Why Is the “Co-Pilot” Process Vital for Growth?

questions from readers

I recently received a question in the comments section of our podcast Personality Types in Personal Development:

“I never quite thought of the auxiliary function (the co-pilot) as growth state, or at least in those words, but moreso as implementer of the primary function (the driver), which at the end of the day is actually growth! Would you elaborate a bit more on how you see growth from the co-pilot standpoint? Do you see it as merely the implementer of the Driver or as something more, or a combination of the two?”

– Julian

[If you’re not familiar with the Car Model yet, please read this post for a more complete picture.]


In order to be a well-rounded person, we need to be able to do four things successfully:

1. We need to be able to get in touch with our ‘inner world’.
2. We need to be able to get ‘outer world’ feedback.


3. We need a way to take in new information.
4. We need a way to evaluate that information and make decisions.

If we’re missing any of those four things, we end up being lopsided. If we can’t get in touch with our inner world, we become overly reactionary to outside stimuli. If we’re out of touch with the ‘outer world’, then we ignore vital feedback that keeps us in touch with ‘reality’.

Similarly, if we don’t take in new information we become highly prejudice. And, alternatively, if we can’t evaluate new information to make decisions we do nothing but tread water.

Awesomely, our Driver and Co-Pilot processes help use perform all four, since each of 8 cognitive functions are either Extraverted or Introverted as well as being either info-gathering or decision-making.

If your Driver process is Introverted, your Co-Pilot will automatically be Extraverted (and vice versa). And if your Driver process gathers new information, then your Co-Pilot automatically evaluates to make decisions (and vice versa).



(If you use the graphic for reference, remember that all the Sensor and Intuitive processes learn new information and all of the Thinking and Feeling processes evaluate information to make decisions.)

This is why we call the combination of the Driver and Co-Pilot your ‘genius’ – you can’t be in your genius if you’re missing two necessary components of personality. The stronger your Co-Pilot process, the more balanced you become as a person and the more in your genius you are.

As an aside – It’s not uncommon for people to assume that if you’re, say, an Intuitive you need to focus more on your Sensory process, or if you’re a Feeler you need to become more Thinker. It feels like a common sense approach to becoming ‘balanced’. Unfortunately, this only ends up diluting the talents of your Driver and Co-Pilot.

It’s called the ‘cost of specialization’ – you are going to, by definition, become stronger at the things you place your attention on and weaker at anything not within that sphere of attention. Since time on this planet is short, if you try to be good at everything you become good at nothing. My observation has been that the people at the top of their game haven’t tried to be more Intuitive if they’re Sensor or more feeler if they’re a Thinker. They’ve, instead, focused on developing that Co-Pilot process (whether they realize it or not!).

Back to the point.

Each personality type LOVES their Driver process. If you ask someone to describe themselves, even if they know nothing about personality types they’ll end up spending about 80% of their time describing that process. Using our Driver process is a pleasure, often puts us in a flow state, and we naturally allocate a lot of time to it. We clock our ‘10,000 hours’ using the Driver process because we just like it so much.

The Co-Pilot process… not so much. For a couple of reasons.

First, it will be in the opposite attitude of our Driver process. “Attitude” is in-speak for “Introversion or Extraversion.” Meaning, if our Driver process is Introverted, then our Co-Pilot is Extraverted (and vice versa, as mentioned before). The world in the opposite attitude of our Driver is a less comfortable place for most of us.

As an Extravert, I can attest to the ‘inner world’ being far less easy for me to manage than the outer one. And I’ve yet to meet an Introvert that doesn’t regularly need alone time to recover from the outer world.

So, our Co-Pilot process forces us to visit that ‘other’ world. This is GOOD for us, but not always comfortable.

Second, it will also require us to either be more thoughtful about our decisions or it will require us to make a decision. For those that have a decision-making process as their Driver, it’s sometimes difficult for them to slow down enough to take in more information. And for those who have information gathering as their Driver, feeling pressured to make a decision can be torture.

personalityhacker_comfort-zone-graphicAgain, this discomfort is good for us. All growth happens out of our comfort zone.

So, while our Co-Pilot is a natural gift and preference, the exercising of this process can represent discomfort. If we’re used to indulging ourselves psychologically and emotionally, we just won’t go there.

I should probably make a note about the difference between using and exercising a process. It’s easiest to do so with an illustration.

