7 Things INFPs Should Stop Doing if They Want to be Successful

A lot of things determine how successful you'll be: the career you choose to pursue; the company you keep; the things you love doing; whether you possess a burning desire to prove other people wrong. There's no one-size-fits-all prescription. This is good, because we all define success in different ways.

For idealistic INFPs, success often means having the freedom to live a moral, beautiful, and virtuous life. Success in the conventional sense (power, prestige, money) doesn't matter as much as pursuing your passions, expressing yourself creatively, and growing without restraint.

Unfortunately for INFPs, these idealist qualities can be difficult to manage in the real world. The career fields you are naturally suited for (the arts, counseling, education) aren't always respected, and others may not understand the "higher goals" you seek to achieve. In work and in life, you are acutely aware that others are judging you against standards that clash with your value system, which cheapens the experience for you. Even if you are objectively successful, you might not feel it because success, for an INFP, feels like an all-or-nothing event. You are notoriously hard on yourself for not always living up to the standards you promote.

So how can INFPs feel successful and satisfied with their careers and lives? The answer lies in doing less, not more. Here are seven recommendations which could help you lead an authentically successful life, whatever your goals.

#1: Stop living according to the expectations of other people

If you want to shape and live your own successful life, you will always end up disappointing someone. Parents, partners, bosses, colleagues, friends  - at some point, they will all tell you to knuckle down, get a secure job, go for the promotion, or go for some other outcome that doesn't feel right to you. Trying to meet other people's expectations is a sure-fire way to get drained, disconnected, and lost in the crowd. INFPs experience success by focusing on their own ideals, not by becoming something they're not.

It's horrible to disappoint others, especially if you are wary of conflict. But remember, it is simply not in your nature to conform. You will always be much happier being true to yourself. Dare to stop living according to other people's expectations and start living it your way instead.

#2: Stop going wide (go deep)

Being successful in life has a lot to do with clarifying what really matters to you and giving those priorities the time they deserve. You have to focus, otherwise there's a risk you will get distracted by multiple endeavors. INFPs in particular have a tendency towards the dilettante, always trying new things and getting restless easily.

While it's great to leave the door open to new possibilities, it's equally important to narrow the focus onto the one or two areas that you really care about. Successful people don't experience specializing as a restriction, but as a permission to go into the depths of a goal. Whether you have a business idea, an interesting hobby, or a potential relationship that you'd like to nurture, if you are completely dedicated to it, you stand a better chance of being successful than if your attention is scattered over several playing fields.

#3: Stop waiting for the perfect moment

Waiting around for the perfect timing to go after your goals is counterproductive and hostile to your success. That's because holding out for a stars-aligning "perfect moment" is a type of procrastination; it's a stall. As Neil Gaiman once said, "If you only write when you're inspired you may be a fairly decent poet, but you'll never be a novelist because you're going to have to make your word count today and those words aren't going to wait for you whether you're inspired or not." That piece of advice applies to anything. A bad job won't get better just because you wait around for a new boss to take over. A bad relationship won't turn into a great relationship just because you tolerate your partner's inadequacies, giving the relationship more effort than it possibly deserves.

Procrastination is an untamed beast that rages wildly in INFPs, but the fact is, you're going to have to work for your success. Why wait to start that journey? For tips and insights on dealing with procrastination, check out the Ted Talk from master procrastinator Tim Urban.  

#4: Stop believing in miracles

Believing in fate or miracles is really the desire to sweeten one of life's bitterest lessons: that if we want something to happen, we're going to wake up every day with purpose and make it happen. Success overnight is a myth. It involves a lot of hard work and effort.

Rare talent and extreme giftedness does not spare you from this unpalatable truth. Even Mozart went through years of rigorous, tedious practice before he became a master musician. If you want to be successful, you're going to have to take the game of success seriously. You'll have to go all-in at 100 percent.

#5: Stop trying to control so much

Some things in your life you can control. Most of it, you can't. That's a difficult message for an idealist INFP to handle, since you feel compelled to make the world a better place. There's a tendency to believe that you raise other people to your own high standards or control certain situations that simply cannot be influenced. And the frustrating thing is, you feel safe when you are in control and utterly exhausted when you are not. That sets you up for disappointment, because control does not really exist, except perhaps in the mind.

