Sensing (S) and Intuiting (N) are the two ends of a scale of preference for how you take in information. (The N is for Intuiting rather than the I, because I is used in the Extravert/Intovert pair)

Information gathering preferences (S vs N)

S: take in information through their 5 senses, the “real world”. Facts, empirical data, what actually exists. Values common sense, practical solutions and past experience. Think: Dr Temperance Brennan on Bones.

N: also uses the 5 senses, but pays more attention to intuition, gut feeling, hunches. Looks for associations, patterns, possibilities, underlying meanings. Think: Agent Seeley Booth on Bones.

S Strengths:

  • prefer factual, concrete information
  • focus on specifics, the present
  • pragmatic (whatever works)
  • realistic
  • practical
  • down-to-earth

N Strengths:

  • inspired and imaginative
  • future focus
  • focus on potential & possibility
  • innovator
  • big picture

Distribution (approximate)

Sensing: 75%
Intuiting: 25%

For a good, accessible, practical (very N!) book, try What Type am I?

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Extraversion and Introversion are the two ends of a scale of preference for how you renew your energy.

Extraversion does not equal talkative, and Introversion does not equal shy!

Energizing preferences (E vs I)

E: get energy from outside themselves: other people, activities and things.
I: get energy from inside themselves: their own thoughts, ideas, reflections.

E: outgoing, with lots of friends and social activities, they are energized by being with other people, fast paced environments, and experiencing the wider world.
I: reserved, they conserve their energy, think and reflect before acting. Too much socializing is an energy drain. Re-energizing needs quiet time alone.

E Strengths:

  • initiating activities and conversations
  • talking through their thoughts and ideas
  • love to be with other people
  • love to be out doing things

I Strengths:

  • thinking things through on their own
  • keeping private things private
  • thinking before they speak or act

Distribution (approximate)

Extravert: 75%
Introvert: 25%

For a good, accessible, practical (very N!) book, try What Type Am I?

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Bill Torbert says this about human development:

Self-transformation toward fully and regularly enacting the values of integrity, mutuality and sustainability is a long, lifetime path that most of us follow as we grow toward adulthood, but that very few continue traveling intentionally once we become adults. Each major step along this path can be described as developing a new action-logic: an overall strategy that so thoroughly informs our experience that we cannot see it.

Our action-logic, then, is like the filter through which we view everything, but which we cannot see. Like water is to the fish, perhaps?

Torbert defines 7 main action-logics (there are some others, but so rare as to be hardly ever seen in the healthy adult  population):

  • Opportunist
  • Diplomat
  • Expert
  • Achiever
  • Individualist
  • Strategist
  • Alchemist

In a good-sized sample of well-educated working adults in the USA, he found the following distribution:

Opportunist: 3%

Diplomat, Expert or Achiever: 90%

Individualist, Strategist or Alchemist: 7%

So most of the adults you encounter in your working environment are Diplomat, Expert or Achiever. We’ll explore each of these in more detail in other posts.

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The developmental model of Ken Wilber uses the concept of fulcrums. A fulcrum is basically “a fork in the road of human development”, where we leave the old way of seeing the world behind. He identifies nine main Fulcrums or milestones. We’ll cover them all in other posts. But first, here’s a short introduction.

Development isn’t rigidly linear, but a process of embedding a worldview, integrating it with what we’ve developed so far, and then transcending the old ways of meaning making for something new that includes all the old but adds a new capacity. There are times when we see things in old ways, and there are tantalizing glimpses of a deeper and broader view that may seem fleeting. But as we grow, the next level becomes more reliably present for us, until the next level is our ground of being; it becomes embedded, and that’s largely the way we see the world now.

One analogy is learning to run. First we walk, wobbly and without confidence. We fall down often, remain back at the ‘sitting and crawling’ stage until we are moved to try to walk again. Eventually we walk competently. Then we try running, and persist until we can do that well. We can still walk (and we can still sit and still crawl), but now we can also run: we have transcended walking, but walking is included for the rest of our lives.

Here are Wilber’s 9 Fulcrums:

F1 – physical self. Usually up to about 5-9 months.

F2 – emotional self. Usually up to about 15-24 months.

F3 – self concept. Usually up to about age 7.

F4 – role self. Usually up to about age 11-14.

F5 – formal-reflexive or mature ego. Most people develop at least to this stage, but some don’t. Most people who develop to this level remain here for the rest of their lives. But some people develop further.

F6 – centaur or vision logic, integrative

F7 – psychic

F8 – subtle

F9 – causal

I’ll cover all of these fulcrums in other posts. We’ll spend more time on F4-F6, because these are the levels we are likely to encounter in the people we work with every day.

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Ken Wilber is arguably the greatest integral thinker of our day, and possibly of all time (so far). He integrates wisdom from many ages, cultures, religions and philosophical systems to distill the commonalities or similarities. His books can be a bit of a  slog, filled with multi-syllabic words such as ontology and epistemology (and he doesn’t define these terms for you, rather assumes you are literate) but they brought new light into unexplored corners of my thinking.

From his lifetime of studies of the work of many others, he has developed an integral psychology, which recognises developmental stages (relatively enduring worldviews and ways of making meaning), states (temporary, often fleeting tastes of levels beyond where we commonly dwell), and lines (independent areas of development, such as morality, aesthetics, cognitive capacity).

