Five Things ISTJs Need to be Happy in Life

Clinically Reviewed by Steven Melendy, PsyD. on April 06, 2021

Anyone else: “Are you okay?”

ISTJ: “I’m fine. Why?”

Anyone else: “You look down.”

ISTJ: “Best day ever.”

Anyone else: “Are you mad about something?” (ie: at me?)

ISTJ: Thin smile. Change subject. Move faster.

Anyone else: “You’re up to something, then. C’mon, you can tell me!”

ISTJ: Eye roll.

You see world, this is my resting face. It often hides a veritable party going on inside my cranium but I have no desire to share those thoughts with you. We ISTJs don’t waste a lot of energy on public displays of emotion—from the outside, happiness and every other emotion tend to look the same. You won’t catch us jumping up and down shrieking when a small contented sigh will do.

But that doesn’t mean our cup of happiness isn’t overflowing as much as the next guy.

What do ISTJs need to be happy in life, you ask? Just five things. We aren’t super needy!

1. A Terrific Tribe (Acceptance)

To feel truly happy, ISTJs need to be in the company of people who understand us. It might be a tribe of three, but it will be steady, reliable, and trustworthy. To be blunt, ISTJs don’t need a social life so much as they need an elite squad. In this unbreakable circle, we are safe to be ourselves without the worry of being misconstrued. We can put our foot in our mouth and know that no one will take it the wrong way or be offended by our actions. 

The tribe doesn’t have to agree with us—it can laugh, tease, or come back with a different opinion. But the friendship will remain unshakable. And that’s a happy place, indeed.

2. Regular Routines (Environment)

To an ISTJ, maintaining old routines feels as comfortable as wearing plush slippers. We are happiest in a stable environment, and our habits give us stability. Menu-planning Sundays followed by grocery-shopping Mondays and bulk-cooking Tuesdays mean less anxiety over meals, for example. To be happy, we need our routines.

ISTJs will organize their homes and offices into efficient spaces that foster our routines, and do it again when lifestyle changes like having children or moving cubicles occur. We fill our cups of happiness one crossed-off “to do” item at a time. Progress is an ongoing happy place for us and routines are the stepping-stones used to achieve it.

Surprisingly, achievement of itself isn’t our happy place. This just removes our list and replaces it with a maintenance schedule. ISTJs enjoy the sense of accomplishment and appreciate the recognition that comes with mastery, but we are happier in the process. We like to move onto the next step or new challenge—and the lists it calls for—rather quickly.

3. Noble Quests (Internal Challenge)

Hand me a new crossword puzzle. Lock me in an Escape Room. Dare me to hike the Appalachians or become the next CEO. ISTJs are happiest when presented with an ambitious task and left alone to complete it. If the task makes sense to us, we’ll take it on and follow through. Our drive is internal, and we take a measure of pride in the completion of the challenge.

If we are going to discuss a happiness quotient, however, not all challenges are created equal to the ISTJ. We prefer to tackle them one at a time when risks aren’t on the table. We are the most willing to struggle for something that upholds our values or results in growth or progress.

The best internal challenges involve all four of our personality components. If it allows us to work alone and deep-dive into the challenge unmolested; utilizes our good judgement by requiring a series of important decisions; demands our critical thinking skill; and interfaces with facts and rules—you will see stars in our eyes. This is the ISTJ having fun.

4. Making a Difference (External Service)

ISTJs absolutely must make a difference. It is deeply gratifying to be useful, and a touchstone to their long-term happiness. A friend needs support with organizing a fundraiser? The neighbor’s car needs a jump start? A coworker can’t get the budget reports to align? Something is just not fair? An ISTJ will rise to the occasion. 

As for how we make a difference, it invariably involves practical solutions, common-sense advice, and tackling the threat head-on. The ISTJ is the rock that will remain calm, talk you down, and have your back. The ISTJ will never betray you or your hysterical secrets. As we aren’t generally reward-seeking, a simple acknowledgement is all that’s needed in return.

Making a difference often feels noble, and always makes us happy.

