Why you need to start writing …

 

 

 

Ok, so today was National Writing Day!

Did you know there was such a thing? I didn’t! (Face of shame)

I’m so glad this one is a ‘thing’ though  ( rather than, say, National ‘Tidy your Cutlery Drawer Day’. That one wouldn’t happen in our house.)

I’ve not talked much on here about writing. But I’ve talked about stories, re-writing our own stories, (when the stories we or others tell about our lives are tying us down, disempowering us or holding us back).

That’s the fuel in my heart. That runs deep.

But if we are to tell our stories – new, powerful, healing stories, or just funny, quirky, unique stories – and these stories are to last, and be passed on (like torches into the night), then we’d better get comfortable writing them down. Nor let anyone discount us, or tell us that our story doesn’t have value or isn’t somehow important enough.

Because, yes! it absolutely IS! Your story is a chapter in life’s book.  Without it, the book makes no sense.

Some years ago, when I was training as a therapist, I noticed that some people who came to counselling could only share the most difficult parts of their stories if they wrote them down first, and (when/if they were able) shared them with me. Many of them found this really helped them. So when I went on to do research, I explored the two big questions I had:

Why were they writing?
And how was it helping them?

I didn’t know what would happen when I began, but pursuing those questions kind of took over my life!

I left work in the end to chase down the answers. I completed my research.
I was fortunate enough to be able to share my findings at a national counselling and psychotherapy research conference. I shared them through many workshops. And after much editorial blood, sweat, tears and ink, I published them too.

It was a long hard but rewarding road.

And this (in short) is what my research participants taught me…. precious lessons for you and me too.

*Writing helped them to ‘offload’, to get painful and difficult thoughts and feelings out of themselves, onto the paper.
*It gave those thoughts and feelings ‘physicality’, so that they could be explored, processed and understood.
*It revealed parts of themselves that had never felt safe to ‘show up’ before.
*The writing became a place where they could ‘capture’ what they were learning and integrate it.
*It became a place where they could ‘re-story’ their lives and find themselves and their unique voices.

Writing worked because on the page they had control. They had a private space (a ‘room of one’s own’ almost). They had choice (what to write, if to write and if and what to share). They gained confidence.

They were able to find their voice (in private) before they tried it out in public and often they discovered identity and purpose too through their writing.

 

Treasure beyond price indeed!

 

So why am I sharing this on allthingsquiet?

Well, not just because today is ‘National Writing Day’, but because part of the original motivation behind this blog for me was to explore ways to help us, as quiet people, to ‘find our voice’.

Writing is the ideal introvert platform. To experiment, to craft, to explore…. to ‘re-story’.
It’s a prime weapon in our arsenal. A secret tool in self-discovery. A confidential friend along life’s highway.

So, have a go today, try some writing. Pick up your pen. Set up your laptop, and here, for good measure, are some good, accessible places to start:

‘Expressive Writing’ James Pennebaker
‘The Right to Write’ Julia Cameron
‘Journal to the Self’ Kathleen Adams

Maya Angelou wrote that writing ‘puts starch in your backbone, so you can stand, so you can compose your life’

So, go forth and compose!  And if you’ve time, aside from all the writing, let me know how you’re getting on too…

Blessings, til next time..

Lynne x

And if you’re interested in the research, here’s the link:

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/capr.12074

In Praise of Advent

It’s Advent, that lead up to Christmas …

Days full of shopping, baking, writing Christmas cards, bankrupting yourself to stash enough food in the house to feed the five thousand, (Uncle Frank included) who will descend like locusts on your house come Xmas day.

Sound familiar?

Advent can feel a bit like the ‘plain-Jane-forgotten-relative’ of Christmas, brought out of the shadows only to dispense chocolate goodies behind numbered doors in the lead up to Christmas : ‘The REAL Event’.

Poor Advent, always the bridesmaid, never the bride!

When I was a child, my mother would put us down to rest in a darkened room before our birthday parties.
How frustrating that was!
Far too excited to sleep, it felt like wasted time!

My mother knew though that this ‘time out’ would calm us down, enable us to enjoy the party more. Without it, we were scratchy, over-excited. Tired and irritable.

Advent is a bit like the ‘rest’ before the party.
And we play the fractious children : “What’s the point! Bring on the party!”

But there’s a hidden magic to Advent; a magic you can’t find until you take off the gaudy wrappings of frenzied seasonal busyness.

Traditionally in the Christian calendar, Advent (deriving from the Latin, meaning ‘Coming’) begins on the fourth Sunday leading up to Christmas Day, and is a time given for preparation and reflection, not only on Christ’s birth in Bethlehem, but also traditionally on His Second Coming. It often included fasting, and certainly prayer. It was ordained as a quiet, introspective time, where we go on an inward journey to prepare our hearts for celebrating the Coming King.

