MBTI (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator) is a personality test that measures psychological preferences in individuals and is often used to suggest career paths or compatibility in relationships. INTJ stands for Introverted iNtuition Thinking Judging – one of 16 possible personality types according to the system. INTJ is the type I test as.
The 16 types are each possible combination of four dichotomous preferences – extraversion/introversion, intuition/sensing, feeling/thinking and perception/judging.
If you’re not sure of your Myers-Briggs personality type you can take a test here.
This post focuses entirely on the INTJ type and will be useful mostly just for INTJs, but could be interesting for others too.
These 10 points are general suggestions related to the INTJ personality traits, as well as my take on INTJs and careers, the INTJ ability for pattern recognition and why I think spirituality is particularly valuable for INTJs.
There will be a follow-up post that gets into INTJs and relationships – friendships, acquaintances, casual relationships and relationships with the opposite sex (coming soon).
This is a long post so if you’re coming back to it or you’d like to jump around, you can use the navigation links here:
This is a complex and sometimes controversial topic so there’s a few things to note before we get started.
The Validity of MBTI (Is it bullshit? Does it matter?)
There’s some debate over the validity of the MBTI typology system. Rather than continually offering caveats and qualifiers throughout this post, I’ll cover the issue here and this is all we’ll say about it.
Many of the criticisms levelled at MBTI are not very substantial, especially if you’re mainly concerned with utility.
For example, “Myers and Briggs were not psychologists” or “MBTI is not well regarded in academia” – neither of these things really matter.
Other criticisms may be valid but are not relevant here. For example, “MBTI is a poor tool for guiding career choices”. While this may be true, it doesn’t matter for us as we won’t be talking much about conventional “careers” anyway.
The most persuasive anti-MBTI arguments I’ve seen come from evidence that test results can vary or do not remain consistent for individuals over time. This is called “test-retest reliability“.
If MBTI suffers from poor test-retest reliability, it would suggest that types are not set and that they may in fact be fluid – liable to change based on mood, circumstances or just the passage of time. This would call into question the validity of any typology system.
I was curious so I dug into this a little bit.
Nearly all the claims I’ve found for poor test-retest reliability point back to ONE journal article from the Bulletin of Research in Psychological Type Vol. 2, No. 1 published in 1979.
The article is called “Test-Retest Reliabilities of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator as a Function of Mood Changes”. The claim made in citing this article is that 50% of respondents test as a different type 5 weeks later when they take the test a second time.
This article is often cited as evidence that MBTI is basically bullshit (or this article by David J. Pittenger is cited, which cites that first one). I searched around and it turns out “Test-Retest Reliabilities” is not available anywhere online.
I was still curious (and live nearby) so I actually went to the library, dug up the article and had it scanned and sent to me. If it wasn’t under copyright protection I would upload it here.
This study is cited all over the internet as proof that MBTI suffers from poor reliability. Here is what the conclusion actually says:
“The results of the present study were extremely supportive of the reliability of the MBTI.”
“Test-retest reliabilities of continuous scores on all four MBTI dimensions were clearly unaffected by changes in mood, despite the effectiveness of the mood manipulations themselves.”
This is a big problem on the internet – people cite articles to add the appearance of legitimacy… without reading what they actually say!
And what about the claim that 50% of test respondents results were not consistent over time?
This is true.. sort of. Here’s what the study says:
With respect to test-retest reliabilities of dichotomous type categories, only 49% of the 117 subjects remained the same on all four dimensions of the MBTI after five weeks. Thirty-eight percent of the subjects changed on one dimension, and 14% changed on two dimensions; none changed on three or four dimensions.
So one letter of the four did change for 49% of test respondents. Is this proof MBTI is bullshit? Not if you look more closely at the data.
Those whose results changed were overwhelmingly those who did not have a strong preference in the first place. Of course there can be variation when there is no strong preference… we knew this already!
So while there may still be issues, it seems that in general these claims are overstated.
Other problems with MBTI do remain, in particular “the Barnum Effect”. Pittenger writes:
The MBTI also has much intuitive appeal. The descriptions of each type are generally flattering and sufficiently vague so that most people will accept the statements as true of themselves… This phenomenon is known as the “Barnum Effect,” named in honor of the great entertainer.
MBTI is by no means a perfect system. But depending on your intention this is more or less important, and it can still be worthwhile to understand and learn about despite the problems.
