Whatever: How My Social Style Streamlined My Adult Life.

I like taking the odd personality test at times. MBTI, Big Five, Buzzfeed quizzes.

(For anyone curious, it’s ENFJ, 76th percentile in open-mindedness and apparently, of all the Disney princesses, I’m Ariel.)

The tests seem mostly accurate, but the results always switch around on the extroversion/introversion ratio. I seem to have no leanings either one way or the other, socially speaking. In other words, I’m either an Extroverted Introvert or an Introverted Extrovert.

My extroverted side has rarely needed much taking care of. I’ve always been very lucky in life to have a great group of family, friends, colleagues and roommates I can call upon for a fun night out. My introverted side, however, sometimes needs a little more cherishing, especially in a world of open office spaces, group projects and everyone telling you about the ‘importance of networking.’ 

I think that everyone knows that several decisions in their lives are decided by their personalities and social behaviors. If you’re someone who loves to party, you probably know that you have to set aside 6-7 hours every other Friday night and perhaps two hours on Saturday morning to get over the hangover. Being the optimizer that I am, I decided to run an experiment in my junior year of college to see if I could make up a whole system of life based around my social style. Two years on, it’s not perfect, but it’s definitely getting better and it’s making certain decisions, like my fitness routine, my finances and my living situation a lot easier.

Fitness:

I honestly really got into thinking about fitness in university. It was the first time I didn’t have a room (and truth be told, with parents almost always out working, an entire house) to myself and also the time I stopped playing team sports. My internships in the summer usually involved me moving back in with my parents and working at offices with fully open spaces during the day. With the lack of private downtime, I knew something had to give. 

I began seriously exercising as a way to get out of the house in the early mornings and gain some quiet time to myself and my thoughts (astonishingly, people don’t generally want to accompany you for 5 a.m. runs). The roads and gyms were generally deserted and it gave me time to just listen to a podcast or quietly meditate. It also changed my style of exercise. While earlier I’d preferred group classes and sports, I began to take time out for fitness I could improve at and do by myself. Since I already had learnt some basics of yoga as a child, thanks to my grandfather being an informal yoga teacher and my mom trying (and usually failing) to rouse her children into following a daily practice, I took up the practice again, this time on my own. 

Of course, it wasn’t always perfect. I was exhausted throughout my junior year in college and my exercise practice hit rock bottom. Similar things happened in my final undergraduate internship, with a four hour daily commute, which afforded me PLENTY of time to “cherish my introverted side”, so that I felt little motivation to go on the jogs which had become a regular part of my life in my senior year. But even with those blips, I began to find ways to try and balance my social styles with an exercise schedule, from taking a group class once a week to chill with my peers and then taking another day or two to just go on a quiet (and extremely short, grad school is not a joke) run in the early mornings.

Finances:

I’ll be the first to admit it, I’ve grown up pretty privileged. But at the same time, I’ve also known that your spending at any age sets you up for your future financial habits - which can be good or bad. 

So there’s all the basics of a good financial plan: your retirement fund/debt fund/any-other savings, your investment fund, your basics, an emergency fund and of course, the thing you need to make all of this come together: your Conscious Spending Plan.

Now, I’m not about to pretend my financial plan has all the fancy names you read about (call options are NOT an option on my current paycheck). But I began noticing a pattern pretty early on in my spending, part of which pointed to my socializing style. My spending, when out with friends, rarely showed regular, medium sized spending, such as drinks at the bar, or brunch once a week. Instead, my receipts showed I had a tendency to prefer smaller groups for weeks or months at a time, after which I’d use up my savings on traveling or a weekend of extravagant outings and parties. As I mentioned, I do nothing if not optimize, so I decided to see how long and frugal that could go on for. Since I know I love to travel and that I’m also saving towards my retirement/debt/other-things-I-may-want-in-the-future savings, I had to find room to make both of those happen.

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Me at fancy brunch ft. blurred waitress.

So I ended up setting up a rather strict ‘envelope’ system for my personal spending. This extended all the way from my morning coffees to my outings with my friends. Not only did that result in me giving up coffee (well that, and the fact that it made me so wired I could see my hands shaking), it also resulted in my friends and I (most of us students) finding more interesting ways of conscientiously catching up with each other that didn’t involve late night complaints about essays or randomly popping across to Chipotle.

