Developing Exploration for INFPs and INTPs

Do you ever find yourself having trouble not knowing what action to take? Do you tend to get stuck in a rut, or remain steadfast in your comfort zone? When a learning process is in the auxiliary or Co-Pilot position in the Car Model, it takes conscious effort to reflect on how a particular decision can play out. Types that lead with a decision-making process can jump to conclusions before considering all of the possibilities. For this article, I will focus on two introverted types: INFPs and INTPs (from here referenced as INxPs).

Both types use a freeing Co-pilot process called Extraverted Intuition or what we’ve nicknamed “Exploration.” This process is all about experimenting in the world and engaging with novelty. When INxPs use this process, they open up a massive realm of possibility. If an INxP bypasses Exploration by relying on their tertiary 10-Year-Old process, they may hesitate to move forward in their lives and can seem incredibly short-sighted and judgmental toward others.

A Pitfall

The 10-Year-Old called “Memory,” or Introverted Sensing, celebrates repetition in what’s known to be safe. It encourages mastery over creating positive experiences and routines. However, for INxPs this process can trap them in their comfort zone and sabotage any efforts to seek out new information.

For example, let’s say someone presents an argument to you, but it doesn’t make sense and may not feel right to you (just pick any current event that gets you defensive and/or emotional). If the argument is dismissed too quickly without considering how it might be logical to someone else, then the Memory process wins. For other types, this isn’t always a bad thing but INxPs can fall into the trap of clinging to preconceived notions, unwilling to be wrong. Closing off possibilities may keep them away from greater insight. Comfort zones make them feel safe and competent in the short term, which leads to a pattern of thought where there’s only one right way, one truth, or one conclusion, especially when feeling defensive. They might use stock arguments as the only measure of what’s possible in their lives.

Develop Your Co-Pilot

It’s important to use Exploration as a vetting process before or immediately after making a decision because it asks “Are these all of the options? What else could I try?”

Types that use this function as their Co-Pilot might experience resistance. In many cases, they will have to try out their idea before knowing how to feel about it. Sometimes a decision can’t be made until action is taken in some shape or form first. And that can understandably wreak havoc on a person’s nerves. That 10-Year-Old Memory process will definitely whisper in your ear “Stay safe! You don’t know what’s gonna happen!” and it’s true. You won’t. But what if things turn out to be interesting? Exhilarating? Efficient? Seamless? What if you could find a model that streamlines the way you think about relationships? Wouldn’t it be awesome to meet a person you could vibe with on a deep level?

Testing out the possibilities to these questions in the physical world is quintessential for getting into the Exploration process. You’ll probably have to leap before you look to utilize this process effectively.

There *is* one way to make this more palatable. Instead of allowing your Memory process to hinder growth, appease it by choosing to do a novel thing in a safe container. For example, if you decide to dive into growth by traveling to a country you’ve never been to, make sure to go with a trusted friend and have an itinerary. Or if you decide to meet someone new, pick a restaurant that you frequent so you feel comfortable. Make sure some aspect of your regular routine is included in the adventure to make sure you get the most out of the experience.

Tangible Actions

Here are some tangible actions you can take.  Accomplish the first few on your own without meeting up with anyone. I encourage you to try them this week. Then next week, try at least one of the more social suggestions. Don’t worry about how it might go. Just make sure a small part of your normal routine is included somewhere in the action.


  • Generate a list of new occupations or hobbies you would like to get into. Write down the thing that’s stopping you from pursuing these paths. Then list what you might do to abolish those resistances.
  • Brainstorm at least ten different solutions to an ethical or logical problem. Hold those ideas in your mind, no matter how far-fetched they seem. For example, list at least ten different ways to get your boss to give you a promotion.
  • Think about what good could come from discouraging situations such as a breakup, losing an election, getting fired, or lacking money. Try to list five positive counters for any distasteful event that you think of.


