7 underrated personality traits that separate thinkers from doers

Are you a thinker or a doer? Many of us contain traits of both but really excel at one or the other. Thinkers might get more attention in the world of literature and academia, but without doers, we’d be pretty lost!

Here are some of the less well-known traits of doers. See if you recognize yourself or someone you know!

1) They know how to triage

If you’ve ever been to A&E in a hospital (Accident and Emergency), the chances are you’ll have been seen by a triage nurse when you arrived. These invaluable people work out how serious your condition is in comparison to others and decide how quickly you need treatment.

In a crisis situation, doers triage. They instinctively have the ability to stay calm, work out who and what needs prioritization, and then act. Thinkers, on the other hand, may get stuck here and find themselves in freeze mode.

2) They have determination and grit

While thinkers can be great at planning, they may not be so great at following up on the plan. Why? Because, unlike the doers, they may lack the determination and grit to keep going, because of problems or obstacles in the way.

Doers may feel overwhelmed at times, but they pick themselves up and keep pushing forward – no matter what. Doers are in it for the long haul.

But what is grit exactly? 

According to teacher-turned-psychologist Angela Lee Duckworth, grit can be hard to define, but she says, “Grit is sticking with your future, day in, day out, not just for the week, not just for the month, but for years, and working really hard to make that future a reality.” 

Duckworth defines five characteristics that can be used to measure grit: 

  • Passion, 
  • Perseverance, 
  • Effort, 
  • Resilience
  • Consistency. 

Do you see those traits in yourself? If so then you likely are a doer with grit!

3) Doers stay in the present moment

Now this might sound contradictory, given Duckworth’s definition of grit as staying committed to a task for years. 

But here’s the thing. 

Whilst doers are in it for the long haul, they spend a lot of time in the present moment. Think about it, if you are always imagining your future as an amazing musician, but you only know two chords on the guitar, the chances are you are going to get disillusioned pretty soon.

The doer personality knows what their long-term goal is, but they focus on the short-term day-to-day achievements that will get them there.

4) They are pragmatic

The world needs dreamers, but it also needs doers. Pragmatic people, such as Margaret Sanger, an early 20th-century nurse, get things done by focusing on needs rather than moral claims. 

In Sanger’s time, contraception was illegal. But she was moved by the suffering she saw amongst poor women. These women were forced to have dangerous terminations, or to have so many children that the mother and her children suffered because of it.

Sanger pragmatically framed birth control as a public health and economic issue. She opened the first birth control clinic to directly provide services to women in need. This came at a cost as she was temporarily jailed! But the publicity raised awareness. 

Sanger then founded organizations to lobby political leaders and worked with doctors and scientists to great success.

Sanger understood that step-by-step progress through compromise was better than no progress at all. Her pragmatic persistence paid off, creating meaningful change in women’s lives by making contraception legally and socially acceptable.

5) Doers have great instincts

Remember when we talked about triage? 

That skill is associated with doers rather than thinkers because triage has to be done quickly to be efficient and effective. There isn’t time for a long analysis or deep consideration. 

Doers recognize the need to not overanalyze and instead make decisions based on their gut feelings or instincts. This saves them time and avoids decision paralysis, which is the inability to do things based on fear.

So essentially doers trust themselves and take action. Even if they make the wrong choice from time to time, they use their flexibility and confidence to correct their path as soon as they notice the need.

6) Doers use accountability systems

Now, while doers can get things done fast and use their instincts, they do still have systems for longer projects. These include:

  • Goal setting
  • Using timetables
  • Achievement sheets
  • Networks of like-minded people

Doers are not impulsive, they are just effective. They break larger projects into smaller achievable goals so that they can stay focused in the present moment.

They use timetables to make sure that they don’t get stuck on one part of a project, for longer than is necessary. They will first work towards an MVP (minimum viable product), rather than obsess over a little detail.

Achievement sheets are basically like gold stars for adults. Do you remember how great they felt as a kid?

These project management tools keep the doer motivated by allowing them to easily see what they have done. And they can check that a project is progressing in a balanced way. This means they make sure that nothing important gets left out.

Working with like-minded people can be very important to doers. Not only does it serve as motivation and accountability, but it also speeds things up. 

Trying to make a website but suck at coding? Amazing at copywriting but terrible at graphic design? A doer will likely work together with another doer who has greater skills in that area, rather than waste time trying to learn a skill that they later won’t use.

7) They are happier and more extraverted (usually)

Doers are associated with the Myers-Briggs personality category ESTP, which stands for Extraverted, Sensing, Thinking, Perceiving. 

However, this doesn’t mean that doers don’t spend any time thinking, as we can see by the T in ESTP

Rather it’s that Doers don’t tend to second guess themselves. This means that they tend to feel happier than those who may be right more often, but have less self-confidence. 

Why? According to a 2003 study in the Journal for Personality and Individual Differences, thinking and questioning too much can lead to lower self-esteem, anxiety, mood swings, and even depression. There are a wide range of academic studies that also support this.

Doers and thinkers – the final thoughts

The world needs both types of people to function. And most of us have a little bit of thinker and doer in us – life demands both imagination and action from us all. Even the most pragmatic doers envision possibilities before manifesting them. And the dreamiest thinkers must act to some degree to survive and thrive. 

For natural doers though, who feel overwhelmed by complex choices, carve out quiet contemplative time to strategize and seek insights. And for you thinkers out there with your head in the clouds, try putting more ideas into motion with small, imperfect steps. Bit by bit, that fog will lift.

By flexing the opposite muscle, we become more rounded and able to handle whatever comes our way. And when thinkers and doers work in harmony, there is no limit to what we can achieve!

Picture of Louisa Lopez

Louisa Lopez

Louisa is writer, wellbeing coach, and world traveler, with a Masters in Social Anthropology. She is fascinated by people, psychology, spirituality and exploring psychedelics for personal growth and healing. She’s passionate about helping people and has been giving empowering advice professionally for over 10 years using the tarot. Louisa loves magical adventures and can often be found on a remote jungle island with her dogs. You can connect with her on Twitter: @StormJewel

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