By A.J. Drenth
Over the past few years, we’ve written a lot about the life roles (or simply, roles) that various personality types might adopt. A life role is a snapshot of how our values, interests, and personality come together in a unified purpose. While we all play multiple life roles, we naturally gravitate toward those we find most meaningful and life-giving.
In this post, we will explore the seeker and creator life roles respectively, as well as a hybrid we will call the “seeker-creator” role. And because these roles are most commonly embraced by individuals preferring both intuition (N) and perceiving (P) on the Myers-Briggs, this discussion will be of particular relevance to the INFP, INTP, ENFP and ENTP types, collectively known as the “NP” types.
Oriented to Life-Giving Ideas & Potentials
Seekers sense that there is something important about life in general, or their lives in particular, that is just beyond their grasp and awaiting discovery. Intuiting that there is always something around the corner in the form of untapped potentials or possibilities contributes to a future-orientation. The yet unrealized potential of the future is where the magic lies for seekers. To access this sense of possibility, they turn to the mind and imagination—to ideas, dreams and intuitions.
It is largely dreams and ideas, along with the inspiration they engender, that makes life meaningful for seekers. Such ideations powerfully affect them, exerting a sort of top-down influence on their lives. Namely, if seekers can orient themselves to a meaningful idea or intuition, even the most mundane aspects of life can be rendered tolerable, even enjoyable.
Irrespective of seekers’ particular religious beliefs, the type of experiences they seek—mystery, intrigue, inspiration, absorption, purposiveness—often have a spiritual flavor. In his classic work, Varieties of Religious Experience, William James observed: “There are two lives, the natural and the spiritual, and we must lose the one before we can participate in the other.” Regardless of whether there is an objective spiritual reality behind such experiences, seekers invariably find them valuable and interesting.
Valuing Self-Direction & Inner Intensity
Seekers are the ultimate arbiters of their beliefs and life direction. By definition, seekers exhibit high levels of autonomy, as well as the courage to pave their own path. Should they ever opt to cede their decision-making power to others, they would effectively be forsaking their seeker status.
The self is the seeker’s primary compass for navigating life. Since their path is neither prescribed nor conventional, they turn to self-reflection to assess whether they’re heading in the right direction and what their next step might be.
That said, most seekers use an extraverted form of intuition (Ne), which tends to blur the lines between the self and the outside world. If they are influenced by a serendipitous happening, for instance, it can be difficult to say whether the resultant change was a personal choice. Did they choose to deem it serendipitous and follow its prompting, or did it somehow impact them without their consent?
Balancing inner guidance (Ti/Fi) with external openness (Ne) is a healthy source of tension for all seekers. This stems from the fact that the seeking process occurs both inwardly and outwardly. Inwardly, seekers work to interpret and consolidate their thoughts and experiences in hopes of maintaining a coherent identity and self-narrative. At the same time, this inner work requires periodic fertilization by new ideas and experiences from without.
This also highlights how seeking is an ongoing process, a lifelong journey. While seekers may at times feel they’ve reached the finish line, in the vast majority of cases, it turns out to be a mere pit-stop. The truth is that seekers don’t really want there to be a final destination, as it would only be a matter of time before restlessness sets in and compels them to resume their seeking ways.
If it’s true that seekers never want to stop seeking, then we can surmise that they relish some measure of inner tension or intensity. Seekers never want to become too comfortable, which they consider a surefire path to boredom and apathy. From their vantage point, those who have “grown comfortable with being comfortable” already have a foot in the grave.
To guard against ruts of comfort and complacency, seekers often adopt a striving mentality. Striving is similar to seeking, but connotes more in the way of will or effort. It involves a conscious decision to maintain a certain level of inner tension, even when (or especially when) life seems easy. While dreams, ideas, and experiences are often enough to engender their desired level of tension, on other occasions, more effort and willpower may be required.
Desiring Creative Exploration & Accomplishment
Many of the things seekers hold dear—dreams, ideas, inspiration, absorption, self-direction, inner tension, etc.—are also the building blocks of creativity and innovation. In other words, seekers and creators have a great deal in common. And while not all seekers consider themselves creative, let alone devote themselves to creative work, the potential is there, ready to be tapped into when the time is right.
Neither seekers nor creators have a clear sense of where they are headed. Both seeking and creating are perpetual dialogues, informed by experience, reflection, and action. There is an unfinished, ever-evolving nature to both processes, lending credence to the notion that “a work of art is never finished, only abandoned.”
Creators are well aware of the fact that creation is difficult without some measure of inspiration or creative tension on the front end. Fortunately, seeker-creators are constantly stoking their inner embers, readying themselves for the fire of creative work.
Seeker-creators often discover that they are happiest when they’re creating, as the creative process fosters a sense of unity, absorption, and accomplishment that can be hard to find elsewhere. Not only does creative work provide a refuge from the mundanities of daily life, but it at once focuses and broadens the mind in a meaningful way, transporting the creator to a sort of alternate reality. It also provides a sense of direction and purpose, as well as an opportunity to seek and explore. It thereby manages to integrate both sides of the brain: the more focused and purposeful left hemisphere, along with its more open and creative right-sided neighbor.
The innumerable overlaps between seekers and creators may at first seem surprising. But once we see that they arise from the same psychological seeds, namely, those associated with the “NP” personality types, it all makes perfect sense.
If you identify with the seeker or creator roles, we encourage you to explore our online course, which can help you further clarify and consolidate your personality, life purpose, career path and more: Finding Your Path as an INFP, INTP, ENFP or ENTP.