If, like many INFPs, you have a tendency to behave like a backseat driver, you probably need to work on balancing your high ideals with the realities of everyday life. You can certainly control your own independent destiny, but you can't control people or the minutiae of situations for your own sense of safety and worth. Without resolving this conflict, you will never feel happy or successful, and you may become paralyzed and confused about what to do with your life.

#6: Stop giving all your time to people who will not take you further

Motivational speaker Jim Rohn famously said that we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with. No matter how much you try to live life your own way, sooner or later, the people with whom you spend most of the time contribute to what you become.

For idealistic and value-driven INFPs, this presents a major problem. You tend to choose your friends carefully, looking for people whose values are very similar to your own. Like-minded people can certainly offer wise counsel and make you feel safe, but can you learn from people who share your views, opinions, and values? Will these people challenge your decisions or push you out of your comfort zone?

What you really need, is a connection with people with different perspectives whose ideas rub up against your own. These people can pressure-test your choices and nudge you off the path of least resistance towards a place where you where you can learn, grow and make a bigger difference.

#7: Stop mistrusting your instinct

As an INFP, you instinctively know when something you're doing feels wrong. You may not know why something is off in your life, but you definitely know that it is. This level of self-awareness is the reason why you learn so quickly, and why you are so open-minded and flexible in all aspects of your life. It's also the reason why you feel so out of place when ploughing a path that wasn't made for you. 

The only thing that separates a successful INFP from a less-successful INFP, is that the first person figured out when she was flogging a dead horse and trusted her gut instincts enough to try something else - even if the change seemed unfamiliar and crazy. When INFPs take action, they know immediately if their instinct was right. Your intuition is a strength that can often lead to better consequences, so give it the respect it deserves.

Final Thoughts

If your life isn't as successful as you'd like it to be right now, there's always an alternative. You can always choose to do something else. For INFPs, that usually means living in congruence with your values. Of all the types, you have the strongest need to act authentically and will never be happy unless you are true to yourself.

Of course, there's always the possibility that your options are discouraging - at certain points, we all face moving from one set of problems to a different set of problems, none of which are particularly exhilarating. But the fact remains, you have a choice. If you stop believing that you have a choice, you automatically become a victim and feel helpless. INFPs in particular have to be careful that their idealism does not turn against them. If it does, you will never achieve goals or make changes for fear that you will never find the "perfect" career, lifestyle, creative endeavor, or person.

Ultimately, success for INFPs depends on you finding ways to honor your deeply held values while managing the constraints of everyday life. Accepting that life is full of shortcomings and compromises is difficult when you hold such lofty ideals, but it will help you to feel more effective and fulfilled. You have plenty of success qualities - self-awareness, intuition, empathy, adaptability, curiosity, open-mindedness - how you choose to apply them, is up to you.

Jayne Thompson

Jayne is a freelance copywriter, business writing blogger and the blog editor here at Truity. One part word nerd, two parts skeptic, she helps writing-challenged clients discover the amazing power of words on a page. Jayne is an INTJ and lives in Yorkshire, UK with her ENTJ husband and two baffling children. Find Jayne at White Rose Copywriting.

Comments

Sidney (not verified) says...

Great advice.  "#7: Stop mistrusting your instinct" Has helped me the most.  

Your heart does not lie.  

Listen to it.   :-)

Russell_P (not verified) says...

Is that because your instincts are always right? or because you will just feel more settled if you go by your instincts no matter the outcome? You allow yourself to be guided by feelings welling up from the unconscious, which is a collection of all the experiences of your past (and of those whose genes you have inherited e.g. we naturally have a fear of snakes), whether you consciously remember them or not - they are a warning system. If you don't listen to your warning system, you will feel unsettled. Instincts can't always be right in a world where almost all of it is unpredictable, uncontrollable and unknowable. But I guess, gut feelings (resulting from unconscious memories) are our best guide when nothing else makes sense, because they are a source of knowledge of what has and hasn't worked in the past. Just thinking out loud and probabaly doesn't make sense. Sorry.

anna ess (not verified) says...

