As an INTJ personality type I make big plans. I automatically see ways to improve things—from how I do the dishes to how a company does its marketing. But I find that it’s hard to communicate these ideas to others, and that many people don’t want them at all. I think most INTJs feel this way. We figure out solutions only to have them ignored.
This isn’t just bad for us, it’s bad for the world. A high functioning INTJ can reduce costs, increase profit, prevent accidents, and even improve society. Or we may simply come up with a better server configuration. No matter what an INTJ does for a living, I’ve never met one who couldn’t improve something in their workplace—or their community—if only they could get their ideas implemented.
But INTJs can learn to make our plans succeed. In fact, the INTJ personality type is wired to be successful, if we learn to leverage our natural strengths. In this article I’ll discuss the specific skills I learned to get my ideas out of my head and into the world, and the trap that used to hold me back.
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The Core Problem
Many INTJs think that the reason we’re not succeeding is because we’re solitary, because we’re not “warm” socially, or because people don’t understand us. All of these can be very real obstacles for an INTJ. But none of them is the core problem.
The core problem is effectiveness. It’s learning how to gather resources and test our ideas in the real world. No one wants untested ideas, no matter how genius they sound. But when you learn the basic skills needed to implement those ideas, you prove their worth and you succeed.
This has benefits for any career path:
- In a traditional job you rise to the top because you solve high-level problems.
- As a freelancer you get paid more because you deliver better results.
- As an entrepreneur you get your own ideas off the drawing board and make them into products or startups.
- In creative work you see your dream projects get finished and reach their intended audience.
Effectiveness helps in every part of life. It’s the ability to make things run the way you picture them running. That’s an INTJ’s Zen moment.
What Prevents Us from Being Effective?
As an INTJ your mind is built to be effective. It also has a crucial weak spot that can hold you back. According to personality type theory, INTJs use two main mental functions to make decisions:
- Our brilliant thinking function. INTJs are “Thinkers” and we make our best decisions logically. But our way of using logic is to look for results. We set big goals, build systems to meet those goals, and evaluate the outcomes. Not all Thinkers think this way—some are more interested in simply knowing the facts. To us, that’s boring.
- Our underdeveloped feeling function. Like all Thinkers we have feelings. Our feeling function is not well developed, but it does affect our decisions. The way this comes out in INTJs is standing by our values and our sense of dignity. We would rather be true to ourselves than do something just to please others.
Interestingly, our thinking function is sometimes nicknamed Effectiveness. INTJs are built to be effective. It’s in the wiring of our brain.
Our feeling function is nicknamed Authenticity. Authenticity isn’t a bad thing. But we don’t use it in the mature, powerful way that some Feeler types do. It’s our weak spot. Making decisions based on Authenticity is like letting a child drive a car.
High functioning INTJs develop their Effectiveness, but many of us fall into the trap of overusing Authenticity instead. The result is INTJs who think big but accomplish little. This was me for years. My ideas lived only in my laptop, and I felt like no one understood me.
What It Looks Like When You Misuse Authenticity
Your Authenticity moments are easy to recognize. You will say things like:
- I can’t move up the ladder because my boss is an idiot.
- I don’t have the funding for my idea.
- Work is a popularity contest, and no one likes me.
- I didn’t go to the right school/I don’t have the right connections.
- Everybody around me is stupid.
INTJs using Effectiveness see these as solvable problems:
- They focus on people higher up than their boss.
- They assemble resources to seek funding.
- They succeed by delivering results, not by being popular.
- They learn to network and make new connections.
- They identify people’s strengths and delegate work accordingly.
Succeeding as an INTJ means learning how to utilize every resource you have in a systematic way—including people. It doesn’t mean you have to pretend to be warm and fuzzy. You only have to know how to delegate work in a way that advances a goal. That’s what an executive does, and it’s exactly what our Effectiveness function is for.
Using Effectiveness Instead of Authenticity
It’s not hard to get out of the rut of Authenticity. It just means practicing habits that push you back to Effectiveness. Effectiveness habits involve setting a goal and making steps toward it. Or, making day to day systems to minimize busy work. These systems let you focus on the big, important tasks and get results.
Specific habits you can use to build your Effectiveness include:
- Make a daily to-do list and cross off items as you finish them.
- Keep a weekly schedule that includes all work, chores, and errands.
- Start your morning with one productive task before you do anything else. Get it done before you even have breakfast.
- Set goals and list the steps it will take to reach each goal.
- When a goal seems too big, break it down into smaller pieces. List the steps for each piece. Can you do the first step right away?
- Track things. If you’re trying to get fit, track your calories and daily exercise. If you want to save money, track your daily spending. Effectiveness means using measurable data to improve results.
- Learn to recognize “low hanging fruit” on your to-do list (items you can accomplish in less than 15 minutes). Do them first.
- Work sequentially, not in parallel. Know your priorities and do one project or task at a time.
- Outsource whenever possible. This can mean hiring people or it can just mean getting things off your plate. For example, instead of researching fitness plans all weekend, ask a knowledgeable friend to recommend one.
To some INTJs, the list above will seem strict. Start with the items that are easiest for you. As INTJs we get a huge rush from accomplishing things—it’s the best feeling we can have. Practicing Effectiveness will be fatiguing at times, but almost euphorically rewarding.
How to Learn from Other INTJs
I am not an INTJ who was blessed with natural effectiveness. I spent years thinking I had great ideas but somehow never making them happen. When I finally realized what I was doing wrong, it wasn’t some breakthrough of my own—it was by learning from others. I took courses, spoke with career coaches, and learned from fellow INTJs. It’s rare to meet other people who think like you, and when you do, it’s exciting.
The lessons I learned seem simple now, but the impact on my career has been tremendous. INTJs are valuable. We can be great executives and leaders, or we can thrive working completely on our own. And when we learn to launch our ideas we finally start to feel like the world “gets” us.
Please leave a comment below and tell me about your goals. Is it hard to achieve them? Have you been able to make your plans a reality? What strategies have you learned to be more effective?
Seminar for INTJs: Our partner Quistic offers a course for INTJ success. “Best Practices for Leveraging INTJ Strengths (and How to Be a Likable INTJ)” is a four-part webinar from career coach Penelope Trunk. Includes access to a private Facebook group with nearly 200 success-oriented INTJs. Learn more about the INTJ course here.