The Validity of the INTJ type in particular
Barnum Effect notwithstanding, for me personally the INTJ type description (at least seems to) fit quite accurately – certainly much more so than any of the others. I know this mirrors the experience of many INTJs.
Many INTJs feel lost or out of place until they stumble on the type description, and suddenly things start to make a lot more sense.
This might even come with a feeling of relief that there are other people like them or that someone finally “understands” them.
There is also the rate at which INTJs gather online on platforms that are themselves centred around the INTJ identity. INTJ forum has 40,000+ members and the INTJ subreddit has 25,000+.
This fits the type description because:
- INTJs like being alone and consuming information, so they are already spending lots of time on the internet
- INTJs are already thinking about things like personality traits, metacognition, patterns and conceptual models before they’ve ever heard of MBTI
- INTJs have a strong preference for people who are like them and an often equally strong aversion to people who are not
- INTJs enjoy intellectual circle-jerking, and there is no better place to do this than on the internet with other INTJs
So the strong self-identification of INTJs as INTJs as well as their characteristic collective behaviour may actually say something about the validity of the type description.
If it’s useful, does it even matter?
If something is still useful despite its flaws, it may make sense to just overlook them. A system doesn’t need to be perfect for you to get something out of it.
I think a good rule of thumb is that the more accurate the descriptive, the more useful the prescriptive.
So just take what’s useful and leave the rest. MBTI is one tool in a big box.
In this post we’re going to assume that the system does describe certain types of people reasonably accurately, especially the INTJ. At least accurately enough to make inferences about thought processes and behaviour.
Final note – this is all *subjective*
All of this is from my subjective experience and by no means the final word. How much of it will be helpful to you because of our shared INTJ traits and how much is unique to me as an individual, I don’t know.
But it’s structured as something like advice I’d give myself at an earlier stage in life, before I’d learned anything about MBTI. It’s all come from experience, observation, trial and error, research and so on. So either way if you’re reading this, INTJ or not, I hope it’s useful for you.
1) Realize that you are quite unusual
The first thing to understand as an INTJ is that you are a very unusual person.
This is not a good or bad thing, just a statement of fact. I would actually recommend separating it from any value judgement altogether (as best you can, for reasons we’ll get into in a minute) and to definitely avoid humble bragging about it.
Free of value judgements, this fact is useful in understanding yourself and yourself in relation to the world.
Let’s look at some statistics –
According to the MBTI typology system, INTJs are the third rarest personality type in the world and make up 2-4% of the population.
It’s hard to get a real sense from statistics alone. Imagine you’re standing in a room with 99 other randomly selected people, 100 in total.
Statistically speaking, at most there are three other people in the room who share your specific traits and very possibly just one. That’s not very many.
The “I” in INTJ indicates a preference for introversion. This alone puts you in an underrepresented segment of the population.
It was long thought that the introvert/extrovert divide was something like 25/75 – now it’s believed to be more like 50/50.
But even if the percentages are equal, introverts are still a functional minority. As an introvert you are living in a world designed for extroverts.
This puts you at odds with much of what is around you, as it’s not really meant for you in the first place.
(I’m not just making this up – Susan Cain calls it the “Extrovert Ideal” of our society in her book Quiet. For more on this and introversion in general I would highly recommend reading it.)
So as an introvert you’re already a little out of the ordinary. Let’s dig a little deeper.
The “N” in INTJ is for “iNtuition”. In the Myers-Briggs system, individuals have a preference for either intuition (N) or sensing (S) as their perceiving function.
Intuition in MBTI isn’t the same as what we normally think of as intuition: gut feeling or instinct. It’s rather a form of developed and often subconscious pattern recognition.
Here’s Wikipedia on the two functions:
Sensing and intuition are the information-gathering (perceiving) functions. They describe how new information is understood and interpreted. Individuals who prefer sensing are more likely to trust information that is in the present, tangible, and concrete: that is, information that can be understood by the five senses. They tend to distrust hunches, which seem to come “out of nowhere”. They prefer to look for details and facts. For them, the meaning is in the data. On the other hand, those who prefer intuition tend to trust information that is more abstract or theoretical, that can be associated with other information (either remembered or discovered by seeking a wider context or pattern). They may be more interested in future possibilities. For them, the meaning is in the underlying theory and principles which are manifested in the data.
