfectly aligned the pen with the anti-pen, so it disappeared (of course in reality such a big matter-antimatter-coupling would blow up the whole planet). His girlfriend uses the other model: She has a clear mind, so she tidies up her room using gravity: Forming piles. But since she knows where everything is, when she's asked for something, she digs a trench into the pile and pulls out the object. I'm in that second category. I'm not a messy (quite the opposite, I constantly try to get rid of things I don't need), but the things I have are in piles or chronologic layers on top of each other. But when I need something, I can always get it in less than a minute, no matter where it is. In general I'm good at remembering locations, for example I was able to perfectly navigate a very old Minecraft world after opening it again after years of not playing in it. My favourite example of finding things is when I immediately found an old Linux installation CD in a pile of puzzle magazines. At some point that appeared logical to me to put it there, so I remembered it. Now it's in the pile of computer related CDs, but that's mainly because I sorted out the puzzle magazine pile in general. For reference: The comedian is Dieter Nuhr. I'm INTJ-A. And maybe one day I'll sort my room, but that's not a high priority on my todo list.
2 years ago
I like how the author say "The world need..." for ALL of the types. Very nice of and its true the world needs everyone to be who they are. Thanks for the article, loved it!
2 years ago
INFJ-T here! And for myself I am typically very neat. When I was very little I was rather messy. However, one day a teacher made an example about us having messy rooms. I was very incensed as my mom made me clean my room thoroughly the day before, and the comment felt unjust to me. Ever since I've worked on keeping things neat (originally to prove my teacher wrong) until it's become a large part of me. I've made my bed every day since I was eight. I like everything clutter-free and organized. I prefer having everything placed logically; filed in very small, specialized compartments, the way I file it in my mind. Even if I forget, I know where I would put it, so that must be where it is. Easy. I can get lost thinking and working in my mind (what I enjoy doing) when I don't have to get distracted wondering exactly where I placed everything. I hate getting pulled out of my mind to have to hunt down a needed object, especially if I then forget what I was doing. I have a principle of staying tidy which I faithfully, ideologically follow. Now and again though, my neatness will be put on hold when there is something more important pressing, and soon stacks of laundry will pile up and my floor will need vacuuming. But as soon as I get the chance, I'll fix the mess. A cluttered room makes a cluttered mind. On another note, my sentinel mother is the exact opposite. She might clean as she feels she has to, but typically her house is a mees and I can't think surrounded by piles of junk. Drives me crazy!
2 years ago
INTP here and this explains me to a T. I've had a home based business for years and have had to make a conscious effort to develop at least some basic organizational skills as I'm prone to forgetting those pesky electric bills as well. My computer has served me well in this aspect but at the same time, my work area can look like a tossed salad. Others who see it shake their head and wonder how I can work "like that". But I know where everything is as I employ my own methods of organization. They make sense to me and that's what matters.
2 years ago
And I thought it was only I, lol. Seems all we INTPs are like this, more or less :))
3 years ago
I'm an INTJ, and what this article said about having a messy desk... So true! When I was younger, my mom would clean my room, and I would get upset. When my room was messy, I knew where the important things were.
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