Vanessa, MBTIonline Contributing Writer
4 min. read
Have you ever been asked what motivates you?
It’s such a loaded question. Some motivators are pretty universal: food, shelter, money, recognition, etc. But beyond the basics, what motivates you might not motivate me—and vice versa.
If you manage people in any capacity, it’s incredibly helpful to understand how motivation and personality connect. Because when a person is motivated, it usually means they’re more engaged, fulfilled, and productive. Before we dive in, let’s brush up on the fundamentals of extrinsic vs. intrinsic motivation.
Think back to your childhood. Perhaps you did your homework or ate your vegetables because you wanted to earn an allowance or avoid getting in trouble. Those are examples of extrinsic motivation. Now think back to a project or task you happily did all on your own—not because someone told you to. These are things you found rewarding. For me, it was creative writing. For my best friend, it was arranging her books in alphabetical order. Both are examples of intrinsic motivation.
Keep in mind that both extrinsic and intrinsic motivation can (and should) coexist. In our adult lives, we typically need a job to earn money (extrinsic motivation). And ideally that job should fulfill us in some way, or at least give us freedom to grow in other ways (intrinsic motivation).
Motivation is impacted by four core preferences
Now that we’ve covered extrinsic vs. intrinsic motivation, let’s take a closer look at how this relates to personality. When we look at motivation through the lens of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI®) assessment, it all boils down to preferences. Specifically, preferences for these four things:
- How you get energy (Extraversion and Introversion preferences)
- How you organize your life (Judging and Perceiving preferences)
- How you make decisions (Thinking and Feeling preferences)
- How you gather information (Sensing and Intuition preferences)
When tasks can be completed in ways that align with your specific preferences, you feel much more motivated to do them—especially at work.
But when company leaders don’t recognize how different preferences play into motivation, it can make people feel alienated and demotivated—even when traditional rewards (like money, recognition, etc.) are in place.
Fortunately, company leaders are becoming more aware of how motivation impacts work. By now, you’ve probably heard of Google’s “nap pods” where employees can go to rest or think during the work day. In other places, “brainstorm rooms” are a thing. It’s a space where people can bounce ideas off colleagues in a fun, low-pressure way. These are both examples of motivators companies use to keep employees engaged and inspired. Thoughtful spaces like these have popped up in workplaces everywhere.
Pretty cool if you ask me. Even still, nap pods and brainstorm rooms aren’t a cure-all. That’s why we need things like the MBTI assessment to color our understanding of how personality preferences affect motivation.
A bird’s eye view of motivation for the 16 MBTI® types
The next couple of blog posts in this series will offer a deeper look at exactly what motivates each MBTI personality type. For now, here’s a quick overview for all 16 types:
- ESTJ: you’re motivated when you can spring into action. You like to organize your work in a way that’s effective and efficient—without concern for future possibilities.
- ENTJ: you’re motivated when you can manage processes, organizations, or people. You like to develop plans with long-term goals in mind.
- ISTP: you’re motivated by activities that rely on your senses and memory for details. You like to work on things that test your ability to problem solve.
- INTP: you’re motivated when you can interpret ideas through a logical lens. You like to follow your analyses without concern for irrelevant facts and details.
- ENFJ: you’re motivated when you can develop and implement grand, innovative, long-range plans. You like to plan in a way that promotes others’ growth and development.
- ESFJ: you’re motivated by finding practical methods for collaboration. You like to work in a way that helps others accomplish their goals.
- INFP: you’re motivated when you can develop unique ways to express your inner values to the outside world. You like to work with limited external restrictions and oversight.
- ISFP: you’re motivated when you can live your values in a direct, hands-on way. You like to work in environments where loyalty is prized over competition.
- ESFP: you’re motivated when you can help the people who are important to you. You like to impact others in immediate, practical ways.
- ESTP: you’re motivated when you can solve problems efficiently. You like to focus on the present, without having to think of future implications.
- ISTJ: you’re motivated when you can work independently in a quiet, organized setting. You like to manage your time well and minimize interruptions.
- ISFJ: you’re motivated by practicality and procedures. You like to share processes with people that will help improve their lives.
- ENFP: you’re motivated when you have the freedom to set facts and details aside. You like to go with the flow of your inspirations and ideals.
- ENTP: you’re motivated when you can release external constraints. You like to see how your inspirations lead to logical conclusions.
- INTJ: you’re motivated when you can devote time to working on complex systems. You like to describe and explain your inner visions for the future.
- INFJ: you’re motivated by enhancing others’ lives. You like to transform your inner vision into helpful plans and programs.
The MBTI assessment is a powerful tool to uncover and understand all the nuances of our motivations. It’s how we learn to become more engaged and well-rounded colleagues, students, teachers, friends, and partners.
And this is just the tip of the iceberg. Stay tuned for more blog posts in this series, where we’ll share real-life stories from people who describe what motivates them.
Until then, consider taking the MBTI assessment if you haven’t already. Or sign up your whole team and learn how to work better together. Now that sounds pretty motivating.