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Type, age and midlife

How we age and develop

People regularly ask if they change type as they get older. The answer is “no” but that is not to say we don’t develop as we age.

The MBTI™ is concerned with preferences. If I prefer sensing when I am twenty and find it easy to focus my attention on the concrete world that never changes for me.  I will always find sensing comes naturally to me. The same is true if I am an extravert and for all the other preferences for that matter. So in this respect we don’t change our type. If someone has true preference for INTJ at 20 they will still have the same preference at 60.

However, this does not mean to say that we don’t change our behaviour or our views. We do usually change and develop but it is helpful to see the change and development people go through as they age as being part of natural type development.

There are two main ways to understand why as individuals we change and develop as we age:

1. Learning from experience
Most of us learn through experience that our natural way of doing things isn’t always best. We naturally become aware of our strengths and often try to compensate for our weaknesses. For example, I have a preference for ENTP and it was only when I reached my late 30s that I realised that sometimes I was so task-focused I could take people for granted and that I needed to make a special effort to thank others and give them positive feedback.

2. Midlife transition
At midlife (anytime from 35 onwards) we often become a bit “fed up” with ourselves and can go through a period of questioning and re-examination. We often feel disquiet and uncertainty at this time but it needn’t be a full-blown midlife crisis. Part of this process of disenchantment often means we become rather critical of our typical behaviour (ie our dominant and auxiliary functions) and start to become more attracted to the two functions we have not used as much in the past – particularly the inferior function.

The way people tend to develop at midlife is linked to their type preferences.

Typical developmental changes at midlife

Extraverts – become more interested and comfortable with spending time alone. This may mean spending quality time reflecting or meditating.
Introverts – become more aware of the pleasures of socialising or physical activity and more confident in their social skills.
Sensing types – start to feel more interested in broadening their horizons through study, travel or unusual cultural events or more drawn to study subjects which are reasonably theoretical or which require self-discipline and deferred gratification.
Intuitives – become drawn to physical activity or in anything which encourages “pleasure in the moment”. May also start to pay attention to practical concerns such as making money or providing a comfortable home.
Thinkers – start to take more notice of the impact words or actions have on feelings and generally become more sensitive and less task-focused.
Feelers – become more aware of the need to be independent and assertive and generally less concerned about what other people think.
Judgers – start to feel the need to be more flexible and less tied down. This means they often begin to decide things on the ‘spur of the moment’. They also become generally more open to other people’s views.
Perceivers –start to feel more attracted to ways they can become better organised or more personally effective. This could mean time management courses or practical ways to become better organised.

These are the types of midlife changes which lead thinkers, for example, to mellow with age and judging types to become more laid back.

Advice for those who are 35+

If you are over that mid thirties mark you may be aware as you read your type profile that it would have fitted you more accurately as a younger person and that as you age you are already trying consciously to counteract many of the potential weaknesses of your type. This is what MBTI practitioners call “good type development”.


© Carol Craig

MBTI, Myers-Briggs, and Myers-Briggs Type Indicator are registered trademarks or trademarks of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator Trust in the United States and other countries; OPP Ltd. has exclusive rights to these trademarks in the U.K.

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