Some people come by this ability naturally, while for others it's a struggle.
What gives? Is it how we grew up? Or maybe the personalities we've spent the most time around?
I'd say it's a little of both PLUS your own element, or personality type in Chinese medicine!
(What's your element? Find out here.)
The 5 elements, wood, fire, earth, metal, and water, make up our natural world as well as core parts of our personalities.
Everyone has access to all of the elements, but we tend to be dominant in one or two.
Understanding your elements can give you incredible insight into your daily behavior, relationships, and world view.
Today, we'll take a look at how these personality types stack up in their ability to plan.
It's important to remember that this ability, though useful (just like any other skill!), is neither good nor bad and is not a judgment of your personality.
It's easy to get down on ourselves about traits or behaviors that we think should come to us easily because they're obviously so easy for other people.
And planning is a highly valued trait in US culture, whereas other characteristics are severely undervalued.
But if you're lacking in the planning arena, it means that you've got a different skill in spades in another area that those natural planners most likely don't have.
It's all about finding your own unique balance point. Where you embrace the trait in the way that's healthiest for you.
If you're not great at planning, ok, maybe you need to work on building a little more structure into your life.
If you're a planning pro, maybe you need to chill out a bit and let someone else take the reigns.
The 5 elements are all about understanding who you are at your core and what your priorities are.
When this essential concept gets clarified for you, life gets easier!
Don't know much about the elements? No problem!
You might be able to guess yours just based on the video! Or you can take my 5 Elements Personality Test and know for sure!
check out my video to learn:
- If your element (wood, fire, earth, metal, or water) is a planning natural or planning challenged and how this impacts your life, work, and relationships
- The pros and cons each element faces in terms of their ability to plan or lack thereof
- Core values held by each personality type that influences the importance they place on organization in their lives
- How each element executes their plans (or doesn't) and how to use this to your best advantage
I really hope you enjoyed the video!
Please feel free to leave me comments below if you have any questions about the elements!
Full Video Transcript
The five elements make up the core of the Chinese medicine philosophy. I've got them written out here that you can see, so we can go through them. Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water. They all have this major association out the world and it's reflected within you. What's really interesting about Chinese medicine is that the whole theory is based on looking at the natural world, seeing those characteristics, and then understanding how those characteristics are reflected in you. From their perspective, we are an extension of the natural world.
If you look at a wood person, they should reflect wood in the natural world. Fire should reflect fire. The same thing for all of these elements. If you want to know a little bit about what five elements are, I did do a video, a little mini lesson on the five elements and a little bit more specifically on the personality types of the five element. How you can see them in nature. And how those characteristics in nature link back to us. So, I'll put the link to that in the notes to the video here, I you want to check that out.
But, for right now, I want to build on that idea of the personality types for the five elements. If you watch my videos, they know that I love the personality types and talking about the five elements. I weave it into almost everything. I also have a personality type test. We'll talk a little bit about each of these and their characteristics. But if you're still not sure maybe what element you are, and you're really curious about it, feel free to check out my personality test, and you'll figure out which two elements you are along with some other really neat stuff.
Okay all right, I wanted to jump into planning, which I think is really interesting. I love, with the five elements, taking these little tiny characteristics about people and looking at them through the lens of five element. You can really see how each of the elements respond differently to that one stimulus. Sometimes it's conflict.
Sometimes it's how we view the world, but planning I think is a very interesting one because we do have this very divided thing that happens in the elements. There are a couple that are really good planners and a few that are a little bit more challenged by planning. It's not their forte.
What's really interesting is they all have different strengths, like the two planners, of wood and metal are good at planning in different ways, and then the three elements that are challenged, are challenged in different ways and for different reasons. This is really how we figure out what our elements are. When we start to analyze our behavior, and we're like, okay, well why am I challenged at planning? Why is that so difficult? What is my motivation or lack thereof? That's how we really get to the core of which element we are, and who are.
