An ENFP’s Guide to Goal-Setting

Clinically Reviewed by Steven Melendy, PsyD. on March 31, 2019

I find it ironic that I pitched the idea for this article—an article on goal making—over a month ago and I’m only just writing it now. Clearly, I am in need of its contents as much as the next ENFP!

As Intuitive Perceivers, we are often chastised for chasing butterflies and shiny objects. This is not always far from the truth, but generally we have a good reason for it. Our primary cognitive function is Extraverted Intuition (Ne), giving us the ability to spin ideas and consider possibilities faster than you can write them down! All the other functions are subordinate to this one, which means we’re always going to seem like we have our head in the clouds.

For ENFPs, this idea generating quality can be exhilarating and liberating by creating a world of possibilities! However, one weakness—and I’m not too keen on admitting fault—would be our ability to follow-through in a timely manner.

Sure, I’ll take a ballroom dance class someday. And don’t you tell me I’ll never finish that degree, by Jove, I will! Just … not yet.

Sound familiar?

I’ve looked at the popular advice articles. I’ve tried them. And, whether by virtue of my personality or some other aspect of who I am, none of those tidbits of advice have ever stuck. So, employing the constantly whir of Extraverted Intuition, I found some goal-setting golden nuggets that have worked for me in various seasons of my life.

Flexibility isn’t Just for Yogis

As an Intuitive person, we ENFPs naturally see the big picture. It’s easy to take a step back and see the bottom line and not get lost in the minutiae of details. Run with that! When considering goals, choose an end result and filter down. What’s the bottom line or end result you want to achieve? What does that look like to you? What steps can you take to achieve this goal?

Pretty normal goal-setting jargon, right?

Here’s the kicker—my advice to an ENFP would be to NOT set an uber specific regimen. Don’t say you’ll work out three times a week until the day you die. After a couple of weeks, you end up feeling stifled and wanting to execute a new strategy you’ve dreamed up.

When this happens, I ask myself, “does this still get me to the end result I envisioned?” If the answer is yes, then go ahead! Chase that shiny idea! As long as you’re still headed in the right direction for your goal, switching tactics is a-okay and may even save the longevity of your focus. Allow yourself to be flexible when executing the details of a goal, so long as you don’t lose sight of the bottom line.

After having little boy number two, I set the expectation that I would spend more one-on-one time with my toddler. I don’t have a specific map or a timetable. Sometimes, quality time consists of taking him to the store when I would otherwise ask my husband to watch him. Other times, it’s shirking chores, bundling up, and following him outside to play. I don’t focus on the amount of time or the activity, just that we have some one-on-one connection. Allowing myself some flexibility in the execution of this goal means I can roll with the unexpected and create opportunities as I go.

A word of warning: it’s pretty easy to say “Nah, I’ll do it later” or “I’m too busy today”. In doses and for good reasons, this isn’t a bad thing. Both of my kids are sick today and my toddler is sleeping off his illness. I may not get one-on-one time with him today and that’s okay. If you find you’re continually giving yourself an out, take some introspective time to see why and what you need to tweak.

And Categories Aren’t Just for Jeopardy!

There have been several times in my life when setting one goal lead to the desire for another, and another, and another. Everything is interconnected. Compartmentalization is difficult for an ENFP.

Once again, my advice to you is to go with it! Set those big picture goals in categories. Write them down so you don’t lose track. Your priorities will rise to the surface as you consider each outcome. While other sources will encourage you to reign in your enthusiasm and channel it into one aspect of your life, nothing kills an ENFP’s drive faster than restraining that wonderful Extraverted Intuition.

When I go through these periods, I often use the categories of personal improvement, relationship goals, finances, work, and whatever hobby I’m currently interested in. I find setting goals in this way is helpful over a long period of time. For instance, I used this tactic at the New Year. I have bottom lines for each category, but allow myself flexibility in execution.

