Introverts: How To Be Happy

I have already talked about the difference between extroverts and introverts Introverts: Who Are They?”, about how introverts can act more extroverted and why it might be worth a try Introverts: It Is All A Game and how to be a good introverted leader Introverts: How To Be A Leader. Today I want to focus on the most important aspect. How do you live a happy and satisfying life when you are introvert in a world that awards extroversion? I mean aside of the obvious answer: “Just ignore what others think,” since you are probably doing it anyway.

It’s all about your core values

Most of the people who are happy with their lives are those who have been able to align their purpose on this world with their core values and adjusted their expectations accordingly. You may do it naturally (without thinking about it) or you may try to give it a thought (or to approach a life coach) and dig deep into your conscious and subconscious mind to find out what your core values are and what is really important to you. If you come up with answer like “money” then you didn’t dig deep enough. It is very unlikely that your core value is to make money. Most likely you feel that you need money to satisfy some other need and core value. For example, you may discover that money are important to you because you want to be able to provide for your family and family is important to you because you want to belong somewhere and you want to belong somewhere because you want to be loved. By digging deeper you got from money to love. So again, don’t get satisfied with obvious answers and spend the time to find your real core values.

What is a mission of your life?

When having your core values you can then easily figure out what your life mission might be. Let’s say that one of your core values is to “be useful” (which is by the way one of mine). You can then figure out various means to satisfy this value. You may decide to spend as much time as possible with your family and provide all the help and care you can muster. Or you can join a non-profit organization and keep helping in third world countries. Or you can decide to work with people and help them grow and be successful in professional life (which is the path I follow). Often, it will be combination of more than one path. Since there are usually many ways how to live your life in harmony with your core values you may consider taking into account your dreams to pick the right path.

What are your dreams?

What are your dreams and what is behind them? One of my dreams since I was a child (very curious one) was to see the world. I would dream of visiting far-away places, see the natural wonders and humanity’s biggest achievements. Being introverted I was able to satisfy my hunger for visiting these places just by reading about them and seeing pictures but at some level I really wanted to experience it in real. To achieve that I could again select several paths. If I would look at where is the intersection between my dreams and my life mission I would have concluded that working for a global non-profit organization to travel and help in various places might be a good path. However, that would mean meeting constantly too many new people. The path in management I follow allows me the same while working with relatively limited number of people that I can get to know pretty well and seeing them grow and succeed brings me great satisfaction.

How can you achieve your goals and be yourself?

If you follow this approach it may help you to achieve your goals and be happy even when the path leads you to more extroverted type of life. Just make sure you keep a way how to put a break on things and resupply your energy in situations when your passion for the life mission takes you too far from who you are. This may happen when one of your core values takes control over your life and over the other values. It is very likely that there are more than one thing that are important to you and you need to make sure these are well integrated and whatever you do needs to be “mentally ecological”. Meaning, it shouldn’t be at odds with any of the core values.

And what if your core values and mission of your life go well with your introversion? Even better. Just focus on what you love being it science, programming, writing or painting and ignore the surroundings that may want you to become someone you don’t want to be. I still remember one of the best software developers I ever met who worked for a small start-up for quarter the salary he could make elsewhere without much chance for any upside. When we talked about why he doesn’t follow money and go to sell his services for the real market value he answered that he could do that but he just loves working on this particular project as it will be used in railways and he just loves trains.

Twitter type summary: “To live a happy life make sure that what you do aligns with your core values, dreams and mission of your life.”

What are your recipes for happy introverted life? What is the mission of your life?

Life is not fair! So what?