If you pick up a golf club and hit a golf ball with it, that’s using a golf club. If you dig a 4.25 inch hole and attempt to get the golf ball into that hole from 290 yards… now you’re exercising that usage. You’ve set a measurable goal and can observe improvement. Exercise isn’t simply usage, it’s increasing skill and competency.

We’re all going to use both our Driver and Co-Pilot processes. And unless we’re very unhealthy, we’ll exercise the Driver process because it’s fun to give it challenges and watch it improve. However, our Co-Pilot isn’t as intrinsically rewarding to push toward excellence, so it often is in a diminished ‘supporter’ role.

As I mentioned before, the people at the top of their game – gymnasts, musicians, mathematicians, engineers, etc… – are sometimes so balanced you can’t tell which process is their Driver and which is their Co-Pilot!

(There are some that are so unhealthy you can’t tell their Driver process, either, but this isn’t due to Co-Pilot development. They’re usually too invested in their 10 Year Old process or ‘forced’ into their 3 Year Old process synthetically.)

So, to answer your question: YES. The Co-Pilot process is the key to the whole enchilada. The more developed it is, the more a person actively exercises the process, the more they’re in their Zone of Genius. (I’d copyright that, but it’s not that good.)

Hope that helps – thanks for the question!



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Showing 33 comments
  • Andreea

    I have exactly the same problem. I’m INFP too.

  • Freya

    Hello! ENFP here! I’m having a somewhat hard time with my Fi. I’ve been ignoring it and putting it aside after my environment assured me that morals are a problem if you want success in real world.

    In my case make less my Fi because it somehow limits my Ne. And I think that’s what freaks me most. What if my co-pilot takes the lead. What If i become a boring crying ball of emotions that can’t enjoy life because it gets offended by everything.

    But in the end and after doing things as my Ne and Te told me to (And resulting in a very sad outcome) I think it’s easiest to train my Fi to hold tears than have to deal with my Ne throwing punches with Te and their consequences.

    Thank you for this article 🙂

  • Curley

    Hi, I’m an INTP, I’m very intuitive and a dichotomous thinker, I was told that the personality test was BS, but deep down some of what was said about me is true, I don’t want to stand on stage and brag under my breathe, because I don’t matter, it’s the people who need targeting. I feel there are individuals here on Earth that is different from the rest, we are the ones who don’t care about a party, or getting rich, or becoming famous, instead we are singled out individuals who have a brain that is wired wayyyyyy differently than others, we love to ask powerful questions, we love to learn a lot, growing up we may have been bullied and pushed away and laughed at, but we are somehow able to still stay from harms way, and that’s because there is forces who protect certain chosen individuals, these are the type of people I want to friend, I need more friends like that, thanks for the test, it revealed a lot about me I didn’t even know, I’m glad I took this test, I’m happy to be on the right track, until next time, love yourself and one another.

  • TS

    I am INFP I’ve learned that I am very often misunderstood. People misinterpret my intentions. Specifically thinking that I am saying I am better / smarter than others. This flumoxes me because my intentions have nothing to do with my own status. I am thinking of other people and how to help them. This phenomena has caused me to almost give up trying to communicate to others about how they can resolve their problems or personal issues. It seems like a difficulty on my part to be able to say things in a way that is not misinterpreted and a problem with others ability to perceive what I am really saying. Any insight you have would be appreciated.

    • Alix

      I have exactly the same problem. I’m INFP too.

    • Eric Reed

      Hi TS. I am a INFP also and have run into that same issue. It wasn’t til a mentor of mine had me do physical exercise that I started down the rabbit hole of understanding what was actually happening when my good intentions were not well received.

      What I began to understand over the last several years is that my attempts to heal or fix someone’s issues (no matter how well intentioned) can disrupt their balance and equilibrium. I now know that my intentions have also not been completely altruistic. Part of the reason I feel I KNOW how to help is I can feel someone’s pain or empathize with their situation. So it hurts ME and though it was unconscious, I was helping them so **I could stop feeling their pain** in addition to me caring for them and wanting to help them.

      We’re making a bunch of assumptions when we start healing, helping, fixing someone.

      1) We know what the problem is.
      2) We know how to fix the problem.
      3) The other person doesn’t know how to fix it.
      4) This problem is only bad for them and serves no positive or very little positive purpose in their life. And
      5) That they WANT to get rid of this problem.

