Personality Development Tools: The Car Model

(In this post, we talked about the need for Personality Development Tools. Feel free to read it first.)

Human beings are crazy complex. There are so many components it’s truly impossible to fully know ourselves in a single lifetime. We have parts of ourselves that want one thing, and other parts that seem to want the exact opposite. Wrestling with doubt, confusion or lack of clarity can be maddening.

Getting a handle on some of those parts can be an awesome first step in creating inner alignment – that thing that brings self-esteem, direction, and an answer to the question, “What do I want to be when I grow up?”

One of the most powerful tools I’ve ever come across is what we call The Car Model. It creates the backbone of our Genius Assessment, and is the primary focus of about 50% of Personality Hacker trainings.

Here’s a quick description.

Let’s pretend your mind is a four passenger vehicle. (These four ‘passengers’ represent four distinct mental processes which influence you the most.) In the front seat you have a Driver. Next to the Driver you have a navigator, or a Co-Pilot. Directly behind the Co-Pilot sits a 10 year old, and directly behind the Driver is a 3 year old.

The Driver is the part of your personality that you identify with the most. If I were to ask you to describe yourself you would spend 80% of your time describing this process. We call this your Flow State.

The Co-Pilot is a part of you that you identify with, but not nearly as strongly as the Driver. It’s an incredibly important part of ourselves that we tend to undervalue. (I’ll get to that in a moment.) We call this the Growth Position.

The 10 Year Old is a part of you that you know is there, but have a push/pull relationship with. Sometimes you think you’re good at it, sometimes it trips you up. We call the 10 Year Old the Defensive Position.

The 3 Year Old is the most unsophisticated part of you, and so you have a tendency to not see it. It often influences you from the shadows until it makes its presence known, usually through inner turmoil. We call the 3 Year Old the Blind Spot.

It looks like this:


Before we develop the Car Model more, we should establish…

There are eight mental processes (technically called “cognitive functions”) in the Myers-Briggs system. Four help us learn new information, four help us make decisions. Personality Hacker has assigned nicknames to these processes to make them easier to understand. They are:

Learning processes

  • Introverted iNtuition – “Perspectives”
  • Extraverted iNtuition – “Exploration”
  • Introverted Sensing – “Memory”
  • Extraverted Sensing – “Sensation”

Decision-making processes

  • Introverted Thinking – “Accuracy”
  • Extraverted Thinking – “Effectiveness”
  • Introverted Feeling – “Authenticity”
  • Extraverted Feeling – “Harmony”


  • It’s the iNtuitive/Sensing preference that informs how you learn new information, and the Thinking/Feeling preference that informs how you make decisions.
  • Each process has an introverted version and an extraverted version.

Everyone needs four primary components in order to be a complete person.

We all need:

  • A way to take in new information (learn)
  • A way to evaluate that information (make decisions)

We also need:

  • An introverted part of us, or a way to get in touch with our “inner world”
  • An extraverted part of us, or a way to get real-world feedback

Each personality type chooses one of the learning processes as their favorite way of learning new information, and one of the decision-making processes as their favorite way to evaluate new information, or make decisions.

On top of that, each type will make one more distinction: whether they like learning or decision-making more. So, each type pares down their favorite process from eight to just ONE. That is your Driver. The other process you like (but isn’t your favorite) is your Co-Pilot. And remember – we all need an introverted part of ourselves as well as an extraverted part. That means if your Driver process is introverted, your Co-Pilot process will automatically be extraverted.

To state it in an easier way:

  • If your Driver is learning, your Co-Pilot is automatically decision-making (and vice-versa).
  • If your Driver is introverted, your Co-Pilot is automatically extraverted (and vice-versa).

If you don’t get this right away, don’t worry. Most people don’t get it initially. And I’ll use an example to make it a little easier.

I’m an ENTP in the Myers-Briggs system.

The two letters that instantly draw my eye are the “N’ (which stands for iNtuitive) and the “T” (which stands for “Thinker”). Remember – all the learning processes are either iNtuitive or Sensory, and all of the decision-making processes are either Thinking or Feeling. So, N and T are my starting point.

I know I learn using iNtuition, and I know I make decisions based on Thinking criteria. If I were to draw this out it would look like this:

E – iNtuition – Thinking – P

The last letter of the ‘sandwich’ is P. This stands for Perceiver in the four letter code, and has meaning in and of itself. But right now I’m trying to figure out what my Driver process is, so we’ll stick with that.

In the Myers-Briggs system, iNtuition and Sensing are called “Perceiving” functions. When someone is a “Perceiver,” that means the world – everyone else outside of them – first recognizes the “perceiving” quality about them. So for all “P’s” in the Myers-Briggs system, their iNtuitive or Sensory preference is EXTRAVERTED!

I’ll repeat that – since the world sees their Perceiving nature, that makes their perceiving nature (iNtuitive or Sensory) extraverted.

That means my iNuition is “Extraverted iNtuition.” (aka, “Exploration” in the Genius System).

