Note from Joel: For those of you who are ENFPs this article may feel too long to read. Your mind is going to want to jump to other things. Read it anyway. Slowing down and being deeply introspective is one of the most important things you can do.
The 1200 seat auditorium was buzzing with excited energy. I was buzzing with nervous energy.
“Why did I commit to doing this?” I asked myself. I felt flush and was pacing wildly in the back of the room mumbling to myself. I’m sure the scene looked a bit odd to onlookers.
In less than three minutes I had to stand up at Inbound (a major marketing conference in Boston) and deliver a talk to potentially thousands of marking and business professionals about using personality types to build Rapid Customer Rapport.
I felt like punching a wall. I was angry with myself for taking this gig. I was nervous about the outcome. I felt out of alignment.
It wasn’t that I was nervous about speaking in front of thousands of people. I’ve been getting on stage since I was five years old. I had absolute faith in my speaking abilities.
I was much more anxious about the audience’s reception to my talk.
I was asking myself basic outcome questions like…
“Will this talk be any good at spreading the message of personal growth through the lens of personality types?”
“Will I look smart and impress this room of world-class marketing professionals?”
“Was this going to be an effective talk and help me reach my business and personal goals?”
And then I remembered to implement the very advice we teach ENFPs at Personality Hacker. Within 30 seconds I had tapped into my inner wisdom and felt a deep emotional shift inside my heart. It felt like the puzzle piece of anxiety was being swapped out for one of inner alignment.
And then I asked myself a new question.
This question came from my core. My deep inner wisdom asked…
“Is giving this talk today in alignment with who I am and what I stand for?”
Just changing the question made me feel a bit better.
A big “YES!” from my heart confirmed that the talk I was about to give resonated with me.
At that moment – the outcome didn’t matter as much as the fact that I was doing the right thing for me.
I exchanged my emotions of anger and anxiety for the emotion of knowing this talk came from my inner core.
I’d like this article to help you as an ENFP experience this same feeling of deep inner alignment.
ENFP Personality | Wiring of the Mind
As an ENFP your mind is fundamentally wired differently from other personalities. You’ve probably already heard that you are an Extravert, iNtuitive, Feeler, Perceiver.
A lot of articles and resources focus on the behaviors you show the world as an ENFP.
Behavior can be helpful – but it isn’t the complete picture when figuring out your personality.
I want to give you a peek inside your mind to expose the mental wiring that makes you an ENFP.
Your four letter code, ENFP, gives us insight into how your mind is learning information and making decisions.
The primary way your mind sees the world is by using a mental process we’ve nicknamed “Exploration.” It’s technical name is Extraverted Intuition.
When looking at the world – “Exploration” asks the question “What if?”
- “What if we could build a machine that lets humans fly?”
- “What if we cross breed a Lion with a Tiger?”
- “What if I pretend to speak a foreign language on the first day of class?”
To truly grasp how this process works imagine a four passenger car.
Using this mental process puts you in flow. You’ve been using it your whole life. It’s your reality filter and informs what captures your attention.
If Exploration is how you see the world as an ENFP, then the mental process we’ve nicknamed “Authenticity” is how you make your best decisions.
The technical name for Authenticity is Introverted Feeling.
When evaluating any decision – Authenticity asks the question “Does this feel right to me?”
It’s a feeling process concerned with how the events in your life impact you on a subjective emotional level.
Think about that four passenger car again… if Exploration is in the Driver seat – then Authenticity is in the front passenger seat.
It is your Co-Pilot mental process and what we call your “growth state.”
Of course – this is a four passenger car, so you also have two mental processes in the backseat.
Sitting right behind the Co-Pilot is a mental process we call “Effectiveness.”
Effectiveness is all about what works, “the bottom line” and what gets the job done. It’s about getting tasks and objectives accomplished regardless of personal feelings and when not used in a healthy way can disregard personal ethics. This mental process has the development of about a 10-year-old child.
Finally – behind the Driver of Exploration sits a mental process called “Memory.”
We call this your “blind spot” or 3-year-old mental process.
Memory is all about precedent, safety and doing the reliable thing. It’s about realizing who you are based on your past and your ties to the past.
Notice – we haven’t talked about ENFP behaviors.
Instead, I’ve been talking about the mental wiring of your mind.
Behaviors can only give us clues to how your mind is wired.
It’s far more interesting to dive into WHAT CAUSES our behaviors as people.
ENFP Personal Growth
As an ENFP your Co-Pilot is the mental process called “Authenticity.”
