“Dreams pass into the reality of action. From the actions stems the dream again; and this interdependence produces the highest form of living.”
– Anais Nin, an ENFP
The lively and intellectual ENFP is one of the most exhilarating personalities to be around. They exude enthusiasm and are fueled by possibilities that inspire the world around them. They are agents for change, always seeking to improve the world and explore all it has to offer. ENFPs are driven to see the potential in everything; to see not what “is” but what “could be”. They live in a constant world of ideas, meanings, and promise. To the ENFP the world is full of unending prospects and adventures; all must be explored and each day must count. The ENFP combines a thirst for discovery with a strong set of inner values that guides them in all their explorations.
If you know an ENFP, what you’ll see is their eye for possibility. Their dominant function, Extraverted Intuition, works like an idea-generating machine. They see potential everywhere and they feel compelled, almost irresistibly, to make their dreams a reality. ENFPs are the friends that will inspire you when you feel down, who will have the amazing “crazy” ideas that are just so unique they might actually work! They are wildly intellectual yet rarely arrogant. Famous ENFPs include Mark Twain, Anne Frank, Salvador Dali, and Ellen DeGeneres.
Understanding Extraverted Intuition:
Extraverted Intuition (Ne) is the dominant function of the ENFP and the ENTP. Ne-dominant personality types pour their energy and enthusiasm into their projects and ideas, seeing inspiration everywhere they go. They become absorbed by their visions of what could be, and this devotion to their ideas will pull them to any number of new experiences. They may forget to eat or sleep as they pursue their dreams and passions. At night as the lie in their beds, chances are their minds are filled with numerous options and ideas that beckon them to stay awake just a little longer.
While the life of an ENFP seems exciting and inspiring to many, they often struggle with maintaining their focus. Life calls to them at every possible turn, urging them to explore another angle, another rabbit-trail that can lead them to yet another new discovery. For this reason, they often jump from project to project, idea to idea, and have to work with extra determination to complete projects they start. When they do achieve their dreams, they take their time to find creative improvements and novel flairs that make their works truly one-of-a-kind.
“Oh, it’s delightful to have ambitions. I’m so glad I have such a lot. And there never seems to be any end to them — that’s the best of it. Just as soon as you attain one ambition you see another one glittering higher up still. It does make life so interesting.”
– Anne Shirley, the beloved ENFP character from Anne of Green Gables
One of the best ways to understand Extraverted Intuition is to compare it to its alternative; Extraverted Sensing (Se). Extraverted Sensing is all about making the most of what “is”. It’s about enjoying the moment, living for the now, taking advantage of current opportunities. Se-users are concrete and practical, yet adventurous (a trait they share with Ne-users). Ne-users focus on what “could be”; they have less interest in “now” and more interest in what is yet to come. They focus on improving and innovating, with less interest in accepting things for what they are. They are adventurous, like Se-users, and often energetic, like Se-users, but their main focus is in tomorrow, in exploring the new, the never-before-explored. They dislike the practical and yearn for the undiscovered, the theoretical, the abstract, the “magical”. They are also quick to spot underlying meanings, themes, and patterns.
Characteristics of ENFPs:
– They are always aware of new possibilities
– They strive to live in accordance with an independent set of inner values
– They are extroverts, yet they crave autonomy and independence
– They are original and creative
– They tend to be impulsive
– They have an energy that carries them from project to project
– They are stimulated by challenges
– They are energetic and tireless in pursuit of their dreams
– They dislike routine and the mundane details of daily life
– They focus on the future
– They inspire the people around them to see things in a new and insightful way
– They are driven by their inspirations
The Neuroscience of Extraverted Intuition:
According to Dario Nardi, a UCLA professor and expert in the field of neuroscience, ENFPs use trans-contextual thinking. This is a process where the neocortex is highly active in many different regions, and each region is highly amplified and out-of-synch with the others. Each region is doing its own thing to generate a “surprise” result!