  • If you’re in an argument with someone that seems to be repetitive, think of a different response or behavior to use. Change the flow of the interaction and see what happens.
  • Find something new about the place you already live in. An especially good exercise for those who have lived in the same town for years is to try to find a hole-in-the-wall restaurant that you may have walked by but never tried. Or go down a street you’ve never bothered to explore. Get lost in your own city and ditch the navigation. If it makes you feel safer, have some cash on hand for a cab to quickly get you back home asap. Or when you’re ready, open up the navigation when you’re sick of wandering.
  • Talk to someone you would never bother saying hello to before. Ask them about their lives, what they’re passionate about, and compare how their worldviews differ from yours. What makes sense to them? What do they value? During this time, learn about what makes them different. Be open to simply receiving their information whether you agree with it or not.
  • Travel to a place you’ve never been to (whether within your own country or abroad). And if you’re thinking that’s expensive, think of at least ten cheap alternatives to more expensive travel. For example, you could volunteer at a hostel to have free lodging, CouchSurf, become an au pair, house-sit, or volunteer on a farm through the WWOOF program where many farmers will provide housing.
  • Start a new business or side project. Don’t worry about competency or if someone might judge you for it. Start it and see what happens. Think of all the ways you could make your business/project successful. When one tactic doesn’t fly, move on to the next one and keep trying as many of the possibilities as you can.

Getting Into Growth

Instead of allowing the Memory process to limit growth, let it act as a support system. Memory loves creating routines, so you can use that as a starting point to launch into Exploration.

Let me give you an example of how each type uses the relationship between their Exploration and Memory processes to broaden their worldview.

I know an INFP who built a tribe of open-minded people who constantly give him insight and fresh perspectives. At first, he started small with this pursuit, going to a local bar after work for a few hours daily. Many times he sat alone and did some work or writing, but as he continued the ritual of after work drinks, he became a regular. The bartenders got to know him and he stayed open and engaged with whoever approached him. Soon enough, people started coming to the bar to see him and he built his tribe within a few months. Sure, not everyone stuck and not every relationship lasted in the long-term. However, that project alone landed him a couple of the close connections with interesting people that he craved.

His Memory process recognized a safe container in which he could build a routine. So he used that space to explore new people, ideas, and relationships.

In another example, my INTP friend typically would identify himself as an A-class misanthropist. His best friend was his guitar and he would play scale exercises over and over. However, one day (and I’m still not sure what came over him) he decided to try something new. He started inviting people to make music with him. And once he met people with some new ideas and life experiences, they invited him to help take care of an urban garden. Turns out he loved it. He got really into sustainability, even encouraging other people in his social circle to do the same. He now hosts parties on occasion, and interviews people about their lives on a regular basis. That one small step in expanding his social framework completely changed the way he thought about life and people in general.

His Memory process was attracted to refining his skill in guitar. But it ended up opening a new realm of possibility to explore.

Final Notes

If you’re an INFP or an INTP reading this article, take a chance and get out of your comfort zone. Take a tangible action and open up a world of possibilities for growth. If you’re worried about having your identity challenged or not being competent, use your Exploration process to think about what good could come from the prospective experience. When you seek out every positive conclusion first, then you have a greater ability to enhance the best parts of you. And in turn, you’ll start seeing the best in others. Step outside of the box. The first few times you try to get out of a rut may not be successful and that’s ok. Keep leveling up. Keep experiencing the complexity of the world. Then, your insightful conclusions about how the world works will impact and inspire those around you.

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Showing 20 comments
  • Ben Readings

    Excellent article! I was having such a difficult time understanding the relationship between Ne and Si. This clarified all of my questions. Thank you!

  • DaniPA

    All of these exercises are fun, which I guess is all the proof I needed that Ne is a strength of mine. The first one inspired me to take a shot and pursue a new career path that has interested me all of my life, but never seemed practical enough to pursue. But I’m just going to try new things and keep trying. It’s scary because I really have to trust and hope that not doing what’s most practical won’t hurt me in the end. But it’s so much better than doing nothing, right?

  • Nach

    I do agree with this point.

