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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.

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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.

Becoming a socially connected introvert – without exhausting yourself

 

I read the introverts forums, I watch the comments, and I feel a little dismayed. “Why won’t people leave me alone?” “I don’t like small talk, so I avoid people.” “Being around people is just so exhausting that I spend all my free time alone.” “I hate even the thought of networking.”

One gets the impression that all introverts are grumpy, asocial and even hostile to people who desire more stimulation and activity in their lives (OK, extroverts).

Unfortunately, good health and success are tied to the high quality of the relationships we form. Isolation is not.

It doesn’t have to be that hard. Fortunately, I know introverts who are highly successful in personal and professional life, especially relationships.

My friend with whom I traveled is an introvert who has a wealth of supportive friends and a successful professional life. Everywhere she goes, she seems to encounter someone who knows and likes her. If they don’t know her already, they will soon like her.

An outgoing extrovert? No, a lifelong introvert, who values her private time, makes it clear to others that she does so, and withdraws and uses meditation frequently to clarify life’s problems.

The lessons she models are important ones, because the people who “just want to be left alone” may be nonplussed to discover that they nevertheless need support, such as a drive home from a hospital after a procedure, a place to stay when their home has become temporarily uninhabitable, support for a bright idea, or even just a hug. And if you have a dream or a vision: nobody gets there alone. We all need support, and to get support you need to connect.

How she does it is a model for introverts everywhere. Here are some key guidelines.

Look for similarities, not differences.

It’s too easy to see someone else as abrasive or exhausting. Try to look for something you have in common with another person, or at least something likeable – perhaps a characteristic you’d like to have, such as a way of making people smile, or putting them at their ease.

Thoughtfulness: your Secret Weapon

Thinking deeply and noticing subtleties are real introvert skills. Too often we misuse them; our deep thinking becomes rumination, in which we obsess over and over about our inadequacies or embarrassments. The subtleties we may latch on to are other people’s negative reactions to things we do or say, rather than insights about the other people.

What about changing that to look outward and see other people for who they really are, then think of how you can connect?

My friend says that, when she meets someone new, she always looks for a similarity.

Reaching out and sharing doesn’t have to be exhausting.

You don’t have to sign up for big, noisy events, such as following the crowd to happy hour, to be socially connected.

Invite a colleague or neighbor to have coffee or tea: a one-on-one encounter in which you can find out more about the other person. You can take charge of the time, length and setting of the event.

Connecting doesn’t even have to take that much activity, nor do you even have to be physically present. It can only take a minute or so, sometimes even a second, to send thoughtful notes that are easy and quick. Keep some great stationery or cards on hand, then comment on birthdays, anniversaries, and especially successes.
Too busy to find cards and notepaper? Send one of those animated online cards, but make sure you add a personal note.

Set up a calendar which sends you reminders of other people’s special events: birthdays, anniversaries.

Special hint to make you special to others: take some time to make the message personal – for example, not just “congratulations,” but something like “I knew your ability to focus and be dedicated would pay off like this.”

Her way is to keep a list of people she knows and their tastes. During this recent trip, in April, she carried her Christmas list for next year, filling her suitcase with colorful bookmarks, soaps, and trinkets with which to delight her relatives, friends, neighbors, colleagues. All year long she picks up things that she thinks will delight people on that list. Most items are neither large nor expensive, but they are truly insightful. Her choices are very apt: at one point, she gave me a small pair of wooden tongs to fish burning toast out of a toaster without electrocuting yourself. I use them every day, and I think of her every time I use them.

Having human contacts and arranging that those contacts don’t drain you of energy can keep you healthier and happier in so many ways.

Here are some of the consequences of the good social network she has set up:

She loves to travel, and has a host of friends to mind the cat and water the plants when she is away.

She also has a number of friends in other countries with whom she can connect when she next visits.

When she needs something, whether it is a new printer or a new sink, someone in her network seems to know exactly where to get it.

