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Temperament in Life and Work

Free will can carry us far but not infinitely beyond our genetic limits. We can stretch ourselves like a rubber band can stretch, but only so much. It's like Stephen King is never going to be Stephen Colbert, no matter how much he polishes his comic delivery, and Stephen Colbert can never be Stephen King, no matter how much time he spends alone writing. A person's preference for stimulation turns out to be a specific character, and once you realize your own preferences, you can begin to intentionally situate yourself in environments favorable to your own temperament-yet over-stimulating nor under-stimulating, either boring nor stressful. By attaching to the range of preferences in your and your family's life, you can tap into increased energy and satisfaction.

Even though people can push to the outer limits of their temperament, it's often better to situ ourselves squarely inside our own unique sweet spot. Too much stimulation produces a sense of being unable to think straight, it makes people tongue-tied, and it's the feeling when you've had enough and want to go home. Not enough stimulation is something like cabin fever: you feel idgy, restless, sluggish, like not enough is happening and it's time to get out of the house.

It's overly simplistic to say that we should always seek moderate levels of stimulation. After all, excited fans at a soccer game crave more stimulation, while people who visit spas for relaxation seek low levels, and confusingly, high stimulation levels measured in the brain do not always correlate with how we feel. Also there are many different kinds of stimulation: loud music is not the same as mortar fire, which is not the same as presiding over a meeting. Furthermore, you may be more sensitive to one form of stimulation than another, and some of us seem to enjoy more stimulation than others.

We naturally seek our own sweet spot of optimal stimulation, and we do it without much awareness. It's a dynamic process. Imagine sitting contentedly under a grape arbor reading a fantastic novel. This is a sweet spot, but after half an hour, you realize that you've read the same sentence five times. Now you're under stimulated, so you call a friend to go for coffee. In other words, you ratchet up your stimulation level. As you laugh and talk, you're back, thank goodness, inside your sweet spot. However this agreeable state lasts only until your friend (who needs more stimulation than you) persuades you to accompany her to a party, where you're confronted by loud music, plates of food, alcohol, and a room full of strangers. The people seem affable enough, but you feel pressured to make small talk above the din of music. Now-bam, just like that-you've moved away from your sweet spot, except this time you're overstimulated.

The recognition of the role stimulation plays in your own actions and emotions is a powerful tool, and now you'll be much better at understanding the dynamics between too much and too little. Once you become attuned to your temperament in terms of stimulation you'll be able to design your office, home, and social life for as much time inside your sweet spot as possible. People who inhabit their sweet spots the majority of time gain the ability to stretch when they want to, work with people in more useful ways, and change parts of their environment that exhausts them.


Source by Douglas Rugh, PhD

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