ISTP Personal Growth

Personal Growth for an ISTP

What does Success mean to an ISTP?

People with the ISTP personality type are action-oriented thinkers. They are highly tuned into their immediate environment, and driven to interact with it in a hands-on fashion. It is by working with things in their environment that they experience and understand life. By working physically with their environment, they have a natural and immediate understanding of how things work, and how best to achieve their identified goals. Although they constantly use logic to determine how to best manipulate objects in their immediate situation, they are not naturally analytical in a more objective sense. When they step back to methodically analyze the relationship between objects in their world, they often lose touch with their understanding. Their understanding is intimately tied into their physical experience with reality. It is immediate and wholistic. They are naturally "in-sync" with the physical world, and value life largely in terms of their ability to flow with and conquer the physical challenges presented to them. Although they think about and value past experiences, they live almost entirely in the here and now. ISTPs are natural mechanics, athletes, musicians, technicians, and engineers. They excel at tasks that require a great deal of tactile mastery, as well as quick, logic-based action. ISTPs are most comfortable using their known skills, rather than being thrown into situations with which they have no personal experience. The nuances of variation in each individual situation will bring a sense of newness and freshness to the experience for the ISTP. ISTPs often resist and rebel situations that are entirely new, or that require a great deal of structured planning and thinking. This way of thinking is foreign to the ISTP, and therefore uncomfortable. When someone tries to push or control the ISTP into these situations, he or she is likely to "walk away" from that person without looking back. Their resistance to structure may cause them to quit school early, quit jobs that they find stifling, or quit relationships that have too many expectations. ISTPs are often likeable and have more friends and social interaction than is normal for an Introvert. The ISTP genuinely enjoys the company of their friends, and needs their input in his or her physical world to maintain their understanding of their own place in the world. An ISTP's feeling of success is dependent primarily upon their mastery of their physical world, but is also dependent upon the existence of strong, reliable, interpersonal relationships. Without these relationships, the ISTP is likely to avoid relationships, isolate him or herself, and feel very vulnerable to rejection and hurt.

Allowing your ISTP strengths to flourish

As an ISTP, you have gifts that are specific to your personality type that aren't natural strengths for other types. By recognizing your special gifts and encouraging their growth and development, you will more readily see your place in the world, and be more content with your role.

Nearly all ISTPs will recognize the following characteristics in themselves. They should embrace and nourish these strengths:

They have a natural ability to focus and "become one" with their immediate environment. This ability allows them to be great athletes, dancers, and musicians. They have an innately graceful connection with the physical world. They are highly in tune with their physical surroundings, and therefore have well-developed aesthetic appreciation. They appreciate beauty. If they are so inclined, they may develop their ability to control the physical world into some form of art expression, and become artists. They are exceptional troubleshooters in emergency situations. They can quickly take in the current situation and apply logic immediately to take steps that control the problem. Since the ISTP's use of logic is based on their personal experience, their ability to troubleshoot will get better and better as they gain more experience. For this reason, ISTPs who are mechanics, technicians, and computer analysts (for example) often achieve "guru" status after they have been working in the field for a long time. They're very sensual and earthy people. They usually have a good deal of sex appeal and attractive sensuality.

ISTPs who have developed their Extraverted Sensing to the extent that they regularly take in information in an objective fashion, rather than strictly to support their own way of life, will enjoy these special gifts:

They have attractive and compelling personalities, and are well-liked and accepted by most people. They're usually quite intelligent, and can work through difficult problems. They can handle just about any task that they are presented with. They understand the benefits of close relationships, and understand how to support and enhance these relationships. They're able to identify their own feelings and the feelings of others.

Potential problem areas

With any gift of strength, there is an associated weakness. Without "bad", there would be no "good". Without "difficult", there would be no "easy". We value our strengths, but we often curse and ignore our weaknesses. To grow as a person and get what we want out of life, we must not only capitalize upon our strengths, but also face our weaknesses and deal with them. That means taking a hard look at our personality type's potential problem areas.

