Roving Report: Goal Setting that Matches Your Personality

personality types word cloud on a vintage blackboard[Editor’s Note: During the month of January 2019, you can test Wealthy Web Writer for $1. Just one dollar gets you access to every article, every event, every report… everything. Find the details here.]

As a freelancer, you’ve no doubt heard the standard advice about goal setting. You’ve probably tried it, maybe more than once. It goes something like this… pick a goal, and make sure it’s:

  1. Realistic
  2. Specific
  3. Measurable
  4. Deadline-oriented

Then, identify major milestones and chunk the work needed into monthly, weekly, and daily objectives and tasks.

“It’s a beautiful, logical system, and it works like gangbusters — for some people. For others, it just doesn’t work.”

So claims Heather Robson, an experienced freelance web writer and Wealthy Web Writer’s Managing Editor. She made a strong case for making a few simple adjustments — based on your personality type — to make the standard goal-setting method work for anyone.

You can review the entire webinar HERE.

Heather walked us through the goal-setting process, looking through the lens of each of the 16 Myers-Briggs personality types. “All personality types except one will benefit from this,” Heather promised.

If you don’t know your Myers-Briggs personality type, take a few minutes to visit Humanmetrics and take the test. Your personality will be designated by a four-letter combination which indicates:

  • Extroverted/Introverted: Are you energized by being around people, or by being alone?
  • Sensing/Intuition: Do you process information by using your five senses, or by intuition?
  • Thinking/Feeling: Do you make decisions based on facts, or do you use a subjective value system?
  • Judging/Perceiving: Do you like order and structure, or do you like to improvise and explore different options?

Heather reviewed each of the personality types, and suggested modifications to the standard goal-setting practice for each.

The Analytical Personalities

First are the four analytical personalities. If you’re an Analytical, you make decisions based on objectivity and facts.

INTJ: The Scientist

You are introverted, intuitive, thinking, and judging. You’re also:

  • Imaginative
  • Confident
  • Decisive
  • Determined
  • Open-minded

In general, standard goal setting will work for you, but you may become bored with the details. Also, your tendency toward perfectionism can stall your progress, and unexpected events can derail you altogether. You’ll also likely resist adopting someone else’s system.

Instead, create your own goal-setting process that really challenges you, and stretches you to stay engaged and interested. Adapt the standard process to:

  • Schedule large chunks of time for your goal once or twice a week, instead of daily nibbles, so you can immerse yourself in the task at hand.
  • Plan for contingencies. Think about likely setbacks or obstacles ahead of time, then make a Plan B, C, and maybe even D.
  • Outsource the details so you don’t get bogged down in them. Find a good Virtual Assistant and let them handle the mundane tasks.

INTP: The Thinker

The Thinker is introverted, intuitive, thinking and perceiving. You are:

  • Analytical
  • Imaginative
  • Enthusiastic
  • Objective
  • Honest

You also tend to manage well with traditional goal setting, but you have a few problem areas. You set the goals you think you should, instead of the ones that truly motivate you. You’re easily bored with what you already know, and you hate working on things that have already been done — you want your work to be groundbreaking. You’re also afraid of failure.

Here’s how you can modify standard goal setting to work better for you:

  • Forget the “shoulds.” Set the goals you want, even if they seem wacky.
  • Don’t dismiss a goal because “it’s been done.” Instead, give it some flair and make it uniquely yours.
  • Set a goal that requires you to learn new things or master new skills. This will help you to stay engaged.
  • Don’t focus on the big goal, which can feed your fear of failure. Instead, plan the big goal, but only focus on and plan to the first milestone. Once you achieve that milestone, plan for the next.

ENTJ: The Executive

You are extroverted, intuitive, thinking, and judging. Like most good executives, you’re also:

  • Efficient
  • Energetic
  • Strong willed
  • Confident
  • Strategic

Standard goal setting works well for you with a few tweaks, since you tend to get burned out, you sacrifice relationships to your goals, and you falter without validation.