And recently, she started a new small business. With no advertising, not even a website, she had two clients in the first week. Some entrepreneurs agonize over how to attain visibility. She just does it naturally – one contact at a time.

So can you.

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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 Yin, Yang and Dopamine in Relationships

Some people like to linger until the very end of a party; others like to leave early.

Unfortunately, they frequently marry each other.

They may very well have met and been attracted to each other because of these opposite qualities: one represents tranquility, stability, and caution, the other one represents excitement, change, and risk-taking.

Neurophysiology now suggests that these outgoing partiers (extroverts) have brains that are more sensitive to dopamine, the so-called “reward chemical” that actually excites the brain about a potential reward. They have what is called high “reward sensitivity” and they actively seek that buzz in a variety of ways from external sources, including social contacts, risk-taking, even extreme sports.

Low external reward-seekers (introverts) can be uncomfortable and even exhausted by that much buzz. Does that mean they are dull people? By no means; the interior landscape of an introvert can be loaded with exciting concepts. The ability to pursue an activity for its own sake and not for its reward value can lead to being in a state of what Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls “flow,” in which one is so engaged in an activity that hours can pass pleasurably as if they were minutes. A person in a state of flow can find energy rise even as work continues.

Here are some questions* to answer to determine if you, a colleague or a partner are reward-oriented:

  • When I get something I want, I feel excited and energized.
  • When I want something, I usually go all out to get it.
  • When I see an opportunity for something I like, I get excited right away.
  • When good things happen to me, it affects me strongly.
Notice that all of these questions refer to something external to the person. Why would you ask these questions? To recognize that individual needs differ, and to make sure that you and those around you are having these needs met in order that everyone may contribute his or her best to the partnership, whether it is a professional one or a personal one.An introvert, less motivated by external rewards,  can feel pleasure in doing something for the sake of doing it, without necessarily being offered a reward. Some are even embarrassed by public recognition of an achievement they did “just for the fun of it.”

We need risk-taking, change, tranquility, and caution in all of life. Too much of one endangers the other, as Enron, the company whose reckless business practices forced it to file for bankruptcy in 2001, discovered after it repeatedly ignored the warnings of a cautious senior level manager, saying, “We don’t need cops.”

To balance the yin and yang of introversion and extroversion, here are some suggestions.

  • Learn to be proud of who you are, even as you recognize others have the right to be proud of who they are.
  • Assert your own needs and recognize how to help other people in your presence meet their own needs.
  • Recognize and accept that some people need that external excitement to remain motivated; others need to avoid that external excitement in order to remain motivated.
  • Allow introvert employees and colleagues time to take in information and reflect on it before responding or acting.
The extrovert needs that buzz so let him or her have it: allow time and space for the extrovert to pursue that exciting activity (arrange separate transportation home from the party, if necessary), and try not to be a heavy anchor.The introvert absolutely requires a certain amount of quiet or solitude to remain psychologically healthy and to have a fulfilled life. Don’t urge him or her to be more sociable; help the person take time out to be reflective.

The combination of yin and yang, or introvert and extrovert, can be very powerful. Just think of Steve Jobs, the face of Apple, and Steve Wozniak, who single-handedly designed both the Apple I and Apple II computers in the late 1970s, contributing significantly to the microcomputer revolution.

*Susan Cain: Quiet: The Power of the Introvert in a World That Can’t Stop Talking

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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.

Are Introverts just too quiet?

I hear it often – in person, from clients, on the internet – “I’m told I’m too quiet, and need to speak out more.” I’ve had more than one client whose job review included that feedback. And the client says to me, “But I only speak when I really have something to say – and then it’s overlooked or discounted. So why bother?”

Why indeed do introverts so often feel their ideas and offerings are swept aside by other, louder people? Is the ability to influence other people really based on the ability to speak louder than other people?

I don’t think so. Some of the most effective people I have known were soft-spoken but relentless. They didn’t give up on presenting their ideas, wants, or needs to others until they saw the light of comprehension in the other person’s eyes.