That makes me half a person – I have a way to 1) learn new information and a way to 2) interact with the ‘outer world’ through extraversion. To be a complete person, I need a way to 3) make decisions and 4) interact with my ‘inner world’, or have an introverted side of me. (We need all four elements.)

I know I make decisions using Thinking. And because I need a way to interact with my ‘inner world’, that means my Thinking process has to be INTROVERTED.

My Thinking is “Introverted Thinking.” (aka, “Accuracy” in the Genius System).

So, my two favorite processes are Extraverted iNtuition and Introverted Thinking.

With me so far? We’re almost there…

Which of these two is my FAVORITE process? There’s only one letter left in the four letter code (ENTP) that we haven’t used – the E! “E” stands for “Extravert.” The E or I (which stands for “Introvert”) tells you which of the two processes you favor. Whichever one matches this letter is your favorite process. Of my two, it’s Extraverted iNtuition that matches, so my favorite process is Extraverted iNtuition, which is my Driver.

How do I figure out the ‘passengers in the car’?

So, for me as an ENTP…

  • My Driver is Extraverted iNtuition, or “Exploration”
  • My Co-Pilot is Introverted Thinking, or “Accuracy”

Which looks like this:

ENTP front seat


Now it’s a matter of figuring out the ‘back seat passengers’, or the 10 Year Old and the 3 Year old.

Remember, the 10 Year Old sits directly behind the Co-Pilot, and the 3 Year Old sits directly behind the Driver. That’s because these final two passengers – the final two aspects of your personality that influence you the most, are the exact opposite mental processes as the Driver and the Co-Pilot.

Why do the opposite mental processes impact us so much?

It’s called the ‘cost of specialization’. When we focus our time and attention on one thing, we are by definition ignoring other things. In particular, skills which are far removed from the activity. For example, if we are fully immersed in a study project, we are choosing to ignore working out at the gym. At least for the time period we’re studying. The more we focus attention on a few things, the weaker we become at their counters. In the moments we need to be well versed in our study project, we’re the hero of the day, which influences how the world sees us. We might get a job, a promotion, a date, or any number of positive things from showcasing our knowledge and talent. By the same token, if life throws something at us in which we needed brute strength, we’re forced to show our corresponding weakness. We might LOSE a job, a promotion, or a date, which would be equally influential in how our lives unfold. We are the most influenced by our greatest strengths and our greatest weaknesses.

In my case, my Co-Pilot is Introverted Thinking . That makes its exact opposite – Extraverted Feeling – my 10 Year Old. And my Driver process is Extraverted iNuition, making its exact opposite – Introverted Sensing – my 3 Year Old.

Incorporating the ‘nicknames’, that means:

  • My Driver is Extraverted iNtution, or… Exploration
  • My Co-Pilot is Introverted Thinking, or… Accuracy
  • My 10 Year Old is Extraverted Feeling, or… Harmony
  • My 3 Year Old is Introverted Sensing, or… Memory

Therefore, my car looks like this:

ENTP full car

If you notice, each one of the passengers has an explanation in the box. That because I borrowed a page from the complete assessment you get when you order the Genius Style Assessment after taking the test.

Each of these positions – the Driver, Co-Pilot, 10 Year Old and 3 Year Old play a unique position in your life. On top of that, they each influence each other in unique ways depending upon your type.

For example, if you notice… regardless of whether or not you lead with an introverted or extraverted Driver, your 10 Year Old process is going to be the same. In times when the world is telling us something we don’t want to hear or acknowledge, we either will shut off our listening mechanism (Introverts will do this), or we’ll ignore those niggling voices inside of us that tell us we’re doing something wrong (Extraverts are guilty of this behavior). When that happens, we want to stay in the world that’s comfortable to us – either the ‘outer world’ for Extraverts or the ‘inner world’ for Introverts. Our Co-Pilot encourages us to be more mature and explore the other world, the one we’re currently fearing. In a defensive move, however, we’ll shut out the voice of the Co-Pilot, and run to the 10 Year Old to fortify what we already want to believe. That’s why the 10 Year Old is called the “Defensive State.”

Just knowing this can be HUGE in personal development.

Another example. Our 3 Year Old is oftentimes off our radar. It’s the opposite of how we ‘define ourselves’, and so we tend to pretend it isn’t even there. But it IS there, even if it is a more childlike, unsophisticated part of us. In a family, no one introduces everyone except the baby saying, “Oh, that’s just a stupid baby, don’t pay attention to it.” We WILL do this to ourselves, however. And just like a real baby, when it feels neglected for too long it will start screaming – loudly. These are generally moments when the Driver is already stressed, and having a screaming, childlike voice inside is almost invariably the reason a person will behave in a truly terrible way, saying, “Did I REALLY do that? That’s totally not me!”