You need to:

  • Commit to having regular downtime, and set aside the time for it.
  • Involve the people close to you in your goal-setting process — not to help you shape your goals, but to help you keep your relationships healthy.
  • Create some accountability with a trusted colleague, and celebrate your milestones.

ENTP: The Visionary

You are extroverted, intuitive, thinking, and perceiving. In addition, you’re:

  • Knowledgeable
  • Quick-witted
  • Brimming with ideas
  • Charismatic
  • Energetic

As an ENTP, you’re very good at going after what you want, but you tend to be easily bored. You’re very much a big-picture person, so you lose track of details, and dealing with details can make you feel hemmed in. Keeping your focus is a challenge, since you’re always finding something else that’s interesting.

To adapt standard goal setting to work better for you:

  • Set goals where you’ll learn new things and satisfy your curiosity.
  • Hire a VA to handle details and day-to-day tasks.
  • Don’t force yourself to stick to a single goal. Either set multiple goals, or give yourself permission to follow another track for a while when something interesting draws your attention.
  • Review the big picture benefit frequently — at least daily — to keep yourself focused and make the smaller steps easier to swallow.

Diplomatic Personalities

The next four personalities are strong “people” people, focused on empathy and cooperation. This doesn’t mean they’re all extroverts, though!

INFJ: The Protector

You’re an introvert, intuitive, feeling, and judging. INFJ’s are also:

  • Creative
  • Insightful
  • Passionate
  • Decisive
  • Altruistic

Because you’re not particularly interested in personal goals, you won’t stay motivated with goals that are only about you. You tend to ignore day-to-day details that would move your goals forward. On top of that, you’re a perfectionist, and you get burned out easily because you forget to take care of yourself.

The way to make standard goal setting work for you is to:

  • Set people-focused goals.
  • Get help with the details.
  • Define “good enough” points for each milestone so you won’t keep working beyond the point of diminishing returns.
  • Make time to care for yourself.

INFP: The Idealist

Idealists are introverted, intuitive, feeling, and perceiving. You are:

  • Idealistic (obviously)
  • Flexible
  • Creative
  • Passionate
  • Hardworking

You run into problems when someone else questions your goal, or if you adopt others’ goals in order to get the approval you crave. You also like to pursue more than one thing at a time, and you’re afraid of failing. Fix this by:

  • Enlisting someone as a trusted confidante to support you when doubts creep in.
  • While going after one goal, start planning the next, or else give yourself permission and time for disruptions.
  • Schedule time — actually enter it on your calendar as an appointment — for self-care.
  • Make sure your goals aren’t just about you. People-focused goals will keep you motivated.
  • Practice reframing failure as a learning experience.

ENFJ: The Giver

Givers are extroverted, intuitive, feeling, and judging. (ENFJ is Heather’s personality type.) They are also:

  • Tolerant
  • Reliable
  • Charismatic
  • Altruistic

You’re likely to shift your goals or your approach to suit others. You’re also good at anticipating things, but if you misjudge, you may become unsure about how to move forward. You tend to over plan, and you have many interests and try to set goals for all of them.

Make standard goal setting work for you by building in a few fail-safes:

  • Set up a time frame, and create a process for introducing new opinions and approaches. If someone suggests a different approach, record it. Then, no more frequently than once a month, review the suggestions and adapt if it’s really necessary.
  • When your plans go awry, give yourself time to process the changes. Then make a new plan.
  • Commit to yourself, in writing, that you’ll give your plan time to work.
  • Limit major goals to three. At any time, pick the three most important and work only on those. Write down other goals, but don’t start work on a new goal until you’ve completed one you’re already working on.

ENFP: The Inspirer

Inspirers are extroverted, intuitive, feeling, and perceiving. You’re:

  • Curious
  • Observant
  • Energetic
  • Laid back
  • An easy communicator

You tend to lose interest in a goal if it doesn’t have a deeper meaning, and you over-complicate. You’re easily bored, you say “yes” too often, sacrificing your goals in the process, and you tend to rationalize setbacks.

