Why Do Intuitive Introverts Know So Much But Achieve So Little?

Clinically Reviewed by Steven Melendy, PsyD. on December 10, 2017
Categories: INFJ, INFP, INTJ, INTP

I love to learn. In fact, when I took the StrengthsFinder 2.0 assessment earlier this year, Learner was listed as my top strength. I can spend hours at a time, days even, reading books about psychology and personal development and exploring inspiring ideas. I crave solitude because it means more time to feed my mind new information.

It’s common for IN types like myself, an INFJ, to get caught up in learning the ins and outs of how personality type works. But we tend to struggle with the practical applications necessary when using the tool for development. This article explains the six main reasons IN personality types struggle to turn their knowledge into growth. It also contains suggestions for how to take the traits that are holding us back, and use them to create actionable steps that lead to personal development.

1. We struggle to take action

Most IN personality types are growth-minded and have a love of learning. But we’re notoriously bad at taking action. Our reluctance to act is the result of perfection (in INJs) and indecisiveness (in INPs).

For IN types, learning is natural. But personal development shouldn’t be something that comes easy. The challenges are what help us grow. While learning often feels like growth, without action, it can become an impediment to growth. If we believe learning itself is enough to grow as a person, it instead becomes a distraction.

Tip: The next time you discover something insightful, think about how you can translate it into an actual behavior or lifestyle change. Setting clear goals will make it easier to take action on the idea in the future. For example, if one of your personality strengths is connecting with people, what are some actions you can take to enhance your current relationships and develop even stronger connections? If that’s an area that needs improvement, what are some small steps you can take each day to improve the quality of your relationships?

2. We can be reluctant to change

IN personalities are open to the concept of change, but the reality of change itself can be intimidating and frustrating. As iNtutive introverts, these types often struggle to figure out where and how they fit in the world. Because of this, they often struggle to resonate with traditional growth methods. Rather than seek alternative methods or develop a workaround, some IN types will decide it’s easier to give up instead of continuing to pursue methods that don’t seem to be working. This decision is often made prematurely, in moments of burnout and frustration.

Yet growth necessarily involves situations that require personal discomfort. Many IN types feel inclined to give up mere moments before actual change begins to happen. It’s important for them to push through the challenging moments and embrace the transformation.

Tip: Break down your goals into smaller daily, weekly, or monthly actions. This way, you can celebrate each accomplishment and track how far you’ve come. Consider using a free online project management tool or calendar, like Asana, to make goal tracking easier. IN types often focus on the end goal and don’t always consider the amount of time and work it takes to get there. By celebrating each small victory, the journey becomes less intimidating.

3. We are perfectionists

IN personality types, especially INFJs and INTJs, struggle with perfectionism. They often feel pressure to live up to the expectations of others, as well as their own extremely high expectations. With action, there is always the possibility of failure. INJs want to avoid failure at all costs, as it is something that greatly impacts them mentally and emotionally.

Because of their perfectionism, it’s easy for the INJ to focus solely on their strengths while ignoring their weaknesses. INJs are usually very aware of their limitations and will spend a lot of time learning how they can improve them. However, action in these areas is often clumsy and awkward, which makes the INJ feel extremely vulnerable. Rather than taking an uncomfortable action, they will learn as much as they can to reduce any chance of failure. However, just like you can’t become a star quarterback simply by learning the entire history of football, INJs need uncomfortable action to truly grow.

Tip: Keep a journal or notebook and set specific times throughout the day to check in on your emotions. Did you feel vulnerable? Uncomfortable? Frustrated? Review your notes at the end of each day and write out how you would prefer to handle similar moments in the future.

4. We struggle with indecisiveness

Out of the IN personality types, INFPs and INTPs struggle the most with indecisiveness. These types can see endless possibilities, which makes it difficult for them to gain the closure they need to move forward. INPs may struggle to identify a strong sense of purpose and direction. They are aware of the many options available but lack confidence in their ability to choose the best option. This indecisive nature makes it difficult for INPs to transition their goals from concept to reality.

