One of the most exciting and enlightening books I have ever read regarding my own self-understanding occurred just over two years ago, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain. As I shared in my post about embracing the gifts of being an introvert, upon reading the book I discovered a validation that I had been seeking for longer than I probably realized.
Now many of you reading this today will self-define yourselves as extroverts rather than introverts, and that’s okay. Why I share my aha moment is to point out that when we truly understand how we are hard-wired – what energizes us, what depletes our energy, what builds excitement and what creates agitation – we give ourselves the most coveted gift – inner peace.
Once we recognize that the reason we prefer certain environments (urban, nature, intimate settings, throngs of people, open interiors, dark spaces) over their alternative, we begin to be fluent in the language of ourselves.
To understand how we are hard-wired, meaning to understand our innate abilities, past experiences that have shaped our mind’s navigation and sensitivities (did you know that based on our genetic make-up, some people are more sensitive to outside stimuli than others? Read this article based on a recent study.) is akin to learning a new language – French, German, Japanese, Swahili, etc. And if you’ve ever tried to learn a new language, you know that it isn’t easy and takes dutiful attention and time. But you also know that when you finally do become proficient, navigating through any conversation that arises becomes second nature.
What does proficient understanding of your unique language look and feel like? Let me share five simple ways that I have a feeling will convince you to begin or become more fluent today in the most important language you will ever learn.
1. Make the right decisions
Upon becoming acutely aware of your internal wiring, you know where you will and won’t feel comfortable – a room filled with strangers – yes; one on one time with an acquaintance – not so much – or visa versa. And when you are in tune with your internal wiring, you can spare yourself unnecessary anxiety, cold-sweats perhaps and maybe even uncomfortable conversations and avoidable arguments with loved ones who love such situations.
The good news is saying no becomes something we are comfortable with and is said without guilt. We can conserve so much time and energy when we choose the right decision for ourselves the first time. Similar to avoiding the path that will lead to a dead-end in which we will have to turn around, the traveler wastes time, energy and perhaps gas and money. When we utilize our resources – our creative mind, our finite energy, we open up our world for even more exciting and unimaginable opportunities to occur, and because we’ve not squandered our energy elsewhere, we can capitalize on them.
2. Strengthen relationships
If you are involved with someone who enjoy or feels comfortable in situations that you don’t, communicating this clearly is crucial. And when you do, while there will be times when you and they will need to compromise and push past comfortable zones from time to time, more often than not, you can agree to do things apart and in so doing build respect and understanding for one another. After all, when we care for others, we want them to feel comfortable and enjoy what they are doing and where they are. Instead of pushing their buttons because we know what upsets them, we can take such intimate knowledge of their hard-wiring and treat them with the same kindness and respect we hope to be treated with.
3. Present an air of mystery and intrigue
Perhaps you’re an introvert like myself, and perhaps you like time by yourself wandering in nature with your dogs or spending time with your artistic craft – camera, canvas, computer, dance room, kitchen, workshop, etc – when you discover the knowledge of what indeed allows you to let go of time, you cease to worry about what others think and you can immerse yourself wholly in the activities that preoccupy your entire focus.
Often those we are most curious about are people that aren’t trying to intentionally cultivate such intrigue, they are simply diving into their lives, their passions, their curiosities, and if the outside world notices – okay, but if it doesn’t, they didn’t take note. Such an air of mystery is attractive and intoxicating. When we see someone lost in their world, their life, we want to know how – how did they find what appears to be a world in which they are truly at peace with themselves?
4. Live unapologetically
The hard-wiring that makes us who we are, while a combination of innate and early-life experiences, is what will help us discover what we value, what we place at the top of our priority list and what we will pursue once we find the courage. When we are clear about are passions, as I stated in #1 – decision-making becomes easier (who to marry, if we will marry, how to raise our children, if we will have children, what lifestyle to live, which traditions to let go of, etc). And when decision making is this simple, it’s because we aren’t in a quandary that involves caring about what others will think. Letting go of the worry of considering if others will approve is ridding a burden from our backs that we have chosen to put there and doesn’t belong. Let go of this burden.
5. Discover an inner peace
And by way of doing all four of these steps – making the right decisions, cultivating strong, healthy relationships, immersing ourselves in a life we love and letting go of what others think – we find the peace we have been seeking from the beginning of our awareness of self. Think about it – whether you are seeking more money in your job, a relationship, a house to call home or food to eat – you are looking for these items as a way to feel at ease, to find contentment. Isn’t it nice to know that all it really requires is slowing down, taking the time to listen to ourselves, our feelings and investigating their source, and then applying that wisdom to our lives?
I don’t know about you, but knowing that so much of our joy or misery is of our own making is a refreshing life truth to be reminded of from time to time. Because when we get it right, successfully traveling the path we are wanting to journey down, it can truly feel amazing. In such moments, pat yourself on the back, because it isn’t easy, but it does get easier with practice.
Have a wonderful Wednesday everyone.
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