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Introversion, Gut Feelings, and Trust

Maybe – just maybe – your gut-level feeling that you shouldn’t be doing something is right. But if you’re an introvert, you’ve probably had a lifetime of being told to ignore your feelings, and urged to act just the opposite.

Want to stay home and read? “What’s the matter with you, anyway?” It’s implied that you’re neurotic or even antisocial. Want to leave a party before it ends? “You’re a party-pooper.” Find large groups overwhelming? “Just get out there and have fun (said with incredulity)!” (Even though the event gives you a headache or even nausea.) Enjoying being quiet and listening when in a group? “You’re shy, aren’t you?” a shaming label if ever there was one.

We end up forcing ourselves to do things that aren’t bringing us any pleasure, and somehow berating ourselves for the demoralizing experiences we endure. Then we crawl back into our little cave.

It’s no wonder we have never learned to trust our feelings as guides to what will lead to success and happiness.

There is a caveat here: if you are an introvert, and haven’t had good guidance in developing your introversion in a confident way, your reluctance to participate in a given event may not be the result of intuition (“This isn’t for me”) but the result of anxiety, because you haven’t learned the social skills to cope successfully with such events.

How do you tell the difference between intuition and unwarranted, self-defeating anxiety?

The anxiety over not knowing what to do or say is simply a lack of social skills, common to many introverts who have learned to shrink away from social interaction. The self-consciousness we develop from feeling out of step with society, plus our increasing lack of practice in social skills are a part of what I call “introvert baggage,” not a necessary part of introversion, which merely calls us to manage our energy effectively.

Gaining confident social skills is simply a matter of finding good models, not the bright, energetic center-of-attention model, but the quiet, well-mannered helps-other-people-feel-comfortable model.

You can find these models through observation, reading (try an etiquette book), or coaching.
Simply acquiring social skills doesn’t mean you must get out there and go on a social binge. It does mean that you are able to do so when it’s important to you: to network, support friends, etc.

Why is socializing important? Nobody gets through a successful life alone. We all need a confidantes, support systems, and networks. If we are in business, and most of us working people are in some way or another, we need to be able to connect meaningfully with people who see value in our contributions.

It can be painful, however, and here’s where self-knowledge and your intuition can be an excellent guide.

Business coaches often urge me, and others, to go to every possible networking meeting in order to meet people who somehow, some time, might be able to help make our businesses go forward.

I reflected on this, and it occurred to me that this might be the equivalent of urging Kate Middleton to attend every possible party in England in the hopes that she would someday meet someone who could possibly introduce her to the future King of England. (Cue cynical laughter here.)

How do you know when it’s right to go? First, take some time to sit quietly with your wisdom and get very clear on what you want out of life. Banish the “shoulds” of society. Mentally practice your social skills: greeting people, appreciating them. Stop worrying about how good things are going to happen. Convince yourself that they can, and you are worthy.

Then, take a chance on going out somewhere, such as a meeting or a party, to check whether or not it’s in line with your vision. At the first sign of discomfort, ask yourself if it’s your lack of skill, or if there is really something going on here that is counter to your best interests.

If you’re still a little unclear, you sometimes need to allow a given event a second chance before you are clear as to whether you are responding to your intuition or simply to your “introvert baggage.” But don’t be afraid to draw yourself up proudly and say to yourself, “This simply isn’t for me. I will never be appreciated here for who I truly am.” Thank the host, hostess, or event organizer as you leave.

With enough Introvert Pride (yes, you can develop that), you can even say, as I have sometimes done at a pleasant event at which I’ve had enough, “I’m not leaving because I don’t like your event. I am an introvert, and I have had enough stimulation for one evening. Thank you very much.”

Some time ago, I was due to attend a networking meeting, but felt reluctant to do so. I hadn’t really gotten any meaningful connections at this group; furthermore, I often left feeling vaguely depressed, somehow assuming that there was something wrong with me.

But taking a furlough from life, I concentrated on who I was and what I wanted, no matter how crazy it sounded. Faced with yet another meeting of this group, I told myself bravely that I didn’t have to do that anymore – it was a go-nowhere situation for me. I fought back the voices of previous coaches who scolded me for being too passive.

So I skipped this next meeting, stayed home, and started looking at the internet for groups that might be more aligned with my interests. I found one quickly (my gut said “yes”), attended it the next day, was welcomed, connected immediately with interesting people, and set up a great relationship/partnership with two of the members.