When they do try to take action, IN types are often frustrated by the practical obstacles they face. This can cause them to give up and withdraw into a world of isolation and autonomy. Since these types are so independent, this withdrawal feels natural and comfortable. Spending time alone with their thoughts, ideas, and imagination is a space many IN types would hide away in forever if it were an acceptable option. However, if their discomfort with the practical realities of the outside world prevents them from taking actions that lead to growth, their knowledge and ideas are nothing more than just that — knowledge and ideas.

Tip: Practice being assertive and vocalizing your opinions. Start by writing out why you feel strongly about something at work, school, or in your personal life that you’ve gotten pushback on recently. Then ask a friend or loved one (preferably someone who is a different personality type) to listen to you explain it and provide feedback on your communication style. You may also consider practicing public speaking with a group like Toastmasters. The more confident you become in expressing your ideas, the more confident you can become in the idea itself.

5. We think we know more than we do

Because IN personality types never really feel like they fit in, they seek refuge in what they know. This leads many IN types to possess a strong confidence in their convictions. They understand that they see the world differently, and this mindset can guide them in one of two directions. Either they begin to think everyone else is wrong and they are right, or that everyone else is right and they are wrong. We’ll discuss the former first, which tends to occur more in INFJs and INTJs.

For these types, once an idea “clicks” — meaning it satisfies both their intuitive vision and objective Extraverted function — they are unlikely to change an opinion without a battle and intense re-examination. They’re open to exploring new ideas, but only when the idea fits within their greater vision. Because of this, the INJ can easily miss opportunities for growth.

Tip: As an INJ you likely have an idea of where you want to be in the future. Ask a trusted friend or loved one to give you constructive criticism about your vision. Ask: Is this realistic? What obstacles do you see preventing this from becoming a reality? What areas could I improve on? Rather than getting defensive, practice patiently listening and thoughtfully responding to their remarks. Write them down and decipher how to turn them into actionable steps that will help you grow.

6. We don’t think we know enough

On the other hand, the inability to act can also be due to a lack of confidence in their vision. This occurs more frequently in INFPs and INTPs. Since this type tends to have so many ideas, they find it challenging to choose which direction to go. Rather than risk making a wrong decision, many INPs prefer to wait to take action until they get the reassurance they need to move forward. Instead, they will spend time reflecting, writing, and dreaming about the future, while simultaneously ignoring their ability to create it.

Another reason INPs struggle to act is because they lack the confidence to promote their knowledge. IN types find it challenging to simply explain what they know to other people. They often feel powerless in situations where practical decision-making is valued more than innovation and experimentation. This can overwhelm the INP and cause them to give up on pursuing a path forward. INPs have to realize that facing rejection is an important part of their development journey, and it isn’t equivalent to failure.

Tip: Apply for a job you’re unqualified for or pitch a lame story idea to a major publication. This will help you view rejection as a normal response that has nothing to do with your self-worth. Next time you have a great idea, take an immediate step forward that doesn’t involve research or getting input from anyone else. Just do it, and notice how that makes you feel.


It’s imperative that IN personality types focus not just on learning new information but creating goals focused on actionable and achievable steps. Rather than storing a new insight in your mind’s Rolodex of knowledge, consider how you may practically use it in the outside world. Remember that failure, rejection, and adaptation are key elements of growth. Without stepping outside of our comfort zones and into situations that feel unnatural and intimidating, we cannot truly learn all we need to reach our highest levels of personal development.

Megan Malone

Megan is a freelance writer and brand marketing consultant at Truity. She is passionate about helping people improve their relationships, careers, and quality of life using personality psychology. An INFJ and Enneagram 9, Megan lives quietly in Fort Worth, Texas with her husband and two pups. You can chat with her on Twitter @meganmmalone.

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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.


Benjamin Cross (not verified) says...

Spot on Megan! Thank you. In my current career transition status this information is timely and accurate. I appreciate the subtle boot in the butt to get out into the world.