Most of the weaker characteristics that are found in ISTPs are due to their dominant function of Introverted Thinking overtaking the personality to the point that all of the other functions exist merely to serve the purposes of Introverted Thinking. In such cases, an ISTP may show some or all of the following weaknesses in varying degrees:

  • The ISTP gets "stuck in a rut" and only does those things that are known and comfortable to the ISTP.
  • The ISTP resists and rejects anything that doesn't support their own experiential understanding of the world. If there is a conflict between their own way of life and something that they encounter, they don't perceive that "something" in an objective sense. Rather, they reject it to avoid conflict and to preserve the sanctity of their inner world.
  • They choose to surround themselves with people who support their own way of life, and reject people who think or live differently.
  • They may become overly paranoid about social organizations and institutions trying to control them.
  • They may unknowingly or uncaringly hurt people's feelings.
  • They may be completely unaware of how to express their inner world to others in a meaningful way.
  • They may be completely unaware of the type of communication that is often desireable and (to some degree) expected in an intimate relationship. If they are aware of the kinds of things that are appropriate to say and do to foster emotional bonding, they may be unable to appreciate the value of such actions. They may feel too vulnerable to express themselves in this fashion, and so reject the entire idea.
  • If pushed beyond their comfort level to form commitments or emotional bonds, they may reject a relationship entirely.
  • Under stress, they may show intense emotions that seem disproportionate to the situation.
  • They may be unclear how they feel about certain issues and situations, and react by ignoring them, however important or relevant the issues are to their own life.

Explanation of problems

Nearly all of the problematic characteristics described above can be attributed in various degrees to the common ISTP problem of only taking in information that relates to or supports their own life experience. The ISTP is driven to work with and understand his or her world by applying their special brand of logic (an immediate, spatial, "fuzzy" logic) to their physical experience. They don't necessarily have a goal in mind to achieve from this process - it is the process itself that is rewarding to the ISTP. In their zeal for the satisfaction that comes from mastering their physical environment in such a way, ISTPs often selectively choose to put themselves in situations in which they have the opportunity to exercise these skills. That's certainly not a problem. Most personality types choose to do the things that they're best at most often. Such is the nature of capitalizing upon our strengths. The problem rears its ugly head when the goal of the ISTP becomes to achieve their personal satisfaction at all costs.

It is healthy to choose your paths and goals in life so that they coincide with what you find rewarding, and what you're really good at. However, it sometimes happens that we take this approach a bit too far and sacrifice an accurate and objective understanding of the world for a more narrow vision that is easier and comfortable for us to deal with. The ISTP affects this problem when they stop taking in information in a truly objective sense, and instead only take in information that supports their way of life.

The dominant function of the ISTP is Introverted Thinking. This function is supported closely and importantly by the auxiliary function of Extraverted Sensing. Extraverted Sensing perceives the world and sends information into the psyche, where it is processed by Introverted Thinking. An ISTP who uses their Extraverted Sensing function in a diminished way is one who chooses to restrict their environment to people and places that support their favored activities. In such a way, the ISTP prevents his or her psyche from having to consider data from differing viewpoints and lifestyles, and thus promotes a lifestyle that allows them to frequently exercise and enhance their known tactile skills. It serves their immediate needs, which are the primary focus of the ISTP. However, it also promotes a lifestyle that is essentially self-centered and narrow in focus. It solves short-term problems, and creates long-term ones.

The ISTP's inferior (fourth) function is Extraverted Feeling. This means that the ISTP is not naturally in tune with how other people are feeling, or with social expectations. In fact, the ISTP is likely to reject the importance of social rituals, rules, and expectations. This is a natural weak point for the ISTP, which no doubt causes strife to the ISTP and their love partner. This weakness can be overcome by developing their Extraverted Sensing to the point that they can perceive Feeling type expectations in the external world. They don't have to use Extraverted Feeling to understand how to act in situations. They can perceive the expected behavior from their Extraverted Sensing function. However, if they are restricting their incoming data to only those things that support their existing way of life, then they are not learning from Extraverted Sensing at all. They are not growing their understanding of social and intimate behaviors - rather, they are reducing the importance of this type of understanding to their own life. In these situations, ISTPs shy away from very close personal relationships, and feel more vulnerable and less sure of themselves in situations that involve expressing their emotions.