The days preceding the Biblical account of the Nativity were days marked by reflection and journeys too. Mary pondering the angel’s message, Joseph coming to terms with life-changing news, the unexpected journeying to Bethlehem, the shepherd’s journey to the stable. And later on, the journey of the Magi.

Advent is all about preparing for journeys, some planned… some unexpected. Getting ready for something big, some ‘sea-change’. Physical journeys certainly, but spiritual journeys too, where the time of reflection ushers in new insights, new hearts and minds to take into an unknown future.

This year I’ve come to appreciate this ‘bridesmaid season’ a little more.

I’ve come to see that it’s about preparing my heart, and not my larder, for the coming days.

This year, I want my days stripped back, marked by simple gifts and simple pleasures, good friends and family times.

I’ve taken a step back, moved into a quieter place. I’ve said ‘no’ to a lot of things, and I’ve felt better for it.

Last year you see, Christmas didn’t really ‘happen’ for us as a family. In mid-December, my mum (whose body, but not her mind, had been failing for a while) suddenly became unresponsive, and she passed away peacefully on Boxing Day.

Our Advent then WAS passed in waiting, but not in hope or in ‘Expectation of News of Great Joy’, but in that awful no mans land, holding vigil and waiting with sickness of heart, not for a longed for birth, but a dreaded departure.

Each day, we would spend time at her bedside, playing the music she loved, talking to her, praying with her, doing her hair, applying hand lotion or her favourite perfume, reading her stories, and I think for each of us, we were preparing ourselves for an end we knew would come. It was a painful, difficult and exhausting time, but, strangely, not one without its mercies.

Those long days gave us the gift of time, the grace of being able to be ‘present’, time to prepare ourselves, to reflect, time to say and do all we could for her. Time was given us to use the best way we could. Not everyone has that and I now see it as a blessing, and I’m grateful.

Time is often given us, not to DO, but to BE. To allow things to develop and GROW in us. And growth always requires undisturbed time.

I love it that life itself, and the turning seasons teach us about the values of Advent. They tell us, as the nights grow darker and the air colder, that it’s time to slow down naturally, to go into ourselves. To nurture the reflective, the spiritual, the creative.

We’ve lost touch with this. Our lives are no longer in sync with the seasons. We feel obliged to ‘keep going’ 24/7. Life can sometimes feel like a non-stop carousel we can’t get off.

It’s winter. My garden stops growing, stops (thank heaven!) needing my attention. I’m barely home from work and have to draw the curtains and though it’s only eight o clock, I want to hunker down.
I’m content to sit in a pool of light from the standard lamp, wrapped in my dressing gown, quietly reading a book. I have no wish to venture out.

It’s hibernating season.

The whole world seems to be sleeping.

Animals retreat to hidden dens to sleep away the winter.

Seeds and plants lie dormant,

Everything looks dead.

It’s not of course.
Life is ‘sleeping’, storing and conserving energy for the spring, when conditions for growth will return and new life, new shoots will appear.
We know this, because predictably, year after year, we see it happen.

Black bears don’t even wait for Spring. They give birth in the depths of winter, WHILST hibernating.
Odd as this seems, it makes perfect sense. Whilst the mother bear is asleep, she isn’t expending the energy she will need when she awakens to tend to her cubs.
Sometimes life begins where we least expect it.

When winter holds the world in darkness, look closer…
It isn’t death. It isn’t a season to fear …
it’s a season for quiet incubation, a time for re-assessment and re-grouping, of storing energy for the days ahead, preparing for the next stage of our journey, of drawing strength to enable the growth of new seeds, new life.

And that can only happen if we give ourselves permission to withdraw from the hustle, allow ourselves time to reflect; time to incubate and create, time to listen to the still small voice, that brings the gifts of creativity, revelation and inspiration.

I love that winter hides her treasures… that you have to dig for them.

It truly is the introvert season!

There is a time for all seasons. A time for life and a time for death.

I had heard that people nearing the end of life often sense that they are getting ready to go on a journey. I was fascinated, but more than a little sceptical. But as her health began to decline, my mother did sense that she was about to go on a journey. Ever practical, I didn’t make the link, and reassured her that she wouldn’t end up on the hospital ward again (her one fear).

In those waiting days before she passed away, we were given time to understand.

We were able finally to reassure her that her train was waiting in the station; that she had her reservation. She only had to choose her time to get onboard.

So, for those who go into the Christmas season this year with sadness in your hearts for loved ones gone this year, trust the turning of the seasons. Embrace the lesson of Advent and get quiet, step aside, take strength for the journey onwards. Allow the still small voice room.

The seeds will, in time, begin to grow again. And Spring will return.
Just as it always has.

Blessings,

Lynne

The Magic Behind Creativity  …. and Why it Needs Protecting!

As a child, I was a prodigious daydreamer…. a  GOLD MEDAL WINNING daydreamer!