Knowing your personality type also means giving a name to that part of you, and recognizing how NOT to ignore it. As an Exploration/Accuracy (ENTP) type, I know my ‘baby’ is Memory. Since I understand how it works cognitively, I can help it get its needs met before I become a prisoner to it. And when I say, “That wasn’t me,” I can now identify – yeah, that was me. It was my Memory process, and I now can control it instead of be controlled by it.

Who are the passengers in your car?

The Car Model is one of the most powerful tools for personality development. If you haven’t yet, I highly recommend investing in the Genius Style Assessment and becoming intimately acquainted with the ‘passengers’ in your car. Each type is different, and building intimacy with all of your parts may be one of the most satisfying things you can do.

Find out who’s in your ‘car’ by taking the Genius Style Assessment here. There’s a helpful animated video which explains The Car Model in more detail. Check it out!



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Showing 19 comments
  • Margaret

    I don’t get the last letter in the code, either P or J. Where does it come from? My code is ISTJ – introverted sensing and extraverted thinking. J stands for judging. How? I don’t understand it.

  • Aaron

    (ENTJ here) Antonia/Joel, Why did you choose the ages 10 and 3? I’m curious what your thoughts were that led to that decision.

    Great model by the way. I reference it almost every time I explain personality type to someone (which is often).

  • sarah

    I think it’s very difficult to understand, to define human brain. it is different each moment in different situation and a different time and a different place.Human mind functions only in NOW mode; In adaptation mode.

  • Peter

    Hi Antonia,

    Thank you for sharing this unique insight. It really helps with understanding how the “attitudes” (intro / extro) should be positioned in the 4 letter of MTBI.

    I’d love to have your thoughts on whether the co-pilot should have the opposite attitude to the pilot.

    According to this Wiki article (
    some people disagree with Myers & Briggs about their interpretation of Jung’s that the auxiliary function should take on the opposite attitude. They seem to suggest that the “co-pilot” should take on the same attitude as the pilot in Jung’s theory.

    • Peter Hung

      Hi Peter,

      I think that’s a great point you’ve mentioned.

      I’ve read the Wiki article, but my interpretation is that in the end, the author seems to agree with Myers’ interpretation that the aux function should take on the opp attitude of the dominant function.

      I also think that part in the Wiki can be updated to make it clearer

  • Sylvia

    I just read an article saying that the left side of the car is unconscious, and the right side is conscious. But I thought the functions become less conscious as you go down the stack. The first theory implies that my 10-Year-Old is conscious and the second theory implies that it would be barely conscious. Do you know which is right? And if the first theory is correct, where would that put the shadow functions?

  • Era Brueske
    Reply does it again! Very informative site and a thought-provoking post. Nice work!

  • Sander

    I found it helpful to also give the co-pilot an age: I suggest using 46 / 12 / 3 years old

    Then, you can treat your co-pilot as a 46 year old (e.g. when you’re younger, the co-pilot is wise but paternalistic, and when older, the co-pilot is supportive but impatient)

  • Arman Ochoa

    I love these two amazing people. I am an ISTJ working at a nonprofit. I built the systems that are inp place to keep it going. Funny cause my new boss is a female INTJ. So she develops the ideas/programs and I create the systems to make it into reality. Great team environment. Most of my staff are ESFJs.

    • Glenn Inn

      You and i have the exact same work situations, except that my boss is male. However the results/symbiosis is the same. He creates the “here’s the target and needs” and i get to put the nuts and bolts to make it work.

      We go way back to college times and the companies where we worked directly together we were very innovative and creative. I definitely think this is due to the complementary personality types

  • Susanne

    In another podcast you mentioned that the development of the co-pilot is the best we can do for our personal growth. Why do we need to improve our co-pilot (in your case accuracy) for self growth if this also is actually our favorite processes (introverted thinking in our case)?

  • Daryl

    WOW! You just keep blowing my mind with all this useful information. My 3 Year Old, memory is jumping for joy, now I can stop ignoring it and start giving it what it needs to become stronger. I am stoked!

  • Craig Filek

    Hey guys – where is the podcast where you explain the Car Model?



    • Kimothy Cross

      Craig, type in personality hacker car model in search, and It will come up!

  • iago

    Antonia, great text!
    I have watched a video of yours where you explain my type (INTP) and I believe you’re more of an Extraverted Feeling. rather than an Extraverted Thinking. Just saying ;P

    • Antonia Dodge

      I do have Extraverted Feeling in my stack as my tertiary (or 10 Yr Old) cognitive function. It’s unsurprising that in a performance context it will show up more than at other times. 🙂


  • Anita

    Love the car model. Since not all the types have access to their car model on site would it be possible to post a printable graphic of an empty car for the rest of us to fill in? ESTJ here.

    • Nima

      I agree, it would be good if we could lookup the car model for each type or compare them side by side.

  • Gavin Bracken

    In every single occasion it is quite tough to identify behavior and attitude of human as it took a very long period to understand the nature of human being. It varies in every bit of moment and differs from person to person. Therefore we have found multiple personality in multiple persons; in this article also we can notice certain facts about human behavior and personality and I hope it will definitely guide us to develop our inner skill.

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