    There are many ways to explore the world, but the most accurate way is definitely to put my thoughts out there and make them become concrete.

    Sure, every so often, when I lack energy or I feel in my comfort zone, I don’t feel like ruffling feathers with new ventures/side tracks. But life become SO boring that I end up giving myself a gigantic mental kick to prompt something ne, wildly different and so “out there” that people can’t help but blink and call out “magic” (the words of my ESTJ boss).

    It might be because I’ve been left to my own devices and forced to “survive” on my own since I was 14, who knows? But one thing that I can say for sure is that the satisfaction I get from seeing an idea/project/a course of action pick up within my group of chosen fews (students, family, community, colleagues) is EXHILARATING.

    Granted, I don’t always have the strength to follow up consistently to the “T” (I get bored with repetition and routines) but I find it MUCH easier to upgrade/refine this project by injecting even more ideas, and thus bringing people together again, but with a different twist to it.

    INTPs are the real ” analysts and creative problem-solvers”. Thinking through a problem is mental warm up, and designing a solution is like a sustained epiphany. No drug in the world can EVER beat this natural process in our mind. 🙂

  • Paul

    Thanks for this great article.
    I’m an INFP and my best friend is an ESTP which is great for my personal growth. He always challenges me and I very often find myself trying new things and get to know new people with different worldviews because of him. Sometimes it is really exhausting but I think I would never be that open minded as I am if we wouldn’t be friends. In return I help him to get more sensitive with other people and to get a bit more profound.

  • Ana

    Great article ! It is nice to have concrete examples of what exploration is like. That is exactly what I was searching for.

  • Newx

    I did some exploration. I told an INTJ to come back to me into a relationship even though I knew we would benefit more in many ways apart. We broke up wanting to be friends, but she just didn’t even act like a friend anymore to me. I wanted the friendship very much, I guess the friendship died with the relationship so I believed that my best shot at keeping this person was to persuade her back using perspective/effective analysis, I showed her how things could work out and how it could benefit us – it backfired – she told me plainly, this time, thankfully, that she is not interested in a relationship with me and want to remain friends but if I keep pressing this issue it’s better for us to be apart. This would be a “bad outcome” by most standards, but actually, I think it’s good because she never told me the truth before this that she was not interested in a relationship with me. Just avoided me and didn’t engage, though she mentioned wanting to be close friends even. And I would rather hear the truth from her and move on, to a better future, because logically I know we are better off apart, but if there is a possibility of us being together, I will definitely try all means to make it work. However I do have a question here. The process of exploration – it does has its fair share of risks. In this case I think I have just made the friendship worse. This INTJ and my other friends have often told me to think carefully before taking action. The problem is as an INFP I can think all I want from different perspectives, and get different conclusions. There is an action that could be “correct”, another one that could be “most loving to everyone involved”, there is one that “this is what I want”, and one that “most others who have been through the situation would recommend me to do”, and lastly there could be one that maybe “nobody is sure what might happen”. And I guess when using my exploration process, I am always tempted to choose the one that “nobody is sure what might happen”. I like the results that come about when I make such choices, but there are consequences, and the people around me obviously do not like that and I am worrried that might affect the opportunities I get in work as a result of that. What do you think? How should INFPs “think carefully, perhaps like INTJs” (if that might mean anything to you at all), can we even think carefully at all or should we focus on exploring straight since perhaps INFPs don’t have a strength in thinking and might come up with flawed conclusions most of the time through “thinking” anyways?

  • Haylee

    I was happy to see many tangible ways to use exploration in this article. It can be easy to get caught in the Fi-Si loop and I’ve been looking for some detailed examples of how to refine my growth process through exploration while still utilizing my memory ten year old in a positive way. Thanks!

  • Ronak

    This article is a great source for INTPs to get the best out of us. The idea of going into an exploration, making the very thing your routine hit me so hard realising the fact that unknowingly I did this when I joined Architecture after my junior college (we take up undergraduate courses after completing junior college). This helped me create a routine not only around the field I got into, but also other aspects of my life (wherein otherwise, I would have stayed in my comfort zone) that developed my co-pilot function to some extent and I can actually notice the change.
    Looking forward to applying your advice more consciously now. Thank You.