This is what we call your growth position. It’s the highest leverage point for growth in your personality.
Authenticity allows you as an ENFP to make decisions that resonate with your core identity and inner wisdom.
It asks internal questions like:
- “Does this feel right for me?”
- “Is this action really an expression of how I see myself?”
- “Am I making this choice because it is true to my inner wisdom?”
Authenticity encourages you as an ENFP to ignore expediency and instead choose meaning and alignment.
It may be easy for you as an ENFP to get into action and get things done, but if those actions are out of alignment, you will always feel like something is missing.
Growing your Authenticity can be a challenge for you as an ENFP. And it can take a while to process and develop how you feel about a decision.
Every personality type tends to avoid growing their Co-Pilot mental process. But here lies the power of understanding your personality.
Don’t see your Authenticity as a hindrance. Embrace the slower pace of getting into this mental process because it gives you the opportunity to slow down and become present as an ENFP.
For an ENFP, it feels right to focus on your core values. It feels like it’s in alignment for you to focus on your true internal motivations and desires.
To continue doing the right things, it should feel in alignment to go inside and check in with your inner wisdom and discover what really matters to you on a core level.
As an ENFP – Your inner wisdom already knows what’s right for you. Don’t ignore the deep core of your true heart.
Start asking, “what emotional impact do I want to create in my life?” Spend some focused introverted time thinking about how you personally feel. See if you can map your emotions to parts of your body.
Each time you are faced with a decision, close your eyes and ask yourself what feels right for you in this moment.
In the middle of a disagreement, pay attention to how you are FEELING in the moment.
Do what it takes to access your inner wisdom.
As an ENFP, you will bring the best version of yourself to the world when you get inside your heart and map your inner values and motivations.
Your Defensive Place
You have a specific area of your mind that you defend.
As an ENFP, that’s your Effectiveness process sitting in the backseat of your car. Remember, it has the sophistication of a 10-year-old child.
That’s okay when you use this process to get the tasks done that your Authenticity has already prioritized.
The trouble starts when you begin to rely on this 10-year-old process of Effectiveness as your primary way to determine which activities to do in life.
Since Effectiveness is concerned with getting things done, it can often show up when you have endless options and you don’t know which one to choose. You may get into action or commit to a project before knowing it’s right for you.
When you feel hurt, Effectiveness can also be used to stay so busy that you can’t connect with others or create intimacy. Or in an attempt to “do everything” (or to become impossible to pin down) you can lose your inner wisdom and become exploitative. For an ENFP this can show up as telling others what they want to hear.
At its worst, Effectiveness can take you down a road of anger, emotional manipulation or even becoming a con artist.
If you let your 10-year-old take a directive role, you’ll be busy and maybe even productive, but you’ll lose your identity and can offend your own core values.
You need to take time to truly evaluate who you are, what means something to you and how you want to contribute to the world.
Don’t let your Effectiveness process steal your happiness. The solution is to focus on growing your Authenticity process like we’ve talked about before.
3 Big ENFP Challenges
I love the Yin-Yang symbol. For me it represents the inner paradox of the heart. Each challenge I see ENFPs struggle with has a Yin-Yang element to it.
As an ENFP – you can sometimes feel mercurial. You often feel like you oscillate between wild extremes from one minute to another.
(This is actually a superpower that we will talk about later in this article. The same ability to oscillate between emotions allows you to be in control of emotions when you are faced with intense situations. Again…Yin-Yang).
Let’s talk about three of the biggest challenges I often see emerging for ENFPs as they begin to work on developing their “Authenticity” process.
These can be extremely challenging since they all three come up as you begin working on developing your “Authenticity.” That’s to be expected.
Challenge #1 – Lacking Confidence Around Intelligence & Knowledge As An ENFP
We were sitting around a small table drinking coffee on my college campus. The conversation somehow drifted to our biggest fears.
Most of the group answered that they didn’t want to die or feared being alone for the rest of their lives.
“Not being taken seriously,” I blurted out when it came my turn.
My friend Nathan asked me what I meant.
“Just because I’m fun doesn’t mean I don’t have a brain,” I answered. “I just can’t articulate it as fast as other people.”
As an ENFP – you may feel similar. Since your exploration process moves fast and works with your intuition and “hunches” it can be hard to articulate opinions and information. Your brain has a difficult time keeping up with itself.
A lot of ENFPs struggle with expressing their thoughts and opinions with the data and metrics that others seem to require. It can be a source of massive frustration as well as insecurity.