These relationships and partnerships seem to flow into life easily, once you know who you are, and can handle it.

Until you’ve aligned your actions with your gut, you don’t know how really easy and sweet life can be.

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Lynette Crane is a Minneapolis-based speaker, writer, and coach. She has more than 30 years’ experience in the field of stress and time management and personal growth. Her latest book is The Confident Introvert, written to help introverts overcome the stress of living in a culture that idealizes extroversion, so that they can thrive, and not just survive.Visit her website at http://www.creativelifechanges.com/ to see more in-depth articles and to view her programs.

Transforming your year

Everyone tells you that you must have a clear vision of where you want to go and who you want to be. Not everyone tells you exactly how – and how not – to get to that vision.

For example, suppose you want a life in which you are well paid and appreciated for your work. You want warm relationships and the time to pursue them.

But suppose your nagging belief is that it’s simply not possible. After all, you’ve spent years piling up evidence to tell you that.

So you sit down, meditate, and envision in exact detail what you want. You then open your eyes and everything is still the same.

Vision isn’t enough

A fellow coach tells the story of a woman to whom he was talking. She had a serious weight problem, and he asked her what she was doing to challenge it. She replied that she sat on her sofa every day for thirty minutes and visualized herself losing weight.


That, of course, was the problem. Vision should be the carrot that draws you forward, taking the steps necessary to reach that dream. It should not be a dream in which you submerge yourself in fantasy, waiting for things to happen.

It’s not enough to dream; you must walk the walk.

So you say, “OK, I’ve tried that, and I’m exhausted. I mapped out all the steps, followed them carefully, and it still didn’t work.” Maybe that was the problem.

Throw away the list

One of the reasons we fall into despair over the seeming impossibility of meeting our vision is that we believe we have walked the path leading to that vision – perhaps many times – yet we’ve never reached that Promised Land.

What probably happened was this: you made a list of the logical (to you) steps you needed to take to get there.  

You started to follow those steps. You brushed aside distractions.

At some point, you were blocked, or exhausted, or rejected, or disheartened. You lost your dream.

It’s a little like taking a path that’s edged with a tall, thorny hedge. That hedge gets in the way, and you can’t even see the fields on either side of the path, fields filled with blooming flowers and sparkling brooks. All you can see is the rocky path ahead and the thorny hedge walling you in.

Maybe some of those distractions were not actually wrong paths at all, but alternate, pleasanter, and faster ways to get to where you want to be.

So don’t make that rigid plan. An inspiring vision opens you up to all the possibilities in your environment that you haven’t seen before.

Try this exercise that I like to do with clients: what do you see here?

 OPPORTUNITYISNOWHERE

The way in which you break this phrase up into separate words is a strong indication of your current mindset. What do you see?*

Truly creative people don’t use lists:  they pay a lot of attention to their vision and notice everything in the present that confirms its reality.

Pay attention to your emotions: honor them, and recognize they are just temporary, like sudden summer storms that appear, rage, and then disappear, leaving a clear sky and sun.

Despair happens to everyone, every now and then. The problem is, when it hits, we picture ourselves sunk in a never-ending sea of despair. It’s such a heavy feeling that it forces us to sit down and stop working in order to support it.

Pay attention to when despair hits: for me, it’s about 4 p.m. and I have learned that my energy level is simply low at that hour, so I turn temporarily away from doing anything productive to reach my dream.

 Here are two despair-chasing phrases I use all the time:

There is a solution. I just can’t see it right now.
        and
I can’t handle this right now. I’ll worry about it tomorrow.
 
Angry at feeling rejected or blocked? Use your anger as energy; turn it into determination to succeed, then look around you for another path that isn’t blocked.

Unload the baggage, those memories of past setbacks, and load your mind with warm, successful memories. Collect every scrap of evidence you can that records your progress through life – skills mastered, certificates gained, warm notes telling you how important you are to others, and go over them every night just before bedtime.

It’s really all about getting out of your own way.  

I hope you love these quotes from Tut, The Universe, as much as I do:

“Rarely are the first steps in a journey anything like the final ones, either in direction, pace, or grace.“

“Simply stand aside, let spirit emerge, have no doubt, and your wings will appear.”