Here’s another description of the intuitive trait from 16 Personalities:
Individuals with the Intuitive trait prefer to rely on their imagination, ideas and possibilities. They dream, fantasize and question why things happen the way they do, always feeling slightly detached from the actual, concrete world. One could even say that these individuals never actually feel as if they truly belong to this world. They may observe other people and events, but their mind remains directed both inwards and somewhere beyond – always questioning, wondering and making connections. When all is said and done, Intuitive types believe in novelty, in the open mind, and in never-ending improvement.
Most people are not intuitive types – most people are sensing types. It’s estimated that “S” types make up 75% of the population and “N” types are only 25%. As an INTJ, this puts you in another minority.
Without going into too much detail, the combination of your “I” and “N” preferences likely explain why many things that appeal to most people don’t appeal to you.
Most people are more engaged in their immediate sensory experience than you are, and they are less in their heads.
Most people are more susceptible to hype or emotional appeal, and are less rational in their thought processes and decision making.
Most things in pop culture probably don’t appeal to you. It’s likely also hard for you to understand why things in pop culture do appeal to most people, or to anyone at all.
Gossip or conversation you perceive as “shallow” probably annoys you to an irrational extent. Your face is blank but there’s turmoil inside your head – this is not the case for most people.
Food is another example. Sure, food is nice, but you eat it and it’s gone. The whole thing is over in 20 minutes and enjoying the taste of food doesn’t make a huge amount of sense from a utilitarian perspective.
And yet many people obsess over the taste of food. They get more excited about food and talk more about food than many other things. If this is hard to understand it’s because eating is a sensory experience and when you’re an internally focused “N” type (and especially an INTJ) it’s just not going to have the same appeal.
Most people also wouldn’t read a several thousand-word blog post like this one, even if it was about their particular personality type. But you will and I know you will – because you are like me.
From the people you spend time with to the environments you prefer (or prefer to avoid) to the activities you’re drawn to or away from – the combination of traits that make up your “INTJ-ness” can help explain a lot about your life.
(It may even explain why you like Christopher Nolan movies)
As an introvert minority AND an intuitive minority, you are experiencing the world quite differently from how most people are.
And as an INTJ you are not just odd in one way, you are odd in many ways. You will find that your oddness intersects with other people’s in certain ways some of the time, but very rarely overlaps completely.
2) Accept it and Move on
Being unusual isn’t good or bad because it doesn’t guarantee you’ll be any better off in life than more “normal” people.
This is true no matter what metric you use – happiness, fulfilment, success, wealth, positive impact and so on.
However, many INTJs harbour a strong superiority complex about the fact that they are different from most people. Although this is supposedly a characteristic of the INTJ type itself, it seems highly exaggerated on the internet.
INTJs gather online in large numbers to delight in the fact that they are different from most people. This manifests in a lot of bragging, complaining, bragging disguised as complaining (humble-bragging) or just outright proclamations of superiority. I would recommend avoiding this at all costs.
This attitude is not going to help you and it’s not going to help anyone.
Rather than holding on to a sense of superiority, just accept that you are unusual. Separate the fact from any value judgement as best you can and move on to more important things.
This will probably annoy a lot of people who read this, but the degree to which many INTJs (particularly those spending lots of time on the internet) believe themselves to be better than most other people rarely reflects how much (if at all) they are actually better.
Again, being different does not make you inherently better or better off than anyone else. That’s not the way it works. It’s what you do with the difference that counts.
There are also just more important things to be thinking about. If you want to do anything meaningful you can’t really be caught up in how different or “better” you are. You have to move past it and just live in the world here in front of us.
Negative stereotypes about INTJs
Unfortunately, many INTJs use their perceived superiority as an excuse to actively live out the negative stereotypes about INTJs.
This includes ideas like: INTJs hate everyone, INTJs don’t have any feelings/emotions, INTJs can’t be friendly or function like socially normal people, or even that INTJs are somehow inherently “evil”.
INTJs who take these things to heart will then antagonize themselves in opposition to the rest of the world, and are frustrated or angry when the world reacts back in kind.
Needless to say adopting a hostile and defeatist attitude towards everyone and everything around you is not a good idea.
Being different is also not an excuse to not be a decent person because it “doesn’t make sense” or because you‘ve fooled yourself into thinking normal friendly interaction is somehow beneath you.