One of my goals for this year is to learn basic sewing. My mom, bless her soul, bought me a sewing machine for my birthday. Usually a go-getter type of woman, I find myself in uncharted territory feeling totally and completely intimidated by this machine! I’ll admit, I haven’t even busted it out of the box yet. No matter what, I’ve set things in motion. My sister-in-law lives close by and is coming next month to help me get things started. I have definite expectations for what I want to learn to sew (some diaper inserts and wipes) by the end of the year. We’ll see how things progress!

A word of warning: Having several categories of goals makes it easy to lose focus. Balance is the key for this style of goal-setting. I find having a variety of goals to rotate through helps me stay on track. When one goal seems stale, I can cycle my focus to another area and return to my original goal later with fresh eyes. Keep some kind of record if you choose to set goals this way to make sure nothing slips through the cracks.

Check-in So You Don’t Check Out

I believe that one reason New Year’s Resolutions don’t often stick is because we make them at one point in the year and never bother to check-in and account for the changes that normally happen in our lives. The same applies to any type of goal.

At the turn of one year, I set extremely specific goals. Learn three new piano pieces, become conversational in Turkish, and pay off the rest of my student debt were three of my goals. A few weeks into the year, I got a big, fat positive pregnancy test. This was not on my radar or in our plans for the year. However, I stubbornly stuck with the original goals I set. Can you imagine what happened throughout the course of the year? I barely learned half of a piano piece, saved enough to pay for the birth instead of paying off student debt, and don’t even talk to me in Turkish. I’ve lost it all.

I didn’t account for the major change having my first child would have on my life.

Now, thankfully, not every year is this life-changing. But we still experience subtle shifts in seasons and schedules. I would encourage you to take any long-term goals you have and set a reminder to check-in. Use summer time, beginning of the school year, your birthday—any checkpoints along the year will do.

Remember how I want to learn basic sewing? I want to be comfortable setting up my sewing machine and troubleshooting basic problems (and understand exactly what a bobbin is …) by summer. Beginning of summer, mid-summer, end of summer, it’s all good. As long as I hit that check-point, I’ll be on track to reach my goal by the end of the year.

A word of warning: This is so easy for forget! I can’t tell you how often I’ll open up a planner that I bought at the beginning of one year (convinced it would finally keep me on track) and see goals I had completely forgotten about! Whoops! Technology has helped me rectify this problem. Set a reminder for a future date and never miss a self check-in again.

Now, my dear ENFP, you are a trail-blazer. Have you found other methods of following through? Any goal-setting gold you want to share? Comment below and let us hear your wonderful ideas!

Kim Jacobson

Kim spends her time as a freelance content marketing writer and indie author. Her focus is on empowering others to make healthy choices, and personality theory plays a large role in that calling. What else would you expect from an ENFP? She lives in the mountains with her ISFJ husband and two incredible kiddos.

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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.


Naomi Harrington (not verified) says...

Absolutely amazing article Kim! Thank you so much for sharing. I can't wait to share it with my husband (ENFP) who is currently in the process of a major career shift and is actively working on goal setting. 

Kim Jacobson says...

I'm so happy to hear you found this helpful! I sincerely wish you and your husband the best of luck with his career shift! 

Lisa Bruegger (not verified) says...

ENFP in midst of major career change, critical care to photography, after a year and half of studying I sought out another professional to see if I had what it takes. What worked, I pretended to be in class 3 times a week, 4 hours  each as if I’m in school with no tv, Facebook, or any distraction to totally dedicate time to growth, just one interruption can trigger postponement. I have my Fitbit set to alarm at 10:23 am (random choice) to check in with reality I call it. Am I working towards making money, or did I find something more interesting. Thirdly, don’t over share the journey unless asked. I’m pretty sensitive as discouragement is my trigger to self doubt. Share the accomplishments  

Lisa Bruegger (not verified) says...

I forgot to add, use different ring tones on your cell phone, of the people you are responsible for. Keeping it within eat shot, then you can decide if that’s a ringtone you want to answer.  while you’re tech down to stay focused for four hours, 3xa week. 

Morgan Mittelbrun (not verified) says...