This often got me into trouble. Resulting embarrassing stories  became part of our family folklore.

…. Like the time (aged 6) that I walked out of my brand new sneakers on the beach (and never went back for them) because I was watching the sun setting over the sea (And could do that better barefoot?!)

…. Or the time (aged 20) when I took the bus back home from shopping in town because I had ‘forgotten’ I had a car!

‘Dolly Daydream’ was a common pseudonym. Not one I liked.

To me though, daydreaming was never a waste of time…..

Wherever I was, however tedious or boring, (dentists waiting rooms, visits to great aunts) I had the patience of a saint!  – I could escape somewhere more exciting in my head, incubate ideas, imagine other lives and outcomes.
I was never bored. Like Alice, I could bolt down my daydream tunnel in pursuit of countless white rabbits whenever I wanted.

As a child, that daydreaming often led to creative ideas too.
Lots of story-writing and poetry (in varying degrees of merit and awfulness).
On long car journeys I was never one of the “Are we nearly there?” brigade. I often preferred the journey to the getting there.
I could think, uninterrupted, let my mind wander wherever it wanted to.

The upshot was often an urgent shout-out to stop at a petrol station an hour into the journey to buy a notepad and pen because I had ‘a story coming’.
Those stories were always better than the ones I had to write during timetabled school ‘Composition’ lessons.

 

However this tendency was rarely seen as positive by those around me.
It was held to be a waste of time,
a childish preoccupation,
a reason to be teased, an eccentric (though endearing) habit I ought to be schooled out of;  dragged kicking and screaming into the harsh glare of ‘The Real World’.

Naturally, I got to feel embarrassed about daydreaming.
And yes, at times my daydreaming did leave gaping plot holes in the everyday drama going on around me, but the story in my head always seemed so much more engaging!

So, as I grew up, I tried to squeeze myself into an acceptable ‘Practical Persona’.

I began to avoid situations where I might daydream. I tried very hard not to be seen to be ‘wasting time’.

I learned how to be productive.
I learned to quash the urge to daydream.
The 9-5 grind,  bringing up children and the maintenance of everyday life tend to drive it out anyway. However….

 

I also stopped up the well of creativity that was my birthright.

Recently I came across this (from Mary Oliver, courtesy of the wonderful Brainpickings site):

‘The most regretful people on earth are those who felt their own creative power restive and uprising, and gave it neither power nor time.’   

That stopped me in my tracks..

No. ‘Stopped me in my tracks’  isn’t really how it felt … more like:

SOMEONE JUST WALKED OVER MY GRAVE.

The message is clear :

“Take your creative side seriously. Give it your time, give it nurture! Don’t dismiss its’ callings like a child you haven’t got time to play with because you need to do the ironing.
It won’t whisper to you forever. Eventually…

Time. Runs. Out.”

Sobering, isn’t it?

Does it sometimes feel in life as if you’re pulled in opposing directions?  ….

Towards Duty, Tasks, Responsibilities;  the ‘world out there’ …. and a creative pull that feels playful, (sometimes irresponsible), joyous and free, but demands paying attention to the ‘world in here’. (Where we introverts tend mostly to live).

Can you guess which side normally wins?

Yup… the duty, tasks, responsibility, ‘world-out-there’ one!

Because its’ demands are RED HOT!  Ignore them and the tax man is at your door, the children go hungry, the rent isn’t paid.

Ignore the ‘world-in-here’, and no one dies.

 

Except maybe you, or your soul , a little more each day.

 

We see time as a commodity, a resource to be well used.
We say we’re ‘killing’ time when we’re not being purposeful, as if the point of all time given to us, (indeed of all existence) is PRODUCTIVITY (measurable productivity).

We were born to be productive surely, to be purposeful … intentional.
To do works of relevance and note.
We can hardly argue with that can we?

Not only are we born to be productive , but our merit seems to depend on HOW productive we are. (Or seen to be, and in a short timespan too)

Being SEEN to be busy signals value and significance.

We march unthinkingly to the tune of the Productivity Police.

Hold on though ….

Maybe we weren’t created to be PRODUCTIVE, maybe we were born to be CREATIVE.

A factory assembly line can be productive …. but it doesn’t deliver the Mona Lisa!

Maybe we need to tweak the concept of ‘valued output’ in our lives.

My ‘output’ can’t be measured in the same way as that of my wrist watch.
Never missing a beat.  My watch is designed for one purpose and one purpose only.    To tell the time. It’s a machine.

But we are not machines, we are living organisms.
Our “purposes” are many and complex.
Unlike machines, We don’t run regularly to the same pace.
We follow unseen inner rhythms.
An efficient machine wouldn’t be designed for a quarter of its working life to be on ‘re-charge’ as we are when we’re sleeping!
That’s inefficient. It’d be scrapped.