      Sometimes people can’t see their problem but we can from our perspective. So we offer help because we love them or care for them or simply because we are kind. However, we aren’t “holding space” for them.

      I’ve just started learning of this phrase “holding space”. To truly do it, hurts, especially if you’re the type of person who feels others emotions. But let me say this. When my mom died, I would have hit or cursed out the person who tried to fix/help my grief. I don’t care if they tried to joke or distract me or whatever. I needed to go through that pain. There wasn’t anything for anyone to fix or say. It was a time to feel my pain. I know this is an extreme example that doesn’t seem to apply to most of the times we’re trying to help someone. But I think it does help to give a good perspective to take.

      If you truly want to help someone then sit with them first. Make sure they know you feel where they are at (physically, emotionally, mentally) and that you understand them. All of us are more likely to listen to someone that understands us. If we jump to fixing them we show we aren’t on their level. Think about it. If they could jump to fixing their problem, they would have already. Or maybe they don’t want to fix it right now. In either case we would understand that if we looking at things from their perspective.

      So I like using stories and examples. I apologize if some of what have already wrote is confusing. I’ve done my best. Let me give you an example of me “helping” out a friend a year or two ago.

      My friend felt that he has very few positive relationships with people in our area and that his life would be better if he moved away. He feels his family drags him down and that I’m one of the few people he even wants to be around. He felt that he needed to move.

      Now I’ve listened and talked to my friend for years and realize that much of his problem is his perspective he developed growing up with his difficult family experiences. I realized that he would likely have the same problems with “negative” people no matter where he moved. I suggested many other solutions I KNEW would help. He always came back to needing to live somewhere else.

      Well, finally a year ago, I got it. I wasn’t listening. I wasn’t sharing my friends perspective. I was trying to help but I wasn’t trying to understand. He truly felt that moving was the best solution to his life problems. So, I told him one night, to go home and write down what he’d need to do so that he could realistically move somewhere. I told him I didn’t want him to move cause I would miss him but that if it made his life better I’d be happy with that. I also admitted to myself that sometimes relocation is just what someone needs to reboot their life. I told him don’t wait. Write down what he’d need to do won’t hurt his life in any way and would help him to start doing the necessary steps to relocate.

      A few days later, he stopped by my work. Writing down what he’d need to do made him realize he didn’t want to move. Now I truly think it’s my friends perspectives that cause his problems. But I help by trying to listen first. Have you heard that saying, “Give a man a fish, feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish feed him for a lifetime.” Well, I’m slowly learning that it applies to most things. My friend needs to learn to change his perspective for himself. Even if I gave him thet perfect advice and fixed his current problem, what about the next similar problem? And the one after that? The ones that come when I’m not around?

      It’s frustrating. To see people you care about struggle through things when we see the answer. But let me leave you with an example from a few days ago.

      My 3 year old son is learning to climb into his car seat and put part of his seat belt on. I watched as he struggled to pull himself into the seat the other day. He was having trouble because of the angle his legs were in. My impulse was to fix the angle of his legs but I merely waited and watched. Ready to help if he asked but allowing him to struggle. It was longer than he usually takes but he finally got it. As he sat down tiredly in his seat he proudly told me “I did it because I’m a big boy and see daddy, I’m Strong!”

      I struggle everyday with this issue. Do i offer to help? Will they appreciate my help? I know a few emotional and physical healing modalities. And many times I’m strongly moved to offer this help to friends and strangers. Sometimes its accepted. Sometimes its rejected. What if there was something for me to learn in both situations? It’s part of this crazy process we call life. I’m brought right back to looking at my son in his carseat. I’ve placed him in that seat many times because he asked me to help him up or he was too young to do it on his own. Looking at his proud smile I wonder why struggled with whether I should help him up or not. But its moments like this one when I realize that all the difficulty is worth it. I didn’t rob my boy of his struggle and his triumph and I didn’t rob myself of the big smile I had on my face as i told him that yes “I did see. Yes, you did it. And yes, you are strong.”

  • Chris Luxmoore

    really good article. nice and simple. its probably impossible, but would love to hear about real world people under longitudinal observation to see how effective this is. or maybe people that are at there top can attest to this and describe their experience to marry up with the theory.

