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.