You can be pleasant to be around, you can be nice to people you don’t care deeply about and you can be socially normal for all intents and purposes.
And you certainly don’t have to be a weirdo outcast from society who then perversely takes pride in their (mostly imagined) exceptionalism and never properly engages with the world.
Superiority is often Fear in Disguise
INTJs are prone to fear of engaging with the world because we are so intellectually oriented. Staying in your head is easy, comfortable and “safe” because you know the territory, control all the variables and there’s no real risk of something going wrong.
Getting into the world involves expending effort and dealing with hardship or failure. It’s much easier to adopt a dismissive attitude, say “That’s below me” and not engage at all.
This attitude keeps you in your comfort zone but prevents you from having any real impact. All it does is inflate the ego and erect a false barrier between your inner world and the one outside.
This attitude leads INTJs into what is probably our most dangerous pitfall – getting stuck in analysis paralysis and never seeing our thoughts and ideas realized in practice.
Imagine a person somewhere who sees themselves as special or talented in some way – but whatever potential they believe they have stays entirely inside their own head.
This person is frustrated and angry and they feel under appreciated in the world. They see this as a great injustice.
They often have thoughts like If only everyone recognized how smart/insightful/unique/talented I am, then I would be successful/happy/rich/famous and so on.
The tragedy is that the injustice this person sees as being inflicted upon them is actually entirely self-inflicted.
The problem is not other people. The problem is not “out there”. But fear and a sense of superiority leads many INTJs into this self-reinforcing cycle of reluctance to engage with the world and then dissatisfaction when the world doesn’t appreciate them.
This is why they are frustrated and collect on internet forums to complain.
Don’t go down this path. You may be different, odd or unusual, you may even constantly feel out of place. This is fine – just accept it and move on.
3) Get the ideas out of your head and into the world
As an INTJ the most important thing you have to do is get the ideas OUT of your head and into the world.
You have to get the ideas out into the world and YOU have to get out into the world.
It’s the only way the ideas can be recognized or understood, it’s the only way they can provide value to anyone and it’s the only way they can have any impact.
It’s also the only way you can be happy and fulfilled and free. You have to express the ideas.
It takes courage to do this, the same as it does for everyone. You’ll likely also face some obstacles that are particularly problematic for INTJs.
Analysis paralysis is a big one. You likely have an overactive mind that can analyze, analyze, analyze and always come up with a reason not to act. All the thinking can hold you back and weigh you down.
Seeing things from multiple perspectives can also make it hard to have full confidence in an idea or course of action. In some sense things are always relative and you can think of a counter argument or alternative point of view.
You probably also project further into the future and with more detail than most people do. It’s easy for you to imagine scenarios and all the potential negative outcomes.
And of course you suffer from the same fears as everyone else.
What will people think of me?
What if my ideas are wrong?
Should I really be saying that..?
What if they don’t like me?
You feel this, I feel this, everyone feels it.
But you must overcome it – it’s probably the most important thing you can do as an INTJ. Any success, however defined, or impact you want to have on the world necessarily depends on it.
How many INTJs out there are doing mundane work that they maybe justify as being semi-satisfying some of the time… but who could really have been “brilliant” had they only developed other facets of themselves?
To put it in a harsh light –
None of those ideas are worth anything to anyone UNLESS YOU GET THEM OUT OF YOU
To illustrate we can look at the almost immeasurable difference between the underdeveloped INTJ and the actualized INTJ, at least in terms of scale of impact.
Frustrated guys around the world with thousands of forum posts and semi-satisfying careers and personal lives are INTJs – but so is Elon Musk. So were Isaac Asimov and Nicola Tesla – all individuals who very, very explicitly took what was inside their heads and put it out into the world.
The practical side of self expression (Developing the Te function)
Getting the ideas out may take some doing.
You’ll need to develop the ideas themselves, but also the ability to organize and present them in a way that is accessible for other people. This involves a process of learning and adaptation, where you’ll get better as you go.
In MBTI terms this is developing the INTJ’s secondary cognitive function, Extraverted Thinking (Te). The focus here is on practicality and measurable results in the real world.
From a character development perspective, this mainly means cultivating discipline.
It can be boring, difficult or mundane to package ideas in a way that is accessible (or even just comprehensible) to anyone other than yourself.
Something can seem completely coherent in your head (and it is, to you) but when you try to express it there’s limited interest or understanding from other people.