The introvert brain is a busy brain, and when we do produce an idea publicly we have probably looked at it from all angles, teased out the many objections and answered them. Blurting out an idea about an idea before it’s fully formed is not our style. Our mistake lies in the fact that we then communicate it in a kind of telegraphic style to the world.

Here’s the problem, and I’ve seen it over and over. Heck, I’ve done it over and over. We somehow think our neat summing up of a complex issue is immediately apparent to other people, who have not been a witness to all the rich thought that went into the production of that idea.

We just give them a compact package, and then feel hurt when they don’t respond with the excitement (or at least the respect) we think it deserves. We got to that point of excitement and belief through a process that we haven’t shared, then we blame the listener for not appreciating it.

We need to learn to lead others to our good ideas, to teach them how to understand us.

An unconfident introvert too often starts with, “This is just my opinion, but … ” or, “This may or may not be a good idea, but ….” Overwhelmed with the belief that it’s hopeless to inform this person or group anyway, the unconfident introvert subsides easily, feeling overlooked and a little bitter.

The confident introvert starts with, “I’ve thought this through carefully, and I’d like you to follow my reasoning here.” Another good sentence to use, which reflects a high-level introvert skill, is, “I’ve listened to the various thoughts you all have, and I’d like to add what I have concluded.” When interrupted, the confident introvert may say, “I’d like to finish; then I’d be happy to discuss your objections.”

Since you are very likely to have thought in advance, find an anecdote or punch line that illustrates what you are trying to say. Help your listeners make pictures in their heads that match the pictures in your head. They can’t see those. After all, if you just describe the tip of an iceberg to someone, it isn’t reasonable to get mad if the person doesn’t see the whole iceberg. Would you show someone a snapshot and expect them to understand the plot of an entire film?

Which one are you – the unconfident or confident introvert? You see, it’s not about introversion and/or extroversion, nor is it about becoming either a chatterbox or a loudmouth. It’s about having the confidence to communicate well when you do have something to say.

And when you are able to do that, you have earned the right to sit back and be quiet in a group. Even your quiet presence can be influencing to people, who recognize that you can be a powerhouse of thought and that your quiet listening skills really do pay off.

If  you are an introvert with a passion to share with the world and you need help communicating your dreams in speech or writing, I’m available to help you craft taglines, elevator speeches, sound bites and more.  I can help you overcome obstacles to delivering these communications, too.  Contact me at Lynette@CreativeLifeChanges.com

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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.

Pick yourself up, dust yourself off…

Making a mistake or doing something klutzy can make anyone uncomfortable. Some people are more uncomfortable than others, going home, pulling the covers over their heads, and trying to sleep, haunted over and over by pictures of the embarrassing incident. Others apologize lightly and gracefully, and then seem to roll on without any noticeable psychological damage.What makes the difference? Actually, several things do. Those who handle mistakes easily are:

  • more focused on a solution than on the event itself. Which is better? Repeating your apologies for having spilled ink on the carpet or searching immediately for a way to remove it, and taking responsibility for doing it?
  • looking forward to the future rather than obsessing over the past. Being haunted by past mistakes is a great way to get stuck and fear taking a step forward.
  • recognizing they’re really not the center of anyone’s universe, except their own. If you can forget it, others will, too. Hey, the world’s a busy place; why would anyone fixate on your little mistake?
  • less likely to emphasize blame when they or others make mistakes. Blame never solved anything; good problem-solving skills do.
  • more able to make other people around them comfortable. If you continue to act uncomfortable, embarrassed, even obsequious, you will make other people so uncomfortable they will avoid you – not because of the mistake but because uncomfortable people make others around them feel uncomfortable, too. Who needs that?

People are frequently most embarrassed with their own embarrassment.

Your true worth lies in how you handle a problem, not in how you react to it. I once had a printing company make a lulu of a mistake in a workbook I was having printed. They stayed open all night, redoing the job at their expense.