*  “Opportunity is nowhere” or “Opportunity is now here”

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Lynette Crane is a Minneapolis-based speaker, writer, and coach. She has more than 30 years’ experience in the field of stress and time management and personal growth. Her latest book is The Confident Introvert, written to help introverts overcome the stress of living in a culture that idealizes extroversion, so that they can thrive, and not just survive.Visit her website at http://www.creativelifechanges.com/ to see more in-depth articles and to view her programs.

The Holiday Time and Energy Bandits

Time and energy bandits are habits and thought processes that can suck you dry, leaving you exhausted and harried.

One of these bandits, which particularly rears its head at the holiday season, is perfectionism.

Now perfectionism is a wonderful trait – in its place. Some of the places where it is advisable to practice perfectionism include brain surgery (or any kind of surgery), pharmacy, air traffic control, operation of any kind of heavy equipment, including motor vehicles, or any other activity that seriously threatens the health and safety of living things.

But true perfectionists extend this way of thinking and behaving far beyond the boundaries of necessity. Relationships, child-rearing, weddings, and holidays are areas where the whole experience would be better for everyone if the perfectionist could just back off.

Christmas can include a hurricane search for exactly the right gift, which is unavailable due to its popularity, or the ultimate holiday decorations and meal, suitable for a photograph on a magazine cover.

“But I’d be letting people down if I didn’t do it,” wailed one of my clients. “Really?” I said. “Have you asked them?” Turns out her family members were delighted to be asked. They hated her frantic search for perfection.

How to dial down your perfectionistic tendencies? Make a list of all the areas in your life where it is necessary for you to be a perfectionist (see discussion above). Then make a list of all the areas where is merely “desirable,” including filling out income tax returns, making travel reservations, dealing inadequately with customers or clients. Failure to be perfect here can result in spending money or in wasting time, but it is not life-threatening.  

What’s left after the “necessary” and “desirable” areas are the gray areas: being concerned about how you dress, how your home looks, whether you have said something foolish, made a mistake, or somehow displayed your ignorance.

In this context, perfectionism is NOT about setting high expectations or being successful in your endeavors. It is about being concerned about making mistakes and about worrying about what others think. Perfectionism in this arena robs you of joy, of creativity, and of authentic relationships.

Think of it this way – persistent perfectionism is stress, and persistent stress is life-threatening. Any event that you are willing to shorten your life for by having anxiety had better be an equally life-threatening event. Are dust bunnies, disarranged hair, or verbal mistakes really worth your life?

Turn the lights down low (hides the dust bunnies), sit back, and smile a lot. Forgive yourself for small mistakes and forgive others around you for the same. Trust me – you’ll be more popular – relaxed – than you ever thought possible.

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Lynette Crane is a Minneapolis-based speaker, writer, and coach. She has more than 30 years’ experience in the field of stress and time management and personal growth. Her latest book is The Confident Introvert, written to help introverts overcome the stress of living in a culture that idealizes extroversion, so that they can thrive, and not just survive.Visit her website at http://www.creativelifechanges.com/ to see more in-depth articles and to view her programs.

Introvert Nervousness – Friend or Foe?

“I’m now able to give a talk in public, but I’m still nervous. I guess I won’t ever get over it.” The speaker was a woman in one of my seminars, and the topic was introversion and public speaking. Her assumption was that because she was an introvert, nervousness was always there, ready to undermine her performance and her confidence, and she would never be free of that awful feeling. 


After she spoke, I reflected that, years ago, I returned to dance after taking a few years off to go to college. At my initial return performance, I was overwhelmed by fear that I would fail miserably and embarrassingly. As my partner and I got into the opening pose just before the curtain went up, I was dismayed to find that his hand, which I was holding, was shaking badly. Just before the curtain rose, he said to me quickly, “Remember, this is energy. Use it!”

 

The performance was brilliant.

 

Good – really good – performers have always known that the little thrill of anxiety they experience before a performance actually enhances what they do; to be completely calm is to become a little dull. That nervousness can produce a number of positive changes, including increased mental clarity, energy, and enthusiasm.

 

Recent research by Crum and Salovey (2013)* disclosed that the belief that stress is debilitating will undermine performance, confidence, and health, too. 

 

So would simply switching that mindset to one that tells you that nervousness will enhance your performance make all the difference in the world? Not necessarily, because first it is important to rehearse your performance thoroughly, so thoroughly that you have a set of well-learned skills on which to fall back; think of it as being on a kind of automatic pilot.