This means you’ll have to do a lot of organizing and structuring the ideas, and trying to imagine how they will be perceived.
This tends to be much less interesting than thinking about the ideas themselves, or thinking about entirely new ideas altogether.
But unless you want the thoughts and ideas to stay forever unrealized in your head, you’ll likely have to do rote, boring work. It’s just a necessary part of the process.
4) INTJs and Careers
The importance of expressing and implementing your ideas in the world goes for any career choices you might make.
But if you’re an INTJ in today’s world I would actually forget about the whole concept of a “career” altogether.
The traditional path of working one job your entire life until retirement is no longer a reality. The faster the growth of technology accelerates, the more this is the case.
Most conventional careers are also unlikely to fully satisfy you on a personal level. You have varying complex and unusual needs and it will probably be hard to find something that ticks all the boxes.
Following the traditional path likely also won’t provide the best opportunities to serve other people. You may have unique traits and abilities but most careers have limited scope, scale and impact.
A conventional career is likely not the best way for you to give your gifts back to the world.
Of course if you have your eye on a particular path and it’s what you really want to do, then go for it. But don’t limit yourself to a traditional career because it’s what you’re “supposed” to do.
And certainly don’t limit yourself to the careers typically suggested for INTJs – scientist, engineer, programmer, professor, lawyer.
There is in fact no need to limit yourself at all. Things are changing so fast that much of what is commonplace today was unthinkable just 10 years ago.
“Wishful thinking” doesn’t exist anymore – technology opens all the doors.
You can make a living from your laptop. You can get rich by filming yourself talking. You can spread any and all ideas, learn any skill in existence and acquire funding for pretty much anything, provided people are willing to give it to you. That’s the magic of internet.
Your only real “career” is to make your vision a reality. There’s never been more opportunity. Build something amazing.
5) Your perspectives can be very useful to people – don’t be afraid to share them
The third section was about getting the ideas out of your head on a large scale – this is the same concept but in the more intimate context of person to person or group conversation.
This is difficult as well, for many of the same reasons. There’s analysis paralysis here as well as the uncertainty brought about by seeing multiple perspectives at once.
(You may also have social anxiety, lack social skills or an understanding of social cues to add to the mix – we’ll get into that stuff in Part 2.)
Personally when I was younger I would tend to assume that my take on things just wasn’t as good as other people’s. Self doubt and overthinking caused me to stay quiet and rarely offer up my point of view. If you’re the same way –
I would encourage you to have confidence in the value of your judgements.
As an INTJ you’ve probably thought things through very comprehensively – it’s our gift and curse.
Your judgement in group or one-on-one situations may very well be the best one, provided there is no significant discrepancy in knowledge/experience between you and the other party.
Even if it’s not the best, your perspective is still probably worth something. Don’t underestimate the potential utility of your point of view.
And even if it turns out not to be valuable at all… there is really no downside to sharing your perspective. Most of the time it is better to at least offer it up rather than just staying quiet.
Two friends are having a conversation and they are disagreeing. I’m watching this happen, and I can see that they’re not actually disagreeing, just misunderstanding one another.
Friend 1 and Friend 2 think they’re talking about the same thing, but they’re not. I can see this, I can see what Friend 1 means, what Friend 2 means, what Friend 1 thinks Friend 2 means and vice versa.
Usually I try to explain what I think is happening to resolve the confusion as quickly as possible. But this is only partly altruistic – for some reason it’s incredibly frustrating to me when two other people are having a misunderstanding.
Does this happen to you?
I don’t know if it’s an INTJ thing or not. But usually I’ll understand misunderstandings, see both points of view and where the disconnect is happening. This then annoys me a lot for some reason I don’t understand at all.
I’ve been curious about this for a while so I’m just putting it out there.
6)…but don’t be admonishing about it
When you share your perspectives, try not to do it in an admonishing way. This is a concept that can be hard to grasp and even harder to put into practice, but it’s important if you really want to help people.
When you’re certain about something (especially when you’re certain something will be good for another person) it can be easy to come off as lecturing or admonishing when you’re giving advice.
But this attitude (or just the perception of this attitude) is liable to quickly shut people down to any input at all.
Even if they recognize what you’re saying as good advice, the way it’s conveyed can be enough to make them reject it outright.
