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When the Going Gets Tough: How Different Personality Types Deal with Challenges

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Most of us face challenging tasks on a regular basis. Whether we’re buying a new house or dealing with a complex project at school or work, life is constantly handing us difficult assignments. As with most aspects of life, our personality type plays a role in how we deal with difficulties. When the going gets tough, which personality types are the most likely to give up on a challenging task? We asked our respondents to agree or disagree with the statement “You tend to give up on tasks if they are too challenging.”

Agreement with “You tend to give up on tasks if they are too challenging.”

The first interesting thing to note is that most people disagreed with this statement. Agreement rates were low across the board, with only a small percentage of most personality types acknowledging that they give up on tasks that are too challenging. This signifies that we all face challenges and difficulties, but generally speaking, we tend to persevere.

While several personality traits appear to play a role in committing to difficult tasks, Identity was the most significant. Turbulent types were 24% more likely than Assertive types to agree that they give up on challenging tasks. There was also a significant difference between Judging and Prospecting types, with Prospecting types being 14% more likely to give up on tasks that they deemed too challenging.

Roles

Agreement with “You tend to give up on tasks if they are too challenging.”

Explorers and Diplomats (37% and 36% agreeing)

Neither Explorers nor Prospecting Diplomats are as interested in ticking off the checkboxes of a task as their Judging counterparts are. These personality types are more interested in keeping their options open, going with the flow, and generally not committing to anything they do not find pleasure in. This is not to say that they don’t work hard or that they are not dedicated; they are simply less likely to finish a challenging or frustrating task that they have difficulty engaging with.

Not all Explorers or Prospecting Diplomats are likely to bail when things get too tough. In fact, there was a pretty decisive split in the responses among these personality types. Turbulent Mediators (INFP-T) and Turbulent Adventurers (ISFP-T) are the most likely types to give up on challenging tasks, with 53% and 54% agreeing respectively. Besides their Prospecting trait, Mediators and Adventurers are also Introverted and Feeling types. Introverts are more likely than Extraverts to feel overwhelmed and remove themselves, especially in challenging or stressful situations. The Feeling trait that Mediators and Adventurers share also makes them more likely to let their emotions take the lead when they are stressed, causing them to discontinue working on tasks that are too difficult and don’t provide them with enough intrinsic reward.

Diplomats with the Judging trait, especially Assertive Protagonists (ENFJ-T) (8%), are less apt to give up on challenging tasks. Judging personality types absolutely need closure, and discontinuing a task before it is completed will not provide the closure necessary for these individuals. Plans must be followed and order maintained. For Entrepreneurs (ESTP) – the least likely Explorers to give up on a challenging task, with only 26% agreeing – it is their Thinking trait that prevents them from quitting. Assertive Entrepreneurs (ESTP-A) are even less likely to consider giving up, with just over 16% of them agreeing with the statement. Thinking types attempt to remove emotion from their decision-making process. When the going gets tough, they will use logic to determine the pros and cons of removing themselves from a task, utilizing their head over their heart when making a difficult decision.

Analysts (31%)

Analysts also employ their Thinking trait during their decision-making processes; however, their independent, buck-the-rules natures prevent them from committing to a task they are not passionate about. Headstrong and skeptical, Analysts may refuse to follow through on any task that they do not believe in.

Judging and Assertive Analysts, such as Architects (INTJ-A) (9%) and Commanders (ENTJ-A) (12%) are the least likely Analyst personalities to quit a challenging task. Strategic and determined, these types are interested in all aspects of a task from planning to completion. Commanders can get especially frustrated when they (or their employees/coworkers/followers) are unwilling or unable to complete a task that they have been assigned.

In contrast, Turbulent Logicians (INTP-T) (48%), however, are less likely to have issues with abandoning a task that they see as both frustrating and pointless. As with most Analysts, Logicians desire tasks that challenge their intellect, viewing those tasks as beneficial to their personal growth. But if a task is challenging and also (in the Logician’s opinion) pointless or unnecessary, they will not hesitate to put it aside and move on.

Sentinels (21%)

Loyal, devoted, and consistent, Sentinel personality types are the least likely to quit a challenging task. Their conscientiousness, attention to detail, and by-the-book mentality prevent them from abandoning any task they deem even remotely necessary. In fact, Sentinels get a tremendous amount of satisfaction from checking things off their many to-do lists. While this mentality may strike some (especially types that tend to question authority) as blind obedience to a task, this consistency provides Sentinels with a sense of order and security.

