What’s an introvert? How does introversion affect us at work and play? In our friendships? In our search for meaning and happiness?
I’ll explore these and other timely questions about introvert life in this column, as an introvert entrepreneur, artist and journalist.
Want to ask a question? Just use the email below.
P.S.: even if you don’t think of yourself as introverted, you may find some helpful info here. Why? Because, to paraphrase Ben Franklin: we assume our differences divide us, only to find we share common ground.
Today’s introvert-astic question: Why is “get out of your comfort zone” flawed advice for innies?
If you’re an introvert, folks have probably told you: “You just need to get out of your comfort zone.”
The implication? Doing this concrete-sounding, yet vague thing will improve your life. Your career. Your split ends.
The good news? If your brain finds this advice icky, congratulations, your introvert intuition is working. Here’s why:
Let’s start with the word “out”
The person who’s urging your innie self to ditch your comfort zone to achieve personal or professional success may be totally well-intentioned.But they’re also assuming your brain operates the way theirs does.
And this can lead to a classic case of transitive property fallacy.
In this case, just because another human being has found leaving their comfort zone to be a helpful tool, it doesn’t mean it will or should work for you.
Now, before you retreat into only doing what’s comfortable? Innies, like all folks interested in growth, should challenge ourselves.
It’s just that, as we’ve explored in previous columns, our brains work differently.
And these differences may be the very things that lead to our success.
To put it another way, our introvert comfort zone is our power zone.
It’s where we explore. Connect. Create things that can be helpful to others, too.
So how do we lose the inner, nagging feeling that we should be doing things in a more extroverted way?
Let’s play some mental hockey.
Speaking of goals
Imagine you’re a professional defensive ice hockey player (as I may have mentioned, I grew up in Philly. Seeing Bobby Clarke’s face pressed against the glass etched “passion/focus” into my innie kid’s brain. Broad Street Bullies of grace, yo! Not to mention that Stanley Cup smile. Iconic.).
Back to comfort zones: there are three kinds of defensive ice hockey players. As it happens they align with personality types with which we’re familiar. (You can read more about their skills here in the Dummies Guide,)
- The first kind of defensive hockey player type is described as “offensive-minded” (extrovert).
- The second “doesn’t often venture out of his zone” (introvert).
- The third’s a happy hybrid (ambivert).
If you’re the second kind of player, wow, can you see how staying in the zone offers such a benefit for your team, and uses your singular talents, too?
Now, imagine you’re this team's defensive coach.
Would you try to expand the zone of your talented introverted players by pushing them out of a plane in their hockey uniform, without a parachute?
And if you did, how would this help these introverted players, or your team at large, achieve their goals?
Comfort zones are innie gold
What can I say? Innies do it quieter. But what matters is we do it.
Yep, working from your place of strength makes you a valuable player in the game of life.
Even if you’re playing on a team of one.
Over time, your comfort zone may grow. And change. And yes, you can actively choose to expand it. Perhaps with a coach.
Unless, of course, their strategy involves jumping out of a plane with your skates on.
Have a question about introvert life? Write to email@example.com