This is true no matter how helpful or factually accurate what you’re saying is. And it is especially true if there is a perception of superiority/inferiority in the context (e.g. you’re giving advice about something that you have “handled” and the other person doesn’t).
It’s also possible that many other people are just more emotionally involved in the process of giving and taking advice than you are. If it’s easy for you to separate out hard factual information from the surrounding emotional context, realize that this may not the case for many people.
That being said, pretty much no one likes feeling like they’re being punished.
So share your perspectives – but try to offer them up as opposed to laying them on – at the risk of shutting someone down to any input at all.
7) Understand that the “INTJ death glare” is a real thing
“Are you OK?”
“Is something wrong?”
“Are you mad at me?”
Does this sound familiar?
Do people often think something is wrong with you when you’re actually perfectly fine?
Not only are you fine… you’re probably thinking about something interesting and are now annoyed at being interrupted by this oblivious but otherwise well-meaning person?
This experience is so commonplace for INTJs that there’s actually a name for it. It’s called the “INTJ death glare” or “INTJ death stare”.
(Also called “resting bitch face” for girls)
I think it has something to do with thinking a lot and unconsciously holding tension in the muscles in the face.
Personally I’ve experienced this quite a bit. People would assume I was angry or upset when my mood was just neutral.
Apparently I look particularly angry when I’m working. At university on more than one occasion people told me something like, “I saw you in the library and was going to come say hi, but you looked so angry that I didn’t”.
Of course I’m not actually angry when I’m working, just focused. But with my INTJ face, focused = angry looking.
If you get particularly annoyed by this and/or want to fix the “problem”, I have two suggestions:
1) Consciously relax your face
2) Learn to smile and smile a lot more
I say “learn to smile” because it’s likely you are not naturally very expressive. What this means is that when you feel like you are smiling widely, it may not look that way to the outside world.
There is probably actually a discrepancy between how body language and physical expression feels to you on the inside in general versus how it looks on the outside.
So you can practice in the mirror to understand exactly how the inner feelings correspond to the outward appearance. If you’ve never done this before.. the first time might surprise you.
8) Trust your pattern recognition (Yes you can (sort of) tell the future)
Patterns underlie much of what happens in life. The better you can recognize and understand the patterns, the better you can predict what the outcome is going to be.
You might experience this already. It’s often just a subtle feeling or inclination about how things are going to play out, or you might somehow get a “sense” of things that turns out to be quite accurate.
Because it’s mostly unconscious and intuitive, this can seem suspect to others and to the rational part of you.
But it’s not magic or that you can tell the future – it’s just that you have good pattern recognition.
Here’s an example. In grade school you often have a situation where the teacher needs to randomly select a student from the class to answer a question or read something out. I remember being able to “feel” or even “know” when I was going to get picked.
This can sound suspect or like it’s just selective memory. It might be. But it might also be that one or several teachers were giving off subtle cues about who they were going to choose, and that’s what I was picking up on.
You may also be able to predict other people’s behaviour with a fairly high degree of accuracy. This will be more the case the better you know the person and the more familiar the situation.
Again, this isn’t magic. Most people, you and I included, do just repeat patterns of behaviour throughout our lives.
This can get interesting when you notice the patterns of behaviour that actually carry across individuals.
For example, ask someone about a controversial topic and you’ll probably get one of a few standard responses. Most people have been given their beliefs and will just restate them without having thought them through. Depending on the situation, this can be very predictable.
This is a cool aspect of being an INTJ, but be careful about becoming egotistical about it, especially when it involves people close to you (saying “I told you so”).
Beware of overconfidence in this ability in general. You cannot actually tell the future, no matter how certain you are or many times you’ve been right in the past. There is always the possibility of variables you haven’t accounted for (unknown unknowns) and that you could be wrong this time around.
Pattern recognition and personal development
Along with pattern recognition, a characteristic INTJ trait is planning things very far into the future.
Taken together, these two things can be very useful in guiding the trajectory of your personal life.
Naturally you will be better able to predict outcomes in a situation the more control you have over the variables.
Luckily, you control most of the important variables in most of the important areas in your life.
This means you’ll be able to predict with a reasonably high degree of accuracy things like your school grades, fitness levels, income and/or net worth or progress in a particular skill area over a given period of time.
What this means is that you can essentially create any life circumstances you want for yourself, within reason. You can “get” whatever you want and you can become whoever you want.