    • Chelsea

      Hi Ronak!

      I’m glad you found Exploration so naturally. I hope you find even more amazing opportunities to expand your reach.

      Peace and love!

      • Lucy

        Thank you, Chelsea!
        You confirm my suspicion that I should try to be more social (in the safe environment), even if if I don’t get to meet other INFPs, it is still worth to meet ppl of different personalities to broaden my perspectives..

  • Tanya Krushen

    Thank you. I needed to read this today. I know what I need to do, I’m just not so good at getting at it. 🙂 Sometimes I need a good kick in the arse!

    • Chelsea

      Hi Tanya,

      Why don’t you sign up a friend to be your partner in crime? 😉
      (Or just an accountability buddy. Let’s not get you arrested!)


  • Carth

    I tend to get stuck in my confort zone, habits, etc. And it doesn’t do much good for me. I’ve known that for a while now. There was a moment in my life where I was doing pretty much everything you’ve described about exploring new things and it made me encounter the nicest persons and put me in situations never experienced before. I was able to find daily life refreshing and had some great insights helping me find the pieces for the larger picture of what the world is like. I don’t know how it happened exactly but I got back into using my 10 y-o memory process too much – kind of in a depression way. I think I was worried by financial instability, emotional trauma, and so decided that cutting the magic and replacing it by routine and some restrictions would be better for a while. I am way more confortable now, I still need to build my mental strenght in order to fully chase the anxiety, which is not the easiest part, at all, but very much possible and in coming.

    • Chelsea

      That’s an interesting viewpoint, Carth.

      Can I ask why you seem to view ‘Exploration’ as ‘chasing anxiety’? Exploration doesn’t have to mean a lack of stability.


      • Fastsky

        I know that I am replying to an old comment, but I use understand how Carth feels. Leaving the house can be anxiety inducing at the moment. Meeting new people doubly so. Exploration means doing new things, and even with safety nets and comfort blankets, they still make me anxious.

      • Fastsky

        In fact, just getting those safety nets in place can be their own anxiety, if you need to persuade someone you trust to come with you, and rely on them to be there for you. What if, what if, what if!

      • Johanna

        One reason why Exploring is anxiety-inducing for me (INTP) is that the failures result in negative feedback from other people. Feedback like “you are scattered, you never follow through, you are not dependable”.

        I’ve worked hard to develop some level of habitual competency at the boring stuff so that the lack of it didn’t interfere with my ability to connect with other people. Exploring has felt like a threat to that.

        I have recently discovered that a lack of Exploring can pose the very same threat though. After moving from a house I was settled in, the old strategies and ideas I had used to get the energy to get settled there were enough longer working on the new place. I had closed my mind to “over-thinking” the daily grind, focusing on habituating it instead.

        It took 3 years to occur to me that I needed to be open-minded about it again, that the way I succeeded before wasn’t the only way in existence. That was a funny experience, realizing I was stuck in my ways. 😄

        I spent some time brainstorming, thinking about the nature of food, clothing, and shelter as broadly as I could, and wham! Inspiration, energy, and progress. Good stuff.

        • Johanna

          *the old strategies and ideas I had used to get the energy to get settled there were *no* longer working in the new place.

          Why are the typos always the one word that completely reverses the meaning? 😆

  • INFPwoman7

    Thank you for the article from an INFP. It’s funny how exploratory I can be with the internet, books, and music, but then I can go quite a while without leaving my house, other than work, or talk to new people, even when I go out to several events. In some ways, I have issues with breaking out of my comfort zone, for real. But when I do, I often have some of my greatest revelatory moments.

    • Chelsea

      Totally! Those moments of spontaneity can really provide some gems. You never know who you’ll meet or what you’ll learn from those experiences just outside of the realm of comfort.

      Love the screen name, by the way!

      Peace and love. =)

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