 

Then, as the performance unrolls, you can hear that little voice inside saying, “I think I can. I KNOW I can.”

 

Repeatedly performing the same skills under stress while believing in the performance-enhancing value of stress leads to better performance, increased confidence, and a greater overall sense of well-being.

 

And, by the way, nervousness over public speaking or any other kind of performance is not the exclusive experience of introverts; extroverts can feel it, too. Introverts sometimes fall into the trap of believing what they hear so much from society, that introversion is a kind of defect. 

 

No, pretty much everyone has the same experiences when it comes to something like public speaking. The same rules apply: learn, practice, tell yourself nervousness is an advantage – and grow.

*Crum, A., Salovey, P. & Achor, S. (2013).  Rethinking Stress: The Role of Mindsets in Determining the Stress Response. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

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Lynette Crane is a Minneapolis-based speaker, writer, and coach. She has more than 30 years’ experience in the field of stress and time management and personal growth. Her latest book is The Confident Introvert, written to help introverts overcome the stress of living in a culture that idealizes extroversion, so that they can thrive, and not just survive.Visit her website at http://www.creativelifechanges.com/ to see more in-depth articles and to view her programs.

What If…?

A friend and I took a lovely paddleboat ride on the Mississippi River one day, past old crumbling brick walls backed by sparkling new skyscrapers, learning a lot of history that we had never heard.

 

The good time almost didn’t happen, due to a careless mistake on my part. That mistake did trigger some thoughts about small stresses in life, which in turn triggered this article.

 

When I ordered the tickets for the paddleboat cruise, I was told to bring the printed order form plus a form of picture identification.


We showed up at the dock, I reached into my purse – and remembered that I had put my major credit card and driver’s license into a small pouch the previous day in order to attend an art fair – and hadn’t replaced them in my purse.

 

This is the kind of situation that can bring out creativity immediately. We had driven all the way to the landing, packing a picnic lunch, excited at this little respite from daily work and cares. Now the outing seemed threatened by my mistake.

 

What if we were refused entrance to the boat?

My first reaction was to say, “Oh, well, it’s a lovely day. If we can’t board the boat, we can have a nice picnic on the side of the river.” I said this loudly several times to convince both myself and my friend.

 

Inside my head, I pictured the clerk adamantly refusing to give me the tickets without the proper identification, and pictured myself being my winsome best to persuade her to turn over the tickets. 

 

All the while I had to remind myself that the various scenarios that were floating around in my head were just that – scenarios. They bore no relation to reality because they were in the future, which hadn’t happened yet. Any time you can put “What if…?” in front of the description of coming events, you should recognize that you are being creative, and not necessarily in a good way.

 

When we walked up to the window, I presented the order, the clerk frowned (a little inner tension for me here), and said, “What name was this under?” I replied, she reached into the drawer… and handed me the tickets, with no further conversation.

 

I know people who wouldn’t be fazed at all by this kind of situation, assuming from the start that they could somehow handle it in a manner that would bring a positive outcome. It wouldn’t occur to them to worry about it for a minute.

 

For those of us who spent a number of years perfecting our worrying, anxious thoughts will continue to surface any time a roadblock, however small, appears in our path.

 

Worriers need to have a few mechanisms in place when things don’t seem to be working out as you planned.

 

Consider other pleasant outcomes

So what if your plans are blocked? Stay relaxed, and look for pleasant surprises in your life. You can make wonderful discoveries this way.

 

Lamenting – “This is terrible. Our whole day is ruined” – forces you to focus only on the negative and stifles any creative solution.

 

I once was denied access to a museum because I had my small dog concealed (I thought) in a large handbag. My friends went in; I crossed the historic main street of this little town, entered an antique store, and found that the owner, who had lived there for decades, could give me the complete history of the area, showing me artifacts and pictures to illustrate her words. She also was a dog lover; we spent a delightful hour or so. The dog had a good time, too.

 

I could have sat outside in the heat, fanning myself, waiting for my friends, being alternately annoyed at the museum and annoyed at myself for bringing the dog.

 

In the case of our boat trip, I immediately began mentally planning an alternate trip along the river. We went anyway, but after the boat trip, found scenery neither of us ever knew existed, and this in a city where we have lived for years.