The process actually only involves 3 things:
1) Understand what you want
2) Understand the steps to get there
3) Do the steps
Of course it’s hard in practice, but in principle it’s no more complicated than that. (And if this is making sense to you, you’ll probably be interested in my book Self Improvement in Practice.)
Without going into too much detail, I can say that the last 4-5 years of my life have panned out more or less as I expected. Of course there’s some variation, but in broad strokes I did the things I expected to do and I am more or less where I expected to be.
This is (I think) the long-term planning and the pattern recognition working together. It would also suggest that 4-5 years from now I will be where I expect to be and also “who” I expect to be. I would invite you to do the same.
9) Get into Spirituality to Feel More (and to find God ;))
Spirituality underlies my metaphysics, cosmology and general outlook on the trajectory of my life. Funnily enough, it’s also practically useful in the pursuit of worldly success.
The pool of spiritual knowledge and practice is as old as it is wide and deep. As an INTJ, I would recommend you at least dip your toe and see how you like the temperature.
Spirituality =/= Religious Dogma
I get that “spirituality” has a lot of bad connotations. Likely you are opposed to organized religion and really any institution that tells you what to think, believe or do. I am too.
Religion has unfortunately been the main venue through which people have historically understood and experienced spirituality. And we know religion, particularly monotheistic religion, is mostly nonsense.
There are some good bits peppered in if you’re being charitable, but no existing belief system is anywhere close to having it all right – certainly not iron age philosophies that don’t take into account modern science, etc. etc.
But it doesn’t mean you can’t be “spiritual”.
You don’t have to believe any nonsense. You don’t have to accept any dogma. You just need to begin to see the beauty in the world and the truth that life is a miracle. First you can understand it on an intellectual level, then you start to feel it and things really get good.
Spirituality also does not require that you follow anyone else’s teaching or subject yourself to external authority. A lot of spirituality – certainly that which I subscribe too – is highly individualistic.
No one can tell you what to do or where your path should lead. You have to discover and live your own truth.
The answers to the most important questions can’t be found in the outside world at all – it has to come from inside of you and it is already inside of you.
(Many well known spiritual teachers – Ram Dass, Jiddu Krishnamurti, Osho – all emphasize this.)
This is one of the paradoxes of spirituality – the focus on individuality and the idea that the truth is inside you… but also that the ultimate truth is that there is no “you” at all. The answer, as far as I can tell, is to try to live on two levels at once.
Thinking, Thinking, Always Thinking – Your Gift & Curse as an INTJ
The focus for us as INTJs is naturally on intellectual matters and the thinking mind. Thinking a lot comes very easily to us and it’s also often enjoyable.
This is great for figuring out things that are important and useful, but the flip side is that it’s way, way too easy to be stuck in your head.
As they say, “The mind is a wonderful servant but a terrible master.”
As an INTJ your “monkey mind” is more like a 600 lb King Kong gorilla that likes to pick you up and smash you around.
You’re stuck in a constant stream of thoughts nearly 100% the time. Spirituality is in large part about extricating yourself from these thoughts, or at least the identification with the thoughts. (You are not your thoughts.) Meditation is the practice most commonly used to this end.
Spirituality can also be a good way to counteract the negativity that seems to come naturally to many INTJs. This negativity is largely the product of an overactive thinking mind.
Spirituality for Practical Reasons
Although it may seem contradictory, one can quite reasonably get into spirituality for purely practical reasons. Many people do.
A meditation, yoga or other spiritual practice will enhance your wellbeing and sense of meaning in life. It will also improve your mood and performance in many other areas. A quieter mind makes you more effective and productive at pretty much anything you’re doing.
This is another one of the paradoxes of spirituality – getting into it initially for ego-based reasons and then transitioning to a focus on getting out of the ego.
Personally I have found it highly useful to have a conceptual model of life and the universe that is grounded in spirituality. To use technical terms you could call this a personal metaphysical cosmology.
If you can feel or understand, even just some of the time, that at the deepest and most fundamental level everything is completely OK then it does a lot for your state and peace of mind.
One of your perspectives can be that everything is perfect, that you are ultimately an expression of God (ultimate reality, the Universe, oneness) and that we are currently living in Heaven.
Try it – it feels great!
Spirituality will get you in touch with your emotions, intuition and creativity
You know as well as I do that, contrary to popular belief, you do have emotions.
