It’s a common source of disappointment for many INFJ personality types, and perhaps for you, too.

You make big and exciting plans based on amazing ideas. But somehow, those inspirations are never converted into consistent action, or fully brought to fruition. In some instances, you’ll start a new project or launch a new quest filled with enthusiasm, only to crash on the rocks after a few days or weeks. Other times, your best laid plans remain stuck in neutral, never advancing much past the concept stage.

This frustrating pattern is all too common for INFJs. The good news is that change is possible, if you adopt a strategic plan that will lead to a gradual shift in mindset.

You may never be able to accomplish everything you can dream of or imagine. But if you’re willing to become an apprentice in the achievement trade, you’ll open a whole new world filled with possibility.

Begin at the Beginning

You may wish to change and improve your life in profound ways, or make a notable impact on the world and in the lives of others. But you must learn to crawl before you can walk, and walk before you run.

To get into the habit of getting things done, you should choose a series of fun or interesting goals or milestones that can be achieved quickly and with relatively modest effort. You should spend at least a few months concentrating on completing these smaller quests, giving yourself time to develop a more achievement-oriented state of mind.  

Sustained effort will still be required to complete your chosen missions. But during this mental and behavioral retraining phase, you won’t be pushing yourself beyond your limits, or striving to accomplish anything extraordinary, or setting goals that will take months or years to achieve. You’ll rely on abilities you already know you possess, working within a time frame you can handle without excessive burden, in the pursuit of milestones that are eminently reachable.

These accomplishments, in and of themselves, won’t change your life all that much. But they will influence the way you think about yourself and your capacity to achieve, both consciously and subconsciously.  Over time, the new habits you learn and skills you develop can be scaled up to facilitate the achievement of loftier and more ambitious goals, of the type that will truly improve and possibly even transform your life or the world.

Visionary tendencies are a natural element of your INFJ personality. But they won’t lead to success unless they’re combined with a sensible, down-to-earth approach that can carry you forward in all your endeavors, one step and one day at a time.

Retraining Your Mind for Success

A high-achieving lifestyle is a consequence of habit and detailed planning.

Once you’ve selected a goal, no matter how small or simple, you must identify the steps you’ll need to take to reach it, through careful study and logical analysis. You may want to read articles or books or watch videos about others who’ve achieved these same or similar goals, to see if they have good tips or advice to offer.

Following this process will help you create a detailed, formal plan of action, comprised of multiple small steps that will take you inexorably toward your chosen destination. You must then follow that plan to the letter, with no deviation, refusing to let yourself make excuses or rationalizations for why you aren’t doing what you pledged to do.

This will probably be hard at first, since it forces you to be more disciplined than you’ve been in the past. But if you repeat this process several times, you’ll gradually develop new mental and behavioral reflexes that represent real evolution in the way you think about—and work toward—success.  

Make it Relevant but Manageable

Ideally, the activities associated with your smaller goals should relate in some way to your long-term ambitions, whatever they might be.

This will serve a dual purpose. It will reinforce your efforts to change your habits at a meta level, while helping you develop skills that can be applied to more intensive and challenging pursuits in the future.  

Here are a few hypothetical examples that will give you an idea of how this might work:

  • Instead of trying to learn a new language in six months, make it your goal to learn 20-30 “survival phrases” in your chosen language in six weeks or less.
  • Instead of starting a new exercise routine to train for next year’s marathon, focus on getting in good enough shape to compete in a local 10K run that’s scheduled to be held in a few weeks.
  • Instead of going right to work on that 600-page epic novel you’ve always dreamed of writing, spend the next two months writing a 20,000 word short story that touches on the same themes or involves the same characters. Don’t attempt to get it published, but instead show it to family and friends and ask them for feedback.
  • Instead of launching your long-planned but oft-delayed kitchen or bedroom remodeling project, construct a new dog house, playhouse for your child, or simple storage shed for your backyard. Look on the Internet for DIY plans that use simple materials and require no previous building or remodeling experience.

At this early stage, you shouldn’t be seeking out immense challenges that will test your determination and patience to the breaking point. The best way to become more successful is to practice being successful, in situations where your goals are clear and the steps needed to achieve them are easy to plan and execute.

Converting Your Perfectionism Into an Ally

When you tackle any sizable project, perfectionism can derail you. You may find yourself frequently getting bogged down by the details, unable to move on and becoming more and more frustrated and discouraged by your inability to make tangible progress toward long-term goals. 

With smaller projects, your perfectionism won’t have the same self-sabotaging potential.  You can indulge your perfectionist instincts more easily, knowing that if you take extra time to finish a particular task it won’t put you so far behind schedule.

Feeling less pressure, you learn to engage with your perfectionism more constructively. This will help you overcome your tendency to try to resist it or repress it, which turns it into a persistent pest that bugs you incessantly and undermines your determination to continue.

When you move on to more serious projects later, you’ll be delighted to discover that your perfectionist tendencies are no longer the uncontrollable enemy that they once were. You’ll feel more relaxed and comfortable with your high expectations than you did before, allowing them to work for you instead of against you.

Study Your Failures and Learn from Them

Inevitably, you’ll hit some roadblocks over the course of your personal re-education program. Even if you keep it simple, you’ll still fail to achieve at least some of your goals, just as you would occasionally fall when you were first learning to ride a bicycle.

When this happens, you need to perform an extensive analysis to figure out what went wrong. You may want to do the same thing retroactively, with some of the larger plans you made but failed to keep in the past.

Some possible reasons for failure include:

  • What you were trying to do was too difficult, given your present knowledge or capacities.
  • Your goals were too vague; what exactly you wanted to accomplish was not specifically defined.
  • Your time frame for achieving your goal was unrealistic.
  • The success of your endeavor relied on the cooperation or actions of other people whose behavior and choices you couldn’t really control.
  • While the long-term goal was attractive, the steps you needed to complete to reach your final destination were uninteresting.
  • You ran out of patience and broke your promise to yourself to take things slowly.
  • You were trying to do something you thought you should do, not something that you really wanted to do.  You had no real passion for your pursuit, causing your motivation to quickly  wane.
  • You didn’t really believe you could do it, based on low self-esteem and/or lack of experience.

You should be analytical about your failures rather than judgmental. If you reflect on your failures honestly and without making excuses, you’ll learn a lot about your vulnerabilities and self-sabotaging tendencies. This will dramatically increase your self-awareness and boost your odds of succeeding the next time, regardless of the nature or complexity of your quests or endeavors.

Practice Makes Perfect

As an INFJ, you place great value on reaching your full potential as a human being. You’re also eager to help others do the same.

Your expansive humanitarian vision can motivate your best efforts. Unfortunately, it can also frustrate you, if you don’t see the changes you want to see happen quickly enough. That is what trips up so many INFJs, who struggle to translate their best intentions into constructive and sustainable action.

But your failures were not caused by unrealistic expectations. They can instead be traced to an underdeveloped skillset, which undermined your attempts to convert great plans into remarkable accomplishments.

With diligent practice, you can develop mental and behavioral habits that support self-actualization and high achievement. Ultimately success will breed more success, on whatever scale you choose to operate.

Nathan Falde
Nathan Falde has been working as a freelance writer for the past six years. His ghostwritten work and bylined articles have appeared in numerous online outlets, and in 2014-2015 he acted as co-creator for a series of eBooks on the personality types. An INFJ and a native of Wisconsin, Nathan currently lives in Bogota, Colombia with his wife Martha and their son Nicholas.