It’s common to hear an ENFP say, “I know stuff damn it… I just can’t express it in the data points you want.”
As an ENFP, you may also feel a lack of confidence, not because you are ignorant, but just the opposite.
You pattern recognize so quickly that you soon realize there are a unlimited number of answers to every question.
Each time you are presented with a challenge you can’t think of an answer… you think of 5000 answers. All at the same time. Sometimes this makes your brain feel like a big mess.
Building Confidence Around Intelligence & Knowledge
ENFPs struggle with confidence because they’ve been programmed to ignore their core intuition and gut instinct.
Lots of people will tell you it’s wrong to trust your feelings.
My question to you is this… “Why is another person’s subjective ‘rules’ about knowledge and the world MORE valid than yours?” It’s not.
The ENFP superpower is the embodiment of your deepest wisdom, not explaining data points. If you can embody the point you are making it has extreme power in communicating to others.
I will caution you. In some instances embodying ideas can lead ENFPs to become martyrs. When done in a healthy way ENFPs that embody ideas become champions at living their authentic truth for a cause.
In short, it is better to embody and live out your intelligence.
This is why ENFPs are often attracted to storytelling mediums like film, music, writing and performance art.
For an ENFP it is far more powerful to show – not tell.
Challenge #2 – ENFP Insecurity Around Introspection & Inner Flaws
As an ENFP begins developing their Authenticity in a disciplined way, it’s not long before they begin to get in touch with their heart and all the strong motivating emotions begin to reveal themselves.
Human beings are emotionally complex. We don’t always have altruistic emotions and motivations. Sometimes our motivations and desires are downright frightening and dark.
Authenticity can see these dark parts of the human heart. It feels the darkness. It has the potential to resonate with truly evil and life terminating attitudes.
It is my belief that we all possess this ability in our hearts. We all have good and evil inside us. It’s just that Authenticity has a closer connection and the ability to find and feel these motivations directly.
As an ENFP feels this internal darkness and begins to express it outwardly to other personality types, they can often feel invalidated. Other types don’t resonate with seeing this in themselves like the ENFP.
And now the ENFP begins to wonder if they are truly evil at the core.
An ENFP might say something like, “I know I’m not a bad person, but I look around and I seem to be the only one I know who is in touch with this heart darkness. Maybe I really am bad or wrong at the core of my identity.”
To make matters worse, other people are quick to turn critique and flaws back on you as an ENFP. It can get so bad that you feel the need for perfection BEFORE living your truth.
The pressure of needing to have it all together in order to truly feel as if I’m not being hypocritical when I “champion” others, while simultaneously feeling as if I am always a giant, clumsy, unreliable, immature, and inconsistent hot mess can sometimes feel like too strong of a burden.
For example, in an argument with my ex-wife, I would point out a struggle I was having with her behavior and she would instantly point out that I had no right to mention flaws in others when I had so many myself. She would then proceed to list all my flaws and shortcomings.
I would take these listings to heart and back off. I would spend the next several days/weeks/months trying to “fix” all my flaws.
Meanwhile I would allow the destruction of my personal boundaries by my ex-wife and others because I was “so flawed.”
An ENFP needs to feel that the people they love assume positive intent from them. Often when an ENFP is moving fast and connecting patterns, they might say or do something that unintentionally hurts another person.
And most ENFPs realize they can be a little bit like a “bull in a China shop” and bump against social norms, beliefs or personal boundaries of others. So they rely on others seeing them with good intent.
But deep in their heart an ENFP can find reason for bad motive or intent. So there’s an underlying insecurity that they aren’t truly acting in the best interest of others. The deep fear is that you actually are as flawed as others might suggest and your own heart seems to show you.
A common ENFP phrase that might be uttered in the midst of this insecurity, “Yes I know what I said sounded rude, but please know I was trying to be helpful. I have good intent here!”
Building Inner Authority Through Introspection And Holding Space For Your Inner Flaws
Yes. Your Authenticity will see the darkness of your own heart. As you begin to grow this process you may become frightened at what comes up for you.
I would counter this and posit; the more personal something is… the more universal.
An ENFP is not alone in “heart darkness” – just more aware and introspective.
Everyone struggles with dark fantasies and evil thoughts. You are not alone in your heart.
The unhealthy action would be to act on these impulses or try to alleviate them with self harm like cutting or extreme indulgences (like substance abuse).