First off, thank you SO MUCH for writing this! I am an ENFP and I think out of all the MBTI types, ENFP needs the most help with sticking to goals and following through. That’s something I’m actively working on. This year I have tried using “mini-habits” to work on exercising and it seems to really be effective! Three books I definitely recommend for ENFPs are: How to be an Imperfectionist, Mini-Habits, (I recommend listening to the audiobooks but reading the books works too) and Flawd. We ENFPs are a little different but that is what makes us great! I agree that it is about identifying the bottom line and intention of setting each goal and being flexible when things change. Achieving goals should be a fun process not a chore. Making goal setting fun is a MUST for ENFPs! Thank you again for writing this post!!!

Kim Jacobson says...

I definitely agree that ENFP's are likely at the top of a list of personality types that need help sticking to an idea and following through :) And thank you for the book suggestions! I'm always on the hunt for some good ENFP compatible material! 

Denise (not verified) says...

Kim, thanks for your article, the title alone resonated so much with me, as an ENFP I tend to go for BIG goals and when I fixate too much in the lower level goals I get stuck and bumpmmy head against the wall... until it hurts and so I cange the goal. I am very conscious of what I want the in the long run and allowing for opportunities to come to me an explore them before thinking them out serves a great purpose. Sometimes it gives me a greta opportunity to expand and deepen my work... sometimes it was just a shiny light with nothin behind and so I let go...

My technique is TRY IT OUT: prototype, try fast, fail, reflect, learn go on!... and KEEP THE EYE ON THE BIG BALL... that one that will make me know I am alive so much that if it all ends suddenly I have lived! Even this comment makes sense so me! :) 

Have a great day and please do continuou your wonderful work :)


Kim Jacobson says...

I'm so glad this article resonated with you! And I love the techniques you shared! Trying it out is a wonderful nugget of advice, cause you know you'll always wonder if you don't at least try! Thank you so much for sharing! 

William Marshall (not verified) says...


I am also an ENFP married to an ISFJ. (31years). Do you have any articles on the dynamic between the two types?

Kim Jacobson says...

31 years!! Congratulations!! I don't have an article like that ... yet ;) 

Abigail (not verified) says...

It’s so funny I’m reading this while doing my organizational leadership class. Thank you for sharing this! I too didn’t plan on moving with my boyfriend so soon in the year. My travel goals, and goals of saving money to get my yoga certification were put on hold. I like your non constraint ideas to put ourselves back into check. I love your goal on trying to spend more one on one with your baby ?. Don’t forget it’s okay to give time to yourself as well. 

Kim Jacobson says...

Sounds like lots of good things are happening for you! I'm so glad you found some resonance in this article. And thank you, you're totally right! Taking time for myself is a must and I often need that reminder. Thanks for looking out :) 

Kara (not verified) says...

So good to hear I'm not the only ENFP who has problems with achieving goals in a timely manner. It's such a relief to hear a perspective that isn't all about specificity, rigorous schedules, and SMART techniques. Great article and very much needed.

Kim Jacobson says...

You are most definitely NOT ALONE! I think most of the literature on goal-setting out in the world come from people who have a natural strength setting a goal and following through (*ahem* Not ENFPs) and it's not a one-size-fits-all situation. It's so great to hear these principles are helpful because they're different from the norm. That means we're on to something! 

Linda Miller (not verified) says...

I think in was in Kiersey's book that I found the quote.  An NF's goal in life is to find a goal in life.  I identified with that and still do!

Kim Jacobson says...

YES! In Please Understand Me, right? I laughed so hard when I read that and had to read it out loud to my husband (who, not being an NF, promptly hooked his eyebrow and wasn't quite sure how to respond). Such a great insight!

KE (not verified) says...

So yes! Nailed it. My husband gets so frustrated with me about all my activities and things I add on my plate without apparently following through, but I’m actually pretty good at completing things, especially when I’m responsible to other people, it’s just not done in what others consider a timely manner. My favourite saying is “better late than never!”

ive tried journaling forward with my goals. Picking a date in the future and writing down what my life looks like then and how I feel about it. Then reading it on that date. Literally freaked me out how true it was!