 

Quite apart from the sleep we need, research suggests that we are only fully ABLE  to focus productively for around 90 minutes before we need more down time.

And this ‘slack time’  is not a luxury bolt-on that we should be able to do without. Neither is it ‘recharge/recovery’ time.  It’s ESSENTIAL if we are to be fully productive, fully creative. It seems as if that is when our brain is able to process the input. It does this when we’re asleep … and (more interestingly) when we’re ‘idling’.

(If you’re keen on the research, look up Kleitman’s studies on sleep, ultradian rhythms and the basic rest-activity cycle)

No rest, no productivity (or creativity).   Simples.

 

The problem is that we tend to regard our need for rest and sleep as a necessary evil.
We forget that we are organisms, not machines.
We confuse productivity and creativity.

We’re developing hothouse lives, without deep roots.

We’re euthanising creativity!

 

And who do we hurt most if we shame out daydreaming, quiet reflection, pottering and ‘time wasting’?

Introverts (because it’s our life-blood!) – and introverted creatives in particular.

There’s been a lot of interest recently into what specific environments and behaviours FEED  creativity.  And what’s coming out of that research is really exciting.

Again, if you get fired up by research, here’s a sample of current goodies to dip into:

Baird & Schooler: ‘Inspired by Distraction: Mind Wandering Facilitates Creative Incubation’ in Psychological Science.
‘Imagine: How Creativity Works’ (Joseph Lehrer)
‘Wired to Create: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Creative Mind’ (Kaufman & Gregoire).

It seems that we’re discovering that creative thinking is generated by:

‘Idling.’    ….   or mental ‘pottering’ whilst we’re engaged in a task that doesn’t require too much effort or concentration, (like going for a walk or taking a shower.)  It seems this non-specific, non-analytical focus is what helps us to process information, think outside the box, play with creative alternatives within a non-pressured environment.

‘Solitude’ –  to prime the creative pump requires occasionally shutting out the world!    It involves being solitary, alone. In their recent work ‘Wired to Create’, authors Kaufman and Gregoire cite ‘solitude’ and ‘daydreaming’ among the ten defining attributes of highly creative people.

‘Rhythm Dance’ –  We need to work within our natural rhythms of rest and activity. To prime Creativity, what’s needed is a rhythm dance of intense focus, followed by restful incubation (daydreaming). Focus  … daydream …. Focus …. incubate.

 

Creative work  (it turns out) grows best from a bedrock of quiet, non-focused contemplation.

As creative introverts it seems we NEED to ‘waste’ time. This can’t happen when we’re in the arena.

We need to protect slack time, “wasted” time. That’s where we  ‘grow’ ourselves, and every dream, idea, theory or work of art flows from this.

 

It’s when I’m pottering, idling along, walking the dog, taking a bath, peeling potatoes that the creative whisper comes.

Or maybe I’ve just got quiet enough to hear it.

 

So let’s stand in the gap and protect “wasted” time. Schedule it into our diaries and give it as much importance as committee meetings and doctors appointments.

 

Don’t kill your creativity on the busy altar of Productivity.

Learn to lay out the quiet ‘Welcome’ mat instead.

‘For some have thereby entertained angels unawares’

 

Don’t know about you, but I’d be happy for a few angels to stop by every now and then….

 

‘Til next time

Blessings

Lynne  🙂 x

8 keys to getting noticed … (without the song and dance routine) 

All things quiet

I was on my second cup of breakfast tea. My husband (who was scouring the paper for teaching vacancies), looked up and sighed, 

‘”Just look at this!”   He poked the ad. I read it. 

‘Wanted:  Energetic, dynamic, enterprising team player required for this vibrant forward-looking Department’.

He groaned. “Can’t I just be good at what I do without having to do this eternal song and dance routine?”

I felt his pain. Most of the appointments echoed the same sentiments.

My husband, you see, is also an introvert. He wouldn’t describe himself as ‘energetic, dynamic or vibrant’. He just gets the job done. Quietly. 

Eventually he gave up trying to balance education and entertainment and left teaching for the quieter fields of IT, where he didn’t have to play Fred Astaire.

What he came up against that day was not just our cultural bias towards extroversion but …

(more worryingly) …

its’ tendency to equate outward displays of exuberance for that inner pilot light of fervour that drives commitment, competence and leadership.

Outward enthusiasm might indicate inner commitment, but it might just be surface dressing and natural excitement. A calm, quiet exterior might mask a burning passion for something. We can’t judge by externals. 

All too often, however, we ARE judged in this way.

In other words:     Exuberance=good, quiet=bad.   (Or maybe just ‘not worthy of attention’)

Look carefully, and you’ll see this everywhere.

Richard, a quiet 10 year old boy sits at his desk in the middle of a busy primary classroom. 

