How to Stop Being Aimless and Find Purposeful Direction as an INFP
Nothing gives a person more energy than finding the direction they want to go in life. For some people, this is an easy thing to do. They just wake up one day and instinctively know their career path, or what their passion is, or what they're meant to be doing in the next phase of their life.
INFPs are not those people.
Decisions are a thorn in the INFP side. Something makes sense for you only when you recognize a connection with it; when you stumble across something (like a career choice) that makes your heart happy. But what if you never stumble across the one true passion that matches your high ideals?
Or what if you do recognize the meaning of your life, but it's borderless and colorless? You become so easily distracted, INFP, it can be difficult to sculpt a living reality out of a vague inspiration and take steps to actually achieve it.
So let's break it down. Here's how INFPs can stop being aimless and find their direction - with a little help from your characteristic creativity and idealism.
#1: A hero knows his mission
If you run after two hares, you will catch neither. And, really, this is the whole trick to finding your direction in life. If you want something, you need to focus your thinking on just this one thing. You cannot launch a startup, publish a novel, travel the globe and train five times a week while raising your kids. Well you can – just not all at the same time. As an INFP, you may have all of those aspirations. But it's the right focus that makes the difference.
How do you know that it's the right hare you're chasing?
Step one is to get very, very clear about the kind of life you'd like to have. There are various techniques for achieving this but it basically boils down to figuring out what your passion is – the fire that drives you and something you're willing to pay the price to achieve. It's really easy for INFPs to get sidetracked by someone else's goal or what they think they should do. But this will only lead to one false start after another and a series of major dead ends.
INFPs are strongly heart-controlled and tend to be much happier outside of the mainstream, when they feel like they are working for a cause or doing something that makes a difference. To find that cause, ask yourself:
- What's important to you?
- What do you want to achieve in this world?
- What do you want to give or create?
- What do you want to leave behind (your legacy)?
- How should your life affect others?
You may be able to answer some of these questions off the cuff; others may give you more time to think. You might have 100 different answers and that's okay. Keep honing and digging until you find a clear set of patterns and a common thread. Pay attention to your feelings, past experiences and the compliments you've received. For INFPs, this exercise is less about searching and more about finding – stay open to coincidences and give your vocation a chance to reveal itself.
When you're done, see if you can turn your answers into a simple sentence. This sentence is your mission statement, for example "I want to give unbiased advice to people, make them feel comfortable and build up their self-esteem." You'll recognize when you've found the right mission, whether that's "become a novelist and illustrator," "create a better community," "visit every place on earth" or "create something of my own I can be proud of," because you'll feel emotional and incredibly relieved. It means that you are clear about your priorities, and can start living with authenticity and depth.
#2. Let go of the pass/fail mentality
In creating a mission, you've also created a danger zone. This is the space when you get so excited about pursuing your life's purpose, you try to get there all at once. INFPs who try to change everything in one go get so exhausted, they give up. You're not an SJ-type who likes to work out goals down to the last detail. You can't live your life with a constant plan looming over you. Too much focus may cause you to lose faith in the mission you've created and once again get sidetracked by false objectives that won't make you happy.
The next step then, is to make the smallest change towards your goal. Research college courses. Pick up a leaflet for a gym. Write 300 words a day. While counterintuitive, the best way for INFPs to move forward with their entire life is by not moving forward with your entire life. The idea is to complete or assimilate just one adjustment before starting on the next. You don't want to close in on a whole structured plan and miss out on lots of amazing, spontaneous things along the way. Part of this process is enjoying the journey. You'll make much faster progress that way.
When it comes to goal achievement, consistency is key. The only true failure is the failure to take action, so be sure to let go of the pass/fail mentality to success. It just doesn't work for INFPs. The problem with pass/fail is it makes you feel bad if you try something and fail. You end up believing that "doing nothing" is more appealing than "doing something" and taking the risk that it won't work out. So, you end up procrastinating (again) because you didn't get the exact results you were hoping for.
With a few months of consistent action, you'll be in a different place. You will have different experiences, know different people and maybe have a different perspective on where you're headed. INFPs perceive things the majority of people do not and you must remain open to these experiences in order to learn from them. You only realize just how priceless they are when you stay flexible, then stop and reflect along the way.
#3: Kill those pesky fears
As for potential derailers, the worst and most detrimental is your tendency towards self-doubt. Too many INFPs know exactly what they feel called to and what would make their lives meaningful. But self doubt, your inner saboteur, keeps you on the sofa instead of making the positive transformation you're dreaming about.
Resist the urge to idealize what you had before, or what others have now. Stop questioning whether you have what it takes to do well in the mission you've chosen. Stop wondering if, in the grand scheme, your actions are making any difference at all. The answer is "yes," they are making a difference – but constantly questioning it can be quite paralyzing at times.
For INFPs more than any other type, it helps to have someone who can remind you why you're doing what you're doing. You cannot do this alone. You need people who will support your efforts, call you out on your sabotaging excuses and keep you pushing forward when you'd rather give up. You only live once, so don't think twice. Relationships with people are what make your life meaningful. So, build yourself a support system, and actually have the guts to share your dreams and ambitions with the people you love and trust. These allies can ground you and help you be the kind of person who follows through on their ambitions.
And if you can do that, INFP, you can do anything!