A friend later questioned why I continued to do business with this firm. The reason? They had shown me how they handled a mistake, taking responsibility and going immediately to a solution. I now knew how they behaved under stress. If I had chosen a new printing company, I would have no advance information about how they would handle a problem.

Being solution-oriented

  • helps people trust you
  • quiets other people’s discomfort

Expressing guilt and shame is a child’s way; searching for a solution and reassuring others you will do so is a confident adult’s way.

Then, pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again.

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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.

Two small steps towards speaking confidence

If you are one of those people who feels uncomfortable about speaking up in group settings, take heart. It is possible to learn to be a relaxed contributor.One of my early clients said, “Oh, I know what you’re going to say – just take a deep breath and force yourself.” Well, no, actually. That’s a little like telling someone the best way to learn to swim is to jump off the dock and hope some life-saving instincts kick in.

If you are an introvert (as I am), you have probably been blessed (or cursed) with an overly reactive nervous system. You may have learned, at an early age, to associate speaking up with fear – fear of confrontation, criticism, ridicule, or just simple blushing.

Unfortunately, we introverts learn those associations well: actually, too well.

There’s no longer a threat but the fear lingers, and lingers, and lingers, until it becomes a huge factor in not only silencing us, but in muddying our thinking. You can’t think clearly when you’re overcome by fear. My phrase, “Stress Makes You Stupid,” sums this all up.

So we may become anxious, confused onlookers in our lives instead of valued creative contributors.

If this sounds like you, here are two things you can do immediately to start changing that.

Get it straight!

Pay attention to your posture. Erect, proud posture looks and feels confident.

Research shows that in adults, a straight spine increases confidence, while “a slumped posture leads to more helpless behaviors,” writes Emma Seppala from the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education (CCARE) at Stanford. Hunching or slouching can make you feel more stressed and more likely to give up in the face of challenge.

You don’t have to throw your shoulders back and assume the rigid posture we associate with the military. Instead, while sitting or standing, imagine a string coming from the front of your chest (just above the sternumand pulling gently upwards. At the same time, tuck your chin in just a bit and make sure your ears are directly over your shoulders.

You should feel relaxed and liberated, able to breathe more deeply and easily.

No huge risk-taking here, either: you can practice this skill by yourself, until it becomes automatic.

Slow down

Recently I went to a business meeting where attendees introduced themselves and their business. Almost without exception, they spoke too rapidly for anyone except the person sitting next to them to really understand what they were saying.

Nervous people are particularly apt to do this, as if they want to get the whole business of speaking publicly out of the way – fast.

You may know your name and the name of your business, but how is someone else supposed to decipher, “I’mJoanneBlowofDiversityEnterprisesandwehelppeople …mumble, mumble, mumble.”

If you saw the movie, The King’s Speech, you saw how King George VI, a lifelong stutterer, overcame his problem to give a moving speech to his people on the start of WWII. Using solemn music as a backdrop, he produced each word slowly and distinctly, giving what he was saying great importance.

You may not have powerful background music, but learn from this example.

To speak with authority, just spend a few minutes every day reading a paragraph or so aloud from the newspaper, a magazine, or a book. Notice your tendency to speed up.

Slowing down accomplishes two things: it makes what you’re saying seem more important, and it makes what you say memorable.

Isn’t that what you want for yourself? And you don’t have to be bold or dramatic to do it; just follow the above simple guidelines.

When you have mastered these two steps, you are well on your way to speaking comfortably in front of larger groups of people. Who knows where you will end up? Just start today.

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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.

A New Year, a New Life

January is the time of fresh starts, fresh ideas, and an urge to create a new, better life.Often, we start out with high hopes, only to sink by February 1 as if the balloon carrying our hopes had been punctured.We need a plan, a roadmap if you will, that we can follow, that will provide us with a vision, a plan, and benchmarks that help us say to ourselves, “Yes, I am moving towards what I desire.”

Here is my roadmap to creating a new, exciting life:

Calmness: Well-being is essential to calmness, the well-being that comes of being prepared to meet life. After all, if you were going to the Olympics, would you arrive sleep-deprived, stuffed with fattening, non-energy generating food, and expect to win a gold medal? Seriously?

