The Confession of an ISTJ

by Dr. Gary L. Grady, Psychology Instructor, Connors State College

“Hello. I’m Gary and I’m an ISTJ.”

Those who are familiar with types, based on the theories of Jung and the work of Myers and Briggs, know that means I am a linear, fact-based thinker, with no intuition. Other ISTJs are Dragnet’s Joe Friday and CSI’s Gil Grisham — “Just the facts, ma’am.”

Because I am an ISTJ, as I found myself standing up front at the DaVinci Institute’s banquet last year, being named a Fellow because of my creativity in teaching, I was so afraid that you would find out my secret. I am a fraud. I am not creative.

But what about all the examples they cited as evidence of my creativity such as my Youtube song, The Psychology Psong: Psychology Begins With a P, and my material on the history of psychology, It Took a Global Village to Raise a Psychologist? Yes, those were mine but if you knew how hard I had to work to come up with those, you would not call me creative.

Being creative means that coming up with the unusual, the unexpected, or the unique is easy. “Creative” means being creative naturally or, at least, it is second-nature. Doesn’t it?

No, it does not.

All my life I have said of myself, “I don’t have a creative bone in my body” because, for reasons I may never be able to uncover, I have included in my definition of “creative,” components like “easily” “naturally” or “automatically.” None of those is true of me, therefore I am not creative.

At least, that is what I used to believe. Now I believe my definition of creative was wrong.

Walk with me on my journey to that conclusion.

Recently, I found myself pondering the text for my developmental psychology class, John Santrock’s, Essentials of Life-Span Development. In it he says that creativity continues to grow through middle-adulthood.  He talks about how Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi  interviewed 90 leading figures in art, business, government, education, and science to learn how creativity works. What he found were steps individuals can take to become more creative, beginning with “cultivate your curiosity and interest.”

I listened with interest to Robert Sternberg’s presentation at the conference of the Oklahoma Network of Teachers of Psychology last fall. He spoke on teaching for successful intelligence, based on his triarchal model of intelligence. According to him, successful intelligence includes analytical intelligence, practical intelligence, and creative intelligence. I was already familiar with his model, teaching it in my Introduction to Psychology classes, but I had assumed the “creative” part of intelligence had to be natural. But in his lecture he said teachers can teach in a way to increase creative intelligence.

I used my cell phone to go to and buy his book, Teaching for Successful Intelligence, while he was still speaking. It is sitting on my desk now, with a post-it note at the section on teaching for creative intelligence. It is filled with concrete strategies teachers can use to encourage and foster creativity in their students.

Anyone can be creative. For some, it may come “naturally.” For others, it comes with intentional, focused effort. The results are the same: ideas, work, or solutions that are unusual, unexpected, or unique.

I wonder if the reason I never considered myself to be creative is because I had teachers that taught for analytical intelligence and practical intelligence, but not creative intelligence. I do not remember any teacher who told me that anybody can be creative. If they did, and I just was not listening, I apologize to them.

Let me talk to teachers.

You can foster creativity in your students!

First, make sure you clearly state that being creative does not mean being born creative. Creativity is creativity even when it has to be worked on. For some, it will come more easily, but that does not mean they are more creative. “More creative” must be defined only in the amount of creative output, not the ease with which it is produced. I am not creative only if I do not produce much that is unusual, unexpected, or unique.

Second, change your and your students’ expectations for their creativity. Expect creativity in every student.

Third, foster divergent thinking by including it in your lesson plans, in addition to assignments that develop convergent thinking. Convergent thinking (one correct answer): “What is John Watson most famous for?” Divergent thinking (more than one answer): “Tell me some unusual things we can do with a spoon.”

Fourth, use Sternberg’s concept of teaching for creative intelligence: “Teachers should encourage and develop creativity by teaching students to find a balance among analytical, creative, and practical thinking… Following are twelve strategies that develop creativity.” (Teaching for Successful Intelligence, p. 57)

No, I am not going to list his strategies here. “Look it up. You’ll remember it longer.”

I have two goals here.

(1) I want to encourage you to redefine “creative” for yourself and for your students. Expect creativity and unleash the power of expectations!

(2) I hope to get you started on your own road to teaching creativity by sharing some resources at the end of this article.

Phew! Writing this article has worn me out. I have labored over it for weeks but I still think it is creative. Yep, pretty creative, Gary. And, if I can produce something creative, I AM creative! Gary, look in the mirror and say, “I am an ISTJ and I am creative.”


Creativity Resources For Teachers:

Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly, Creativity, New York: HarperCollins, 1995.

Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly, Creativity: An overview, in Encyclopedia of Psychology, A. Kazdin (Ed.), Washington, DC, & New York: American Psychological Association and Oxford University Press, 2000.

Santrock, John, Essentials of Life-Span Development, pp. 283-284, McGraw-Hill, 2012.

Sternberg, Robert, Psychology: In Search of the Human Mind, pp. 288-290, Harcort College Publishers.

Sternberg, Robert, Elena Gingorenko, Teaching for Successful Intelligence, chapter 5, Skylight Professional Development, Arlington Heights, IL, 2000.


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