Kim Jacobson says...

Your journal idea sounds pretty cool! And yes! I can't tell you how many times I've been teased for adding another project to my life without completing another half-completed one. Even if you finish them later, it's often hard for others who don't operate this way to understand. Thanks for sharing! 

Linda Wakenhut (not verified) says...

Kim, I too am an ENFP and really found your goal setting ideas enlightening. Remaining flexible and assessing my progress, say every three months, was great advice. For us, " Variety is the spice of life"

Kim Jacobson says...

Indeed! I've often found myself explaining, "I'm a variety person!" It keeps everything fresh! 

Kate Powers (not verified) says...

thank you so much!  At the age of 79 I’m still working on this.  And as a parent educator I assure you that you won’t ever regret a moment spent with those two little guys. I’ve come to accept that I’m great at beginnings, good at endings, and struggle with the Middles!   Getting another type to help with those has been helpful.  Also giving myself permission to take more time with them, as in a half hour for taxes and fifteen minutes of fun break, is really helping.  ( of course you have to be 79 to have that kind of time)!   

Kim Jacobson says...

Oh, thank you! Yes, my two littles are my world! And you're totally right, having another type to balance everything out has been so helpful. Thank you for the encouragement and perspective! 

Sandi (not verified) says...

Hi, Kim.  Thanks for the article.  I really like the idea of not being overly specific about how you're going to reach your goal.  It makes sense because once I start doing something, and once I'm all in, the way to achieve something just comes to me.  Or, more like 5 ways to do something just comes to me.  But it's only after I've committed and have begun.  Then it all falls into place mentally.  I sometimes don't want to start something until I know the "how", but focusing on the outcome of the goal and being open to having different ways of achieving it is brilliant. 

I went to a training about 8 months ago that really helped me with another aspect of goal setting.  The man doing the training was also an ENFP, as I am.  He said to not set too many goals, just 2 to 3, 4 at the most.  Write it out in the present tense, "It's December 1st and I have really learned how to use my sewing machine..."  Then he had us think about how we would feel when we reached our goals, really think about it and really let yourself feel it.  Then write down and describe those feelings.  Then he wanted us to read those goals every day.  I did it and the results were phenomenal!  I had written down 3 things and had decided that I would feel very accomplished, very successful, and very proud at completing all 3 goals in 3 months.  I ended up completing 2 out of the 3 because reading the goal statement every day that was infused with emotion kept me tethered to my goals.  It caused excitement to build in me, which translated into action.  I would have completed all 3 goals in the 3 months, but a family member had to have surgery and we had some other big, unexpected things happen halfway into the 3 months.  But I'm getting ready to do it again because it was so successful.  Thanks again, and good luck!

Caitlin Hawekotte (not verified) says...

I love this, Kim! I’m an ENFP through and through, and all of these tips resonated with me. One year, I took to picking a Word of the Year rather than specific resolutions because I found myself always getting overwhelmed with making too many specific goals and losing focus. Then every time I did something that fell under that word, I would write it down and put it in a jar so I could reflect on all I’d done whenever I was feeling discouraged about whether I had accomplished much at all. For instance, my word was Action, so any time I did something like say yes to a new experience and follow through with it then I would put that in the jar. By the end of the year, I was amazed at how all the little actions added up and had made me grow a lot over the course of the year! I loved how you said what matters most is whether the actions we take get us to the end we’ve envisioned rather than getting too hung up on how we’re getting there. I think that can definitely hold me back at times, so that’s so important to keep in mind.

The way you laid everything out so clearly here reminded me that I need to get back on track with a more open, self-accepting style of goal setting. I’m always so happy to see articles like this geared toward ENFPs because we have SO many wonderful ideas but get lost so easily when it comes to following through with any of them! I think the more we can all be encouraged to make our dreams a reality, the more we and he world will benefit from what we create as a result!

Tehreem Fayyaz (not verified) says...

This is so helpful & so relatable! Thanks for it.

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