I encourage ENFPs to express themselves in order to work through these challenges. It may be performance. It might be photography or art. Whatever an ENFP chooses, it needs to express the conflicts of the heart that feel so challenging.
And – remember how you’ve been waiting to speak up for yourself or your inner truth until you get all your flaws fixed?
It’s not going to happen.
You ARE a flawed human being just like the rest of us.
And you CAN trust your inner wisdom that speaks your truth in spite of the shortcomings you feel.
I was never going to be perfect before setting up my personal boundaries in my first marriage. And it was important that I did it anyway.
Challenge #3 – ENFP Insecurity Of Decisions & Lack of Follow Through
As an ENFP, you will always have ENDLESS things that seem interesting to you. You probably want to do everything in life.
My personal list goes like this…
I want to be a filmmaker, musician, billionaire, graphic designer, New York Times bestselling author, world-class speaker, consultant, actor, radio host, podcaster, personality profiler, resort owner, pilot, computer programmer, blogger, Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback, voice over artist, TV writer, screenwriter, YouTube celebrity, professional mourner, mountain climber, river guide, neurologist, biologist, emcee, and the list keeps going…. on and on… and on.
This is typical for an ENFP “wanna be” list.
How do you narrow down options as an ENFP? Where do you find your true passion and direction?
A lot of ENFPs solve their direction challenges by relying on people around them to set the agenda. It appears more “effective” to have another person help direct so you can get into action.
But if you struggle with options, it’s because they all currently hold equal passion for you. You could literally see yourself doing any of these options.
As an ENFP you know what it’s like when you truly have passion around something. It’s intoxicating and motivating. You are unstoppable and unwavering.
Where is passion found? Your Authenticity of course.
Your Authenticity helps you stop doing what makes other people happy.
Because when Authenticity finds what it’s convicted about – NOTHING can sway it.
Building Decisiveness And Follow Through
I’ve outlined three areas that I believe will help you develop better decision making and follow-through.
1) Slow everything way down and buy yourself some time
Speed kills Authenticity. If you are forced to make a quick decision, your Authenticity will feel too much pressure and pass the decision to your Effectiveness process.
One of the greatest leverage points for an ENFP is slowing down the decisions they are required to make.
You’ve probably heard someone use the phrase “I’ll need to sleep on it first.”
That’s a great ENFP response. Giving yourself time to check in with how you feel about a decision is like injecting steroids into your Authenticity process.
2) Trust your emotions and inner wisdom
Once you slow down your decision making – you’ve just bought the introverted part of you some time to dig deep into your heart and determine what’s right for you.
Like I mentioned above, expect your insecurities around trusting this mental process that seem slow and inarticulate to show up in a strong way.
It will take practice to trust yourself in spite of having no “data” or “metrics of proof” that the actions you are taking are the right actions.
You know it’s the right action for you. If you are focused on acting from core values, you don’t need to worry about the rightness of your actions. As long as you stay in alignment with what is truly important to you, you will make good decisions.
3) Be okay with changing your mind – even after committing
Sometimes ENFPs don’t know a bad decision until after it has already been made. This can be extremely frustrating since often there was absolutely no way to know how you feel about something until you do it.
If it’s a core value of yours, you as an ENFP will keep your word and commitments. Most people think of ENFPs as “flighty” and hard to pin down. They don’t believe ENFPs are capable of committing to much.
I would argue the exact opposite.
The reason ENFPs feel difficult to “pin down” is because once they give their word about something – they have integrity to honor that commitment even if it hurts. So the best way for an ENFP to avoid feeling trapped by “their word” is to never allow yourself to be pinned down or committed.
Cut yourself some slack and realize that it’s just going to happen. You will make decisions and commit to things that you find out later were not in alignment for you. You made a decision that you need to now change. That’s okay.
As you begin to make decisions from your deepest wisdom, you may need to go through with a decision to know if it’s right for you.
Steps For ENFP Personal Growth
I’ve already detailed the mental wiring of your mind. We’ve talked about your highest leverage point for growth and shed light on your defensive strategies. So what’s next for you as an ENFP?
How will you launch yourself on a personal development journey that resonates with you?
Understanding that each of us will have a unique personal growth path seems obvious. And yet, self help authors and teachers often teach a one-size-fits-all model of growth.
You now know the mental process to grow yourself as an ENFP is Authenticity.
We hear from ENFPs all the time who are insecure about the knowledge and insight they bring to the world. Many ENFPs worry that they are only seen as the “life of the party” or “class clown.”