I love it because when we figure out which element we are, we get this huge amount of insight into ourselves. We understand how we react to a world, how we react and our relationships, how our profession plays into our personality and whether we love it or hate it. How we interact with our family or our children.
Anything like that, so it's a really, really useful tool. I found it so useful personally and professionally while working with my patients. That's one of the first things I do is that I assess what element they are. So then I can treat them that way, acupuncture wise. And then I also will talk to them about their element and their personality if they're interested, and what that means for them out the real world.
Let's dive on in to the elements here. You've got wood at the top. I did try to represent all the elements in their natural color. Earth is typically represented as yellow, but you can't really read yellow, so it is actually kind of like a yellowish brown so I went with brown. And then metal's actual color is white, but again, little hard to represent, so I went with gray, is a common alternative or purple is another alternative. So gray it is for today. So, wood, we've got here. They are natural planners. We are and the season of wood right now in the spring, which is why I thought to would be really fun to talk about this.
Since we're in the season of wood and spring, everybody kind of gets a little bit more of that wood energy than they normally would. So maybe you noticed that your planning ability and capacity is a little bit better right now, which is great. You know, it's a really useful skill to have.
Wood is really the quintessential natural planner. They are excellent at planning. They see the whole picture. That's kind of their thing, is wood, when they're in balance, they have this very clear vision of the world, who they are, what they want, and they are not afraid to go out and get it. They are determined and driven to go do it.
Yeah, they really are the master architects of overseeing their entire plan, understanding what needs to happen, understanding how to lay something out logically, and then executing each one of those actions. They love outlines. They love step-by-step. If they have created an outline, and you do not follow the outline, they might get a little upset. They really like to keep things orderly, that way.
If it's laid out logically, it's very easy to direct other people to do it. You know they can be very good at delegating sometimes. Sometimes not. Sometimes they want to do everything themselves. Yeah, they just have this innate ability to plan. You see them in careers that tend to work to that advantage. They can be engineers, contractors, scientists. Anything that requires a lot of logistics and planning. And they do tend to be good with math, computer programs, that type of thing.
Sometimes interactions with people is a little rough. Not always, just if they're out of balance. The emotion to avoid is anger and frustration, so that they come across a little bit intense that way, but they do get the job done. Lawyer is another really, really common profession for wood because lawyers are very logical and analytical and they need to be able to stand up and get through something and their very good at debating, which woods are as well, they're very good at laying things out. That's wonderful.
They do have some drawbacks, though, even as natural planners. They can be super, super fiercely independent. They often times don't like to ask for help. They're the ones that are like, fine, I'm just going to do it. Whatever. I'm the only one that understands, okay. It can be good because it will get things done, but it's arduous. They could really ask for help. Sometimes that's hard for a wood to do, because they're very self-sufficient people, and they feel like they should just be able to do it, and that's fine.
And then also they can be a little bit gruff, and not really be able to handle people super well, and term sort of managing them or asking them for help. Not all the time. A lot of woods are really great at that. But some of that anger and frustration is more at the surface. It can jus be a little bit tough for them.
The other thing with wood is that they see-saw, depending on if they're in balance with execution. They can be excellent at executing, and sometimes they even go overboard, because woods love this movement. They want to be free of stagnation.
They get really angry when they feel stuck. So they can just execute, execute, execute, just for the sake of doing it. Just for the same of progress, without actually listening to the situation and seeing if that's what needs to happen at that time, because they just want to have, like okay let's just move forward, let's just move forward. I'll deal with the consequences later, which not always healthy to do that.
And then the other side, if they're out of balance, they can get really, really stuck and they can lose this ... they can still plan, but they lose this ability to execute. They lose this determination, they just get really stuck in a rut because they do love routine and logic, and they just kind of get stuck in this loop, and it takes a lot to kind of break them out of that.