  • Matt

    Hi, INFP here, authenticity driver. Thanks for this article. I did felt discomforted while reading it! I understand your point when you talk about getting out of the comfort zone. However, I doesn’t feel authentic to force me to be something I’m not (extroverted energy). It’s true I saw some benefits in the past as the result of using exploration. But when I balanced the risk-benefit relationship of the equation I realized I ended up feeling drain, my energy was gone when trying to embrace the extroverted energy of exploration. I felt empowered for like a second and then I needed 2 days a 11 hours sleep to recover from those experiences. Besides, the term “growth” is a individual/subjective one. Growth does not mean the same to me as it would for you. And the only moment when I can produce without distraction is when I am being authentic and driven by my values. I’m unstoppable that way, so I don’t see much point in being extroverted. In fact the word “flow” or “state of flow” has a positive connotation by itself. And “to force” something sounds more like being a masochist who feel placered by torture. Believe me, I tried. I tried SO hard to go out and to put my authenticity to the test, only to come back home feeling utterly frustrated, with my energy completely drained, my chest sore, and fully depressed. I no longer expect people to understand my. They don’t need to understand me, but to love me and accept me the way I am. If so, I will do the same with them, possibly even more. Apart of that, who on earth invented that frase that “you should get out of your comfort zone”? Where is this frase came from? I hear it a lot nowadays. Why on earth I would think it is convenient to get out of my power, my authenticity? To it seems I am not being true to myself and I am not loving myself if I force myself to do whatever. I need to want to do that. I must feel right first.

  • Mia

    ISFP- What you have said is true. I’m not that comfortable using extraverted sensing. It feels like I’m losing myself or becoming something very ‘unlike’ myself. It feels as if I’m trying too hard to be something I’m not! An outgoing person. I’m a home loving girl and I don’t like hanging out with people much. But I try to get out of the house once in a while or I’ll go crazy. What should I do to make the process of exercising my Co pilot less stressful and more comfortable?

  • Deborah Dahl

    You seem to prefer to keep presentation materials brief, but your value proposition is all about tailoring personal growth goals to your particular personality type. In that respect, this would be much more satisfying & meaningful for clients if the conceptual framework were developed to provide specific examples and illustrations of how this lesson module plays out in real time with my type.

    • Antonia Dodge

      I’d recommend finding your type on the site and reading the articles, listening to the podcasts and watching the videos. This article is intended to support a concept, those resources are intended to be more targeted. It would be kind of silly to address all 16 types in a single article.

      That would make sense, right?


  • Helen Thomas

    INFJ – this is so crystal clear in terms of how to grow and move outside of my comfort zone. So, I need to focus more energy on extroversion and on Harmony decision making. Feels very challenging because I SO love my comfort zone!! 🙂

    • Joy Ross

      Good reply!!!

  • Salt Young

    Very elegant system, the way the driver and co-pilot balance each other out and how overdeveloping the back seat passengers interferes “with the cost of specialization”. Now I’m beginning to question my balance with the functions even more…

  • Ali

    Interesting Article… I am an INTJ, can you tell me what is my co-pilot??? And some tips for that???

    • Charis Branson

      Hey Ali! Your co-pilot is Extraverted Thinking. We call it Effectiveness. We have a lot of resources for developing this cognitive function. Here is a resource page for your type where you can find all the resources we have for you: https://www.personalityhacker.com/resources-intj/. Cheers!

  • Abby Eagle

    Excellent article. I am a creator type personality – INTJ. So easy to get into the flow on the creation side but then i have to market the project, team up with people – so slow and challenging – or i have to learn how to use online marketing platforms —– tires me out. But even before i came across personality hacker i had come to understand that i need to work hard at implementing systems and procedures. And to give the 10 year old enough love and attention to build self esteem and then power along the highway to success. Also i suffer from CFS – chronic fatigue syndrome which relates back to overwork in my 20’s – the 3 year old Sensation. Giving myself enough sensory based activities in the day can be a bit challenging. But just cleaning my apartment gets me out of my head and more grounded in my body and creates a sense of well being. As long as i can create structure and systems – and implement them, then i make progress.

    • Joy Ross

      I really identify with having structured environment. When my house or closet in in disarray is that because of my driver or copilot being in dissonance. Some times I test out introverted and sometimes extroverted?

