S vs. N: Past, Present, & Future

S vs. N:  Past, Present, & Future

Our last post in the continuing “S vs. N” series on Jungian Typology and the GiANT Best Fit focused on one major question: “What is the biggest pitfall for each preference set?” In the end, we discovered that intuitives’ constant focus on the big picture, future vision often means they forget to pay attention to the smaller details in the present that could hinder their ability to get to the future. Sensors, on the other hand, while not ignorant of future possibilities, tend to become so focused on the details that they end up missing the forest for the trees, their wariness about the intangible uncertainty of the future making change difficult to embrace.

Here in our third post, we’re going to mine out more insights from the relationships between sensors and intuitives with the past, present, and future. We touched on this topic briefly through some of our conclusions in the last article, but I think you’ll find a deeper dive in this area to be fascinating, but also extremely practical in the effort to better understand yourself, your colleagues, and those who process the world a bit differently than you.

The Sensor’s Relationship with Change

Given the choice between living in and focusing on the past, the present, or the future, which do you think sensors would prefer?

If you said the present, then you would be correct. That one should be fairly easy since we’ve talked a great deal about the sensor’s ability to maintain great situational awareness and perceptiveness in the present where they can use their concrete experience, observations, and data to make informed decisions. Given such preferences, which do you think would be their second most preferred state: Past or Future?

Yep, it’s the past. That’s because, while not as accessible as the present, sensors can get hold of sensory data about the past. History can be read about, studied, analyzed, and prodded for information that brings meaning to the present moment. Concrete information is available.

The problem with the future is that there will never be any tangible, reliable, definitive data about it. It’s all guesswork and conjecture. Theory and predictions. One can attempt to gauge it through the lens of the past, but even then the future is a fickle thing. And if there’s anything sensors fear most, it’s the uncertainty of things that seem untethered to reliable understanding and information. This inability to taste, touch, see, hear, smell, or dependably analyze data about the future can even cause sensors to stay in jobs they don’t really like, or continue relationships that are unhealthy.

And if you ask them why they stay, it usually comes down to a fear of change. A fear that rocking the boat, even a less than ideal one, is preferable to stepping onto a distant shore inhabited by unknown dangers they can’t meet with preparation. Sensors find themselves stuck wondering, “But how do I know that change will be for the better? At least I know what I’m dealing with in this environment.”

Why Intuitives Love Change

Intuitives, on the other hand, can often be found puzzled by the sensor’s resistance to change, wondering, “Why would anyone not change things?” With such a strong compulsion towards the future, intuitives are always wanting to live and move towards that future they envision for themselves, their businesses, and their world. They’re always standing on tiptoe asking how they can find a way to get to the horizon. As we’ve noted, that tendency can be dangerous, since they may trip over important details in the present, or fail to stop and smell the roses due to their relentless march onward to the promise of tomorrow.

Intuitives obviously prefer to focus on the future, but what do you think that means for their second preference: Past or Present?

This may or may not come as a surprise to some, but intuitives generally rank the past as their second preference. Why? Because they can make sense of what happened back then. Intuitives like to sift through the patterns of the past in the hopes of finding one that will help them predict and reach the future they want to create. It becomes all about finding the hidden patterns and meanings behind things – events, people, movements, and eras. Such knowledge can equip them to shape and materialize the future they want.

The present, much to the contrary of sensors, seems largely dull to the intuitive. That’s usually due to the fact that they can’t really change the present. You can understand the past and change the future, but we’re all pretty much stuck in the present moment. An intuitive’s greatest appreciation for the present is to the extent that it allows them to move towards the future. It is a vehicle for change, though often isn’t the changed world they seek, thereby feeling like some sort of limbo for an impatient intuitive.

But that’s what makes intuitives more comfortable with change. You can’t get to the future without actually moving into that reality, which requires change and theoretical planning.

The Abstract vs. The Concrete

Due to the differences between a sensor’s and an intuitive’s preference for the past, present, and future, they tend to have a corresponding preference for either abstract or concrete forms of work, creativity, and thinking.

For example, the intuitive’s love of the future often imbues them with a love for theoretical models. Most intuitives would rather conceptually build something than build it with their own hands. Consequently, it becomes a domino effect whereby Intuitives realize that their search for the meanings and patterns behind everything helps them build theoretical models that enable them to forecast the future so they can work towards it. That’s why many intuitives fit the mold of philosophers, writers, political leaders, and industry pioneers.

Sensors tend to be much more pragmatic and hands-on. They often prefer and enjoy building things they can feel. Sensors typically like to take things apart to figure out how they work. It’s why you will find sensors to be more methodical and process-oriented, often excelling in roles – whether managerial, technical, or legal – that focus on strong investigative and detail-management skills.

Methodical Improvement vs. Radical Change

At the end of the day, sensors generally prefer the “tried-and-true,” seeking to begin with what’s already working and then making incremental, methodical improvements along the way.

Most intuitives, however, are uninterested in 3% improvement year over year, they want a 30% change. Instead of steady, step-by-step improvement, they love the idea of finding an entirely new way to do things that will bring about a radical new reality.

Every sensor listening to the intuitive’s latest “game changer” of an idea is not so much impressed as they are thinking that there’s a reason no one’s done it before. As in, maybe a lot of people have actually tried it before, but they all died horribly, lost all their money, and left no records for us to find.

What’s Up Next

That’s a bit dramatic in the sarcasm department, but you might be surprised by how accurate it can be with regard to the gulf that sometimes separates the sensors and intuitives when it comes to their comfort level with change.

That being said, in the posts to come we’ll be tackling tendencies of sequential vs. pattern processing, the “oughts and shoulds” of cultural pressure with regard to sensors vs. intuitives, as well as a bevy of leadership insights for each preference type to take away from this series.

Until next time!