INFPs often enter new ventures filled with excitement and anticipation. They convince themselves that this new job/relationship/course/volunteer opportunity/hobby will bring them the happiness and fulfillment they’ve been seeking.

Driven by idealism, high expectations, and energetic enthusiasm, they come in with their hearts and minds open—only to have their hopes dashed when their goals prove more difficult to reach than they imagined. Or when the people they’re involved with, or work with, or try to collaborate with, offer resistance instead of cooperation.

Such complications are inevitable in life. But for idealistic INFPs, they can be a source of deep disappointment and disillusionment. When their expectations are frustrated, their initial excitement is replaced by a sudden burst of negativity, as they become convinced they’ve made a mistake and made the wrong choice. And so they decide to leave, rather than stick around to see if things will improve.

This type of behavior can seem empowering for a while, since it offers INFPs the illusion that they’re taking control over their lives. Over time, however, an INFP who abandons jobs, schools, self-improvement projects, friendships, and romantic relationships because they hit bumps in the road may develop a quitting habit that can be challenging to break.

If you are an INFP, or are very close to one, you may or may not recognize yourself in the above description. The quitting habit is far from universal among INFPs. But it will develop in some, on a spectrum that ranges from an occasional problem to a life-long, self-sabotaging compulsion.

Like any other bad habit, this one can be vanquished. Perhaps not quickly or easily, but with a few adjustments in thinking and behavior, and a determination to become and remain more self-aware, an INFP who quits too rapidly or spontaneously can break this unfortunate pattern. From then on, they will only quit when it is clearly and undeniably in their best interests to do so.

How to Stop Quitting, A Step-by-Step Guide

If you’re an INFP who has given up a few more times than you’d care to admit, you can reverse course and unleash your natural resiliency and can-do spirit by following these four empowering steps:

Step #1: Stop Overreacting to Setbacks or Disappointments

When you experience a sudden or unexpected setback or failure, or become involved in a conflict that arose out of the blue, you shouldn’t let your emotions get the best of you. You could react with frustration, or self-recrimination, or with rationalizations designed to minimize the failure (or worse, blame it on someone else). But the better approach is to quickly detach from your emotions, to disengage from them so you can analyze the situation from a proactive rather than reactive posture.

Instead of remaining trapped by your feelings, you should see your disappointments and setbacks as learning opportunities. Take a step back and reflect on the situation calmly; think about what happened and make a real effort to identify what went wrong and why. With new insights at your disposal, you can then alter your approach to produce an opposite result.

This strategy is especially effective and appropriate when your failure or setback occurred on the job. Holding on to negative feelings, or remembering your failure and its consequences, can leave you feeling increasingly uncomfortable when you’re seeing the same people and occupying the same work environment every day.

Redemption can be within your grasp, if you learn to think of your failures as temporary detours rather than final destinations.

Step #2: Cultivate Your Innate Sense of Empathy

As an INFP you are naturally a compassionate person. But you shouldn’t confuse compassion with empathy. They are not the same, and sometimes being compassionate won’t be quite enough.

You have the capacity to empathize with others, and deeply. But if you spend too much time concentrating on your feelings and thinking about how others’ actions have negatively affected you, your sense of empathy may lapse into hibernation.

When others disappoint or disillusion you, you shouldn’t let your feelings control your reactions. It’s better to empathize with rather than judge the people who’ve let you down by failing to support you or acknowledge your needs and feelings.

You should make a real effort to figure out why they acted the way they acted. You can achieve this type of understanding if you pay close attention to their words and actions and reflect on them from a sympathetic position. If you do this with sincerity, your suppressed empathy will re-emerge, and you’ll find yourself becoming more patient and forgiving.

Taking this approach can help you preserve friendships or romantic relationships that you might otherwise abandon. If the people you love seem to be letting you down a lot, it could mean that you haven’t been trying hard enough to see things from their perspective. Once you reverse that pattern, it will be much easier to clear up misunderstandings and stop ill feelings and resentments from snowballing.

Step #3: Get Your Head Out of the Future  

Like all INFPs, you’re concerned with self-development and desperately want to fulfill your potential, and in your imagination you have expansive ideas about what that potential might be. But beneath your most inspiring conceptions there lies a hidden trap door, and when you chase your dreams you must be careful not to fall through it.  

When you’re focused too much on what you’d like to be doing, or on what you will eventually accomplish at some undetermined future date, it can make the present seem uninteresting, unattractive, and dull. When you’re always thinking about where you want to end up, or expect to end up, the actual pace of change may seem glacially slow and unsatisfactory.

If you stay too future-oriented you can become anxious and restless, and begin to wonder why things aren’t happening faster. Instead of acknowledging that your expectations are outpacing reality’s ability to meet them, you may begin to doubt the wisdom of your original inspirations and lose your motivation to pursue them.

All personal development projects require a steady, patient, and relentless approach if they are to succeed. This is true whether they’re designed to improve your health and fitness, your knowledge base and skill set, or your self-esteem and self-confidence.

You’ll do much better and go much farther if you learn to focus on the immediate moment rather than the final goal. Real change is cumulative, and if you cultivate consistency in your efforts to change you’ll experience some remarkable transformations in the long run.  

Step #4: Take it One Day at a Time

When people of any personality type attempt to change ingrained habits, they must invest the time and effort necessary to ensure their efforts will truly take hold. If you become overly excited by a few successes, you may celebrate prematurely and let down your guard too quickly, making room for the old rejected habits to re-emerge.

INFPs are good long-term goal setters. They can develop ideas for self-improvement and self-development that are authentically inspiring, and imagine terrific outcomes that are worth pursuing. Once they suppress any lingering inclination to give up too quickly when success is slow to come, they can soar to new heights.

But INFPs can sometimes be a bit lax about the details, or a little lackadaisical about maintaining healthy daily routines. Consequently, they may assume they’ve conquered their bad habits before they actually have. There may still be a lot of work to do, to make sure negative patterns have been completely replaced by constructive ones.

The way to avoid premature celebration is actually quite simple. You should assume that recovery from your quitting habit—or any bad habit you might be trying to break, for that matter—is a lifelong process, and that you must always remain diligent and take it one day at a time.

To make sure you continue to progress, you should look for support from someone who understands you and knows where you’re coming from. You should find a friend who has some bad habit they’re trying to change, and the two of you can support and encourage each other as you strive to overcome your personal issues, once and for all.

When is it Okay to Quit?

Your efforts to develop more stamina in the face of strife, and more determination in the face of disappointment, can pay huge dividends.

Nevertheless, you must learn to distinguish between situations that can be salvaged and those that cannot. The good news is that once you make the effort to break your quitting habit, you’ll become more discerning and more skilled at identifying toxic or unfulfilling relationships, environments, or lifestyle choices. 

As your quitting habit slowly evaporates, you’ll no longer be indulging your initial instinct to flee in response to modest disappointments, misunderstandings, or passing moments of discomfort. But when an initial negative reaction or feeling is reinforced by subsequent experience, and you can feel your discomfort, unhappiness, or sense of disquiet becoming stronger, you’ll know that unrealistic expectations were not an issue.

A commitment to persistence doesn’t mean you have to accept disrespectful treatment or abuse, or remain in situations that will clearly never meet your expectations. When you have good reasons to get out you should get out, and do so without regret.

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.