Life is not fair! Who told you it is? It is not, and let’s be grateful for that. Why? Because what is and isn’t fair means different thing to each of us. Let me give you an example from my childhood. I have a sister that is two years younger. When I was ten years old I had a great appetite and was able to eat an enormous amount of food. She was eight and didn’t eat much. It is Sunday, we have a lunch and both of us get a steak. Only one! She cannot almost eat it. I gobble it up and then had to eat tons of bread or potatoes as I still feel hungry. Each of us got one steak. Was it fair? According to my mom it was. According to me it of course wasn’t. I eat twice as much so I deserve two steaks. Did I produced twice as much work, or was twice as much nicer? In my mind, not relevant. And let’s be grateful that life is not fair because, maybe, I didn’t deserve a steak at all…

Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines “fair” as (among other things):

  • a: marked by impartiality and honesty: free from self-interest, prejudice, or favoritism <a very fair person to do business with>
  • b (1): conforming with the established rules : allowed
  • b (2): consonant with merit or importance : due <a fair share>

So what does this mean in a professional environment for a leader? How do you explain to your team whether something is or is not fair? How do you react when you are approached by a subordinate demanding a new computer because it is not fair that his colleague got one and he didn’t? How do you make the unfair life for everyone as much fair as possible? One way is to make sure you make your decision as impersonal as possible. To do just that you should consider couple of thoughts.

Have clear values and stick to them

Having a solid value system will not only help you to get through rough times but will also guide your team. If you live by your values and your team sees that your actions are in line with your words you gain respect and trust. When people trust you they will feel that you are fair in dealing with them and the others. If everyone knows that one of the basic values you adhere to is the need of fairness it will be much more easier for you to push forward actions that you believe are fair even if they may not seem so fair to others. They will still see that this is what you strongly believe in and because it is consistent with your actions in the past they will follow.

Be able to explain your position

Always be able to answer the “Why” question. If you are unable to explain why you believe something is fair and needs to be done then how can you expect others to believe in it? People have different points of view on what “fair” is and being able to explain your position is the key.

Be transparent and consistent

Explaining your position is the start. The next step is to announce it to the team so they understand what the decision is, why it was done, and why you believe it is fair this way. It is there for everyone to see. You prevent people speculating about hidden agendas and secret deals, you show them trust and because it is consistent with your standard behavior the team will accept your view of the fairness. And even if they don’t believe it deep in their hearts they will at least accept it.

Set the rules and follow them

To help you being consistent you may need more than set of values. What helps is having couple of basic rules derived from your values. Value itself might be difficult to explain. You can have values like “openness” or “fairness” but what does it actually means? As discussed before these may mean different things to different people so you need to have set of simple rules that explain the values.

Play with the cards you’ve got

Sometimes you get to a tough spot when whatever you do it is clear that your actions will not be seen fair by everyone. There will be those who will feel that even after your explanation it just isn’t fair. Then don’t dwell on the fairness and turn it around. Don’t focus on the negative impact to that individual but find the positive side. As the saying goes “every cloud has a silver lining” and it is just a question of mindset. If you help your team member who feel something wasn’t fair to find the positive side in long-term or just push his focus away of the issue to something more positive it helps. It will not change anything on the decision or the way the person feels about it but it will move his attention to something more positive. And human brain is wired in such a way that we get more of things and feelings we focus on.

Let me illustrate these things on a simple example. Your company sits in a building that offers ten parking spots per hundred people. How do you decide who should get the spot and who needs to park farther away from the office? What most companies would do is to give it to the most senior team members, usually managers. Is it fair? Sure it is, from the perspective of the managers. But what the perspective of the team? They work as hard as the managers so why the preferential treatment? What if the environment you are creating promotes equality? What if you want the managers to be really close to the team? Then you just cannot do it this way. So you follow the principles outlined above and can come up for example with something like this:

  • Have clear values and stick to them = you treat all your people with respect and the same way regarding of the title or position in the company
  • Set the rules and follow them = who comes from outside the city limits gets the parking spot, who lives in the city can use other means; be clear in that you understand there are other approaches that can be seen as fair by someone, but since we selected one approach we will follow it
  • Be transparent and consistent = be clear on who got the spot; don’t make exceptions, that would break trust of the team
  • Be able to explain your position = you provide equal opportunities and you believe that for a team work everyone has should get an equal chance to feel the successes but also the pain (not having space to park the car); only because someone has a fancy title doesn’t make him better person than rest of the team
  • Play with the cards you got = for those who travel just from within the city the use of public transport can be a hidden opportunity to read, or to use bicycle and do something for their health; or bring up solidarity with those who have to travel from far away

The best thing you can do as a leader and in fact as an individual is to learn to play with the cards life deals to you. Compare it with a game of poker or any other card game. When you get your cards dealt you don’t get angry or upset and start complaining that it is not fair you got just one pair and your opponent royal flush. You just accept the cards and make the best out of it. With that attitude you will enjoy the game and be glad you can be with your friends and have some relaxing time. So why not to behave the same way in the real life?

