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Myers Briggs – part 3: Maximizing Your Type
eight concepts and tools for making the most of your personality
This is part three of a four part series.
Part 1: Myers Briggs Is a Failure — an introduction to why MBTI is useful and worth reclaiming from pop psychology.
Part 2: An Introduction to Cognitive Functions — what Cognitive Functions are, how they fit into MBTI, and detailed descriptions of each.
Part 3: Maximizing Your Type – eight concepts and tools for making the most of your type.
Part 4: Typing Yourself Properly – how to know if you’re mistyped and how to fix it.
With the introduction to cognitive functions laid out in part two, we can now dive in to how you can use this information to maximize your growth, effectiveness, and happiness.
In this piece I will provide:
A useful framework for how your functions relate with each other.
The biggest way your functions are causing you stress and holding you back.
How you can retrain them to work for you rather than against you.
Four other bonus tips to make the most of this process.
The Car Model
This analogy will help you conceptualize how your four functions influence and interrelate with each other.
Imagine a family of four in a car going on a road trip. One parent is driving the car, the other is riding shotgun, behind them in the backseat is a teenager, and next to the teenager is a toddler.
The family is you, the road trip is your life, and the four passengers are your four functions.
The driver, your dominant function, is the most competent and capable and is technically “in charge”. However, it still needs the help of the other passengers—both in their preferences and unique skills—to make decisions that satisfy the entire family and maximize the awesomeness of the road trip.
The copilot, your secondary function, is the second most competent and capable. In a “healthy” family it is second in command to your driver, serving to compliment and support them as well as to “take the wheel” in situations that do not suit your driver’s strengths.
Your tertiary function or “teenager” is—like a real teenager—developed enough to have influence and be reasonably independent but not enough to always make intelligent and helpful decisions. Because of this, preventing it from having too much influence and control over the parents is critical to a successful and positive road trip that benefits everyone.
Lastly there is the toddler, your inferior function, who is the least developed of all. It is rarely involved in “making decisions” directly. However, it—like a real toddler—will always be “planned around” as well as generally responsible for your “highest highs” and “lowest lows”.
Do note that the age of each function changes a bit depending on your age—the older you are, the older your functions—even though their position in the car do not. In an unhealthy family however, it doesn’t always feel this way!
Recall from Part Two that two of your functions have an extroverted (e) “preference” and two have an introverted (i) “preference”, and that they are staggered—with your first and third sharing the same one and your second and fourth sharing the opposing one. Recall also that the preference of your dominant function determines the preference of your entire personality. ex an INTJ is Ni dominant with Te secondary, Fi tertiary, and Se inferior.
As a result, most of us spend an inordinate amount of time in our dominant function’s preferred domain. And, because it shares that preference, our tertiary tends to start developing and taking charge before our second.
This is a problem because it creates a negative feedback loop where introverts have way too much solitude and extroverts have way too much social time, and this prevents our opposing-preferenced functions from developing, ultimately leading to imbalanced, fragile, and ineffective personalities. This dysfunctional scenario is called “looping” and is a predominant cause of stress, frustration, depression, or slow life progress.
Looping is most common in our teens and early twenties after our dominant function has established itself as “in charge”, but before our secondary has had sufficient opportunity to develop competence and prove itself as a necessary counterbalance.
For some individuals—such as those with certain personality types, Sensory Processing Sensitivity, or significant Adverse Childhood Experience—this “quarter life crisis” can drag on for much longer. In those who become dependent on drugs or alcohol, this dysfunctional “stall” in development can even last decades (or however long it takes them to get sober and confront their problems).
How to get out of and prevent loops is a key skill you’ll need to learn if you want to maximize your happiness, effectiveness, and life success.
To escape your loop the first thing you must know is what it looks like. This article has good descriptions of each personality’s loop.
Once you know you’re in one, the short answer to getting out is: engage your opposite preference. If you’re an introvert, get some social time; If you’re an extrovert, some alone time.
However, to truly resolve the loop and build resilience against looping in the future, you must engage and develop your secondary function in particular. To give a few examples:
IxFJ’s must engage in connection, cooperation, vulnerability, and helping others (Fe)
IxTJ’s must engage in productivity, business, and building something valuable (Te)
ExTP’s must engage in examining and tinkering with technical or logical systems (Ti)
INxP’s must engage in exploration, risk, entrepreneurship, or creative production (Ne)
ENxJ’s must build “first principles” about the world, their values, and set goals (Ni)
In most scenarios engaging your secondary will also engage your inferior—given that it shares that opposing preference—and both will grow together. Sometimes it will make sense to focus on activating or developing your fourth function directly. But this should be done sparingly because, one, your second will usually work better and, two, developing your second will do far more for your life than developing your inferior.
Either way: I advise re-reading the descriptions of your secondary and inferior function from Part Two and strategizing activities you can add or do more of that cultivate both of them.
If you want some help designing this, feel free to comment or DM me.