To successfully set and manage goals:

  • Tie your goals to your deepest values. (If you need a tool for this, check out Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Successful People.)
  • Strip away tasks until you have the minimum you need to succeed.
  • Make sure your goals serve a creative or altruistic purpose.
  • Schedule the time you need to work on your goals for several weeks in advance — put it on your calendar as if it’s an important meeting. When someone asks you to do something, check your calendar, then say “no” to anything that conflicts with your calendar.
  • Don’t explain (rationalize) your setbacks — analyze them. Then make a plan for doing better next time. “Sometimes, just knowing what tendency disrupts your progress is enough,” Heather explained.

Sentinel or Guardian Personalities

According to 16Personalities, Sentinels are cooperative, practical, and they love to create order, stability, and security.

ISTJ: The Logistician

You are: introverted, sensing, thinking, and judging. Logisticians are also:

  • Honest
  • Dutiful
  • Responsible
  • Practical
  • An easy communicator

“I’m almost positive an ISTJ came up with the standard goal-setting process,” Heather told us. “For the most part, they won’t struggle with it.”

Not much goes wrong with an ISTJ and traditional goal setting, but your inflexibility may slow you down. You don’t like to incorporate new information, and you set milestones, objectives, tasks, and actions in stone. A little flexibility could help you achieve your objectives more quickly, with less stress.

To adapt, you should:

  • Regularly review what you’ve learned, and think about how it could improve your progress.
  • As part of your overall plan, schedule regular times to update milestones, objectives, tasks, and actions.

Although you tend to resist diversions, “if you plan ahead that you’ll review those things, you won’t resist,” Heather advised.

ISFJ: The Nurturer

Nurturing personalities are introverted, sensing, feeling, and judging. You are:

  • Supportive
  • Reliable
  • Imaginative
  • Hardworking
  • Practical

When it comes to reaching your goals, you have a few areas to work on. You’re a perfectionist, and that stalls your progress. You tend to procrastinate, then get frustrated. You’re stubborn, so even when you should, you don’t change course. You also crave positive feedback, and give up when you don’t get it, and you turn down help even when you need it.

To adapt, combat each of these tendencies by:

  • Setting clear measures of success to combat your perfectionism, and move on when you reach them.
  • Work on your goal first thing every day, or during your time of peak productivity.
  • Review your goals and adjust as needed, at least monthly. When you make the review a part of your process, you’re less likely to resist making changes.
  • Work with a trusted friend to get feedback.
  • Make asking for help a task. “It’s a valuable skill to work on,” Heather assured us, “and learning how will help you achieve your goals.” If you can’t force yourself to ask for help — yet — at least practice saying yes to help when it’s offered.

ESTJ: The Guardian

Guardians are extroverted, sensing, thinking, and judging. You are:

  • Dedicated
  • Strong willed
  • Honest
  • Patient
  • Organized

The standard goal-setting system works well for you, except when you resist better ways to do things, get pulled off track, or worry too much about appearances.

To make goal setting work better for you, add a bit of flexibility by:

  • Processing information. Take in new information, and think about how it applies to you before you reject it.
  • Set a goal to pick up where you left off when life throws you something unexpected.
  • Seek results, not approval. “It’s easy to say and hard to do,” Heather acknowledged, “but if you really focus on results, the approval will come naturally.”

ESFJ: The Caregiver

Caregivers are extroverted, sensing, feeling, and judging. You’re:

  • Practical
  • Loyal
  • Warm
  • Dutiful
  • Good at connecting

Because you’re strongly people oriented, you get derailed when your goal doesn’t serve a bigger purpose. You worry about failure, and you spend too much time in your comfort zone, which can limit you from doing all that you could. Staying motivated, for you, requires positive feedback.

You’ll master goal setting when you:

  • Set goals that serve you and your community.
  • Reframe failure as a positive learning experience.
  • Stretch yourself by setting goals that are just a little bit outside your comfort zone.
  • Work with a trusted friend.

The Adventurer Personalities

Adventurers are the most spontaneous of all the personality types. They’re also practical, and think and react quickly.