Nardi explains in his book Neuroscience of Personality: Brain Savvy Insights for All Types of People that most people, when they hear a common word like “dog” or “cat” evoke auditory or memory regions. The ENFP, in contrast, “gets busy using all regions to tap relationships across situations, perhaps suddenly imagining a story about two brothers, one of whom is faithful and sociable (like a dog) while the other is independent and quiet (like a cat). They might wonder about dog and cat writing styles too!”
Ne-types are rapidly creative, coming up with metaphors and out-of-the-box conclusions that are clever and often surprising! They have creative “highs” that push them to discover and pursue their passions and inspirations of the moment. Their brains are highly energetic and imaginative and the ENFP experiences “creative hangovers” when they wear themselves out by constantly using intense, fast-paced mental energy.
ENFP Intuition and Contradictions
ENFPs may seem like a bundle of contradictions to their loved ones. They are friendly yet autonomous. Socially aware yet prone to playing devil’s advocate. They can go from being the life of the party to a total bookworm. ENFPs are anything but simple and as a result, they can be an enigma to the people who know them.
Exuberant But Deep
ENFPs may seem on the outside to be full of liveliness and charm. They ARE these things, but they are much more than that. They crave intellectual discussion and feel bored and restless if they have to focus on small-talk, everyday banter, or superficial topics. Because they are extroverted and tend to be friendly many people will gravitate towards them, but this may result in the ENFP unwittingly being a part of discussions that don’t naturally stimulate their Ne-dominant mind.
In conversations where the focus is about practical realities or the day-to-day aspects of life, the ENFP can become bored and restless. If they can’t find imaginative, intellectual discussion with the people around them, they may revert more towards isolation and accessing their imagination through writing or reading on their own.
ENFPs love to be around people, but they don’t want to need people. They may spend weeks with a particular group of people, and then hitch a ride to the other side of the country because they need to explore something new and different. Their autonomy is very important to them and, as a result, they need to take breaks from routine regularly to explore a new part of life or a new environment.
From Class Clown to Devil’s Advocate
ENFPs are very socially aware and desire to connect with people, but they are also intensely independent and individualistic. They love to make people laugh or feel joy (think Robin Williams or Ellen Degeneres) but they also aren’t afraid to stand up for the unpopular opinion.
ENFPs see numerous angles to every statement, and as a result, ENFPs don’t like “blanket” statements or black and white rules. They may go from being the friendliest person in the crowd to the staunchest advocate against the status quo in the blink of an eye!
Too Many Ideas
Lastly, ENFPs are incredibly passionate and driven individuals. However, they have thousands of ideas that infiltrate their minds daily. They feel a simultaneous push and pull between exploring their passions and being distracted by new and different activities or theories. This process can make it hard for them to complete projects and can get them mislabeled as “lazy” when they are anything but. ENFPs work tirelessly to explore their interests and make their ideas a reality…there are just so.many.ideas.
What to do about all the ideas? Some ENFPs schedule in “brainstorming/new idea” time with their work so they don’t get bogged down in work and then just cast it aside altogether. Some ENFPs project to the future of where they want to be and then use that as a motivator for getting something done now (i.e. “When I have a clean room I can brainstorm and create without feeling distracted by the state of my room”). Others play their favorite music while they clean or do a mundane activity so that they can let their mind wander and still be productive. At some point, I want to write more about ENFPs and productivity, but I need to research more first.
Some Fun Facts About ENFPs:
– ENFPs are among the three highest on one measure of creativity.
– They are highly represented among third- to sixth-grade academically talented students.
– As teachers, they are less likely to see student behaviors as serious problems.
– In a national sample study on leisure activities, ENFPs were overrepresented in enjoying writing, appreciating art, playing musical instruments, listening to music, and reading.
– The most important features in an ideal job to ENFPs were creativity and originality.
These facts are taken from the MBTI® Manual – Third Edition.
Find out more about your personality type in our eBooks, Discovering You: Unlocking the Power of Personality Type or The INFJ – Understanding the Mystic. You can also connect with me via Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter!
Want to know more about ENFPs? Check out these amazing books!
Gifts Differing: Understanding Personality Type
MBTI Manual: A Guide to the Development and Use of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, 3rd Edition
Neuroscience of Personality: Brain Savvy Insights for All Types of People
Creative You: Using Your Personality Type to Thrive