You’re just not used to 1) feeling them, 2) identifying them (“What the hell am I feeling?”) and you’re especially not used to 3) expressing them.
In Hindu terms we as INTJs are blocked off from our heart chakra and likely the root chakra and sacral chakra as well.
(If chakras are too woo-woo just replace “heart chakra” with emotions/love, “root chakra” with primal energy and “sacral chakra” with sexuality.)
Spirituality gets you back in touch with these things. It also makes you more grateful, appreciative and compassionate – things you already know are good but probably have trouble feeling.
Spirituality will also increase your capacity for creativity and honest self expression.
When you (metaphorically) open your heart, all kinds of things you never expected can flow out. You may find some capacity inside yourself that you never knew existed, or never before would have associated with “you” at all.
There’s probably something in there that is obscured by all the thinking – something connected to the divine/infinite inside all of us.
I have a firm belief that getting in touch with this is how we truly understand our “purpose” here in life and the point of our existence, on both an individual and collective level.
Even if you’re nodding along and this all sounds good, it can be hard to know where to start. Here are some resources.
- Waking Up by Sam Harris is an excellent introduction to spirituality (and will keep the scientific rationalist inside you very, very happy)
- Listen to the Nature of Consciousness series by Alan Watts to get a new perspective on reality, consciousness and what is “really going on” with humans, life and the universe
- Be Here Now is a little more out there, but when you read it you can see why it had so much impact. For the full effect I’d recommend avoiding the digital/Kindle version and getting a hold of a paperback copy.
10) You will probably like Psychedelics
As an INTJ, psychedelics can serve you as an incredibly valuable tool. They certainly have been for me.
When done right, the psychedelic experience is completely unmatched for its introspective, perspective-shifting and fundamentally positive life-altering qualities.
However we do know that the nature of psychedelic experience varies very widely between individuals.
While some people have profoundly life-changing experiences with psychedelics, others experience nothing more lasting or significant than a pleasant sensory adventure. These are two ends of the spectrum and then there’s everything in between.
It’s possible (and I think likely) that differences in personality account for at least some of this variation.
You as an INTJ are already inclined towards things like perspective-shifting, thinking conceptually and playing around with patterns, models and big ideas in your head. Your mind is probably also full of interesting information you’ve consumed over the years. This is a ripe environment for profound and meaningful psychedelic experience.
Psychedelics will enhance your personal introspection, and can also contribute to the development of a spirituality like the one I’ve outlined above.
LSD in under 10 words:
Here’s the real beauty of the universe. Don’t forget!
..then inevitably you forget & have to go back again…
— Freedom & Fulfilment (@Aaron__FF) March 7, 2016
Aside from all the benefits, the experience itself is also completely fascinating. It adds a whole new layer to your conception of reality and the understanding that things can be that different is something of a revelation in and of itself.
In high doses, psychedelics can bring about what are very likely the peak experiences even available to human beings. It’s common for people to come down from a trip and literally be lost for words.
We can express wonder and awe, we can use words like “mystical” and “transcendent” and all of the superlatives in the dictionary, but the truth is that language is simply not an adequate tool to describe what happens to one’s consciousness during a powerful psychedelic experience.
If you are planning on taking a trip, there are a couple of things to keep in mind.
Research what you’re doing and err on the side of a lower dose, especially if it’s your first time. Set and setting are everything – that’s your mindset before the trip and the physical setting it happens in.
Don’t use psychedelics like a party drug, especially in higher doses. Many bad trips happen because people take mushrooms or LSD in the wrong environment where it’s too loud, busy and stimulating.
Finally – let go into the experience. Don’t fight for control. Things are going to get weird – this is fine.
Try to let go of any attachments to things being the way they are. Imagine it like an adventure where, no matter how crazy things get, you’ll be back safe and sound within a few hours.
Personally I think the concern about bad trips is overblown, especially if you do your due diligence beforehand. Set things up safely and properly and most likely it will go well.
Be safe, be smart and have fun ;)
More on Psychedelics:
That was a long read and congrats for making it all the way through. I hope it was useful for you, INTJ or otherwise.
Read Part 2 here: INTJ Sociability, Social Ability & Small Talk
And the follow up: INTJs & Social Anxiety (Social Anxiety Solutions Revisited)
(Originally it was all going to be one post, but it was just getting way too fucking long.)
Stay tuned for more and thanks for reading,