To grow as an individual, the ISTP needs to focus on taking in as much information as possible through Extraverted Sensing. He or she needs to allow themself to get into situations that they aren't necessarily comfortable with, or that are different from the situations that they would normally choose in life. The ISTP learns from experience, so the best way for the ISTP to grow as a person is to open him or herself to new experiences. Be aware of the tendency to want to run out and do something "new" that is actually just a different opportunity to exercise a known skill. Your task, as a person interested in personal growth, is to understand the world in a truly objective fashion, rather than understanding how the world fits in with your way of life.

Living happily in our world as an ISTP

ISTPs usually have a loyal group of friends that they fit in with and feel comfortable with. The problems that ISTPs have with regards to fitting into our world are not usually related to platonic friendships. Usually, the ISTP has trouble finding and maintaining a love relationship. The ISTP usually has very simple needs and expectations from their mates, and they're surprised and confused to find that their mates have more complex demands. They feel inadequate to meeting their mate's needs, and begin to get very uncomfortable with the situation as they perceive that they are expected to do something that it unknown to them. They back away from the relationship. Outside of a relationship, they feel more unloved and unappreciated, but are afraid to commit to a relationship because they fear rejection and hurt.

Specific suggestions:

Ten rules to live by to achieve ISTP success

  1. Feed your strengths! Realize your gift at mastering your physical environment, and give yourself plenty of opportunities to exercise your abilities. Ride, play, paint, work it. Much of your sense of well-being will come from these experiences.
  2. Face your weaknesses! Face your fear of the unknown, and get yourself into new situations. Experience new activities and people with new perspectives. Don't isolate yourself into a narrow and lonely existence.
  3. Talk about your thoughts. Discussing your ideas and perceptions with others will help you to develop your Extraverted Sensing, and thus your understanding of the world. How well you use your auxiliary function is very important to your overall health and happiness.
  4. Don't be afraid to love. That's just your old inferior function trying to convince you that you're unloved and unloveable. It's not true. Just because you're not sure what to do with yourself doesn't mean that you can't learn! Go on... jump in. The water's warm.
  5. Respect your need for action. Understand that you need to be actively working with your environment to be "in the groove" with life. Don't chastise yourself for not being the sort to sit around and read a book or watch a movie. Choose a partner and companions who value active lifestyles.
  6. Recognize social principles. Realize that our society functions around some basic social principles, and that our society would fail unless those principles are recognized and upheld. In a democracy, people vote. At a red stoplight, people stop. If people stopped voting because it wasn't important to their own way of life, who would be in power? If people stopped stopping at red stop lights because it didn't fit into their way of life, how could we drive safely? Your priorities and beliefs are important, but you must recognize that the external world's agenda is also important.
  7. It's okay to get out of your comfort zone. Understand that the only way to grow is to get outside of your comfort zone. If you're uncomfortable with an idea or situation because you're not sure how to act, that's good! That's an opportunity for growth.
  8. Identify and express your feelings. You may have a hard time figuring out exactly how you feel about someone that you're involved with. It's important that you do figure this out. Don't lead someone on with your ambivalence. If you determine that you value the person, tell them so every time you think of it. This is the best way to make them feel secure in your affections, and so to promote a long-lasting relationship.
  9. Be aware of others. Try to really identify where people are coming from. Their ideas, thoughts and priorities are differents from yours. They have something to offer you. Try to identify their personality types.
  10. Assume the best. Don't distress yourself with fear and dark imaginings. Expect the best, and the best will come.

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