Assertive Executives (ESTJ-A) are the least likely Sentinels to quit a challenging task, with only 10% agreeing. Resolute and demanding, Executives thrive on challenging tasks and will often see them through to the bitter end. Turbulent Logisticians (ISTJ-T) (37%), on the other hand, seem not to thrive in stressful situations and may be more apt to abandon a task if they are feeling particularly overwhelmed.

Strategies

Agreement with “You tend to give up on tasks if they are too challenging.”

Constant Improvement (44% agreeing)

Personality types embracing the Constant Improvement strategy are significantly more likely to become overwhelmed compared to other groups. Perhaps it is their perfectionist tendency that drives many Constant Improvers to abandon tasks that they feel would not meet their high expectations.

The most likely Constant Improver to abandon a challenging task is the Turbulent Mediator (INFP-T), with over half of respondents (53%) agreeing. Mediators can be incredibly idealistic and creative, which doesn’t always mesh with challenging tasks that involve technical or data-driven content. They are more likely to give up on a task that lacks meaning to them or does not meet their ideals.

Social Engagement (37%)

The Extraverted and Turbulent personality types falling under the Social Engagement strategy are more confident than Constant Improvers; however, they still have a tendency to be perfectionists, and are more likely to become overwhelmed than their Assertive counterparts. They are ambitious and willing to work hard, especially when their reputation depends on it.

Turbulent Entrepreneurs (ESTP-T) (47%) are the most likely Social Engagers to call it quits when a task is too difficult, which is due to their rather unpredictable nature. Entrepreneurs often have so many ideas and engagements that they will neglect a task that does not provide them with excitement or a sense of accomplishment. Most Turbulent Executives (ESTJ-T) (24%), on the other hand, will refuse to give up on even the most challenging of tasks out of sheer stubbornness.

Confident Individualism (20%)

Confident Individualists (Introverted and Assertive personality types) are, as their name suggests, confident and self-sufficient. While they are likely to feel that no task is too difficult for them, they prefer to tackle challenging tasks on their own. They are more likely to remove themselves from a difficult task (or take over the task themselves) if there are other individuals involved who are not participating fully or meeting their standards. Assertive Architects (INTJ-A) (9%) will often complete a difficult task just to prove that they can do it. Confident Individualists, especially Judging types, will usually see any task through to the end because it is the responsible thing to do.

People Mastery (15%)

The Extraverted and Assertive People Masters are some of the most confident personality types. With often exceptional people skills and leadership abilities, these types are especially competent at completing tasks that involve a team of people (preferably people that they are directing). Assertive Protagonists (ENFJ-A) (8%) and Assertive Executives (ESTJ-A) (10%) tend to be exceptionally good at motivating others during difficult times, and can utilize the same motivation techniques for themselves.

Conclusions

As we mentioned at the beginning of this article, a majority of most personality types do not tend to give up on tasks if they are too challenging. Much of that has to do with our pride, as well as the stigma that tends to go along with “giving up.” But certain personality types are better at pushing through challenging tasks than others. Confidence and structure provide the most support for dealing with difficult tasks. Personality types that are organized and self-assured, especially Extraverted, Judging, and Assertive ones, have both the desire and the drive to face even the most challenging tasks. This is not to say that other personality types will give up when the going gets tough. Rather, Introverted, Prospecting, and Turbulent types must also have an added ingredient in order for them to soldier on when difficult tasks arise. That extra ingredient is passion.

While dedicated and rule-bound types (such as the Sentinels) will see tasks through to the end out of obligation, restless and idealistic personalities like Explorers and Diplomats must have a deep passion or vested interest in the outcome of said task. Either side may view the other negatively due to their respective feelings on the matter, with Explorers and Diplomats believing that Sentinels are task-drones and Sentinels believing that Explorers and Diplomats are irresponsible. (Analysts could go either way; they might defend their position vigorously, or they might just declare the whole subject to be pointless and walk away.)

Whatever our opinions may be, it’s important to understand that while some tasks do need to be completed regardless of the difficulty, sometimes it is necessary to walk away from a difficult task for one’s own well-being. The important thing is knowing how to balance responsibility with self-care, which is something all personality types can benefit from.

What about you? What do you tend to do when the going gets tough? Leave us a comment and let us know!

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