Most ENFPs want to truly inspire others. They want to be an example of living an exciting and inspirational life.
Developing Authenticity takes an ENFP from being “fun” to being “inspirational.”
The enemy of Authenticity is frenetic, thoughtless activity. Authenticity requires time, space and introspection. Sometimes this means addressing painful emotions. Sometimes you may feel even more indecisive at first. But given time and practice – Authenticity will increase the quality of your decisions, ensuring you only commit to things you actually believe in.
Set up your conditions to slow down and give yourself the needed alone time to check in with your Inner Wisdom.
A good way to practice this technique is to explore where your values and beliefs come from.
- Are your core values inherited from parents, influential people in your life, or your culture?
- Which of your core values are reactions against those things?
- If you had to make a list of 10 core values, which ones would make the list?
It’s common for ENFPs, once they start living from their deep inner wisdom to begin wondering how they missed out on this amazing life for so long.
Most of your growth will happen by feeling super clear about what is really important to YOU and making decisions based on YOUR core values.
NOTE: Be sure to stop by our community and let me know what personal growth actions you are taking in your life and what has already worked for you.
The Most Powerful Question An ENFP Can Ask:
“What Emotion Do I Want To Feel?”
My journey with developing my Authenticity has been tumultuous. As a young man I prided myself on my emotional control, ability to get things done and always show up looking like I had my shit together.
And then I spent the past several years “drinking my own cool aid” and actively working on developing my Co-Pilot of Authenticity…
…Enter fits of rage, emotional outbursts, punching walls, breaking down in tears when I couldn’t accomplish task, being unable to focus, lack of clarity, confusion and lack of motivation. I think the people around me thought I was nuts for several months at a time.
This is probably the exact opposite of what you thought I was going to say happened when I started this personal growth journey.
But this strikes at the core of why ENFPs avoid growing their Co-Pilot of Authenticity. I think we instinctively know that it’s not going to look (or feel) pretty. The more we’ve lived in our Effectiveness 10-year-old process, the more volatile this growth experience can look.
You may find yourself feeling like you are losing control of your emotions. You may start fights with your lover or friends randomly. You may drop into a mild depression.
I won’t lie. This may be some of the hardest work you will ever do as an ENFP.
But I know you have it in you.
Relax into the experience and realize it’s just your nervous system doing a reboot and firing up the Authenticity software.
All the emotional upheavals I felt during this time period were the result of my true core values colliding directly with the ones I had allowed to be programmed into my mind and heart over the course of my life. It was like a war within me. So of course it’s going to feel and look erratic on the outside.
The biggest leverage point came for me when I stopped asking “what should I do?” when making decisions.
Instead, I started to access my Authenticity by asking “What do I want to feel right now?”
This was the single best thing I’ve ever done in my life.
As an ENFP, you will get a response from the mental process best equipped to answer the question. Ask better questions, get better answers.
So if you ask, “What goals do I have for next year? What do I want to do?” your Effectiveness process says “Oh that’s a question about action and getting things done. That’s mine – I got this.” and then gives you an answer that will be about action steps and goals.
Start shifting your questions in a way that forces your Authenticity process to stand up and answer.
Instead of phrasing the question “What do I want to do next year?” ask “What are the emotions I want to FEEL next year? Who do I want to be?”
Now your Effectiveness process goes “Wait! That’s not a logistics question. I can’t help with this one. Hey Authenticity, I’m sending this one over to you.”
And now your Co-Pilot is put in charge of answering that question. And you have tapped into the super power you posses as an ENFP… your inner wisdom.
It’s a shift in questioning that will pay off in huge dividends for you.
Ask a better question, get a better answer.
Remember my story about feeling angry and anxious just before hitting the stage to give a talk at Inbound?
I was initially worried about my outcome. I wanted external markers to line up and give me feedback that I was going to do a great job.
Then I shifted my question to ask “Is giving this talk today in alignment with who I am and what I stand for?”
I Authenticity said “hey that’s my question” and answered, “Yes!”
And minutes later I took the stage in front of an audience of marketing professionals and delivered what I consider to be great talk.
As I looked out over the audience and smiled. I felt centered, grounded and confident. I didn’t care about the outcome of the talk.
I wanted to show up as my authentic self. I wanted to be an ENFP who was fully in alignment with my core values, desires and emotions I chose to feel.
As an ENFP this empowerment is available to you also.
I can’t wait to see you step into being a transformational leader in the world as you step into the person you already know you are in the deepest wisdom of your heart.
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