Dreamer. Idealist. Artist. Peacemaker. Corporate Go-Getter. Which of these doesn’t come to mind when you think of an INFP?
You guessed it, the last one. As dreamers, we definitely have ambitious goals for our lives and careers, but we might seem passive or too stuck in our heads to really go after our goals.
But actually, INFPs can be very ambitious in our own way. So why don’t we project that image – at all? Let’s look at five possible reasons.
1. We’re quiet about it
INFPs are Introverts, after all. We don’t always talk about our hopes, dreams, goals and ambitions, especially if we don’t know you very well, or if we don’t feel safe. The workplace can be a little competitive for our comfort zone.
According to author Megan Malone, “While sensitive-and-ambitious Introverts are likely disciplined and goal-oriented, they may lack some of the other typical traits of ambitious people, like competitiveness.”
And that’s the other reason we’re quiet about our ambitions. INFPs don’t like conflict or a competitive spirit. And, we don’t like people around us to feel bad. So if we’re hoping for a promotion or project that a co-worker also wants, we’ll likely keep it to ourselves.
It’s not that we’re sneaky or covert. We just don’t want a competitive, adversarial feeling in the workplace. We’d rather just quietly work toward our goal, and whoever ‘wins,’ that’s ok. If we aren’t chosen we may be disappointed, but we have plenty of other goals to focus on. We’ll simply go forward with the next one, and be genuinely happy for you, at least if we like you.
And we may have ambitions that are less tangible or harder to explain. But you can be sure that we’re constantly putting effort into making our reality align with our goals, values and aspirations, even if at first most of that effort is mental effort and planning.
Also, since intuitive Introverts have limited external energy, and one of our strengths is to invest in deep thought and research before acting, we go at our own pace, which may be slower than the Extraverts around us. So there may be less bustling activity, but the steps we take may be more deliberate and carefully chosen.
2. Our ambitions may be different
An INFP's ambition may look very different from that of a more extraverted, self-promoting type. We still might want to be vice president of the company or get a prestigious assignment, but we might just as likely have more subtle ambitions.
Maybe we just want to be the best at one aspect of our job, or master a new skill we find challenging, or make a meaningful difference in peoples’ lives. And mostly, we really want to live up to our personal and professional potential, whatever that means for us.
It doesn’t necessarily have to be something that comes with a title or a corner office, or even more money. But that doesn’t mean we don’t care or don’t strive for more. We have big ambitions, even if they don’t look like our co-workers’. As one writer put it, “Their [INFPs] ambition does not come from a cut-throat place, but rather a place of beautiful dreams.”
3. Our ambitions may be elsewhere
Since we are dreamers, and since we often have a cause or two we feel passionately about, our time in the workplace may be just a means to another end.
Maybe our paid employment is just a way to support our passion projects and private goals. That could be volunteer work, writing a book, training for a marathon, or cultivating our creative skills. We may even want to develop those passions into a side business doing something we care about, hoping it will someday be our real job.
We also like trying new things, so we can see where we fit best, where we can make the most difference, and where we can fulfill that aforesaid potential. Finding a good fit is more important to us than “staying on track,” toward one goal that others recognize.
That doesn’t mean we won’t work hard and do our best at our job. That is, after all, part of our integrity-based value set. It just may not be where we get our greatest fulfillment, or place all our ambitions. We take pride in doing a good job, and in seeing our job as a way of supporting our other endeavors.
4. We put a high value on balance
For some of us, balance is not just a way to keep work in its place, but a way of containing and nurturing our ambitions in several areas of life, all of which may be a kind of work to us.
We feel that a life well-lived must make room for friends, family, health and self-care, spirituality, and creative or artistic endeavors. In fact, we often put considerable effort into maintaining and developing these other important areas of our lives.
In my experience, my to-do list away from work can be as long as one related to work. As far back as in college, my weekends were not so much about recreation but about accomplishing not only classwork but also a long list of personal goals. And even when my required reading list was long, I usually had an ambitious, self-assigned reading project as well.
Look at my list now on any given week, and you’ll see tasks related to my business, of course -- from research to writing to marketing. But there will also be notes about who needs a card or phone call; a poem or essay I’d like to finally finish; fitness goals; nutritional supplements to research; time for volunteer work that I value; and time allotted for the dreaded and ever-present housework and paperwork.
In some ways, we’re often as much ‘on’ outside of working hours as we are during them. So our ambitions are spread out among several areas of life, all of which we hold as important. That leaves only so much time and energy for the visible, more obvious types of ambition those around us may find easier to understand. But it certainly does not make us slackers.
5. We’re not sure where the next step (or the ladder) is
INFPs tend to have multiple interests, values, ambitions, and dreams, so sometimes we’re not sure where to direct our efforts, or how to get the best outcome.
And sometimes we’re drawn, for various reasons, to types of work that don’t really have a ladder to climb. In my own experience I’ve sought out jobs that allow me a flexible schedule and degree of autonomy so that I can focus on the other important work and goals in my life.
I also choose work that has meaning and helps others. But sometimes this kind of work, especially if it’s part time or flexible, doesn’t have much room for upward growth.
Sometimes that’s fine, because we’re focused on ambitions that are outside our paid job. But at times I’ve found myself feeling under-challenged, under-utilized, and without an outlet at my (part-time) job to use my abilities to the full.
Again, usually that’s okay because I meet those needs elsewhere. But there may be times when we could use some guidance about how to focus our aims in a way that will bring us more opportunities and recognition, and some help to find what that next step forward, or upward, could look like for us.
See yourself or someone you know in any of these reasons? Let us know in the comments!