That's a potential drawback with wood, if they're out of balance. Especially, since it's spring, check in with yourself. See if you feel like maybe you've got a little bit more of that energy coming through. You know, it might but hard to tell. If you're, like, "Oh, am I a wood element?" Not necessarily, but possibly. We all have all of the elements within us, so we can draw on these parts of ourselves all the time. You might be listening and saying, of course I can plan. They have to be able to plan to survive.
That is true, but the question is if it comes naturally to you. And if is really dominant in your personality and how you look at the world, a wood, I mean, really, they look at the world in terms of plans and how to get from A to B logically. And get things done. That is kind of their life thesis. If that is not yours, you might not but a wood. Okay. So, that's the first one.
Fire, our second element here. Fire is a little bit more challenged in planning. Fire is very free spirited and independent person, so they value much more spontaneity over logic and planning. They are not a big fan of the plans. They're probably, I would say the most challenged out of anybody, in terms of planning, because they want that freedom and that ability to go with the flow. If you take about a fire, the flame itself, it just kind of moves to and fro, it goes with the wind, it moves with its environment, and it will jump to another log if it can, that type of thing.
It really is very kind of instinctual that way, where it just kind of goes where it can, and then if it hits a roadblock, it's like, all right, okay, we'll go back this way, and that's very similar to fire people. They really don't usually plan ahead. They just kind of fly but the seat of their pants and assume, oh everything will work out and it's totally fine.
And sometimes it really does. And it's a beautiful process because they end up forming relationships and making friends, and maybe gaining same self confidence, and then like, "Look at me, I got through this. I'm okay." You know? So there are some really big benefits to being less structured that way.
But it can also hinder them if, they do actually have projects that they need to get through, a thesis, a proposal, work things, that type of thing, they're just not really inclined to plan, so they do procrastinate. They might put things off, or they do plan but they find it really challenging. It's really unnatural for them to put that energy forward and be structured and on the ball.
They really want that freedom. That's kind of their lifeline that way, and hanging out with other people. They really love relationship and forming connections, so that's more of a priority for them than this planning and logistics mindset.
So we can see the planning is tough, and then fire, it's interesting, they can be really good at executing, kind of like a wood, but they will execute without having planned ahead, so they just say, "Great, okay, let's do it. Let's go ahead. Not really considering any of the consequences. That's where they get into trouble.
If they had thought ahead a little bit, they wouldn't get themselves in quite the predicaments that that do sometimes, but they also don't mind that, they kind of can really go with the flow, and they're very adaptable, just like a fire. So they can roll with the punches that way.
There are sometimes where they get into that situation where okay, I really should have looked ahead a little bit and maybe thought ahead to avoid this kind of unfortunate circumstance. Fires very easily pull the trigger on executing. They'll more often say yes than no, especially if it's a group of people. They just really love being engaged.
Again, they're not really self-assessing and seeing if is this the right decision for me, or have I booked myself already? That type of thing. They can be a little bit flighty and unorganized that way, unfortunately, sometimes. Again, that is a trade off for their ability to be spontaneous and be free, which is a really fantastic quality as well.
Okay, so, on to the earth element. The earth element is a little bit more challenged in terms of planning but in a different way. They can certainly plan and execute. It's just that earth tends to ... they can plan and execute for other people really well. Let's put it that way. Earth always puts themselves last. They love giving.
They are fabulous nurturers and caretakers. They're kind of the typical mother archetype, if you will. They're really wonderful at giving their time and planning energy to other people. But the second they have to plan something for themselves, all bets are off.
They don't know what's happening, and they'll often say, "Oh, okay, well does so-and-so have this on their schedule or do I need to adapt around it, or what can I do to make this work before committing to anything. They'll check in with everyone else and then pull the trigger on themselves, and many times they don't make it around to pulling the trigger of taking care of themselves that way, unfortunately.
Because of the super giving and generous nature, that of course again, has its perks. They're very compassionate. They make wonderful listeners. They're so supportive. It's really, really fantastic, but it is challenging for them to plan, execute, and stay on track because the second anything goes wrong with somebody else, that they're maybe kind of attached to, or a caretaker for, they will drop everything and go help that person instead.