 

Imagine the best

As long as you are creating future scenarios, why not opt for good ones? Potential lovers stepping out of doorways, exhilarating celebrations taking place just around the corner….

 

Advanced Worriers (AW’s) need to think of all the times your plans were derailed, or you had to take a detour, and instead found a pleasant surprise.

 

RAW’s (Really Advanced Worriers) need to start making such a list. Look around you when you are blocked – really open your eyes and look at the scenery and the people. Many a relationship has erupted, many an entrepreneur has been launched, and all because of a chance encounter. New restaurants, old houses, unknown parks, charming shops, unexpected vistas can all pop up when you least expect them to do so.

 

Rehearse – but not too well

Prepare to handle the potential block to your plans by considering what actions you might take or what words you might use. Then remember that this is just one of several ways the situation might play out. I had a few persuasive words prepared if it was necessary, but I never had to use them.

 

Practice your stress management skills on small frustrations, such as this one, and you will be ready for the more serious challenges you will face in life.

 

Remember, we need systems in place that will help us to deal creatively with the small challenges that life brings to us all the time. Responding to these challenges creatively makes you stronger; responding with stress makes it more likely you will do so in the future.

 

Practice the good stuff! Make it a habit. 

May all your “What if’s” be great!

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Lynette Crane is a Minneapolis-based speaker, writer, and coach. She has more than 30 years’ experience in the field of stress and time management and personal growth. Her latest book is The Confident Introvert, written to help introverts overcome the stress of living in a culture that idealizes extroversion, so that they can thrive, and not just survive.Visit her website at http://www.creativelifechanges.com/ to see more in-depth articles and to view her programs.

The Introvert’s Dilemma – Which door?

A friend and I had a conversation recently, in which she remarked that, when confronted with three side-by-side doors, she would always choose one of the side doors.

And I thought about that, because we introverts often slide along the edges of life, skulking. I suspect many of us make these kinds of choices – to be unobtrusive.

It isn’t always wrong; I maintain that the introvert tendency to enter a new group and listen quietly before jumping in and conversing is very intelligent behavior, and saves a lot of the errors that occur because of too quick assumptions about others.

Mingling with a group, listening, and paying attention to others can be very effective means of consolidating a group, and even leading a group.

But this habit of skulking can get out of hand, when we do it all the time, and unconsciously.

At one point in my life, I made an extrovert friend (yes, it is possible, and I learned a lot from her). When we attended a conference in a big hotel, I noted that the center entrance door had a doorman who would open it for guests with a flourish, and I sidestepped over to a less threatening, less public (or so I thought) side door.

She grabbed me firmly by the elbow, and said, “No. Always use the center door.” She then swept in with a regal carriage, her head held high. I gulped, followed her, and learned a lesson.

The lesson is this: make it a conscious choice. Tell yourself you have just as much right to be in the center, and even waited upon, as does anyone else. When you choose not to be in the center of any event, make sure it is a clear choice: I’m listening, observing, reflecting, but not hiding.

Because there will surely come a time when you want you, your expertise, and your talents to be recognized, a time when it really counts, but there will be no one to grab you by the elbow and say, “No. You must take the center door yourself.”

Consider the experience of Kari Rihm* who became a CEO on what she termed was “one of the worst days of her life” – the day after her husband’s funeral.  

After 17 years as a stay-at-home mom, she reportedly had 180 days to learn the business and come up with a business proposal – or sell the business. How could she sell the business, when she didn’t even know what it was worth? So she decided to take charge. “I had to face a boardroom full of people, mostly men, and convince them that I could do this.”

She did so, successfully, later saying, “You have to understand and believe that you have the right to be there.”

You don’t have to, nor should you want to, wait for a major event such as Kari faced to convince yourself you have a right to be there. Start practicing every day – walk through doors consciously, with your head held high, recognizing you are making a choice.

*Minneapolis St. Paul Business Journal, September 26, 2014  

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Lynette Crane is a Minneapolis-based speaker, writer, and coach. She has more than 30 years’ experience in the field of stress and time management and personal growth. Her latest book is The Confident Introvert, written to help introverts overcome the stress of living in a culture that idealizes extroversion, so that they can thrive, and not just survive.Visit her website at http://www.creativelifechanges.com/ to see more in-depth articles and to view her programs.

Introvert Anger: The Good, The Bad, and The Downright Ugly

 

Are you an introvert? Afraid of anger? Your own and other people’s?

