Everyone wants something out of life, but what we want can differ wildly. And, while introverts tend to think deeply about what they seek, we “quiet ones” can still find ourselves stuck and not sure how to get it. Here’s what I believe each introverted Myers-Briggs personality type truly wants in life — although they may not know it yet.
What Each Introverted Personality Type Wants in Life
I’m no master, but I will be.
ISTJ, you are not one of those people who goes around taking 101 classes on everything just for fun. Those people, in your opinion, rarely get good at any of the the things they “learn.” If you’re not going to master something, what’s the point?
Instead, if you’re going to put your time into something, you’re going to do it right, even if it’s a long and difficult learning curve. Some people might be bored by repetitive practice, but not you — you take satisfaction in doing each step with care. This is true whether it’s fixing old cars, mastering chess, playing a sport, engineering industrial equipment, or whatever you set your mind to.
Likewise, you’ll be the first to admit this process isn’t always fun. You’ve had your share of do-overs, eff-ups, and aggravating errors. You know it’s not fun to be the bumbling newbie. But really, isn’t that all the more reason to master a few specific things instead of diving in brand-new to everything?
And that’s the thing. To you, this isn’t just a work style — it’s a source of fulfillment in life. It’s soothing to go through steps you’ve done before. It’s peaceful to envision an end result and carefully bring it about. You can feel yourself getting a little better each time; more than that, you’re in your flow as you do the process itself. You take pride in knowing you’re the last one to leave the gym, wood shop, or recording studio.
There are a lot of things an ISTJ could want in life — family, respect, financial security, the whole deal. But their bedrock, their flow state, is mastery. Because once you learn a skill, no one can take it away from you.
There’s no such thing as being happy alone.
Relationships matter to everybody, no matter their personality type. But they matter differently to ISFJs — even if they’d never speak up and say that. After all, they wouldn’t want to make it sound like a competition.
The truth is, if you’re an ISFJ, you’re not interested in just the temporary joy of hosting a party, the way some extroverts might be. As an introvert, you’re not looking to be the center of everyone’s universe, either. Instead, you’re there for them. You immerse yourself in the lives of your loved ones, gaining great joy from doing so.
Often, that means you’re the caregiver and provider. Yes, you will remember that teapot someone commented on months ago, and they’ll find it wrapped up with their name on it at the holidays. Yes, you will get up early to make someone’s favorite meal the day they’re coming over. You don’t hesitate to go to extraordinary lengths to help people. The expression, “I’d give the shirt off my back” is often taken as a metaphor, but honestly, how else could you treat someone who doesn’t even have a shirt?
Sometimes this is a source of pain for you. People don’t always give back in the same way you do. Heck, they usually don’t. But you don’t really need them to do as much for you as you do for them. You just want them to notice and appreciate it. That gives you all the happiness in the world.
Because when that happens, it means there is mutual love and caring, which creates harmony between people — and that is what you really want in life.
I made it myself.
ISTPs can seem inscrutable. It’s hard to tell what their goals are, or sometimes, if they even have goals. That can make folks wonder if anyone knows what the ISTP wants — even they themselves. But ISTP, you do know the answer, and if everybody else is confused, there’s a good chance you’re already on your way to doing it.
Because what you really want is to build your own life — your own life path, yes, but also literally your own environment.
After all, ISTPs have a tendency to modify and customize the things around them, whether that be a car, bicycle, garage workshop, or even building their own home. The skills of ISTPs can range widely — they’re often referred to as “the mechanic,” but ISTP programmers are common, as are professional furniture restorers, carpenters, and metal sculptors. What’s important to all ISTPs, though, is exploring what they can do with the resources around them. That is what brings them joy.
To the outside observer, this process can seem as destructive as it is creative — the archetypal kid who takes things apart just to see how they work is almost definitely an ISTP. To the ISTP, this is necessary. If they didn’t sometimes rip things apart, they’d be stuck doing them the same way as always, like everybody else.
This attitude extends more broadly to building a lifestyle they like. They will try out, stress test, and adapt lifestyles and beliefs to meet their own needs.
In that sense, what they really want in life is not a “what” at all. It’s a “how.” It’s the space to be themselves and pursue their interests, without judgement or being held back.
I can see it in my head, but it doesn’t look like thoughts.
ISFPs often say they want a home of their own, a partner who validates them, or a career in the arts. All these things are very real accessories to a life that can make an ISFP happy, but they are just the support structures. What an ISFP really wants is already buried inside them — and it’s trying to get out.
