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.
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.