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The INFP’s Guide To Goal Setting

 Most of us have been exposed to the idea and practice of goal setting.  And it goes something like this: (1) create a goal that is specific, measurable, and has a time limit; (2) create a plan to reach your goal, use objectives and action steps to fill in your plan; (3) follow your plan and measure your progress as you move towards your goal; (4) when you reach your goal, start over with a new one.

I have never been very good at this.

This is probably because of my personality preferences as an INFP. Specifically the P, which stands for Perceiving.

I find traditional goal setting practices to be constraining, and ultimately, I feel that it takes me away from my goals because of the level of specificity that is needed.  My goals tend to be bigger, more open and not connected with a hard time limit.  They are adaptable to whatever may come up and I will change them (or scrap them) as necessary.  These things make me feel comfortable.

Essentially, when I create a goal, I will ask myself what I want to do for the upcoming year, 5 years, my life, etc. and write down exactly what that is, however it comes out of my brain.  There is no censoring in this step.  I don’t worry if it’s specific or measurable, I go with what I feel.

For instance, around the first of the year I was thinking about things I wanted to do in 2009.  One thing I came up with was to “receive love from others in a better way.”  That’s pretty vague.  I was thinking that I wanted to improve my relationships and I wanted to improve it in the way that I was receiving people.  If I had tried to go more specific or make it measurable I would have actually walked away from what I really wanted.  It was a feeling that was directing me, not specific actions or steps

I might revise a goal, but I revise it in a way that I feel something when I read it or say it.  The most important thing to me is the feeling a goal gives me. That’s how I know I’m on the right path.

You might ask how I know that I’m following my goal.

The first step is not to have too many of them.  You need to be able to concentrate on a few.  Next, if I’m holding the goal in my mind, when I come across a situation where the goal applies I can act in a way that satisfies the goal.  If I want to receive people better, the next time I’m with a friend I have “receiving” in mind and can act in a number of ways that would satisfy that goal.  With the goal open, there are an endless number of ways that the goal can be achieved. I like that.

You may also ask how I know that I’ve reached my goal.

If I’m holding it my mind and taking action on it when the situation arises, the goal takes care of itself.  It is over when I feel that I’m doing a better job of receiving people.  When I don’t need to specifically think to myself “receive,” then it’s reached.

I feel very comfortable with this method of goal setting because it allows for so much possibility.  The course of action is completely open, but I know what I’m walking towards.  If I had to sum up my philosophy on goals it would be this:

A goal keeps you walking in the right direction, it doesn’t dictate every step on your path.

If you find yourself feeling uncomfortable with traditional goal setting, maybe you need to try a new approach.   Be looser, be vague, use your feelings and allow for possibility.  Any INFPs (or any other types!) out there find this familiar?

Note 7/6/2013: This post was originally published under the title “The (P)erceiver’s Guide To Goal Setting” and has been updated with minor edits accordingly.

Published inINFP


  1. Johny-115 Johny-115

    Excellent! I like MBTI … and i find most of guides to set my goals and to fulfill them uncompatible with me … I am pretty distinct INFP … and I welcome gratefully any ideas on this topic. Because i think that something like this is totally missing in here. Or can you recommend me some other blogs, books, anything for at least NP oriented people ? 🙂

  2. For me, goal setting and reaching ties in very closely with lists. I love to make lists of what I’m going to do, breaking down my goal into steps and putting them in order, and then take action. This doesn’t work for everyone however. Just a few days ago I was talking to a friend and I said, “Make a list to reach your goal!” and she responded with, “A list? You should see how many of those are scattered on my bedroom floor!” (Ironically her goal was to keep her room clean…). Organization and lists work really well for me, but I know they’re not for everyone.

    Positively Present’s last blog’s a bella life

  3. Amanda Linehan Amanda Linehan

    Hi Johny – Thanks for your comment! And it’s wonderful to “meet” a fellow INFP! I’m glad you found this post helpful. And I agree with you – I also feel incompatible with a lot of goal-setting advice (and other advice too!). It just doesn’t seem to click with me. There is an INFP forum you might like at . There is a some good discussion there and many INFPs!

    Hi Dani – I also quite enjoy lists! That’s probably my main organization tool. I think I tend to differ in that I revise my lists a lot and remove or add things as I find necessary. Plus, I think my lists tend to be “possible things to do” rather than set in stone. Thanks for your ideas!

  4. Blynn Blynn

    Good Evening!
    I scored an INFJ, although I don’t think that totally describes who I am or what I’m about. I find Goal setting a more concrete activity, and I must say am truly bad at it. I tend to get caught up in the planning with little follow through, but it doesn’t bother me if I get to the right spot eventually. I do like the process of setting my goals the traditional way with planning, and then going about my life. I find a lot of the time I end up at the right place anyway. My guardian angel must do the work for me. 🙂

  5. I think I look at things similar to you amanda.

    I don’t think the original goal should be touched. It is the driving force and ultimate dream of what you want. The motivation is critical.

    Below that goal I use pre-requisites of what things must occur for me to reach that goal. Only noting things that must be done.

    Then I list actions that will move me towards satisfying those criteria. It is the gradient or direction that is most important as I have said before.

    Sailing is a good analogy. You know roughly where you want to get and roughly how. Then you just adjust as you cruise!

  6. I decide on my destination and then spend the minutes and hours of my day moving in that direction. The only goals I haven’t met are the ones I changed a long the way. Persistence is key as well.

    Tess The Bold Life’s last blog post..Mondays = 1/7 of Your Life

  7. Amanda Linehan Amanda Linehan

    Hi Blynn – Guardian angels are very important in goal setting. I find mine usually show up then also. 🙂

    Hi Jarrod – Sailing is a great analogy! You’ve got to go with the wind, not against it.

    Hi Tess – I like your approach. Sometimes goals need to be changed, you can only figure that out along the way. 🙂

  8. Insightful reading, Amanda.
    As you’ve said, goals must meet the criteria of SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time Bound).
    If I may add, we should set our goals in 6 criteria of life :
    -financial & career
    -social & cultural
    -spiritual & ethical
    -home & family
    -mental & education
    -physical & health

    Thank you for sharing, Amanda. 🙂

    Arswino’s last blog post..14 Facts of Life You Must Know

  9. Amanda Linehan Amanda Linehan

    Hi Arswino – I like your idea of setting goals in certain life categories. Thanks!

  10. I quite agree with Arswino. SMART goals do help us achieve a lot if planned and executed carefully with the proper motivation and zeal.
    .-= Everything Counts´s last blog ..Granting Wishes to Strangers =-.

  11. Lauren Lauren

    I came across your website when I typed in “goal planning for INFPs” as I am one, too. I also have tried the S.M.A.R.T. method and when I came up with a neat little paper…I balked at the “set in stone” way it looked. So now it’s almost the end of 2010 and I am exploring ways to reach my goals. I like the idea of having a vague goal because I truly dislike the one path method. Having a fluid path fits my personality better. Maybe one of Yogi Berra’s quotes fits: “If you come to a fork in the road, take it.” Thank you so much for this site.
    Love and Light,

  12. Christine Christine

    I love this! To find my goal by how I feel without censoring makes so much sense! Thanks a lot for your wisdom. =)

  13. Amanda Linehan Amanda Linehan

    Hi Christine – Glad you got something out of the article! 🙂

  14. […] first discovered you through your lovely blog. One of the first posts I read was The INFP’s Guide to Goal Setting. In it, you talk about how traditional goal setting, with its narrowed-down goals and rigid, […]

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