What is it, you ask? What is that thing they are aching to let free? Just this: To turn dreams into reality.
ISFPs see things in their mind’s eye, often highly saturated with emotion, and their instinct is to make those things exist in the physical world.
For this reason, ISFPs are often considered artists, but it’s just as common for them to bring emotions to life in songs, their own style of dressing, or even the way they decorate their home or raise their children. Emotions are their first language, and they channel them through their work and everything they do. Often, this is a process fraught with being judged, critiqued, and worst of all, judging themselves. But they must press on, because giving outer form to what they see and feel inside is the only way for them to truly feel fulfilled.
In a way, it’s also a search for belonging. ISFPs desire to channel a dream or emotion so purely that it transfers the feeling to others — that others experience, however briefly, exactly what the ISFP themselves felt.
That moment may only come once in a rare while, but like a conjunction of stars, it’s worth waiting for.
Believe in me.
Once upon a time, in the not-so-distant past, there was such a thing as patronage. It was a system that creators of all kinds could use — writers, painters, sculptors, playwrights, philosophers, and so on. The artist or thinker would find someone who believed in their vision, and that person — the patron — would make sure they had the resources to bring their vision to life.
This system had its problems, of course. It was hardly open to everyone, and, even for the lucky few with access, the relationship was often charged. But, if you’re an INFP, it’s okay to be wistful for that system, because you are person it was made for.
That’s because INFPs are some of the most brilliant creatives and thinkers in the world, but they don’t necessarily move in a straight line. It’s not as simple as, “Here’s my business plan, here’s my timeline, let’s get ‘er done,” and it’s not as clear cut as beginning-middle-end. INFPs are explorers, and while their vision always stays strong, reaching it often involves reading, dreaming, collaborating, permitting, and side projects. (Da Vinci once had a commission canceled because he spent so much time inventing a new varnish for it rather than actually making the painting.)
Which means INFPs want something pretty unique in life: support without structure. You want people to believe in your ideas and help you nurture them — without putting a bunch of conditions on it.
That might sound pretty pie-in-the-sky, but I’m going to suggest you don’t need to have a Renaissance-era patron to get it. Nor do you need to marry rich, which is good, because marrying just for money is against your ideals. (It would be worth it, however, to focus on partnering with someone who truly believes in you.)
Instead, I think it’s helpful for INFPs to acknowledge that they can get a lot of the support they crave from… themselves. One way I’ve seen INFPs do that is by balancing flexible freelance work with dedicated days off, which are used purely for dreaming, exploring, and creating. Another route has been to (perhaps surprisingly) run a business as an INFP — essentially becoming your own patron. But neither of these is the right path for every INFP, and I’m not here to harp on a “grab your bootstraps” message. So I’ll just say this:
INFPs, you have a lot more control in life than you sometimes think you do. When no one else believes in your work, believe in it yourself, unconditionally. Only when you immerse yourself in the creative process, without judging yourself, will you do your best work — and only then will others start to notice.
Okay, but why?
Besides survival, humans have two somewhat conflicting drives: the pursuit of happiness, and the pursuit of meaning. Author Emily Esfahani Smith defines these two things very differently, and I think the distinction is useful to INTPs.
Happiness, she says, is about getting the things we desire, having our needs met, or doing things we enjoy. INTPs, for example, are happiest when they’re in a flow state, excitedly jumping from idea to idea and charting a whole new world of what’s possible. It often starts when reading or discussing something and may continue through hours, or days, of gobbling up information. For an INTP, this isn’t just interesting, it’s enjoyable almost to the point of hypomania.
Of course, INTPs know this excited flow state will end. But they also know it will always come back eventually, with a new topic that starts a new chain of ideas. And, while everybody struggles at times, INTPs tend to do pretty well in the happiness game. That’s especially true as they age and start to use all the rules and shortcuts they’ve discovered to make life easier.
What’s much harder is meaning. Meaning, unlike pure happiness, comes from a sense of connection. For most people, that stems from two sources: connection to a higher purpose, or connection to loved ones and a community — feeling like you “belong.”
INTPs almost never feel like they “belong,” and they’re skeptical of things that promise a higher purpose, like religion or political idealism. Building a meaningful life, in other words, does not come naturally for INTPs. Perhaps because it’s so elusive — or because finding the meaning of anything, even life, is what INTPs are built for — it’s exactly what they want.
