My Otter (Personality) is Dying

By Deb Sadler

Sadly, I do not actually have an otter.  I am referring to my personality profile, or at least a part of my personality.  At the VIP2 Leadership sessions, we reference the Dr. Gary Smalley personality types: the Lion – very direct, drawn to leadership, prefers bullet points; the Otter – fun loving, persuasive, very verbal; the Beaver – highly conscientious, detail-oriented, exacting; and the Golden Retriever – loyal, warm and relational, avoids conflict.  

I am a quirky blend of the task-driven Beaver and the adventure loving Otter – two polar opposites.  There are so many factors that affect our personalities and how they manifest at different times.  For years now, I have been in high Beaver mode by being involved in work, church and community activities, engaging with adult children, engaging with aging parents and supporting family and friends who are struggling with life and health issues, etc.  Because of my age (let’s just call that experience) and Beaver capabilities, I inevitably find myself in charge of or organizing pretty much everything.  And that’s fine; to a point.  The problem is, my very fun loving, adventurous Otter is languishing.  I didn’t even realize how much until a few friends mentioned that I didn’t seem to be as active and engaged as I used to be. The less I “fed” my Otter adventure and regular social interaction, the less energy it had to want to come out and play. 

I think most people find themselves in the same situation from time to time.  The demands and dictates of life start steering us in a particular direction, and it is easy to let other important aspects of our personality fall away until we feel  burned out and used up.  It is important to “feed” the different animals that constitute who we are.  For me, I have to be very intentional to plan Otter activities or my otherwise Beaver life naturally takes over.  I love to travel (overseas is great, but even a day or weekend trip refreshes me), spend time in nature, spend time with close friends, learn or do something I’ve never done before and have some kind of artistic outlet.  Even though all of those things are extremely important to my emotional and physical well-being, they never seem to happen unless I make a point to schedule them and make time for them.  

What about you? Maybe you realize that your Otter is dying, too.  Or perhaps you have a job where people are constantly demanding your time and attention; family, friends and outside activities all require your presence and involvement, and maybe your Beaver or Golden Retriever needs time alone to recover and refresh.  What motivates you? What brings you joy? What seems to be missing from your life lately?

Maybe it’s bringing more fun and adventure into your life, or maybe it’s spending a quiet evening by yourself reading a book or listening to music.  Whatever it is, it is important to know the needs of the different aspects of your personality, be intentional and take action to attend to those needs.  And don’t feel guilty for taking care of yourself, as well as everybody else. Bringing balance and “feeding” your animals can help create a Peaceable Kingdom in your own life, as well as the lives of those in your work, family, and social circles.

Deb Sadler leads the “Peaceable Kingdom: Understanding Different Personalities ” module of the VIP2 Leadership training. Sadler is a former Intelligence Officer of the CIA and Social Studies teacher. In addition to her work at VIP2, she also serves as a Standardized Patient actor who aids in educating medical students at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.