What Makes You You? 10: ‘To Make a List or Not to Make a List’ – Exploring, Controlling or Adapting to life


If “To make a list or not to make a list?” is the question . . . what is the answer?

Controlling or adapting to life is the 4th personality preference and therein lies your answer. Do you prefer to organise your life, to be in control or do you prefer to respond to life, adapting to what it brings? These two very different ways of ‘seeing’ and responding to the world often lead to at best, misunderstandings and, at worst, conflict. Knowing where you are on the continuum can save you and others a lot of heartache!

If controlling or adapting to life

. . . is the 4th personality preference can you see where those lists come in? When you head off on your weekly shopping trip to the supermarket do have a list of what you need written out or firmly shaped in your head or do you prefer to go with the flow, feeling confident that by the time you leave you will have all you need? Is it a voyage with every step of the way mapped out that leads to frustration, or even anger, if the staff dare to have moves the tea and coffee to a different location? Or is it a voyage of discovery where part of the pleasure is finding new offers or products and not knowing what is around every corner?

This week’s questions guide you towards checking out where you are on this controlling/adapting continuum. And it is a continuum rather than sharp black or white.

Some people

. . . are right to the far end of the control preference where knowing what they are doing each and every day is not only comfortable but essential for keeping their stress levels down. While others, whose preference is at the far end of adapting to life, are stimulated by variety and likely to be very stressed if they have to make a decision that closes down their options – because tomorrow may give them that one piece of information that will make all the difference! Lots of us are somewhere in between while still having a dominant preference for being more or less in control of what is happening tomorrow. For example, I write a list before I go to the supermarket. However, I rarely arrive with the list, as it is no more than an aide memoire, and most weeks I go to a different supermarket to the one I went to last week to explore different options. Needless to say, this would drive my other half mad – as he has a very different approach to the task in hand – if we both didn’t understand what was going on!

So – why does knowing where you are on this preference continuum matter?

Depending on where your preference lies you will both see and experience life very differently to somebody who has the opposite preference. Those who prefer to respond or adapt to life usually state that there is no point trying to control it as the unexpected always happens. The other argument, equally persuasive of course, is that if you control it then you can shape what happens. Both are valid and reliable! What is important is that you recognise where your preference lies and use this to help you have a more successful and harmonious journey through life.

It is better to answer the questions as quickly as possible rather than spend a lot of time pondering them. If you still find it hard to answer ‘yes’ to one of the two questions then ask yourself what you would do first.

Question 4 – How do you prefer to organise your life?

Do you prefer to know and shape what you are doing in the future?

or . . .

Do you feel more comfortable if you are not tied down, if you can respond and adapt to what happens?

Feeling in control of your life

. . . is at the heart of being able to manage change and achieve your goals. If, for you, feeling in control is being clear what you are doing at each step along the way then that is how you need to plan. If you are more comfortable taking things as they come and feel restricted by being ‘tied down’ then that is what you need to take account of in your planning.

Knowing where your preference to Question 4 lies will make you more confident in taking action. It will also make you more aware of how others you work with may need to do things in a different way to you. You need them to be working to their preferences to avoid conflict and to keep them motivated and on board.

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