Macklyn (not verified) says...

I'm an INTP, my "goal" is to think rather than do.  Really.  I enjoy doing and feeling the satisfaction of accomplishment greatly, but I like thinking even more.  It isn't bound by reality like doing is.  And as an aside, do you really think telling an INTP what is imperative is going to help you communicate your ideas?

Ayman (not verified) says...

Nice article 

Bard says...

This topic very much speaks to me, an INFP who in a long life has learned kind of a lot but accomplished pretty much nothing.  I have begun to think we IN types (at least INFPs) may benefit from taking a different approach to the whole idea of setting goals and measuring accomplishments.  I have found this article from Mark's Daily Apple intriguing and, so far, helpful, not just for health but for other matters:

"Alternative Goal Setting: How Free Spirits and Slow Burners Can Achieve Their Health Visions"

"Conventional wisdom tells us significant changes require that we establish and adhere to a list of preset action items—all in a concrete trajectory toward success. The problem is, this falls flat with some people. They might adhere for a while but lose interest because being hemmed in doesn’t fit their lifestyle or their personality. They don’t lack motivation. Some of us are simply more exploratory and squirrel-ly by nature."  (Emphasis Mark's.)  One of several suggestions: "Don't make specific goals at all.  Build systems instead."

sthGood (not verified) says...

Wow, this really helped. I jusr need to get better at setting systems because following goals isn't really my thing but I appreciate the link.

Arpit Saxena (INFP) (not verified) says...

thank you so much for giving the tips.. 


BarbaraSparks (not verified) says...

Oh my God, mindblowing. Exactly the struggle of my life. I feel so vulnerable now, when someone demistified me:D. Thanks for this article, it totally changed the way I think about my life!

Peter Muenkel (not verified) says...

Well said, duly noted. Take-away.......make actionable or move on.

Vee09 says...

I agree this article is spot on. Thanks for shinning the light on the things. Now, I know what to focus on. Thanks a bunch!

K. (not verified) says...

Spot on. I'm fully self aware I truly loathe my job and need to transition.  I'm always stuck and indecisive. These tips will help me move on. I've currently applied to jobs and applying to jobs I feel underqualified for. I know what rejection feels like and learn to accept from it and move on.

Charis Murrey (not verified) says...

I'm an INFJ and I struggle with both perfectionism and indecisiveness. Supposedly INFJs are better at taking action than other dreamer types. I don't know about this. I can be pretty bad at it. I think I have a combination of judging and perceiving tendencies depending on my environment so sometimes I seem more INFP, but INFJ overall describes me better.

Tim Wise (not verified) says...

This was a thought-provoking post, Megan. I've tested as an INFJ and an ENFJ. I'm not sure if I'm a reflective and neurotic extravert or a fairly outgoing introvert. The part about carefully planning dreams that don't pan out hits too close to home. I've found that I'm good at earning college degrees (five so far) and writing books (six so far) but not much else. I am a tenured professor and department chair at a university, but my bigger dreams of being like Walt Disney never materialized. 

About ten years ago, I decided to be bold and build a house and got myself in a hole financially because I didn't pay enough attention to details. So you might want to warn risk-averse intraverts who try to push beyond their limits because we can be bad about overcompensating and being more reckless than our friends who are naturally less risk averse would be. It's similar to experiences I had as a shy high school student when I tried to act like an outgoing person and overshot the mark. 

(Not verified? I took your test.) 

Lia (infp) (not verified) says...

Damn, I used to be invested in mbti types but later became skeptical, now reading this I feel so much relief and explains so well why I behave the way I do. Indecision and insecurity, fear of rejection, being bad at communicating my ideas.. Being stuck in my own world.. I'm 26 and still avoid too much things, feeding anxieties and my inner world.. I hope I'll learn to pop the bubble and feel less alienated, accept failures and take action.

Talia (not verified) says...

Amazing insight! Thank you!!

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