And you will need calmness to proceed to the next step:

Clarity: A calm mind is essential to achieving clarity, and the ability to slow down, separate distraction from relaxation, and be alone with your thoughts is central to achieving clarity.

Meditation for an hour or so at a time is not necessary; clarity and calmness of mind can be achieved by becoming aware of the key points during your day when it is important to sit back, breathe, and think.

When switching tasks or moving from one environment to another (even from one room to another), train yourself to pause, let go of what you have just been doing or thinking, and reflect on what you will need for the next task or in the next environment.

Confidence: Not just a state of mind, confidence is a feeling that is associated with having a skill that meets the demands of the situation, and with knowing you have that skill. Peak performers in every area of life experience real stress before they perform. They rely on the automatic performance of well-practiced skills to see them through.

Whether your scary event is public speaking, ski jumping, forging terrific relationships, or selling your pet project, there is a plan that an expert has developed that can get you there.

Look for an expert who is willing to share step-by-step experience, not just hearty assurances that you are worthy or powerful. They’re out there, those experts.

Courage: Even with calmness, clarity, and confident skills, it can still feel a little frightening to push back at barriers. Believe it or not, courage too is a skill mastered by experts in risk-taking.
Truly brave people know that they will be anxious, and that they will suffer setbacks. A setback suggests that there is another path to get to where you want to go; failure suggests finality.The brave set out anyway, using the occasion of a setback to sit back, reflect, and find another way.Creation: Life is not just about rushing towards one goal; it is about reaching a goal only to have another one appear. This second goal will require you go through the same steps, in the same sequence: cultivate calmness, achieve clarity, master confident skills, and be brave enough to take the small risks to get you there.

Whatever your personal goal for 2014 – increased exercise, decreased weight, better organization of clutter, more recognition of your abilities – having a roadmap will keep you on track to get there.

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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 Dark of the Year and the Dancing Saints

As the days grow shorter and darker, I find myself mentally withdrawing into a kind of warm, personal cave – a cozy one filled with minute lights and small comforts, in which I experience a minimum of demands on me.Over the years, I have come to realize that the Dark of the Year is not a great time to find solutions to big problems, or to make great creative leaps, much less make magic.  It is more like the time experienced by daffodil and tulip bulbs, snug under the ground, quiet, gathering their strength for the big surge that will come as the Earth warms.

No use looking for experiences that will trigger answers to questions – somehow the questions you are asking and answers you are receiving never match. It is instead a time for gathering in experiences that are nourishing and that will fuel that great Springtime leap.

In the spirit of providing ourselves with soul-nourishing experiences, a friend and I went to a Wintersong concert at a church in San Francisco.  The concert itself, consisting of songs from Eastern Europe sung by eight charmingly costumed women, was a revelation.  We were told that caroling predates Christianity, and consists of songs that fulfill that human need to find light, joy and community in the darker months.

As if that were not enough, the sanctuary in which the concert was held was a revelation in itself.  From top to bottom, the walls were covered with vividly colored paintings of saints, as defined by the parishioners, all dancing together.  St. Thomas Aquinas, John Coltrane, Florence Nightingale, Anne Frank, Francis of Assisi, Barnabas, Sojourner Truth, Paul of Tarsus, Eleanor Roosevelt, Martha Graham, and more, all joined hands in the dance. Somehow Lady Godiva was in the mix, too, as were several Seraphim, all similarly clothed (or unclothed). As a friend of mine once remarked, “The Lord certainly loves diversity.  He created so much of it.”

It was a magic experience.  All of these people, spanning centuries and representing a myriad of different belief systems, somehow came together to create a harmonious whole.  It may have been pure fantasy, but it was the most hopeful thing I have seen all year.
May we all dance together as harmoniously in 2014, and may the magic of the holiday season grow in you, and burst forth triumphantly as the light returns.

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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.

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