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Inspiration, Motivation and MBTI

Posted 01 July 2016 by
Sherrie, MBTI Certified Expert & Organizational Development Consultant
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A typical day as a college freshman- I’m in a large lecture hall bracing myself for yet another long dry lecture.  My not so enthusiastic Psychology 101 professor began speaking in his monotone voice successfully coaxing my classmates into REM sleep.  Despite the presenter’s nap-inducing tone, something was different that day - he had captured my attention with the topic and I found myself listening intently. The professor was lecturing about extrinsic and intrinsic motivation, I was intrigued!  This concept helped me understand why many people passionately pursue interests without an external payoff.

Fast forward to years later, and I credit this experience as being pivotal in my interests leading to a career in organizational development and talent management. Many of the struggles we deal with in this industry directly relate to extrinsic and intrinsic motivation

Extrinsic motivation is when we’re motivated to do something to earn a reward or avoid punishment. I studied hard in my Psychology 101 class because I wanted to get a good grade and avoid the earful from my parents – that’s extrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation is when you do something to gain personal satisfaction and find it rewarding – essentially you’re doing something for its own sake rather than for any external reason.  Once I became interested in Psychology, my interests expanded to learning as much as I could about the topic.  I was fascinated and enjoyed learning for personal satisfaction, not for a specific external reason – that’s intrinsic motivation.  The two can also co-exist.  I am still intrinsically motived by my interests in psychology, yet also receive external rewards being employed in the industry.

If you end up working for an organization or corporation, it’s likely that someone in the HR department is looking for ways to motivate their people to stay engaged, stay innovative and constantly improve. Extrinsic and intrinsic motivation is a big topic in this industry.

We’ve found that the people who are most engaged in their school or in their work are the ones who are most successful, so how do you stay engaged in what you’re doing? One of the ways to stay interested and active in a subject or job is to feel inspired. Through the lens of MBTI preferences, we know ‘one size doesn’t fit all’ and what inspires one person may be a turn off for another. So over the next few blogs we’re going to look at how inspiration plays out depending on your MBTI preferences.. Through my many years working with teams and leaders, I have collected a lot examples of what individuals find inspiring and you probably have a few examples of your own that come to mind.

Through our next few posts, well explore specific examples shared personally by people in diverse roles, industries and geographic locations.  Interestingly, despite the many differences in all other aspects of their lives, there is much similarity in their stories of inspiration.

What’s inspiring for those with an ESTJ and ENTJ preference?

In addition to your four-letter-type, many psychologists look at what they call type dynamics – which is how the preferences work together and affect each other. Each of the 16 MBTI types has one function that is much more comfortable to use than the rest, that’s what we call the dominant function or favorite function. Think of this as your MBTI superpower – it’s the core part of your personality. If you have preferences for ESTJ or ENTJ, you share the dominant function of using your  Thinking preference externally (also called extraverted thinking). This is best described by making decisions and plans for organizing your environment to achieve logical goals efficiently. An example of using extraverted thinking in daily life would be creating vacation plans, having a well thought out contingency plan if something goes wrong, managing all the aspects of travel, tickets, reservations with the goal of completing the adventure – as planned.

Through countless conversations I have had with individuals with an ESTJ and ENTJ type preference, there is a common theme which comes alive in their stories.

“I am inspired when I can to create plans and structure.  When I am able to lead initiatives to reach certain goals and put that structure into action, I give 200% effort!”


“I feel very inspired when people around me recognize my competence and decisiveness. I enjoy having flexibility to move forward quickly, achieve my goals, check it off the list and move on the next task!”


“I am inspired when I inspire others! When I inspire others, they go the extra mile!  I enjoy discussing ideas, making plans to carry them out, and getting everyone on the same page to forge ahead.”


In my next post, we’ll explore what fuels inspiration for individuals with other MBTI preferences.  I’ll discuss those with an ISTP and INTP preference (two MBTI types that share the dominant function of introverted thinking).  You’ll see how these individuals also have a Thinking preference, yet are inspired very differently from someone with an ESTJ or ENTJ preference. I’ll then discuss those with a Feeling preference contrasting how individuals with an ENFJ and ESFJ preference are inspired in very different ways from someone with an INFP and ISFP preference.