by Bronya Wilkins
Have you ever wondered how your personality type impacts your creativity? You’ve probably heard of the Myer’s Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI)—it’s a widely used psychometric tool for assessing personality. I sometimes use it in my coaching practice to help clients make sense of their personality preferences in the context of their creative lives.
About the MBTI
The MBTI has been used for decades as a tool for enhancing self-awareness and development in business and personal life. It’s based on four dichotomies (pairings) that interact with each other to produce a total of sixteen possible personality types. The preference dichotomies are:
- Introversion (I) vs. Extraversion (E)
- Intuition (N) vs. Sensing (S)
- Thinking (T) vs. Feeling (F)
- Perceiving (P) vs. Judging (J)
A person’s preferences will fall on one side of each dichotomy; across the four pairings this results in a “type.” For example, my type is an INFJ: Introversion/Intuition/Feeling/Judging.
While the complexity of personality can’t be explained by any single assessment, and there are some validity issues with the MBTI, I still find it a useful tool if the results are considered within a broader life context. In my experience, the MBTI genuinely helps people make greater sense of how they interact with the world and how they perceive and process information.
How does your type impact your creativity?
The realm of creativity isn’t “owned” by any one type, although some preferences may help or hinder creativity in different ways. Let’s explore some of these below.
Introversion (I) vs. Extraversion (E)
Contrary to popular belief, “introvert” doesn’t refer to a quiet, shy wallflower, but instead a person who recharges and gains energy from time alone, regardless of how outgoing or friendly she is.
When it comes to building a dedicated creative practice—something that requires a lot of focused, solitary time—introverts may have a head start. The challenge for creative extraverts is to balance social and creative time to meet both needs. Conversely, when it comes to promoting one’s creativity, extraverts’ social ease and larger networks offer more opportunities for connecting with potential collaborators and supporters, a task introverts often find daunting.
- If you’re an extrovert, determine how much time per week to spend on your creativity and block it out in your calendar, so social events don’t creep in over the top.
- If you’re an introvert, learn ways to promote your creative practice that are more aligned with introversion, such as blogging. Also, challenge yourself to get out there as the face of your practice.
Intuition (N) vs. Sensing (S)
The N/S dichotomy describes how we perceive and gather information. People with N preferences are described as big-picture people, abstract thinkers, people who make gut decisions. S people are more concrete and focus on details, data, and evidence; they are the “seeing is believing” type of people.
When it comes to artistic creativity, Ns are all about the expression of ideas, while Ss tend to focus on execution and craftsmanship. In coaching, N clients often need guidance with choosing ideas and implementing them consistently, whereas Ss need more help thinking “outside of the box” and “connecting the dots.”
- If you’re an intuitive person, remember that sometimes, the devil is in the details. You may have a great idea, but if it’s executed poorly then will it be appreciated? Take time to learn your craft and hone your technique.
- If you’re a sensing person, be sure to regularly expose yourself to new and interesting people, places, and events to feed your senses and expand your creative ideas.
Thinking (T) vs. Feeling (F)
Thinkers make decisions based on logic and facts, as opposed to feelers, who tend to decide based on feelings and perceived impacts on other people.
Because feelers perceive their art as extensions of themselves, they often get caught up in beliefs of how the world will perceive them, which can lead to fear, self-doubt, and creative blocks. Thinkers, on the other hand, tend to dissociate a little from their work and treat it like a project to be delivered, rather than an aspect of themselves. This emotional distance may make it difficult to connect with audiences—something that comes far more naturally to feelers, who are in tune with themselves and the feelings and drives of others.
- If you’re a thinker, consider the impact your creativity and work have on other people—asking them is a good start! When sharing your work, notice how people respond to it and use that knowledge in your future projects.
- If you’re a feeler, remind yourself that creative failure doesn’t equal human failure. We all need mistakes and failures to learn and grow. Creating a bit of psychological distance between yourself and a creative work can be healthy.
Perceiving (P) vs. Judging (J)
Another common misconception is the J label, which doesn’t mean that a person is judgmental. Instead, “judging” refers to the preference for closure, certainty, and organisation. Perceiving, at the opposite end, is a preference for flexibility, open-endedness, and spontaneity.
When implementing creative projects, judgers prefer a structured approach; they set goals, manage timeframes, and follow through to closure. Perceivers, on the other hand, often feel confined by plans. They tend to procrastinate and go off on tangents (albeit sometimes very interesting ones!), which can lead to half-finished projects. Because judgers are so focused on following through, however, they often fail to notice (or even dismiss) opportunities that open up along the way but feel disruptive to the original plan. Perceivers, on the other hand, are quick to recognise new sources of inspiration and information—and take advantage of them.
- If you are a perceiver, keep in mind that while it’d be nice to use all your ideas, is it actually doable? Figure out your best ideas, focus on one thing at a time, and follow through even when you’re tempted to jump ship. Hire a coach or get a friend to support you in reaching your milestones.
- If you’re a judger, remember the John Lennon quote, “Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.” The best plan in the world doesn’t make a project a success, so learn to tolerate more uncertainty and take advantage of new opportunities.
Creative self-development and the MBTI
When developing your creative self, it’s sometimes useful to tap into one of your preferences more deeply. Other times, it’s beneficial to challenge them and try the opposite. For example, on the J/P dichotomy, I’m very strongly a J. This is great when working solo, because I know how to balance my need for structure with idea exploration, but when collaborating with others my judging tendency can stifle the creative process. I’ve learnt over time to let go and step in as the structure queen only when necessary.
- Take the MBTI
- Consider whether you’re taking full advantage of your preferences. Tap into the preferences that are working well for your creativity.
- Think about where your preferences are holding you back. Be brave and challenge yourself to move out of your comfort zone.
Bronya Wilkins is a creativity coach and founder of Creative Cocoon, a coaching practice dedicated to helping people connect with their creativity. Bronya is passionate about psychology, self-development, and creative expression. Some of her hobbies include dance, graphic design, music composition, and photography. You can find her Facebook and Twitter, or follow her on Instagram (@creativecocoon).