  • julieta Arias

    Thank you so much for the article, it helps me a lot!!! 😀

  • Denzel Mensah

    This is very true. It’s actually fascinating to see people who don’t know anything about typology that have somehow developed their co-pilot so much so that you can’t even tell which one they lead with between their co-pilot and driver. I personally think that’s one of the ultimate signs of a healthy person. Being capable of even being mistaken for your introverted/extroverted sibling type. Thanks for this!

    • Joy Ross

      Hey, you just answered my question

  • Caty Lee

    Antonia–thank you for writing. this clarifies a lot of loose ends.

  • rani

    Thanks! I felt confuse. I got little point. Who can explain to me with simply? Is the conclude that we must balanced between our driver n co-pilot? I’m ISFJ.

  • Anna Luna

    Hi, I haven’t read the whole article yet, but I had to say something about your statement that one will not feel compelled to use their co-pilot process. For me, this is not true at all. I’m an ENFP and for as long as I can remember, I have had to be authentic with everything I do. I can’t not do it. And I very much feel compelled to use it.
    I’m very grateful for having found your site and now I know that I even need to further explore and hone it to feel more complete. Sometimes I wonder if it gets in my way of achieving my goals (my effectiveness questions it), but now I know that it’s absolutely crucial for my development.
    Thank you!

    • Anna Luna

      Maybe the key is the difference between using and exercising my co-pilot. I’ll have to look at that. Thanks for the insight.

  • Caroline

    Antonia, I’ve been following you guys for 3 months now and I have to say, thank you for being so smart and clear. Wow. I love the intention behind your work and the way you explain in ways that show both flexibility and strength in play with ideas. It’s a model in itself for how I’d like to hold my ideas. I’m just so happy that you found your way of expressing in this world because it has helped so many people already. I’ve learned a lot from hearing the way you approach problems and questions and Joel too 🙂 — Just wanted to tell you that, because I’ve been geeking out like crazy since I found you guys. P.S. I’m an INFJ, so it’s probably to be expected that I would (lol).

    • Heather

      I’m an INFJ too! Finally someone who understands me, and what?! i’m normal?! 🙂
      I still have no clue though what it “looks like” to have a healthy Driver/ Co-Pilot. Do I have a healthy balance? I think rather than the concept, I need specific examples to understand it better.

  • Ehsan

    It was really illustrative specially with your models and graphics.
    Your graphics and models along with explanations, are like systems which formulate and connect all my experiences and knowledge which seems to be quite apart and abstract. (I am an INTJ who have had lots of challenges in life and also a long time study in depth psychology and mysticism.) It is like your explanations link them and provide a tangible model where I can put different materials in their place and see the relation between them and hopefully make use of them in practice.

    I am wondering if you provide online sessions for personal consulting?

    Thanks so much.
    Best wishes for you all.

  • Kirk Tain

    As an INTJ I am interested to know how our 3 year olds or 10 year olds can sabotage or hijack our development in integrating our driver and co-pilot.

    Many thanks for your advice.

  • VL

    Thanks for information. As i push myself to my limits i find it more and more intresting but not really comfortable and drained my energy a lot. At the end of the day I always find myself playing with my 10 year old. Or maybe my 3 year old. But its fun.

  • Carly


    I’ve been devleved into your and Joel’s site and podcasts for a little over three years now, and Id like to say I work very hard to growth my personality daily and try to be aware of self as much as possible and listen to you guys speak for inspiration and tangible practices to impliment in my world, (you guys are unreal as to how much inspiration you’ve provided me and the work youre doing in the world right now) my question about this article is just on the decision making process that I believe is my co pilot (believe I show up as an ENFP). Recently Ive been doing so well Ive been happy and achieving things Ive set out and growing in ways that I had no idea would happen, but something happened with a relationship with someone new and I cant put my finger as to why its stopped me in my tracks and it kind of comes down to making a decision, as to whether to cut this person off, or just to remain friends.. and I guess Im just wondering if this would be an opportunity to grow my co pilot possibly…? or if instances like this fit the bit as to what to look for on a deeper level of growing a decision making co pilot process.

    hopefully that makes any sense at all to you! as Ive been trying to decipher things myself lately so I tried to put words as best i could. and provides enough context, I know you like your contextual details 🙂

    Thank you so much,
    light and love

  • Mon

    If I remember correctly, I think you mentioned in one of your podcasts that strengthening the co-pilot automatically helps with the 3rd and 4th functions too. How so? 😮

  • Mars

    very excerllent sharing. Thanks Antonia -Mars

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