5. The Little Things (Self-care)

For an ISTJ, the little things can make big impacts on our mood. Self-care might fall by the wayside if the “to do” list takes over, so it’s imperative for us to deliberately incorporate at least one of our favorite happy things into every day.

Alone time is mandatory for ISTJs. Among our most cherished possessions are peace and quiet. Our inner thoughts are so rich and complex that we can easily become over stimulated by our surroundings if we aren’t paying attention. It’s easy for us to become drained quickly.

We are in recovery and recharge mode when we listen to a favorite podcast while cleaning out a closet. We are filling our batteries when we sit in a bubble bath and read a good book. Tinkering with a ham radio in the garage does the same trick. Exercise is a great happiness booster if it’s done alone and accompanied by good music.

ISTJs are happy wandering in nature and letting the trees and the breeze and the butterflies carry away the daily stresses from our shoulders.

An ISTJ’s happiness level is in direct proportion to how well the internal batteries are maintained. Getting enough sleep, forgiving ourselves and others, and permission to wander the library or the beach are all vehicles that can nurture our happiness.

Meaningful Moments

Truth be told, ISTJs are happiest when we sit in a space surrounded by our tribe and busy with our tasks. We believe with all our hearts that the little things make a difference. Our joy is not measured in roller coaster ups and downs but in steady waves like the dependable sea. We don’t need adrenaline rushes and eschew surprises but are incredibly content with a tidy space, a new idea, puppy cuddles, plans for the future, or a perfect cup of coffee.

Being pragmatic, practical, and private makes us happy.

Weirdly happy to you, perhaps. But also, “best day ever” happy.

Jolie Tunnell

Jolie Tunnell is an author, freelance writer and blogger with a background in administration and education. Raising a Variety Pack of kids with her husband, she serves up hard-won wisdom with humor, compassion and insight. Jolie is an ISTJ and lives in San Diego, California where she writes historical mysteries. Visit her at

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About the Clinical Reviewer

Steven Melendy, PsyD., is a Clinical Psychologist who received his doctorate from The Wright Institute in Berkeley, California. He specializes in using evidence-based approaches in his work with individuals and groups. Steve has worked with diverse populations and in variety of a settings, from community clinics to SF General Hospital. He believes strongly in the importance of self-care, good friendships, and humor whenever possible.


Vonnetta Graves (not verified) says...


Thank you for writing this piece. Very well crafted and true fellow istj. 



Vonnetta Graves-Brooks no

Jolie Tunnell says...

Thanks Vonnetta, wishing you "the best day ever"!

Ron Walker (not verified) says...

I’m an ESTP, and was married to my beautiful Helen, an ISTJ for just short of 60 years. Helen passed away peacefully in July last year. Recently I became aware of MB personalities. My daughter has had some experience with MB and we were able to confidently establish Helen as an ISTJ. Jolie’s description above is so revealing to me, and other aspects of her personality match too, right back to our courting days. But I’m learning more about her as I read more about ISTJ’s. In a sense, I’m so disappointed I haven’t became aware of BM before she passed away. Collectively, we would have loved sharing our MB personalities together. Thank you to everyone involved here. As an ESTP ISTJ, partnership, I’ve got to report, I can observe all this structure and solitude in her but I did not realise at the time, that she was presenting as a true ISTJ. We had a beautiful success life together… we were still in-love. Tears rolling down my cheeks. 

Ron Walker 




Jolie Tunnell says...

What a beautiful tribute to your love story, Ron. Thank you for sharing. I'm certain you understood her nevertheless and gifted her a lifetime of happiness.

RL Thomson (not verified) says...

Thank you for this. I feel validated in your writing. In my work life I seem to be an ISTJ. Since my parents died and I've had time to realize much of my personality is a response to theirs, I am trying to free myself from what they laid on me. My sense of responsibility and organization is related to the chaos I experienced at home. I would like to be more spontaneous, more outgoing, less habitual. It's a work in progress. 

Jolie Tunnell says...

Hi RL, I'm sure some of these suggestions will help you explore your own personal and balanced version of "happy". We are all works in progress!

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