“Can I have someone to help with the nature pond this afternoon?” asks his teacher. Richard is keen to help. He has a real interest in the natural world and spends time during the weekends helping his dad with conservation projects. 

His arm shoots up, his eyes shine, but he doesn’t shout out. 

He is a polite lad, he knows you shouldn’t shout out in class. 

But all around him classmates bounce off their seats, calling out, “Me, me…pick me, miss!” 

Richard sits quietly, as he knows you are meant to, and soon he is invisible among the tsunami of waving, jumping children. 

“Go on then Amber, you go!” announces the teacher. Glad to be shot of the biggest wriggler in the class. Amber too is delighted… she is missing Maths. 

Richard’s arm comes down slowly, and he lowers his head so that no one can see the hurt. 

You can bet that the lesson he learnt that day was that to be quiet is to be overlooked; that those who shout the loudest get all the attention. 

In other words, he learnt that his quiet nature often worked against him in getting what he wanted. 

This is why introverts often turn themselves inside out trying to play extrovert. 

This is why they fail to understand and develop their natural strengths. 

This is how they learn shame. 

And it has to change. 

Put simply, if I’m to prove I’m keen, if I’m to stand out….I’d better be super-mega-enthusiastic and noisy. I’d better flag-wave, cheer-lead and demonstrate a lot of forced hype. Whether I’m feeling it or not.

Whether that’s the way I naturally show enthusiasm or not. 

And if I don’t dance the dance, well then…I’m a cold fish, lacking zeal and probably commitment. Not to be trusted.

Shakespeare’s ‘King Lear’ is, without question, Shakespeare’s darkest, bleakest depiction of human nature. It’s visceral, gut-wrenching stuff. At its’ centre is Lear himself, a flawed and narcissistic character of vast proportions whose downfall is equally colossal.

The play opens with Lear’s fateful ‘trial of loyalty’ to each of his three daughters. A one-off test (overlooking a lifetime’s knowledge of his children) to determine who loves him the most and who will subsequently win his inheritance and favour. And the test? 

It’s for each daughter to prove her love and commitment in displays of passionate and extravagant language.  

If you know the story, you’ll know that the two eldest daughters, Goneril and Regan,  rise to the challenge and provide Lear with glowing, if unrealistic, descriptions of their love. Cordelia, the youngest, who is actually Lear’s favourite, cannot play the game. She is unable (and unwilling) to ‘heave my heart into my mouth’, as she puts it. She speaks the truth, that she loves her father as a daughter should, ‘no more, no less’. For this, her share of the inheritance is divided between her sisters and she is banished. 

Now Goneril and Regan are toxic to the core. Their declarations of love are born of flattery and manipulation and in no way represent spontaneous, innocent extrovert enthusiasm. Cordelia, likewise, isn’t the simple introvert victim. There is a certain stubbornness and pride in her truth-telling to take into account.  (Not unheard of in introverts!) 

But it’s Lear’s reaction that merits attention. Because he is the one who holds the cards. He is emblematic of all gatekeepers. And he (like Richard’s teacher) listens to those who shout the loudest. 

Somehow, without engaging in flattery, manipulation, pushy-ness or going against our own natures as introverts, we have to find a way to be heard above the crowd in what matters to us.

So why is it so hard for us to convince others of our excitement or dedication? 

It’s hard because as introverts we are naturally more reserved. 

We also tend to use words sparingly. We UNDERSTATE rather than overstate.. 

In Introspeak, “I’m feeling a little chilly” might just mean “I’m suffering from hypothermia and will shortly keel over and die”.

(Be mindful of this with your introvert friends and family!)

all-things-quiet

Like most introverts, I try to be very ACCURATE in what I say. 

When I’m really excited about something, you’ll know about it, but I’m not easily enthused. Nothing wrong with that. I just can’t manufacture enthusiasm if I don’t feel it. 

If I give praise for something, I really do mean it. If I don’t say anything, it’s likely I’m not overly wowed. I don’t throw my compliments about like confetti. 

Otherwise they have no meaning. 

That said, accepting praise can be just as problematic for introverts. We need to scan compliments to check first that they are a) genuine and b) merited before we can really receive them, and our low-key responses can sometimes throw cold water on extroverts’ genuine attempts to express gratitude! That said, I’m learning to bend a little …to give more positive strokes, because I now know that these things are an extroverts’ lifeblood. This can sometimes  feel uncomfortable, like flattery, or emotional manipulation (can’t I just say once that I appreciate them for doing the washing-up? Don’t they believe me?) but I’ve had to learn that if I don’t feed the extroverts I love regularly with praise, they end up emotionally starved. They may end up feeling I don’t care about them. I don’t want them to feel that way, because they are incredibly important to me. I’m still a work in progress, as they are.

