Burnout from INFJ sprinting


INFJs are gifted with natural ambition to make their vision a reality. However, associating "ambition" with "tyrant" causes many INFJs to distance themselves from their natural aspirations. Yet expressing this part of your identity in a healthy way serves you and those you want to help through your vision.

When you're inspired and motivated by an exciting new vision, are you driven to make it happen? You probably push yourself really hard because you're pulled by an invisible force or sense of urgency to see the impact of this new idea in the world. Does this sound familiar? If so, you're 100% not alone. If you do act on your natural ambition, there's a common pattern that many INFJs face—go, go, go, GO, burnout.

Are you with me?

Maybe you've experienced this pattern by chasing multiple goals at once. I've had many conversations with INFJ women who have not one grand goal, but four or five grand goals. They're taking a meditation course, and learning to be a yoga instructor, and taking a writing course, and working full-time, and thinking of starting their own business, and, and, and....

Does this sound familiar?

I've been there, too! This is our ambition at work. As I've grown older and learned more about myself, I've managed my ambition in a more sustainable way. If you've experienced the resulting burnout from ambitiously working toward a big goal (or multiple goals), you know that we may require a massive recovery time once we hit a wall. Why do we get caught up in this pattern and how can we take better care of ourselves?

Why an INFJ's ambition can lead to burnout

As you know, the dominant way you interact with the world as an INFJ is through your greatest strength. This is your Introverted Intuition (Ni). When your intuition gifts you with a vision for the future, you feel drawn to that version of the future like a moth to a light. You're attracted to the warm glow of a better tomorrow. You're not just attracted to it, you want it now! You may feel impatient for this new version of reality to exist. 

The journey to the warmth of the future is punctuated by bursts of starts and stops. The "stops" may be caused by internal blocks, but they may also be caused by burnout. It's very common for INFJs to work in bursts of energy which require them to take a lot of recovery time afterwards.

The sprinter's pace

This "bursting" pattern is not a steady and sustainable pace. For me, and for many of my clients, sprinting toward the horizon is not as effective as taking a marathoner's pace. The proof of this lies in the impact of taking a sprinter's pace:

  • large quantities of recovery time needed in which you're not moving toward your vision

  • pushing yourself so hard while sprinting that you become physically sick

  • isolating yourself and withdrawing from the outside world for long periods

  • burning out so much that you're no longer interested in pursuing your vision (you no longer want to write, paint, teach, create, or whatever it is that you do)

While you do make progress toward your goal with this pace, the bursts of starting and stopping take a toll on your mind, body, and spirit. What if there's a better way to create movement toward your vision?

The marathoner's pace

If you run the course toward your vision at a marathoner's pace, you'll move steadily toward your goal without needing massive amounts of recovery time. You'll plan your journey in a way that's sustainable and that honors your needs and the way you're wired. You'll experience more steady streams of motivation and energy that will inspire you to keep going.

I have a friend who is an ultra marathon runner. This means she competes in 100+ mile trail runs through the Rocky Mountains. When I inquired about these extreme experiences, she shared a few key things that allow her to finish. She said that there are stations along the way to help her refuel with food and water. This means she takes breaks. She has support through running partners that join her on sections of the trail. One of the most interesting things she shared is that she can't think of the end of the race, or the entire 100+ mile journey. She says she'd never make it because the goal is overwhelming. She can only focus on one small section of the trail at a time. "I'll just make it to that next bend," she tells herself. Then she does it again. And again. And again.

What would it look like for you to adopt a marathoner's pace while working toward your vision? It may mean limiting your goals and commitments to 1-2 major things at a time. It could mean setting up boundaries and practicing the art of saying no. What about consistently building in time to rest each week?

Boundaries and regularly scheduled rest times have a big impact on allowing me to stay focused and motivated in my business. It takes effort and time to change old habits, and that includes your habit of working in bursts. If you want to make a change in your approach to reaching goals, give yourself time. Be kind to yourself. Resist the temptation to shame yourself into pushing forward when you really need to rest. Start by making one change right now. Yes, one. :-)