We see the world for what it “should be,” and this makes it incredibly challenging to remain static in life.
Some say I have the attention span of a goldfish. On the one hand, I can absolutely see where they are coming from. I can be mid-conversation, and if I am not entirely focused on the interaction at hand, then I drift away quickly. However, I would argue that this is a representation of my restlessness as an INFP — one of the rarer Myers-Briggs personality types — rather than a short attention span.
It isn’t that I get distracted per se, but instead I lose interest and drift away into the beautiful world of my mind, where even the most mundane of life experiences can be transformed into a glorious story of good and evil, of love and loss — a tale of blockbuster credibility. In general, INFPs are incredibly self-aware, curious, and have a rich inner world.
To the outside world, the combination of those three traits may sometimes come off as restlessness (though we’re not the only Myers-Briggs personalities whose minds often wander). If you’ve ever wondered if you should try to curb your restless behavior, though, I would like to remind you that it adds a certain mystery and lure to life.
There are solid reasons INFPs get restless, and they speak to the magic that makes us the most idealistic personality type. Here are four reasons you may find yourself restless, and why you shouldn’t feel ashamed about it.
(What’s your personality type? We recommend this free personality assessment.)
4 Reasons INFPs Get Restless
1. We are dreamers.
At our core, we are dreamers and idealists. We see the world for what it “should be,” and this makes it incredibly challenging to remain static in life.
On the one hand, this rose-colored lens instills an air of excitement and wonder that encourages us to move on and chase beauty whenever we come across it. But if we lose sight of that luster, no matter where we currently are in life, it is incredibly difficult to remain focused. Either way, both of these mentalities leave an eagerness to see more, do more, and feel more.
Regardless of the root cause (boredom with the present or excitement about the future), the result is the same: INFPs want to pack up and move on to the next great adventure. Not only is this normal, but it is a good thing for our development.
This fascination with all the things that should and could be has propelled me into some of the most trying times in my life, but it also has spurred an immense amount of growth and personal development. For example, after finishing my undergrad, my two best friends and I loaded into my truck and hit the road. We had not much more than a rough map of where we sought to go, but embarked on a five-week journey across North America. None of us had the funds to pull it off, so we brought a tent, and found free camping along the way. From frigid nights in Telluride, CO, to the scorching sun of Moab, UT, we saw, did, and felt so much throughout our travels. Had it not been for my restless nature, I would never have embarked on such a journey.
So keep chasing those rainbows, INFP.
2. We despise conflict.
Another reason we may wrap up parts of life in a nice little box and move on is our tendency to mitigate conflict. I don’t want to say “avoid,” since that has a negative connotation, but many INFPs (myself included) really do try to avoid conflict.
What I mean is we often sense impending doom, and skip town before the situation gets to that point. INFPs have high levels of intuition and perception, meaning we can sense others’ emotions and know when conflict is brewing. As highly sensitive people, we would rather have a somber memory of what once was — a feeling of melancholy — than risk watching a relationship or situation crumble.
This conflict avoidance can be seen in a number of realms — workplaces, friendships, or romantic relationships — but the result is often the same. We will eventually find a reason to justify moving on, so we can weave the impending conflict into a grand story, rather than simply address it head on.
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3. We prefer our lives to be highlight reels.
As idealists, life feels as though it is some grand story woven together with beautiful intricacy. The lows are gut-wrenching moments in a heartbreaking tale, and the highs are marks of victory and revelation. Because of this lens through which we view life, we have little patience for mundane activities. We have a bigger and better story to write, so we must move on to the next adventure.
For example, I often reflect on crossroads and the decisions I’ve made there. When looking back with 20/20 hindsight, it’s become clear to me that, more often than not, I follow the path that will give me a blockbuster movie. This is ultimately what led me to quit my engineering job to pursue starting my own company. I was only eight months into the job, but it seemed like the natural progression of the “story of Cole,” which made the decision to change career paths so appealing. I had no solid plan for making money, and was relying on my gut being correct. But what sold me was there was so much more learning to come from having no safety net and forging my own future.
INFPs feel the need to grow constantly, and throwing in the occasional plot twist is often the perfect way to do so. But these plot twists are often perceived as restlessness.
4. We need to understand ourselves better.
The central theme of the INFP story is that of self-discovery. One of my main driving factors in life is to understand myself and find my place in the larger picture of the world. Because of this, I often take a step back from my current situation to digest a number of things:
- First, I am checking in to evaluate what I’ve learned recently. By pausing life, this moment of reflection gives me clarity about myself.
- Second, I am generally looking to what could be next. How can I capture new experiences, push myself further, and understand myself better?
These two factors often create a feedback loop with one another, which further enhances the quality of restlessness. Since INFPs are continually on the search for true understanding, this lends to a whimsical — and sometimes restless — approach to life.
INFPs are naturally wired to possess an air of restlessness. Between the idealistic, rose-colored lens through which we view life, our hatred of conflict, and our deep-rooted need to truly understand ourselves, it may feel as if we are always on the move and ready for something new.
When You Feel Too Restless
However, you may be asking yourself, how restless is too restless? If you feel this way, I want you to keep these things in mind:
- When you feel the stirrings of a new adventure calling your name, sit on it for at least a few days. We often feel differently about ideas throughout various parts of the day, and setting a deliberation period can give you more clarity to pursue only the adventures that are best for you.
- It’s okay to remain static in life for a while, especially when there are external pressures that need to be met. To rekindle the joyous and idealistic nature of your INFP self, take to hobbies during these times. Pick up a guitar or grab a pen and paper. Channel your creative juices and live out your adventures in your head, just for now.
- Finally, don’t feel so bad about being “restless.” Sure, it may be irresponsible from time to time, but the adventurous nature of INFPs truly makes life beautiful and inspiring, both for yourself and others.
These tendencies lend to a beautiful outlook on life, but it is important to always remember to take time and smell the roses. If you wrestle with wondering whether you should dial back your INFP quirkiness, then remember this quote from T.S. Eliot: “Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.”