You’re not alone. We introverts are famous for becoming clams when we’re hurt or affronted. After all, anger can involve raised voices, threatening language – all that over-stimulation against which we try to protect ourselves.

The Bad

When we feel threatened, we introverts tend to pull into our shells to wait out the storm. Cowering in there, we re-play all of the scenes that distressed us: the frustration of feeling blocked, the seemingly unkind comment, the raised voice that sounded, at least to us, like a shout, the slight sneer we think we detected on the other person’s face…oh, the unfairness of it all.

This pulling-in becomes a habit that we activate at the slightest hint that something distressing will occur. It too quickly becomes a way of life: threat, retreat, re-hash.

It gets very crowded in that clamshell.

You can only do this so many times before the scene turns downright ugly. Not because of the other person, because of the phenomenon of the Exploding Clam.

The Downright Ugly: The Exploding Clam

Even placid clams can get enough. After all, there’s only so much room in that clamshell, right? You, plus all the hurt and anger, piling up.

That’s when the Clam explodes, not over an important issue, but often over something trivial. It’s Just The Last Straw! “Why do you always put away an empty ice cube tray after you’ve used what you want?” “What makes you think I want anchovies on the pizza?”

The problem is that no one sees it coming, including the perpetrator. It just bursts out. Who could predict that finding the ice cube tray empty once again would trigger the start of WWIII?

And the Clam is shaken by having this unfamiliar energy burst forth, and so retreats again into the clamshell, feeling embarrassed and muttering, “Nothing. Everything’s fine.” when pressed for an explanation.

The Good

Successful, confident introverts recognize that it’s not about the ice cube tray, the anchovies on the pizza, or the shoes left (yet again) on the stairs.

It’s generally about a sense of a loss of power. So it’s good to ask yourself, “Why did I give away my power?” “To whom did I give it?” “Why?”

Only then can you convince yourself that it’s really better and easier on everyone, including you, just to address the real issue: “This relationship isn’t quite going the way I would like.” Or, “I’m feeling overwhelmed and needing help.” Or a thousand other issues that make us feel helpless.

Speaking up about what you want and need doesn’t mean you’re aggressive, a bully, or even (gasp) an extrovert. It means you respect yourself and the people around you.

So, what have you got stuffed into your clamshell?

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Lynette Crane is a Minneapolis-based speaker, writer, and coach. She has more than 30 years’ experience in the field of stress and time management and personal growth. Her latest book is The Confident Introvert, written to help introverts overcome the stress of living in a culture that idealizes extroversion, so that they can thrive, and not just survive.Visit her website at http://www.creativelifechanges.com/ to see more in-depth articles and to view her programs.

How not to motivate introverts

Introverts: We’re 51% of the population, and still people don’t get who we are and how we function best.

 

We are in your workplace as employees, colleagues, managers, bosses. We can be a family member, child, lover, or friend. We are definitely well represented among your clients and customers. Not understanding us is your loss.

 

You may be crying out for creative, innovative thought without realizing that you have it within your circle – housed in quiet people who too often feel shut out of group processes.

 

Many of us are highly motivated: we often collect information in detail and use it to perform at a high level of skill. Those seemingly random bits of information that many of us store in our heads can be put together in some amazingly creative ways. 

 

If you want to tap into introvert talent, here are some “don’ts”:

 

DON’T


*Pressure us to perform: Don’t use pressure as a motivator. Introverts are easily overstimulated, and although quiet on the surface, we often feel like pressure cookers about to explode with ideas, information, and feelings. We need time and space in which to think, and a receptive ear to listen to our ideas.


*Force us to compete: We prefer, and perform best, when we are given support and feel we are collaborating with others.

 

*Demand an immediate decision: When you do so, ask yourself if there will be quick, negative consequences if a decision is not made and acted upon immediately. That would be an emergency. Urgency – the emotional need for quick action – may be as dependent on inner impatience as it is on outside circumstances. Learn to distinguish between the two.


*Finish sentences or thoughts for an introvert because you think he or she needs prompting. All this does is turn off a deep and potentially productive thought process.


*Think that a stimulating environment will raise introvert energy levels. People who run meetings and conferences usually defer to extroverts, who respond well to that loud, jazzy music which is often used to open the meeting, often urging participants to get up and dance. For introverts, this is a little like being attacked by Harry Potter’s “Dementors”: it sucks the life right out of us.  