The problem we have as quiet people then is that it can be difficult persuading people that we are really into something, or committed to something, or want something (like a new job opportunity or promotion), NOT because we’re necessarily shy or lacking in confidence, but because (like Cordelia) we don’t see the need/ can’t bring ourselves to do the required hype.  It feels insincere, fabricated. False.  Worse, it can feel like the worst primary school “Look at me, I’m so keen!” public display competition. I might care a great deal, but resent simple assertions of my interest and commitment not being enough. 

It can feel to quiet people as if we’re caught in a lose-lose trap – be false to ourselves or seem indifferent to others. It’s not a happy choice! 

So, how do we make sure our passions are heard, (particularly to gatekeepers), without denying our personalities? 

We make sure our every word counts!  So … 

8 Keys to Being Heard:

  • Pack your declarations of interest/commitment etc full of DETAIL, like cherries in a cake. Make sure every word you utter (or write) counts and reveals your introvert strengths – research, analysis, strategic and detailed forward thinking and planning. You’re good at this. You know exactly what you could add to any organisation, and where the development niches are. Think Content. Not Delivery. Quality not quantity. Show, not tell is the way forward.
  • Express yourself in WRITING. Get a written statement of interest in before you have to do the talking. Again, pack with detail. Take your time thinking and planning exactly what you want to say. Show you’ve done your homework. That communicates interest more than anything.
  • TARGET  the right people. Sometimes you might just be in the wrong place. You need managers and others who will see beyond a slick 20 minute presentation. Align yourself with kindred spirits in an environment where you will be heard and valued. Sometimes that takes the courage to abandon ship and move on.
  • BELIEVE in yourself and your unique strengths. Get to know and develop them. Don’t compare, but don’t compromise either.
  • WORK WITH your natural strengths. You may be a good sympathetic listener, ideally placed to hear what’s not working so well in an organisation and to be one step ahead in identifying and coming up with a plan you can share to make things work better. That’s contributing to team working and organisation The Introvert Way. 
  • PICK THE RIGHT TIME! Usually when you can be alone with ‘the person who needs to hear you’. When you can guarantee their undivided attention. Approach them or email and ask for a 1-1 meeting. Don’t fight to be heard in the arena (like Richard in the classroom). Decide what you want and plan ahead. Stick to your plan.
  • Don’t be discouraged if you’re not heard first time. DON’T GIVE UP! Try a different tack, a different person, a different job. Believe you have value. Because you have. 
  • And finally, when it seems impossible to get the attention of gatekeepers… Don’t forget that the real power is in your hands to turn your zeal into action. Don’t give away that power to others. Just keep going! 

Enthusiasm  is fine, but it’s commitment that counts in the end. Life is a marathon, not a sprint. 

life-is-a-marathon all things quiet

Blessings as ever, 

Lynne x

‘On The Road Not Taken’

 

I’m sitting looking out of the window at my garden. Outside, it’s grey and blustery, but warm. Here in England it almost feels like Spring. Daffodil spears are pushing valiantly through the cold soil. Winter seems to have passed us by. But it’s still only early February, it could go either way….winter may still come roaring back.

 

The New Year too arrived with its promises of a new life, a chance for us to do things differently in 2016.

 

We resurrect resolutions, hopes and expectations…and maybe even some concrete plans, for the year ahead. Some of these, we’ll make inroads to achieving.

 

Others will remain in the ‘Back Room of Good Intention’.

 

Some will be abandoned after a few weeks (usually the ones to do with diet and exercise regimes!) By this stage into the year, I guess you’ll all know which category your resolutions fall into.

 

But there’s another side to the New Year, one that can cause us a measure of disquiet. It’s the flip side of resolutions and expectation…

 

…It’s the spectre of ‘what ifs’.

 

The symbol for January is after all, Janus, the Roman two-faced God, who faced forwards, but also faced backwards.

 

New Year can also be a time when we reflect on the year that’s just gone, and there, alongside all the good (and not so good) times, we might light upon ‘The Great Imponderables’ –

 

Those decisions we didn’t take,

The route we didn’t go down,

The opportunity we let go by,

The relationship we didn’t follow up on….

 

And there it is, hanging in the air…

 

What would have happened if …? Did I make the right decision?

 

Sometimes, that unanswerable question can throw us into a morass of self-doubt, recrimination and regret. Particularly if life currently isn’t a bed of roses, that imagined alternative future can seem like a lost chance, a better life thrown away…and of course we blame ourselves. Who else is there to blame!

 

This is not a happy place to be.

 

You might be thinking – What has all this to do with introverts finding our courage and our voices?

 

Well, potentially, a great deal!

 

You see, as introverts, we tend naturally to think long and hard about our decisions. We research the options, we listen to our intuition, our value systems, we weigh up the pros and cons. We may even tabulate them! We don’t easily share this process. It’s internal.

 

You might think that this makes us better, clearer decision makers. Well, sadly not necessarily. We may amass a huge arsenal of information to guide our decision…but it doesn’t always lead to a decision!