Escaping loops in the short term comes primarily from engaging your second function; self-actualization in the long term comes primarily from integrating and mastering it.
Your life mission and purpose—the thing you’ll do that will provide maximum value to the world, and which it will reward you for with meaning, status, and money—will come only from mastery of your first and second function. Most of us are already deep into this pursuit with our first, however many need some coaxing and consciously-directed effort toward getting this underway with our second.
Practicing escaping your loop will get the ball rolling, but to take things one step further:
Learn about your “Pal” and “Counterpart” personalities—the two types who are dominant in your second function—to better understand what your copilot looks like when fully developed. Then, spend a few years working to emulate your Pal in particular, as they will more closely resemble your actualized secondary than your Counterpart. Befriending or finding a well developed Pal to mentor you would be even better!
So for example, INTP’s should read about Ne dominants (ENTP and ENFP) to better understand Ne, and focus particularly on emulating their pal, the ENTP, to learn how to best integrate it into who they are. INFJ’s similarly should read about Fe dominants (ESFJ and ENFJ), and focus particularly on their pal, the ENFJ.
To find the type that is your "Pal” and “Counterpart”, as well as how you relate to all the other sixteen personalities, check out this helpful guide. Note that below when I use terms like “Companion, “Advisor”, “Supplement” etc I am referring to this list.
Various Other Tips
Here’s four other miscellaneous tips I’ve learned in my journey that should help you further leverage your MBTI:
1. While our “Pal” may not click with us as naturally as some other personalities, putting in the work to learn from them is necessary for our self actualization.
We can learn a lot about our dominant function from our “Companion” (same personality but with T/F swapped) and about our tertiary from our “Supplement” (same function stack but our three and four are their one and two) and we are often naturally drawn to or even idolize these types. However, over relying on these personalities will often exacerbate our loop, preventing us from truly maximizing our unique utility. Make a concerted effort to learn from your Pal, even if it doesn’t feel as cozy!
2. Develop your third and fourth enough to keep them from ruining you, and then focus everything else toward one and two.
It is impossible to rid yourself of all your flaws; it is only possible to maximize your strengths enough to make up for them. And believing otherwise is the second major way we expend massive energy toward poor results. Don’t neglect your tertiary and inferior entirely, but if you want to maximize your progress as well as happiness make sure your dominant and secondary are way ahead of them.
Speaking of your dominant…
3. Make sure your dominant function is working properly before working on others.
Most of us naturally develop our dominant function by our twenties without any directed effort. If you suffer from very high neuroticism (anxiety, depression, etc) or have been a heavy abuser of drugs and alcohol since your teens though, your dominant function is likely underdeveloped.
How to fix this could earn another post entirely, but the short answer is:
A) Truly understand that your dominant function is you and your only choice is to accept this is who you are and what you’re built for.
B) Understand that there are millions of people with your personality who have achieved what you want to achieve and they did it in a way “natural” to who they are (and if this isn’t true, then your expectations and goals are the problem and you need to go back to A).
C) Learn as much as you can about your personality type (and your companion) so you can figure out how to integrate and master this great strength.
4. Fleshing out a full backstory for your family-in-the-car can help solve internal conflicts.
Taking your car model one step further and giving your passengers names, genders, roles, and even backstories can help integrate and resolve otherwise interminable inner conflicts.
For example, my car has a standard nuclear family of husband, wife, and two sons. For years, Dad (Ni) and teenager son (Ti) always wanted to be “tough guy, productive Machiavellians”, building an empire (Ni) or being hyper logical (Ti), but Mom (Fe) would always get in the way with all this “stupid junk” of other people’s feelings.
I used to joke about how “we” would “lock mom in the trunk so she’d stop ruining all our cool plans” (I have dark sense of humor, sorry).
It wasn’t until years later when I learned about how you’re NGMI until you integrate your second function, and that my problem was not that I had Fe but rather that I suppressed Fe from ever becoming fully competent, that I was finally able to achieve both peace within myself and start progressing at the rate I always felt I should be.
If you feel like you are in constant battle with yourself, you likely have a similarly dysfunctional relationship to your secondary and could benefit from fleshing out your story more.
To recap, we introduced the car model, which analogizes your four functions as a family on a road trip with your dominant as driver, secondary as copilot, tertiary as backseat teenager, and inferior as backseat toddler.
Then we introduced the concept of “looping”, where your driver and teenager are making all the decisions; how this is a predominant cause of anxiety, frustration, depression, and slow life progress; and how engaging your second and fourth function is the way to escape this.
Next, we expanded further on how mastering your second function is key to your self actualization—to becoming as happy, useful, and thus wealthy as you can be.
Finally, I provided some various minor tips about to help you best act on the above concepts.
If after reviewing this piece and trying to take action on your development you find that something just feels off, or “this whole MBTI thing doesn’t seem that accurate”, it is likely because you are typed wrong. In Part Four I will detail a process for manually confirming your type and finding the right one if you’ve been typed wrong.
In the meantime, please leave your comments, suggestions and questions below!
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