 

We introverts need to retreat occasionally from too much stimulation to process information thoroughly – and to come up with those creative, innovative ideas for which you may be desperately searching.

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Lynette Crane is a Minneapolis-based speaker, writer, and coach. She has more than 30 years’ experience in the field of stress and time management and personal growth. Her latest book is The Confident Introvert, written to help introverts overcome the stress of living in a culture that idealizes extroversion, so that they can thrive, and not just survive.Visit her website at http://www.creativelifechanges.com/ to see more in-depth articles and to view her programs.

Can an introvert have an exciting life and survive?

Yes, many do. Many do not. happy woman

Performers are, surprisingly often, introverts, because performing provides a perfect platform for an introvert. A performance usually involves a structured situation with behavior that is well-rehearsed; furthermore, we can usually perform without those interruptions that force us to freeze or think too quickly, that we encounter in social situations. Many of us even learned that we could pour out our feelings and enthusiasm with a feeling of safety we never found daily life.

 

But it’s those unstructured situations we may be forced into between performances that trip us up, and leave us exhausted, embarrassed, and insecure. Many exciting careers do not involve a structured performance space. Some adventurous lives require introverts to cope with a constantly changing environment where skillful responses are required on the spur of the moment. This was such a challenge for one of my clients that he is now being treated for PTSD as he explores his introversion and its consequences. He now says of his career, “It was an exciting and adventurous life, and I wouldn’t have missed it for anything in the world.” But he sadly realizes that his mental and physical health suffered as a result of his career. His dawning realization that he is an introvert is helping him to reassess his considerable abilities and to recognize that he could have made choices that would have helped him cope more successfully with his career.

 

So the problem is really this: if you have a dream that involves adventure, and, as an introvert, you have a nervous system and mindset that says, “Slow down and be safe,” you may be in what seems to be an eternal conflict situation: either you live an adventure that may also affect your health, long-term, or you sadly put aside a dream, believing you can’t cope with it.

 

It doesn’t have to be that way. You can live that life, and even educate people around you to respect your needs as an introvert.

Here are some coping techniques for introverts who want to accept the challenge.

 

Develop Introvert Pride:

 

You must have pride in your introversion and recognize the special talents you may have. Only in this way will you be authentic and honest with people around you, standing up for yourself and who you are. My client with PTSD now says that even the knowledge that he was an introvert, and that was an acceptable thing to be, would have helped him with his anxiety throughout his exciting but exhausting career.

 

You must learn to say NO:

 

One introvert client, a 45-year-old woman with a small child, had already had a stroke at that young age. She was extremely brilliant, skilled and creative; her co-workers turned to her at every opportunity to bail them out when they got stuck, and she never said “no,” to the extent that she worked many hours overtime trying to get her own projects done.

Her non-assertiveness was in part due to the fact that she had been raised to believe that being an introvert was somehow not OK, and she was trying to prove that she was. She was overwhelmed and exhausted much of the time. Learning to say “no” was a high priority in our work together.

Speak up and set boundaries:


One of the consequences of developing introvert pride is that you become willing to let people see your needs, and you become willing to ask that they honor those needs.

 

Alyssa was part of a work team where members agreed to hold meetings online, with the documents they were scrutinizing available on Google Docs. This was in response to a statement by several members that they didn’t have time to go over e-mail documents in advance of the meeting. Alyssa realized she would be in a situation where she would be asked to make spontaneous responses to ideas she was first being shown at the meeting. She asked to have the documents sent to her in advance, stating that, as an introvert, she wanted that preview to marshal her thoughts. She added that she could provide much greater value in this way.

 

Learn to take Mini-vacations: 

 

George Stephanopoulos, well-known TV host and commentator, attributes his ability to live a life in the spotlight as an introvert to his habit of meditating, taking small meditative breaks during the day to regain his energy.

 

My client with PTSD now knows that he should always arrive 15 minutes early for any appointment or engagement, no matter how delightfully relaxed and social the occasion may be.  He builds these min-vacations into his schedule, giving him time to take that refreshing, quick break.

Narrow down your choices:

 

The introvert’s tendency to acquire and store a lot of information, from reading and just plain observing, can result in an overly-busy brain that suggests many options from which to choose. This can result in great creativity; it can also result in exhausted overwhelm.

