According to the Enneagram tradition, the core vice of the Enneagram Type 5 (5w4 / 5w6) and by association—the INTJ and INTP personality types—is avarice or greed. These types aren’t greedy in the typical material sense, however, but are instead inclined to hoard time and knowledge.
In many respects, the comfort zone for these types is “preparation mode,” which often consists of activities geared toward learning, practicing, planning, or building. While some Enneagram Fives may enjoy these activities for their own sake, many Fives see themselves as working toward some sort of goal or objective. This might include clarifying their identity or life path, mastering a skill set, acquiring knowledge in a given field, etc.
While other personality types may suffer the consequences of inadequate preparation, the Enneagram 5 often has the opposite problem. Namely, instead of blindly jumping into action, Fives may fail to take any action at all. Regardless of their actual level of skill, knowledge, or competence, they will find reasons (excuses?) to persist in preparation mode until they “finally feel ready” to act. Their reluctance to act, to disseminate or implement what they’ve learned in the outside world, is what earns them the hoarder label.
Why Enneagram 5 Types Don’t Feel Ready
There are a number of reasons why Fives may feel unprepared to take action. One is their propensity to see themselves as frauds or impostors, which happens to be a common problem among introverts (see my post on Introverts & Impostor Syndrome).
Fives also want to ensure they’ve thoroughly done their homework before putting themselves out there. In many respects, they approach life like an intellectual puzzle, one that must be solved abstractly before concrete steps are taken. Fives want to comprehend the “big picture” prior to action—a tall task in an age of rapidly expanding knowledge.
Fives affinity for getting lost in their own thoughts and investigations also makes it more difficult for them to connect and communicate with others. The more isolated they become—both mentally and physically—the harder (and scarier) it is for them to switch gears and engage with the outside world.
In addition to these common Enneagram 5 struggles, there are several reasons why INTJs and INTPs, in particular, may struggle to act on their knowledge, which we’ll explore next.
Why INTJs Don’t Feel Ready
Insofar as they exhibit a preparation mindset, both INTPs and INTJs can be construed as “planners.” That said, INTJs tend to develop more thorough or elaborate plans than INTPs do. Like chess masters, INTJs take pride in their ability to think multiple steps ahead in order to minimize risk and optimize their chances of success.
Only a rare INTJ would consider starting a business, for example, without a carefully conceived and explicated business plan. To the INTJ mind, taking such a big step without a clear plan would be tantamount to playing an economic version of Russian Roulette. The INTJs I’ve known have also relished the process of business planning, which furnishes them an opportunity to give form to their intuitive (N) vision by way of their auxiliary function, Extraverted Thinking (Te).
While INTPs are not exactly fans of Russian Roulette, their upfront planning is typically less extensive than that of INTJs. This stems from the fact that INTPs are less confident that things can be predicted or fully fleshed out on the front end. They see life as too complex and unwieldy to be predicted and planned out into the distant future. Plus, leaving room for ongoing tweaks and adjustments helps satisfy their penchant for tinkering and experimentation.
While neither of these approaches is inherently superior, INTJs are more apt to sucked into a planning black hole, which can result in missed opportunities for success and personal growth. Simply put, planning is one area where perfectionism can crop up for INTJs and undercut their willingness to act.
Another potential contributor to INTJ inaction is lack of a system to work within. As J types, they like to work on or within established objective systems (Te). A structured system, particularly its flaws and shortcomings, provides a meaningful focal point for INTJs’ insight and analysis. But without some sort of attachment to a system (usually through employment), INTJs may feel at sea. While they will continue to see ways of improving the world, it can become too easy for them to stay on the sidelines, functioning as observers rather than participants.
INTPs are somewhat dependent on external systems as well, but in a different way. Rather than reforming or working within them, INTPs are more apt to rail against or act independently of them. Ironically, INTPs may also feel under-motivated without a system, as they thrive on having something to resist, elude, or outwit. That said, building their own system, philosophy, or business can serve as a constructive outlet for INTPs’ Introverted Thinking (Ti), lessening their need to constantly push against something.
Why INTPs Don’t Feel Ready
Although INTJs may not feel ready to act, it’s usually not due to a shortage of ideational conviction or certainty, since their dominant function, Introverted Intuition (Ni), engenders a sense of knowingness. Ni also contributes to a general confidence in humanity’s ability to discern certain and objective truth.
As discussed in my book, The INTP Quest, INTPs differ from INTJs in this respect. In using Extraverted Intuition (Ne) as their auxiliary function, INTPs’ perceptions are typically divergent rather than convergent in nature. This leads them to see ideas and theories as provisional, which thereby makes it harder for them to consistently identify with any particular theory or knowledge discipline.
This doesn’t mean that INTPs don’t dream of, or strive for, ideational certainty. To the contrary, the prospect of finding a secure conceptual hook to hang their hat on is a powerful motivator for this type. Consequently, it can be hard for INTPs not to envy the ideational convergence exhibited by INTJs and similar types.
One way of circumventing the uncertainty problem, which I personally recommend for INTPs, involves engaging in work that doesn’t rely on firm ideational commitments, but is geared more toward exploration and creativity. This is only part of the solution, however, as INTPs also crave a certain measure of meaning or import from their work. While functioning creatively and exploratively offers insight into this type’s optimal process, clarifying the content or subject matter of their work is equally important for INTPs.
Thus, a key aspect of INTPs’ readiness to act involves finding a content niche that will prove interesting and meaningful over the long haul. And because this requires a convergent decision, INTPs can be reluctant to commit until they are confident that something has consistently captured their interest over time. This sense of knowing relies on recurrent life experience, as well as its recall, which is mediated by their tertiary Introverted Sensing (Si) function. Whereas INTJs are apt to find ideational conviction sooner with the help of Ni, INTPs must be willing to explore and experiment (Ti-Ne) long enough for consistent and convincing Si patterns to emerge.
Learn More in Our Books:
Learn more about INTPs and INTJs—their personality, cognition, life struggles, and much more—in our books:
The INTP: Personality, Careers, Relationships and the Quest for Truth & Meaning
The 16 Personality Types: Profiles, Theory & Type Development
Unsure if You’re an INTJ or INTP?
Take our INTJ-INTP Type Clarifier Test
Why INFPs, INTPs, INFJs, & INTJs Struggle to Act
Type Profiles: Enneagram 5 | INTJ | INTP
“INTPs must be willing to explore and experiment (Ti-Ne) long enough for consistent and convincing Si patterns to emerge.”
Thank you for this reminder. I’m an INTP mired in avoidance and introspection. I have indeed found that action does yield its own rewards. And yet, I still find that I avoid action to a self-destructive extent (even activities that I’m quite sure will improve my life).
I think an obstacle to action is a desire to be “sure” of the outcome? Even this feels insufficient to explain chronic inertia, given that I have at least a reasonable expectation that stalled activities would really make me happier…
Viewing real activity as “exploration and experimentation” might well help me to relax that apparent need for certainty and open a door to creative discovery.
Dr. No says
Bingo. Preparation overpreparation perfection perfection. Hugely accurate.
So — how to make an INTJ jump?