Last week I attended a Montessori conference and had the pleasure of listening to Dr. Timothy Purnell, the Executive Director of the American Montessori Society. With the kind of energy that gets a guy walking through the aisles of an auditorium instead of standing behind a podium, he talked to us about the importance of connecting & sharing about Montessori through social media--a platform that has the capability of spreading good through its enormous reach. It's through connecting and relationship building, he reminded us, that we are part of a movement. But to be a part of something great--to be part of a movement--you have to stop keeping the good stuff to yourself and share with others.
In other words, you have to "get off your island".
This is always an enticing concept to me--sharing with others, talking about the things that we're passionate about, helping move something I believe in forward. Yet I notice that I often fail at getting the good stuff I know I have to share actually out there. I had to ask myself, when it comes to this topic, why does there always seem to be this gap between the things I desire to do and my actions?
Why do some of us (myself included) struggle so greatly with social media--heck, with all things social--while it seems to come so easily to others?
I don't think anyone holds back on connecting and sharing because they have an intention to withhold from others or because they dislike people (well, maybe a few, but not most of us). Instead, I think it boils down to the difference between extroverts and introverts.
It's not a difference so much in intention, but in how we get our "juice"--introverts get their juice through solitude and going inward, while extroverts thrive from putting themselves out there and connecting with others. The best example I can think of is a relationship I once had with your quintessential extrovert. After a long, stressful day he'd say "ugh, today was awful, I'm gonna call up my buddies and see what's going on", while I'd say "ugh, today was awful, I'm gonna curl up with a chick flick and a cozy blanket". (You can guess how that worked out...)
Most introverts want to be movers and shakers--contributors--just as many extroverts do, it's just that the process of putting ourselves out there is a greater struggle. For us, the amount of effort, time, and energy it takes to constantly get out of our comfort zone can be exhausting and, when we push forward for periods of time and do it anyway, we often feel the need to retreat and recover afterward.
This raises the question, why "get off our islands" when it's so cozy living there?
If putting ourselves out there is so uncomfortable, so exhausting...why do it?
I think the answer lies in another powerful message our speaker had: you have to define your WHY. You have to be clear about why you do what you do and how you desire to spend your time. My biggest reason for doing all I do is, like many others, my family. But my second biggest "why" is because making a contribution, making an impact in this life, matters to me and I feel I do that through teaching & writing. Well, not so much in writing per se, but in sharing my writing.
See, the reason it's critical for me to "feel the fear and do it anyway" is because sharing and connecting is key to my vision as a writer. Mostly, I write for myself--to make sense of life. But I share because there's just about no greater feeling than hearing someone say "Yes! This! You put words to what I was feeling but didn't know how to say." Networking, connecting, sharing, marketing--all the things that are uncomfortable and time consuming for me are, like it or not, the very things that will help connect my writing with more people and make my vision my reality.
So what's an introvert to do? Do we continue fighting the good fight for the sake of something greater or do we redefine our why and just surrender to our true nature?
I do know that the answer is NOT trying to become an extrovert--fighting who we authentically are never works out well or lasts very long. I think we introverts can be a part of something really great, it might just take us a little longer to get there (although, who really defines where "there" is anyway?).
I think the key might be in working with our true nature rather than against it. We need to allow ourselves those moments on the island because recharging is key to getting our creativity back when we're feeling depleted. But waiting until we're "ready" to rejoin the world won't work, just as waiting until I'm "ready" to workout or sit and prepare my taxes won't work either. There are simply things in life that we have to, at some point, make ourselves do for our own well-being.
When we've allowed ourselves a respite and we know it's time to jump back in and rejoin the conversation we'll inevitably feel resistance, but I think it's important for us not to view our resistance as an enemy we have to fight--you know that saying "what we resist persists." I think it may boil down to feeling the resistance come up, recognizing it, and then proceeding anyway.
And we can support each other. We can make each other accountable. Whether you're a fellow introvert yourself or an extrovert, when you notice your friend's been hanging out on the island for awhile, remind him or her that you miss their contribution. Remind them that the stuff they put out there, their voice, makes a difference and is missed. It might just be the little push they need.
This is my goal for 2019--to honor my true nature, but get off my island when I know it's time to come home. Because getting out of my own way is also part of honoring myself.
Now excuse me while I painstakingly read this over and over again, endlessly edit, and then contemplate for an hour whether or not to hit "publish". Oh and then spend tomorrow going through that whole process again trying to share on social.
Hey, it used to take me a week. It's called progress, people.