 

Peak performers learn to focus and not get entranced by too many opportunities that are not in the current game plan. (This is another chance to say “no”: this time, to your own brain.)

Every time you have another bright idea, ask yourself “Is this in the current game plan?” If the answer is “no,” then you must say “no” to its intrusion.

 

Educate people around you as to what you need:

 

Instead of pretending that everything is OK, tell people you need more time to make decisions, to back off and think a situation through. Assure them you will provide far better responses under these circumstances. Point out instances where your thoughtfulness and reflecting paid off.


Pick your performance platform:


Introvert entrepreneur Barbara Feders, in love with nature, has created a business she calls Beauty of the Wild, in which she takes people to the wilderness on trips they would never contemplate by themselves. There she introduces them to the world she loves, a world in which she shines and can feel secure.

 

Not everyone can create a business to his or her temperament, but even in an environment which you have not structured, you can create your own platform.  Prepare your ideas in advance of a team meeting, ask for five minutes to present them in a coherent fashion, use body language (the uplifted hand that is a “stop” signal) to hold down interruptions until you finish.

It’s your stage: you can own it, furnish it, write the script with confidence  … or you can forever be a bit player in someone else’s life plan.

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Lynette Crane is a Minneapolis-based speaker, writer, and coach. She has more than 30 years’ experience in the field of stress and time management and personal growth. Her latest book is The Confident Introvert, written to help introverts overcome the stress of living in a culture that idealizes extroversion, so that they can thrive, and not just survive.Visit her website at http://www.creativelifechanges.com/ to see more in-depth articles and to view her programs.

3 Time Expansion Tips for Introverts

harried woman

Introverts often feel harried, trying to rush towards that time when they can kick back and relax, freed from all social – and other—obligation. This is especially true when the introvert works in a busy organization where much of what happens is not under the introvert’s control (unlike a writer, who can have the luxury of walking through the park while mentally designing the next chapter).

The same nervous system that makes us intuitive and sensitive, that can caution us appropriately to collect enough information before making a critical decision, can also make us susceptible to feelings of extreme time pressure.

 

How do successful introverts handle the “brain buzz” that results from feeling bombarded by too much stimulation all at once? Here are a few secrets:

 

Take frequent, small calming breaks
Meditative 5-minute breaks are particularly important when switching from one task to another, one topic to another. These breaks can consist of closing your eyes, breathing deeply, listening to a calming tone or voice or even taking a short walk, paying attention to everything you see along the way.

 

This helps to take your focus off the many ideas and challenges swirling around you, and grounds you in present time.

 

Don’t make up alarming stories about the future
The ability to pause and consider many options before taking action can be an introvert strength, but a full 90% of stress is not about what’s happening now; it’s about what we imagine might happen. That future stress is extremely energy-draining and can make you feel overwhelmed with problems, when in fact you are simply overwhelmed by your own imagination.

 

The future is up for grabs; anything you can imagine in detail right now about the future is probably wrong in at least some details. The consequences of today’s activities could have many outcomes. There’s a difference between being prepared and being overwhelmed.

 

Stop wallowing in the past
Once again, the introvert nervous system helps us store information readily that might be useful in avoiding future mistakes but we tend to overdo it when we engage in what is called “rumination”: the act of pondering the same issue over and over again, a little like chewing a cud.

 

Don’t obsess about the past, especially those times when you think you fell short of some standard. This can be a big energy drain, and keep you from finding the energy you need to move forward, or to take a risk.

 

Learn to stay in present time. Focus on what is here and now; go to the past consciously to retrieve important information, not reminders of past failures, and go to the future consciously to construct creative outcomes, not disaster scenarios. 

Not to do so is like putting a giant vacuum cleaner to your brain and sucking out loads of energy. Balancing the time you spend mentally in the past, present, and future is said, by Zimbardo and Boyd, researchers and authors of The Time Paradox, to be like being on a permanent vacation.

_______________________________________________________________________

Lynette Crane is a Minneapolis-based speaker, writer, and coach. She has more than 30 years’ experience in the field of stress and time management and personal growth. Her latest book is The Confident Introvert, written to help introverts overcome the stress of living in a culture that idealizes extroversion, so that they can thrive, and not just survive.Visit her website at http://www.creativelifechanges.com/ to see more in-depth articles and to view her programs.

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