Russell, this makes perfect sense!!  I often ask myself the same.  I wonder if as INFPs (who are particularly sensitive to and aware of what's going on in & around us) we tend to absorb "instincts" that don't necessarily pertain to our specific situation, but get attached to them in a bid to understand & control the unknowable.  It's like sometimes we think we're being warned, when really our "unsettledness" is simply ideas and assumptions we've somewhere along the way adopted into our working blueprint because it seemed to fit at the time.  We kind of box ourselves into limitation when we're not willing to step outside our comfort zone - which I think for INFPs, especially us older ones, gets to be pretty restricted unless we make a deliberate decision to go against the INFP grain of believing our instinct has the final say in everything.
Example, I've followed my instinct into "disaster" plenty of times.  This time I'm going against my "gut" (which has a pretty deep rut of ingrained beliefs around what I'm trying) and working damn hard and confronting plenty of fear along the way... and it's going really well!  Still lots of unsettledness to conquer (even after 2.5yrs - like I said, there are lots of ingrained beliefs I'm slogging through), but I'm getting there one step at a time.   
​Sometimes we have to step out of the boat to walk on water.

charlee (not verified) says...

Thank you for this article. I soooooo neeeded to read this. Blessings

Ronel (not verified) says...

#5 Was something I learned the past year. It is difficult to let go and not to control. But when you succeed, you are free to become more.

Thank you for the article.

matic_mirko says...

This article has some deepness and initiated me on thinking. I suppose it is difficult to write for some other personal character type,but I'm persuaded that Jayne understands quite good INFPs.  As INFP I experienced #3,#5, #7 in my life.In Final thoughts I really recognized myself. @Jayne,thank you for this article.

Derick Harris (not verified) says...

I am currently in a career transition and this article (especially tips 1, 2, and 7) has been very helpful.

 

Valdev (not verified) says...

very, very interesting...We all made in God's image. I know I box myself in with limitation, but am still in deniel.  I must say, we have beautiful hearts, I tend to wait for the perfect moment, subconciously, but this has given me much hope.

Zlaty (not verified) says...

Thanks so much for this helpful and inspirational article. Just by the way, INTJ is my favorite personality type!

All the best, 

A grateful INFP.

Brendan Baker (not verified) says...

This was the right text at the right time to help me solidify some hard choices I have been mulling over, specifically around whether to wholeheartedly pursue writing instead of doubling down on my existing legal career. I self-published my first novel to Amazon last year, but have felt a bit stalled out since then. This post was a great reminder that there will be no overnight miracles, and I have to keep putting in the work- but it will also all be worth it, eventually. 

Evelyn Weibel (not verified) says...

I am in terror. I am 33 next week and I am still living with my parents. I have a pet sitting business but it is not enough. I am easily exhausted- just 2 hours of child care in the morning and pet sitting till 3 is draining. I have self-published novels that have gotten nowhere. A long fantasy novel I finished in over a year is nowhere. I am finally figuring out I can't write for a living but I want to achieve my dreams. There are no jobs around here that interest me. I want to do something intellectual/creative. I want to go back to school but it's so much money. I have sort of a 'plan' but no idea if it will work. I want to live unconventionally and travel and have my own business and have a farm. This is my dream. And I want to save the world. I mean, bring democracy to the Middle East. I mean... ideal. ha. Become an intel analyst. Yes. I am interested in International Relations etc. but I don't want to live in a fast-paced world--I coudl not do it. I have to do it at my own speed. Somehow. I don't know how to fit in teh world. No wonder I hate the real world. I don't know HOW to reconcile my ideals and reality. I never fit. Even when I was a kid the thing I liked most was playing imaginary games--I had a whole horse ranch. in my mind, in the yard, in the house. I never had many friends. I always felt somethign was wrong with me. Maybe it is. But INFP really describes me. I am panicking now. I need to move out, need money. I don't know what to do. I don't want to live a life of drudgery and meaninglessness but maybe that's all there is for me. 

Hammy (not verified) says...

Hey Evelyn.. I feel you and I have been going through similar situations as you, let's chat. :) The universe is here... Life is awesome! 

Email me. 

INFP person (not verified) says...

this makes me scared omg

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