Living and Learning by Personality Type

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” This phrase tends to refer to the world in general, but it’s just as applicable to our personal lives. We are creatures of habit, and if those habits include behavior that is self-destructive, awareness is often the first step toward positive change.

We all struggle with the desire to improve ourselves, and the wiser of us seek tools to break any patterns that hurt us. Still, for various reasons – some of which may be out of our direct control – we can find the same trouble befalling us over and over.

To explore whether this tendency to repeat our mistakes correlates to personality type, we asked if our readers agreed or disagreed with the statement “You find yourself in the same kind of trouble over and over again,” and the responses revealed some trends.

The opportunists and adapters – Prospecting types – seemed to report going after the same opportunities more often than perhaps they should, while more orderly Judging types held a steadier path. Less obvious in this early data, but explored more thoroughly in the Strategies section, is the difference between Turbulent and Assertive Identities, which may prove the most potent factor.


Diplomats and Analysts (64% and 63% agreeing)

Diplomats and Analysts agreed in almost identical measures, and a great deal more than either Explorers or Sentinels. Intuitive personality types tend to follow their curiosity and explore unknown, interesting things. Their quest for the unfamiliar may be more likely to lead them into trouble.

Of the Diplomats, 72% of Mediators (INFP) and 69% of Campaigners (ENFP) agreed that they repeatedly find themselves in the same kind of trouble, while only 55% of Advocates (INFJ) and a slight minority (49%) of Protagonists (ENFJ) agreed. The divide between Prospecting and Judging personality types factors heavily in these responses.

Mediators and Campaigners tend to see where life leads them, and often life leads them down well-trodden paths unless they make a decision to set out in a new direction. This kind of active direction doesn’t come naturally to these personality types, who prefer to understand more than challenge. Advocates and Protagonists, on the other hand, have no trouble making decisions and sticking to new paths. If something doesn’t work, in their hearts or in the world around them, then find a way to change it.

Among Analysts, Logicians (INTP) (72%) and Debaters (ENTP) (71%) showed much higher rates of agreement than Commanders (ENTJ) (53%) and Architects (INTJ) (48%), continuing the story between the Judging and Prospecting types. Prospecting Analysts are more likely to look for trouble than avoid it, picking apart words and beliefs just to see if anything happens. Something usually does. The single personality type that agreed most was the Turbulent Debater (ENTP-T) (82%). Their Extraverted tendencies and their passion for poking holes in any thought process they can find can certainly result in some patterns of trouble.

Judging Analysts, on the other hand, are notoriously solutions-oriented – if something causes a problem, it will be corrected. Ender, from Ender’s Game, represents the totality of this mindset when he says of people who give him trouble, “I make it impossible for them to ever hurt me again. I grind them and grind them until they don’t exist.” These personalities apply this to the world within and the world without in a constant effort to make themselves as effective as possible.

Explorers (54%)

Explorers agreed quite a bit less than Analysts and Diplomats, despite their unifying Prospecting trait. Only a slight majority of Explorers (54%) agreed, effectively marking a neutral response. From these numbers, we can see a correlation between the Observant trait and less agreement, in addition to the role Tactics played in these responses.

Explorers are comfortable with unconventional paths and often improvise rather than plan. They don’t shy away from the unpredictable, and they engage opportunities whenever and wherever they arise. This adventurousness may lead these personality types to unintentionally flirt with danger more often than they had hoped, often along the lines of their active interests.

Yet they also have a tendency to take the path of least resistance. While Analysts (and to a lesser extent, Diplomats) may itch for problems to solve, Explorers are more likely to fix things because they’d rather not be bothered by them. A group response in the middle is fitting for Explorers: trouble is just something that happens from time to time.

Sentinels (34%)

Sentinels aren’t known for adventurousness or experimentation. They often play it safe, and that seems to work for them, at least according to the responses on this topic. These personality types are highly practical, organized, and realistic, and may go so far as to consider a recurring problem as almost absurd. “This is why we have rules,” the thinking goes. “They prevent problems from happening again.” They apply this as much to themselves as to the laws of society and workplace conduct, and it resulted in dramatically less agreement with the statement.

The personality type that agreed the least was the Assertive Defender (ISFJ-A), with only 17% agreeing with the statement. It would seem that their staid, scrupulous, and emotionally aware mindset helps them avoid routine troubles. Yet even the types to agree most among Sentinels – Turbulent Logisticians (ISTJ-T) (51%) and Executives (ESTJ-T) (50%) – gave a neutral response, neither agreeing nor disagreeing that they find themselves in the same kind of trouble over and over again.

Judging personality types usually prefer to be prepared, and avoid unforeseen trouble by controlling and coordinating their path as much as they can. While this might cause Sentinels to miss occasional wonderful surprises, it may also help them avoid recurring trouble.


Social Engagement and Constant Improvement (67% and 66%)

Turbulent personality types nearly all agreed that they find themselves in the same kind of trouble over and over again. Only Turbulent Consuls (ESFJ-T) (46%) and Defenders (ISFJ-T) (47%) agreed in the minority, and Turbulent Executives responded with a flat 50%. Every other Turbulent type agreed with the statement, often by margins of 30% or more over their Assertive counterparts.

Both of these Strategies are all too skilled at identifying their greatest weaknesses, and their drive to improve means they often intentionally pick the greatest personal challenges they face in life and butt heads against those challenges repeatedly.

Turbulent people are often not satisfied and seek change, even if it means making mistakes along the way. At the same time, that change and those mistakes can be terrifying, or simply exhausting. Turbulent personality types may find themselves running into the same walls repeatedly, marking lifelong struggles for Constant Improvers to attain a “healthy” social life, or a constant battle for Social Engagers seeking the endurance needed to achieve their often ambitious goals.

People Mastery and Confident Individualism (38% and 34%)

Assertive individuals tend to be more confident in their path, and also more comfortable with it. They might feel less inclined to change because their current approach is working for them. This steady, assured thinking makes these personality types less likely to experiment or take risks. At the cost of potentially missed innovation, they might avoid running into trouble.

It may also be that they don’t see trouble the same way as more Turbulent individuals. People Masters and Confident Individualists are often perfectly aware of any trouble they’re in, but they worry less about it as they resolve whatever the problem is – if they feel the need to “solve” it at all. This casual attitude alone might lead these personalities to disagree with the statement, saying there’s no trouble at all, where a Social Engager or Constant Improver in the exact same situation would lose sleep because they were so worried.


The question about whether we find ourselves running into the same kind of trouble over and over again is less about whether recurring troubles exist and more about whether any given personality type thinks those mistakes actually count as “trouble”.

Where a Campaigner may see a recurring problem, an Architect may see an interesting puzzle. Where a Mediator may feel the tension in every misunderstanding, a Consul may shrug and keep moving. Where a Debater knows exactly what their problem is, but just can’t help themselves, an Entertainer may lead with their heart and passion down the same path over and over to the same conclusion, blindsided every time things go wrong, but determined to try again.

How about you? If you experience the same trouble over and over again, why do you think it keeps rearing its ugly head? Leave us a comment and let us know!