Twitter type summary: “Sticking with your values, being firm, transparent and consistent in your actions will make you seen as a leader who is fair.”

How do you decide what is fair? Does it even matter? How do you deal with people who feel your decisions are not fair and who are hurt by it?

The ultimate question of life, the universe and everything

Why are you here? What is your purpose in this life? Have you ever asked this question? No? Maybe you should. How do you expect to be happy and live a rich life if you don’t know what do you want, why do you want it, and how do you get it? This is the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything. And no, the answer is not “42”. To get the real answer try to examine two things governing your life behind the scenes: your values and your passions.

Values

What do you know about yourself? There are some core values that tell you how to act, what is right and wrong, who to be friend with and what priorities to focus on. How do you find your core values? You need to go deep into yourself to find out. The best way would be with a help of a life coach but you can try to use one of these simple approaches to get started.

Find yourself a quiet and relaxing place where you can think. Answer these questions and don’t let the first obvious answer stop you, always dig deeper and try to understand “why”.

  • The Animal Exercise – let us say you could transform to an animal. Which one would it be? Now, close your eyes and imagine that you are the animal. Why? What does it bring to you? How do you feel? Why is it important to you? What environment are you in? What actions do you take? What skills do you use? What values govern your life?
  • The Peak Moments Exercise – Pick couple of moments from your life where you felt great and happy. Get back to the moment and feel it. Why was it so special? Where were you? What did you do? Why did you do it? Who did you were with? Consider all the examples and ask yourself: What were the common values in all these peak moments of your life? Why do you consider them the best?
  • The Remote Island Exercise – Imagine you get marooned on a remote tropical island. What three friends would you take with you? And why these three in particular? What qualities they have? Why are they so special to you? What values should the best friend have? What three things would you take? What three books or movies? And always ask why these books, why these movies. What do they have in common that makes you like them? What values they represent?

Select the exercise that you feel would work for you. Don’t rush it. Try to find the values behind values. Don’t let the first obvious answer stop you. For example, if you say you would take with you to the island a credit card loaded with money and the answer to “why” is “So I can buy stuff.” Don’t stop there. Dig deeper and examine why you want to buy stuff, what does it bring? Maybe you discover that it is not about buying stuff but there is some deeper value that just manifests this way.

Passions

Examine what are the things and activities you are passionate about. Asks yourselves these questions:

  • What are the things that make me happy?
  • What are the things that make me enthusiastic?
  • What are the things that make me act?

And again don’t stay on the surface but get deeper. Let me give you an example of one of my passions. I just love seeing people around me grow and learn new things. When I see that a person on my team accomplished something great that pushed him to the next level of a particular skill it makes me genuinely happy and fills me with energy. When there is a discussion about developing people and growing the team I’m the first one to speak. When there is a need to work on developmental plans or performance improvements I’m the first one to raise my hand and get involved. All this indicates a real passion for working with people, growing and leading teams. When I know this about myself it is easy to get more of it into my life. I can steer my career in the direction that gives me the opportunity to use this passion.

If you focus on both values and the passions you will discover that they are overlapping, they support and enhance each other. In my case the passion for helping people grow would overlap with my value of usefulness (doing something that matters and being useful to others). So think! What are your passions? And when you discover them how can you get more of them into your life? If you are in a job that is not aligned with your passions you should consider how to get at least a small piece of them to your current tasks. Gradually, it will expand. It is a natural progress. Because it is your passion you will be really good at it, others will notice and will give you even more opportunities to utilize it.

What is your answer to the question? Why are you here? How do you know it is the real reason?

By the way, if you didn’t get the joke about “the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything” and the answer “42” I suggest you read a hilarious book Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy written by Douglas Adams or watch the series of the same title produced by BBC.