 

The introvert leaning is towards analysis, over-thinking and often perfectionism and its companion procrastination.

 

Not easy bed-fellows to decision making!

 

We are also by nature cautious and risk-averse.

Making decisions – important, life-changing ones – can be agonising. We want to get it right, but how will we really know what the right decision is when the options are not between good and bad, but better and best, or two seemingly ‘equal’ pathways? We can be racked with self-doubt and recrimination.

When both roads looks inviting, Which one to take_

 

We might be further paralysed by ‘black and white thinking’, leading us to believe that if there is a right path to take, then the alternative choice must be wrong and lead to all kinds of disastrous consequences! The result of this kind of polarised thinking is that we can find ourselves unable to make any kind of decision because the stakes are just too high. We go round and round in circles. We become frozen by indecision.

 

Anyone thinking of Hamlet here?   More to the point, anyone recognise themselves here too?

 

These tendencies we have as quiet people prove a potent cocktail, one that makes decision making difficult and extremely stressful. Often, we decide NOT to make a decision.

 

We forget that avoiding making a decision is (sorry to remind you!) making a decision! You just decided to pass on it, to keep things as they are…..that’s still a decision. And it’s a common introvert decision…..because we value security and safety, we often decide to stay with the status quo.

 

Some years ago, I found myself inexplicably listening to that siren voice of regret.

 

I say inexplicably because it focused on a decision I had taken MANY years before. It was a decision not to take an opportunity that was offered to me. It was a sparkling and rare prize that was totally unexpected and unsought. I felt honoured, but oddly not tempted to take it up. For years, I never thought about it again, then a change in career caused regret and doubt to raise their ugly heads.

 

Regret is not a comfortable feeling, but when it revolves around a decision you made years ago (and didn’t doubt at the time), it’s a pointless exercise too!

 

We can’t go back and change things.

 

Regret only erodes our belief in ourselves and our ability to make good choices in the future.

 

It causes us to live in the past, and miss the blessings (and opportunities) of the moment.

 

It steals our confidence. It takes away our clear, confident voice.

 

That’s not to say that we can’t learn from past decisions. Undoubtedly we can, but we need to forgive ourselves, let go of tormenting ourselves, turn our backs on believing that our future has been set in stone by past mistakes in order for us to be open to learn anything in the process.

 

Holding onto regret ties us to the past, holds us back and can prevent us from taking personal responsibility for our shining futures.

 

I don’t believe nowadays in giving regret any rent-space in my life. I am officially serving him his Eviction Notice! As of now. And so should you.

 

So, I’m sharing with you my own personal ‘Eviction Notice’.

 

You do not have to live with regret as a lodger in your life for one second more! Get rid of regret and you free yourself up to begin to enjoy what life has for you up ahead, without the fear of taking a wrong path. You can confidently explore and discover who you were really created to be, and begin to find and use your unique voice and message.

 

So remind yourself of these things:

 

* That a decision made by the person I once was, cannot be questioned by the ‘me I now am’. We rarely consciously make decisions that will harm us, so the ‘past me’ did the best she could with the tools and information she had at the time. The ‘present me’ cannot judge her.   I will choose to stop blaming myself.

 

* That life is not usually made up of good or bad decisions. The decisions we make and the reasons behind our choosing one option over another (to take up this career or that one, to choose this relationship over another) are complex. Regret tries to tell us that we have ‘missed out’. That the path we did not take was filled with sunshine and rainbows and fulfilment. That the reason our lives are NOT filled with all these goodies is precisely because we ‘took the wrong path’ ….but we are the executors of our own happiness and opportunities, whatever path we take. The path itself is not filled with sunshine, we carry that with us on the journey. It’s up to us.

 

* Beside my desk is a bookmark given to me years ago. It reminds me that He who created the universe knows the hairs on my head and sees every path that I take. He is not thrown by my ‘wrong turns’. They do not keep Him up at night as they do me. To Him, they are ‘small fry’. He can turn things to good again, just as the potter re-shaping spoiled clay.

 

And finally, a lesson from my satnav!

 

* I love it that when I take a wrong turn, or miss a turning, that my satnav doesn’t shout at me, or tell me that I’m stupid, but calmly instructs me to ‘turn around where possible’. Sometimes of course, it isn’t possible, and then she obligingly finds an alternative road, and we get there in the end. Often by the scenic route.

 

And sometimes life is like that. That we end up at our destination in the end, despite our wrong turns, led home by a different route. One we didn’t plan, and it maybe took a little longer, but we enjoyed the scenery and were brought home safely in the end.

 

So don’t allow regret to sabotage your peace and happiness this year. Serve him his eviction notice and then change the locks!