Luckily, with small potlucks and college sponsored board game nights and frankly, yes, some nights of staying in and just quietly baking on Saturdays, my socializing scale and my bank account both found equilibrium. While my system wasn’t (and still isn’t) perfect, I felt good about the seven trips I ended up making to different cities over the last year, as well as the small growth in my long term savings account.

It wasn’t all about the savings though. Despite leaning slightly more towards the extroverted side of the scale, I’m also rather shy and find it hard to push myself in when it comes to events that loudly scream ‘SOCIALIZE AND NETWORK NOW’ (see: college sponsored happy hours). As a way to push myself out of my comfort zone, I ended up applying for teaching assistant positions. Great side effect? Mo’ money, less problems.  

Daily Living

So a cool part about the envelope system or knowing that you have to exercise at some point in the day tomorrow, not just because you have to, but because it’s vital to your self and part of your self care routine, is that it automates parts of your life and makes decision making easier. It’s kind of like how Steve Jobs never had to wonder what to wear each morning or how a vegetarian knows they don’t want a hamburger. Making a decision is just a simple reflex. 

I sat down at the beginning of the year to see where my money was going. I definitely have more indulgences than the average financial planner says I should (come at me, millennial/Gen Z critics), ranging from the upkeep of my websites to my fully furnished room. From giving up our ‘daily $5 lattes’ (is anyone actually drinking those anymore?) to cancelling our subscriptions to Netflix/Spotify/electricity, financial gurus are quick to point out all the ways we could be saving money, but aren’t. 

Reading their advice, as well as looking at those around me, I realized early on I was definitely spending more than many of my peers on rent. Unlike several grad students, my room is fully furnished and I only have the one apartment mate, ratcheting up my rent by about $150-$200. 


But when looking for apartments, I entered into the search knowing that I’d be spending a lot of time in my room and apartment, unlike several people who use their rooms as a place to store their stuff and sleep. I see my furniture and my extra $200 a month as an investment, which allows me to stay at home and regain my peace of mind (and a little bit of health, since any junk food restaurants are about a mile away, forcing me to eat at home). See? Decision automated. 

There are other decisions just made simpler by my mix of intro- and extra-version. There are days I can’t muster up the energy to even talk to the cashier at the cafes surrounding college, so I know I have to carry my own lunch. Getting up early instead of sleeping late means that I get to start the day off on a quiet note. Spending time on social media. Deciding what music to listen to without skipping 500 songs to arrive at the right one. Knowing that I’m going to send a ‘good morning’ text to at least two people I’m close to (yes, I’m one of those people).


So many of our decisions are automated and governed by our personality types, from our careers to our foods (for example, baking is fun but you probably can’t do it regularly if you’re a misanthrope, because eating chocolate souffle daily is not the best guide to a long life). I found it fun to play around with looking at what my ideal balance of social versus quiet time was, and how it affected other aspects of my life, and I’m still tweaking the system as it goes. What about you?  Are there any regular decisions you find are driven by your socializing style?



Cool Links:

Introversion/Extroversion:

Quiet, by Susan Cain: It’s a little odd, oscillating between hard partying and burying oneself in a room. Susan Cain’s book, ‘Quiet’, however, delves deep into introversion and the various forms it takes. I do take the book in its entirety with a pinch of salt, but it is a book I loved reading and finished recently that talks a lot about sensitivity, the need for downtime and about the factors leading up to introversion and extroversion.

Can ‘Pods’ Bring Quiet to the Noisy Open Office?: An article by CItyLab, where the idea of open offices is being balanced out with the opportunity for independent and stand alone thinking time.

Fitness:

Janice Liou is one of my favorite online yoga instructors to follow along with. Her practices are quiet and calming, plus she does killer heart openers and spinal health exercises, which are amongst my favorite yoga poses.

Finances:

The Financial Advice I'm Glad I Ignored When I Was Broke: This article is one of the few that talks (and I mean, really talks) about money and dignity and the utter impracticability of so much of the financial advice out there, especially when one tries to follow it all. It still takes a holistic view about finances and ways to improve your status, but it’s so much more down-to-earth than most of what we hear out there.

Personality Tests:

16Personalities: Ooh, I like this one. It gives you so much detail and honestly it’s just fun to do this sometimes.

The Famous Big 5 Personality Test Might Not Reveal The True You: Basically an article by the NPR on research methodology and the skewed results of personality tests we receive.