Which again, very admirable quality, but especially if it's in terms of self care, which is central to being balanced as an earth, they have to take care of themselves, it's will just evaporate those plans in an instant if somebody else has a need.
In this way, they can get really stuck in a rut and then they can't give back to themselves. They don't realize that having some of this planning and executing ability and holding on to that is really core to them feeling better and then them actually being able to continue doing what they love with the care taking.
So, that's a really important part for earths to know, is to be okay with their own goals and stick to it and it's okay. People will get through, and of course you can still be supportive, and you always will be, but sticking to your own plans and executing them is a really deep form of self care, and it does need to happen for you to feel good, and for you to feel like yourself.
Okay. Moving on to metal. Metal is another natural planner. But in a very different way than wood, like we talked about with all of these. Metal is all about the details. They are extremely structured, very precise people. Of course that factors immediately into planning. Whereas wood is kind of like this big picture logistics.
They kind of look at the major bullet points, and say, all right, I'll figure out the details later, no big deal. Metal starts with the small bullet points. That's what they do. They are super engaged in all the little bits in understanding how that comes together. And with that they often lose the forest for the trees.
They do get there, because they are so structured, that will come into focus for them over time, it's just that usually the details are the big thing for metal and that's the thing that they get the most excited about. Yeah, with that structuredness, it can be a little bit tough because they can get really rigid around things, and they can say, "Oh, no, I have to outline this first. I can't look at that next. Or this has to go a specific way, or otherwise it's not going to work.
None of that is necessarily true. It's just how they have thought about it. And metals tend to spend a lot of time analyzing and then discerning down these really critical bits of information that are super helpful. Because they've invested so much time and energy into that, they kind of assume all right, this is the right path. This is the right way. I feel really justified in doing this. Sometimes it's right and sometimes it could benefit from the bigger picture and what else needs to happen.
Metal is also very idealistic, which is great. They have these really big hopes and dreams and aspirations, and they're the ones that come up with these really grandiose ideas, and want to do them. Fire does that as well. They're very grandiose that way. With this idealism, when they're out of balance, they can really get into this perfectionism. They have extremely high standards already, and then when these perfectionistic tendencies come out, it can just paralyze them. They don't know to do, they don't know what the right move is.
They just sit there kind of analyzing over and over again until eventually they'll pull the trigger and move forward, but they're usually very slow to execute. That's a big difference between metal and wood. Wood is just executing all the time, usually, unless they're in that very stuck state where they're not executing at all, whereas metal has very hard time getting to that execution step. It's always, like, "Did I do everything right? Did I miss something? What's going to happen? There can be some anxiety around not having everything just perfect. They take a lot of time up front.
Because they take that time, they do often execute really well when it happens, and it goes really smoothly. Probably smoother than a wood because they're just like, all right, I got the major bullet points, we'll figure to out as we go, the details. That's just not that interesting to them. And they can miss those details.
Whereas metal is more likely to get into a project and realize, "Oh, I missed this entire section that I need to take care of," because they're not necessarily thinking big picture all the time. Yeah, just making sure they're not getting bogged down in that analysis.
If that sounds like you, realizing like all right, that's my natural tendency, but you know, maybe I could just get rid of some of that perfectionism, or dial it down a couple of notches and realize it's going to be okay, that type of thing. Yeah, and that will just make the planning and executing go that much more smoothly, and also realize that your standards are very high, so you might have to back it down a little bit.
Just to make it more realistic, especially if you're working with other people, and even if you're just working with yourself, putting that much pressure on yourself can be really, really difficult. In can, again, just even the pressure can kind of paralyze you and make you not want to step forward and execute your vision, which is probably pretty awesome. Yeah, so that's a hangup for metal.