 

And take this old, but still powerful verse from Minnie Louise Haskins with you instead into the New Year –

 

‘And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year

“Give me a light, that I may tread safely into the unknown”

And he replied,

“Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the hand of God

That shall be to you better than light, and safer than a known way”

IMG_2304

‘Til next time …

Blessings,

Lynne x

 

The Fish, the Bicycle and the Introvert……or ‘why we need extroverts’

Goodguy bad guy

When I first started this blog, I got some interesting reactions, ranging from bemused curiosity ‘Why are you doing this?’ to guarded suspicion…’Are you going to start lynching extroverts then?’ … I have to say that most of those comments came from extrovert friends.  And I totally get those reactions.

Sadly, the reason for the suspicion and guardedness isn’t far to look.

Amongst the recent groundswell of introvert voices, I’ve occasionally noted some that have seemed to cast extroverts as ‘public enemy no 1’.

This is neither fair, nor true…nor does it serve anyone’s cause or best interests. An ‘us’ and ‘them’ mentality never brings real or meaningful change.

Recently, I saw the movie ‘Suffragette’, and much as I enjoyed some of it, I felt irritated by the black and white portrayal of men and women’s roles. I was particularly frustrated by the ‘token supportive male’. This is not to underestimate the immense and sacrificial effort of the women campaigners, but great changes are brought about by collaborative working, often with the support of those who (should change come about) will not be the chief beneficiaries.

I believe this to have been the case with the fight for women’s suffrage, and also within the Civil Rights Movement.

I grew up with the familiar feminist mantra ‘a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle’ ….which (even though I had it scrawled on my school pencil case) struck me as faintly ludicrous even then.  The relationship between a fish and a bicycle in no way equates to the relationship between a man and a woman. It was simply a memorable way of saying ‘we don’t need you’.

But we do need each other, and not simply those who are like us, but more importantly, those who are not like us too. We’re all in the boat called life, and we’d better start pulling oar together.

I used to love watching old films as a child. We always had to ask who the ‘goody’ or the ‘baddy’ was, though in westerns it was pretty obvious… The good guy rode a white horse, the bad guy rode the black horse!   Knowing who was ‘good’ and who was ‘bad’ absolved you of knowing anything else about the characters. You could just cheer or boo accordingly. Usually, the bad guy (or woman!) got their just deserts by the time the credits rolled.

Simple days, simple pleasures!

That early need to know who was on the ‘good’ side (and hence who was on the ‘bad’ side!) doesn’t end with childhood though. It gets more complicated, more subtle  (and much more problematic) as we enter adulthood.

Choosing a side gives us a feeling of belonging, a sense of ‘tribe’, of supporting and being supported by a larger body. That’s good surely? Well, yes and no. It also means that anyone who isn’t seen as part of our tribe, might become the ‘enemy’ if our identity, values or even survival is seen to be threatened. We don’t need to look too far to see the implications of this, both currently and throughout history. All too easily and too often, those who aren’t ‘on our team’ can become stereotyped, demonised.
Worse.

When I was very young, my family moved from our home in Scotland, to live in England.
It truly was ‘another country’.
We carried with us all our Scottish heritage, incomprehensible accents, love of the bagpipes, kilts, haggis, whiskey and Hogmanay….and with all this, the bitter legacy of Culloden and Butcher Cumberland (nothing to do with the sausage, Dear Reader).

I lived and went to school in England, but my heart was to remain in Scotland. I was not encouraged to see England as my home.
And I was NEVER, EVER to marry an Englishman!

But, of course, you can’t legislate life. Inevitably, I got to know English people and discovered that they weren’t all armed to the teeth with muskets and bayonets, intent on eliminating every Scottish person on the planet!

And yes, Dear Reader, I married an Englishman.

But what has any of this to do with finding your voice as a quiet person?

Well, if we have a right to our voice, and to finding that voice, it never comes at the expense of another’s voice.

Voice 1

Jung’s original comments on psychological type outline very clearly that none of us are wholly introverted or extroverted ( or we’d run mad). We are all on a spectrum (and that spectrum can vary depending on the exigencies of the moment, although our preference remains constant). We alienate those we wish to influence, risk weakening our cause and becoming marginalised if we go down the ‘goodies and baddies’ route.

Some of my best friends are extroverts.
Dang! Some of my CHILDREN are extroverts!

I suspect this is true for many of you too.

Like it or not, we need each other. John Donne spoke truth when he wrote ‘No man is an island, entire of himself’.

I love it when I see collaborative working happening across disparate groups.

The leadership team of Quiet Rev and Emma Watson’s ‘He for She’ campaign are two such notable examples.

It’s no good judging extroverts for not being quiet and reflective!  Isn’t that just the same as extroverts expecting introverts to be more gregarious and social?

Trench attitudes!

Let’s value, honour and respect our different strengths and work together to the benefit of all.

voice 2

Vive la difference!

Til next time…

Blessings,

Lynne x