So how does an INTP do that? Well, one route is to hack it the way you hack everything else. I have an INTP friend who gives blood and volunteers largely because he knows it’s good for his (or anyone’s) mental health. He also makes a point to buy artwork from any artist friend in his life. These acts of altruism create a sense of purpose and meaning, and he approaches them as matter-of-factly as his daily 3-mile walk to maintain heart health. (Since he doesn’t have kids of his own, he also does free babysitting once a week for his best friend’s kids, which gives him a sense of connection, too.)
Another route is the one many INTPs seem to stumble on by accident — those precious few close friends and, maybe, a partner who gets you.
These kind of heart-based solutions work for INTPs for a reason. Even though they are Thinkers, INTPs have a deep emotional side that craves closeness and harmony with others. If you can tap into that side to create belonging and meaning, you can get what you really want in life.
I know there’s a better way.
Let’s start with what INFJs don’t want in life: endlessly caring for people.
I know, I know, INFJs do want to help people. They are highly tuned-in to emotions, often reading someone like a book and seeing things the person is hiding even from themselves. They’re also powerful idealists with a strong sense of empathy, and want to care for and aid people wherever they can.
Yes, all that is meaningful to an INFJ.
But you know what else is meaningful? Reading. Thinking. Discussing big ideas. Going deep where most people go shallow. This “inner world” of the INFJ is built around knowledge as much as it’s built around feeling. INFJs are built around the search for hidden meaning and the ability to “see behind the curtain” of how things work.
INFJs, here’s a little thought experiment to show you what I mean. Imagine you have a job where you get to help someone every single day — maybe as a nurse or teacher. But you never, ever get to talk about your big ideas. While many individual people are happy you cared for them, you never change society at all. Do you feel fulfilled yet?
Of course not. Because what an INFJ really wants in life is for their ideas to matter. They want to make a difference, but they want it to change how things work — the cause, not just the symptom.
INFJs, you actually have the tools to do this. You are stunningly strategic when you decide to be — so much that it may surprise even you. You’re good at relating to people who are unlike you, which is an asset when trying to make change. And, because you understand emotions, you know how to explain ideas in a way that will resonate with people. You see what they need, and you connect to that.
Never sell yourself short, INFJ. Never believe for a second that what you really want — changing the world — is too big to accomplish. You are the perfect person for the job.
Nothing feels better than seeing a plan come together.
INTJ, everyone thinks they know what you want. You want to find the right answer, the right way of doing things. You want to design a better system, or write a better policy. You want to be the “idea guy,” and you want people to respect that… right?
It is true that INTJs have great ideas, and can almost always see a more effective way of doing things (or appreciate the rare system that’s already darn-near perfect — probably designed by another INTJ). And, simply having ideas can be fun; every INTJ knows that feeling of deep-diving into a writeup of their latest insight.
But, on its own, that isn’t actually satisfying. It inevitably leads to the moment when you’re done sketching it out and then — does anyone care? Do people understand why it’s so great? Can it actually become a real thing? If so, what’s the first step?
That is what INTJs really want in life: to reach objectives. To turn plans into reality. Not just to envision, but to execute.
Some INTJs are shrugging their shoulders right now and saying: obviously. Of course you move to implementation if you think the idea is good. But for every one INTJ like that, there are a dozen who have been repeatedly frustrated because no one values their ideas. They never get “permission” to implement, and for whatever reason, they either aren’t ready or don’t know how to give themselves that permission.
This can lead to a profound unhappiness. It’s probably why so many INTJs rabbit-hole into “big think” hobbies — like strategy games, Reddit wars, or investigating conspiracies — which can all be fun, but can also serve as a substitute for real-world achievement. None of these hobbies will ever let you build anything real, but they do let you showcase your genius in an arena where you can’t truly “lose.”
So, if you haven’t already: Learn how to implement. This is a skill you already have in you, even if you haven’t flexed it much. You understand planning. You understand breaking big tasks into smaller steps. You understand that things have to be tested and iterated. If there are problems standing in your way — lack of funding, lack of buy-in, missing some crucial expertise — I’m not going to pretend those aren’t real issues. They are. But the way to solve them is to push back on your “solo genius” nature and seek some mentoring and collaborative input. It’s often others who help you solve those things, and the most experienced innovators before you are often the ones who would love to mentor you.
Most importantly, if you’ve been waiting until you finish the research, stop. It’s a trap. Your current idea probably isn’t quite right, but you’ll figure that out when you test it — not in the planning stage. You can get what you really want in life, but the way to do it is by moving forward.
Last, a final note for the INTJs who are about to comment and tell me they already know this stuff: Cool. You have done good. Now go and mentor someone who’s stuck.