ISTP: The Engineer

As an ISTP, you are introverted, sensing, thinking, and perceiving. Additionally, you’re:

  • Optimistic
  • Creative
  • Practical
  • Spontaneous
  • Good with priorities

On the downside, though, you resist change, digging in even when a change is needed. You lose focus and get bored easily, and you tend to resist planning for the long-term.

The best way for you to adapt your goals is to impose some of those engineering-type skills on the process.

  • If something isn’t working, think about how to best take it apart and put it back together, using new information.
  • Write down your goal, and read it frequently. Include the big-picture and long-term reason for the goal.
  • You don’t want your goal to feel burdensome, so make time to tinker on other projects outside of your goal.
  • Don’t feel compelled to stick to the month/week/day approach, which probably doesn’t work well for you. Instead, choose one activity each day to move you forward.

ISFP: The Artist

As an Artist, you are introverted, sensing, feeling, and perceiving. You’re also:

  • Charming
  • Imaginative
  • Passionate
  • Curious
  • Artistic

You live in the moment, so it’s easy for you to lose sight of future-oriented goals. Daily actions and weekly tasks feel oppressive, curtailing your freedom to be spontaneous. You really don’t like it when anyone points out you’re not meeting your goals.

To make goal setting work for you:

  • You’re very experience oriented, so build your goals around experiences.
  • Don’t plan ahead which task(s) you’ll accomplish each day, but instead decide each day what to work on. Be spontaneous!
  • You don’t handle deadlines well, so don’t tie your goals to a deadline. Set a trajectory instead — you know what you’re moving toward, and as long as you get closer each day, you’re on track.

ESTP: The Doer

Doers are extroverted, sensing, thinking, and perceiving. You are:

  • Bold
  • Rational
  • Perceptive
  • Direct
  • Social

Despite being so rational, you don’t like rules so you tend to jump into a project without any planning. Without a challenge or a risk, you get bored.

Put these aspects of your personality to good use in goal setting by:

  • Doing minimal planning to meet your goals. You don’t need to plan every detail — so boring! — but no planning at all leads to a lot of wasted effort.
  • Turning your goals into a game where you make the rules.
  • Adding an element of risk. It doesn’t need to be something big, but it should provide both risk and accountability.

ESFP: The Performer

You’re extremely extroverted, and you approach the world through your senses, feelings, and perceptions. You’re:

  • Spontaneous
  • Energetic
  • Authentic
  • Generous
  • Encouraging

Your spontaneity can trip you up, though. You don’t like to track your progress, you lose focus easily, you don’t plan your goals, and you flit from one shiny object to another.

When it comes to goal setting, you need to put the brakes on your spontaneity just a little bit.

  • Tracking your goals will never be something you enjoy, but at least set up a system for minimal tracking.
  • Set aside time to try new things, then, when you’re working on your goals, you’ll find it easier to focus on them. Or, the goals themselves should involve trying something new.
  • Forget the detailed planning (you will anyway), and set up a system for doing the minimum to keep you moving forward. Like the Artist, follow a trajectory and not a deadline.
  • Always keep a list of new things you’d like to try. When you come across something that sounds like fun, add it to your list to do later instead of attempting it at that moment.

If you’ve struggled with setting goals… If you’ve wondered, “What’s wrong with me?” take heart. Once you know your personality type and own up to your inherent strengths and weaknesses, you can modify standard goal setting to suit you better and that will propel you toward success.


Susanna Perkins

Susanna was dragged back, kicking and screaming, into freelancing after losing her job in the banking meltdown in March, '09. One 3-month stint in an appalling temp job persuaded her to get serious about establishing herself as web writer. In March, 2012, she moved to a small town in Panama with her husband and three small dogs. After enjoying the writer's life in the culture of "buenas" and "mañana" for 2-1/2 years, she's returned to the US. At least for now.


  • I’m an INFP, and this is so on-point:

    “You run into problems when someone else questions your goal, or if you adopt others’ goals in order to get the approval you crave. You also like to pursue more than one thing at a time, and you’re afraid of failing.”

    I think I need to put these tips on a post-it and tack it to my wall.

    • LOL, Randi, some days I think I need to put tips like that on a Post-it and stick it to my forehead… 🙂


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