Solitude is Impractical and Yet, Society is Fatal.
~Ralph Waldo Emerson
One of the things that surprised me the most in the land of blogging was how many introverts I was destined to meet on-line. In retrospect, I’m not sure why. After all, I’m a closet introvert myself, as are many of my blogging and on-line business friends. The obscurity of hiding behind a computer screen makes a perfect shield for someone who needs to recharge their social batteries more often than our extroverted counter-parts. We can pick and choose how often—and when—we need to walk away to put back on our social smile and friendly face, or bring on that enthusiastic attitude that keeps the land of the internet such a nice, grumpy-free place to reside.
That is until we try to turn our friendly little blogs into an on-line business. The rules of engaging in a successful business aren’t as accommodating for introverts who like to hide away half the day, skirting away from difficult conversations with people who may or may not agree with what we have to say.
It is a rare introvert who has the energy-infused stamina to stand up to forty hours of draining conversations with business prospects, hunting up new potential clients and putting their authentic, heart-worn souls on the line for the entire world to see.
Most introverts are better at hiding than show and tell. In a large corporation, there are plenty of jobs for the people-pleasing introvert to hide away in a corner ducking under the drama of the day-to-day interaction. But what happens when the Introvert is the CEO of their own one-person company? And often the CEO of the homefront as well? How do you manage the balance between life and business when you are all you have to get the job done? How do you hide then?
Lost productivity, missed opportunities, unspoken marketing messages and a lack of clarity are only a few of the symptoms of a company run by the typically shy, insecure introvert owner of a small business. Especially when the leader of the company feels too frozen to step up and speak out.
Take Heart, There IS A Solution
It isn’t hopeless. I’ve already admitted to being an introvert myself. That fact surprises most people until they get to know me very, very well. I have a high energy level, a frequently positive disposition and a reputation for being very outspoken and “Telling it like it is.” Not what you would expect in your average introvert. It isn’t that I’m cured. I don’t believe that being introverted is anything that needs “Curing”. We are created the way we are for very important reasons. We are creative, reflective, thoughtful, empathic people who require a lot of energy to process information and create. When we are fully charged, we are capable of amazing things. The trick is in realizing the potential of the Creative Introvert and learning how to make it work for our lives and our businesses.
So what exactly IS an introvert anyway? Good question. Even many people, who would raise their hands if asked if they were one, couldn’t tell you exactly why they were one. The best definition of the difference between Introverts and Extroverts, simply put, is that Extroverts draw their energy from being AROUND other people, and Introverts draw their energy from WITHDRAWING from people and being alone.
It’s hard to put your best foot forward in retreat mode.
This creates a particularly difficult issue for introverts. We WANT to be able to market ourselves, present ourselves as lively, enthusiastic, positive and someone fun to be around, but honestly? All you human beings are draining.
And that is the entire point. If you can identify yourself as an introvert, it’s important to begin to see yourself in a new light. Your number one obligation to your business and your life balance—ABOVE ALL— is to manage your energy resources. I would go so far as to say it is the number one important thing for everyone, but our extrovert friends get away with it a lot longer. They simply go out and plug in to the next human being they can find. You and me? Not so much. For us, it’s like every time we step into the presence of mankind, we left our power plug at home.
So, Where is our Power Plug?
Nutrition—Without proper fuel, our cars don’t run. If we stick sugar in the gas tank, they break down. That is such a simple cause and effect it hardly seems worth writing. Yet, every day we expect our bodies to function at high levels on food we would feel guilty feeding a beloved pet. Do we really think that little of ourselves? For high energy, we need high level fuel. No energy? Look at what you are putting in your mouth first.
Exercise—Energy creates more energy. Slugs breed slugs. A body in motion tends to stay in motion. It’s okay if you feel that for today all you can do is walk five minutes. As long as you walk five minutes tomorrow too. And the next day. Then try six. Constant motion is more important than the once a month we browbeat ourselves off the couch and wonder why we can’t function. Keep moving, even if it is only to take baby steps.
Sleep—Bodies regenerate, heal and build resources while we sleep. Without good quality sleep, we don’t function at optimal levels, no matter how we are doing in other areas. Our lives feel like we are walking in a fog. Go to bed. And…if you can honestly say you are putting in the time, but not achieving quality, consider talking to your doctor. There have been several advances in the last few years in the area of sleep.
Meditation/prayer—There are many different ways and techniques for meditating and/or prayer and I really don’t know of a bad one for restoring energy. Some people shy away from meditation because they feel they can’t do it “Right” and spend the entire session beating themselves up for being wrong. That’s not very energy producing. There is no wrong way to sit quietly and relax. If your thoughts are running like a hamster on a wheel, that simply means you’ve been a long time coming to the mat. Your mind has a lot to process. Let it be. Just observe and stay out of your head’s way until it empties out and you can feel the energy restore itself.
Journaling—If your mind is on the hamster wheel, if you feel like you are on overdrive, if you are all bottled up about to bust and don’t even know what’s wrong, I have a secret to share. The pen will tell. If you trust the pen and will sit with pen and paper in hand, and let yourself honestly brain dump any thoughts that pop into your head, you will find amazing things staring back up at you that you never even knew you felt. If you are blocked by a fear of someone reading it, promise yourself you will destroy the evidence when you are done.
Clarity—Nothing drains us more than confusion. Not knowing what we want, what our goals are, what direction we should take, how we should proceed…indecisiveness drags us into the Hamster Spin and and leaves us stuck there. You need clarity. It isn’t a luxury, it is a life and business need that must be achieved for true success to happen. If you can’t achieve it through prayer, meditation, or journaling alone, consider coaching. Clarity is the number one purpose for coaching. Helping you to find your path so you can move on more effortlessly is priceless.
Nature—Take a walk, go for a drive, get out your camera, bring your drawing pencils, spend a few minutes sitting on a park bench. Observing nature—or even humans from a distance—is much, much different from being in a crowded room or a conference call. Nature rejuvenates and restores energy for Introverts. A thirty-minute walk observing the little details of the emerging season, or the animals in their habitats (including people) could be all you need to recharge for the rest of the day.
Art—Likewise, art, in all of its endless forms, stirs the creative juices, swirling and twirling the energy source inside of you until you are fully charged again, ready to resume creating. For me, it could be observing paintings, looking at amazing jewelry creations, designing a new garden, reading delicious recipes. It could be a good book. For my daughter- it’s baking. Watching baking, specifically. Anything that wakes up the creative power that resides in each one of us is a positive energy source.
Shyness and Introverts
Being shy and being an introvert is not the same thing. Sadly, many introverts begin to think of themselves as shy because they dread many kinds of human interaction. They can’t stand the horrible feeling of being in a group of people and having the plug pulled on their energy and having to “Fake” it. It’s terrible. Especially when someone is committed to living authentically. I’ve spent many years of my life thinking that I am “Shy” when the truth was I was either on overload, or I was completely drained. I couldn’t figure out why sometimes I was better able to handle being around people than other times. It felt random and I didn’t trust myself or have faith that I would be at my best in a crowd.
Learning to manage my energy sources has been a miracle in my ability to function in crowds, on conference calls, at parties and in business in general. I no longer think of myself as shy. I know that fully charged, I am just as capable- or more- as any extrovert out there in my ability to put my best foot forward, present my message confidently, energetically and authentically. As long as I remember to plug in to the power source…
I am as outgoing as any extrovert out there.