He sees personal development as being inseparable from the cultural or environmental development. Another post will look at the four quadrants of devlopment:

  • individual objective (exterior: my body, my actions)
  • individual subjective (interior: my beliefs, values, worldview)
  • social interobjective (group exterior: our group behaviours, physical environment)
  • cultural intersubjective (group interior: our group norms, relationships, culture)

His integral work tracks the development of the individual from matter to living body to mind to soul to spirit. In the world today, we have manifested the first 3 levels in the general world, so that is where most models stop. Leading edge personal development is transitioning us from the 3rd level (Mind) to the 4th and 5th levels (Soul and Spirit).

The developmental stages are based on earlier works of well-respected thinkers and researchers, but continue on where the older models stop, beyond the world of the rational, conventional stages to the post-conventional unitive stages that few human beings reach. That these stages are potentially achievable by human beings is demonstrated by the sages, mystics and saints who regularly experience them. For most of us, in this day and age, they are aspirational, but achievable through deliberate practices that promote consciousness development.

I’ll cover his stage definitions in another post.

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The idea that people continue to develop throughout their adult lives is the leading edge of psychology today.You might hear it called ‘developmental psychology’ or ‘integral psychology’ or ‘ego development theory’ .

The notion of ‘development’ is that people can gain broader and deeper perspectives as they mature. This is different from gaining new skills such as learning a better way to communicate, or how to manage your anger constructively. It has to do with changing the underlying structure that you use to make meaning of your world — your values and beliefs. For example, we see how teenagers or young adults are driven by their need to belong to their group, to identify with the group norms and blend in. But at a certain point, the young person realises that they want to be recognised for their unique qualities, or would  like to be known for their particular expertise. Blending in is no longer the most important thing; now they want to be differentiated. This transition from Diplomat to Expert is a major developmental step. The values and beliefs that fuel our meaning-making have changed.

As opposed to models of Types, where you are considered pretty much born with a certain tendency, trait or preference, the developmental models consider the human journey to be a progression through known stages, in a fixed order (i.e., you don’t skip a stage).

There are things you can do that will help or retard your development. Stressors can cause regression to an earlier stage. Occasional ‘peak experiences’ can give a temporary glimpse of a later stage. But you have a ground of being in your life, a general way of making sense of your experiences and understanding your world. Your development pace is rather slow; you can be years in a particular stage of development.

Some of the thought leaders in this developmental world are Ken Wilber, Robert Kegan, Bill Torbert and Don Beck. All of these will be explored in more detail in other postings.

The important thing to understand is this: there are several ways to look at and to understand individual differences. Type afficionados find sufficiency in explaining these differences by some sort of Typing scheme, such as Myers Briggs Type, Enneagram number, Belben Role, etc. The Stage modelers see people as fundamentally changing throughout their lives. I think each view has merit. I believe that exploring individual differences in terms of Type can open our eyes to accepting that other people are different from us, and that the differences don’t mean others are better than or worse than us. But I also believe that if we consider only Type, our perspective is limited. Developmental models hold out more hope: what we may find limiting today can (and will be) outgrown as we develop to the next stage of our lives.

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The Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is probably the most widely known inventory or model of personality type. It describes a person’s preferences in 4 life areas:

  • Extraverting (E) vs Introverting (I) – a continuum that refers to how we focus our attention and how we renew our energy.
  • Sensing (S) vs iNtuiting (N) – how we prefer to take in information
  • Thinking (T) vs Feeling (F) – how we generally evaluate situations and make decisions
  • Judging (J) vs Perceiving (P) – our lifestyle preferences

I’ll cover each of these pairs in detail in later posts.

Your ‘MBTI Type’ will be a four letter code: I’m an INTJ. (Well, mostly I’m an INTJ. I score reliably right in the middle between the T and F. In any given situation I might be INTJ or INFJ.)

Think of these pairs as preferences, sort of like handedness. If you try to use your toothbrush in your non-preferred hand, it’s awkward and difficult, but you can do it. And you can get better with practice.

The MBTI indicates your preference in much the same way. I am highly Introverting, but I definitely can go out to noisy, exciting places with lots of rowdy people and have a good time! But reading a good book is preferable to going clubbing. For me. You might have a different preference.

The MBTI is a registered trademark of Consulting Psychologist Press, Inc. There are many books on MBTI, and one that I really like is What Type Am I? by Renee Baron (ISBN 014026941X).

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I believe that people grow throughout their lives, on the inside. We develop more complexity in how we see the world and how we make meaning out of what we experience. I believe that the better we are at understanding how that development happens, the better we are at understanding ourselves and others. And I believe that understanding ourselves and others makes our lives happier.

People also tend to have some pretty stable characteristics. There are many schemes for identifying personality types, but the one thing they have in common is that they describe essentially enduring traits. Understanding the various models of personality types gives us tools to use to improve our relations with each other, to work better together, have more harmonious families, friendships and social networks.

This blog is about developmental stages and personality types — models, assessments, examples, and how you can use this knowledge to live more effectively or more peacefully. I’m pitching it to the beginner or intermediate reader, because I believe that there are always new people becoming interested in these subjects, and it can be difficult to find simple explanations. I’m aiming for an informative and useful resource, where you can get information and ideas for practical applications of what you learn.

I’m interested in your feedback about how well I achieve my intention.