And then our last element here is water, and they are also kind of on the challenged side with the planning, in that they are not as structured as metal and wood. That's not their m.o. in life. They're much more kind of instinctive, go with the flow, as well, kind of like a fire that way. But, they kind of tend to get wrapped up in emotions because they are so instinctive. The main emotion that happens there for them is fear. Waters are really driven by either being too fearful or fearless.
What happens there, is if they're too fearful, they're just going to kind of hole up and keep themselves hidden away. If you think about a lake that's sequestered away in the mountains, with nobody up there. Water people can do the same thing, where they just kind of, yeah, want to stay alone and tucked into where they are but they're afraid of what can happen out there.
And it is really that deep for water. Everybody can identify with fear. Absolutely, but if you're a water element, that is really at the core. That is driving all of your emotions, it's driving all of your decisions. It's driving your relationships, all kind of things.
Fear is arguably our most powerful emotion because it's about survival. That's really where waters go with a lot of these things. If they're locked in this fear state, they really won't be able to plan and execute at all because they're too scared. And you'll see this in a water person, where they will need massive amounts of reassurance to move forward. Oh, what if this happens? What if that happens?
It's just kind of one doomsday scenario after another for a water. There's never enough reassurance, ever, because this person is scared at their core and the only way they can quiet that is through themselves. Nobody else can do that for them. That's an interesting or valuable tip maybe to think about if you think are a water constitution, with that bit.
The other part is that waters can vacillate into this fearful into fearlessness. So, when they're fearless, they are executing like crazy. They're just going along. Let's do it. Let's move. And they can plan in that state. Again it's not nearly as structured as a metal or a wood. They kind of see their goal and they will get so determined and so focused that they'll cut their own path. If you think about rivers cutting through rock, like the Grand Canyon and forming that. You can see how effective water is at getting to its goal. Water never stops. It will always get there. It's very determined.
The thing is, though, water sometimes just gets so focused in that fear perspective, if you think about when you have an adrenaline rush, your focus goes to about this big. When that happens, they really only see what's in front of them immediately and then they move through that challenge. And then it's on to the next, and then on to the next. So, it's this very, very narrow plane of focus, and they will drive through and get to where they want, but if they had taken those blinders off and looked around, they might have already been a solution over here. But, that's kind of water's path.
Sometimes they carve a really amazing path, and that other people use for decades because it's amazing the work that they can do that way. But other times they've just made way more work for themselves than was necessary. That is the trouble with water with planning and then executing is the same way. If they're fearful, they're not going to execute as well and need a lot of reassurance. And if they're fearless, then they get really reckless. They can but kind of this adrenalin junkie, like, "Oh, it doesn't matter, whatever, lets go."
It's very different from wood, just with that execution. Wood is, they're not risk-takers. They're too logical for that. Whereas waters are instinctive, so they'll just go with their emotions and assume that they can get through anything, which, they pretty much can.
They're very robust constitution that way for needing that strength and veracity to really get through a lot of situations. But again, if your just getting through something, you got these massive blinders on and this focus, and you're missing a lot of the other things that could really open your eyes to different perspective. In that way water can be very challenged with planning as well.
I hope that helps. I hope that was a really interesting look into the five elements and the personality types and if you guys get a sense of why I find them so fascinating and interesting. The interplay between the elements is really interesting too. Yeah, I would just reflect on what I talked about and which one you feel like might fit you the most. If you're stuck between two of them, that's totally normal because we each have two elements that are kind of our most dominant elements in our personality. We have a primary and a secondary element that show up of us so that's really common.
If you're like wow, I feel like I'm fire and earth together there, that makes a lot of sense. And that's something that I do cover in my personality test, where you learn not only one but you learn two, both of your elements. And then of course you can identify with aspects of all of these because we do have all of the elements within us.
Again, it's about that core, and knowing the core of the element and if that matches your core. Because I think we can all be water in certain circumstances, and that's total appropriate. Or we can all be earth in certain circumstances. But right, yeah, it is really getting to the center of everything for you, and if that life philosophy matches up with your life philosophy. Okay. All right, thanks so much for watching. Take care.