“Hard choices easy life. Easy choices hard life.” ― Jerzy Gregorek
“Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about learning to dance in the rain.” ― Vivian Greene
“Half of the troubles of this life can be traced to saying yes too quickly and not saying no soon enough.” ― Josh Billings
Dealing with daily struggles can be a real pain in the *ss, especially if you have a disastrous combination of introversion and pessimism like me. However, having some guidelines or a method of some sort can help you improve your quality of life immensely.
With this post, I’ll explain why I think you should learn to reject immobilizing things such as “social pressure” and learn to say “no” immediately. I will also give a few examples of methods which you can use to immensely change your life in a positive manner, so keep reading if you’re looking for a practical approach.
If you’re impatient and wish to skip a lot of bla bla to get to the methods immediately, you can scroll down to “1). Apply the 80/20 rule whenever possible”, “2). Minimize the chance of receiving choices at any given time on which you really should not (want to) be dealing with them.” or “3). Wrap your head around one (difficult) decision at a time”.
Of course everyone has to deal with a lot of stuff on a daily basis, but the amount of struggles that an introvert has to elbow through on a given day can often be overwhelming. According to introvertdear.com :
“The definition of an introvert is someone who prefers calm, minimally stimulating environments. Introverts tend to feel drained after socializing and regain their energy by spending time alone.”
Up until recently, I’ve always felt a bit out of place in society, but I’ve never seen myself as an introvert. However, searching the internet for answers to my reoccurring struggles, I quickly realized that I most certainly am an introvert. Even more so, after reading Wikipedia’s description of introversion, it seems that I’ve been asleep my whole life because it could not have been more obvious. Turns out that I’m such an excessive introvert that if you knew me and you would have to describe introversion in the easiest way possible, you could just point your finger towards me…
Alright, I can understand this may all just sound a bit dramatic, but here are a few things that sum up my personality:
I ‘m always reserved, can’t really enjoy thinks without first going through all the possible (mainly bad) outcomes
I ‘m always reflecting whether I could have done things better
Just thinking about having to a group meeting (such as a birthday party) makes me want to disappear
If there’s a possibility to torture myself and keep on struggling by trying to do something alone instead of ask for help, I will do so immediately
If there’s anything I can do for myself, rather than with someone, I will
Doing simple stuff, just to think my way through things clears my mind and gives me energy
Back in the day when I was still a little, much happier and carefree boy, I liked to play games all day long and filled the rest of the day by fishing for hours at a time
Nowadays, I’m a scientist, like to read (mostly self-help and entrepreneurship related), write, sit in front of my monitor without being disturbed or watch the television while using Netflix or holding a gaming controller in my hands.
Now, here’s Wikipedia’s description:
“Introverts are typically perceived as more reserved or reflective. Some popular psychologists have characterized introverts as people whose energy tends to expand through reflection and dwindle during interaction. Introverts often take pleasure in solitary activities such as reading, writing, using computers, hiking, or fishing. The archetypal artist, writer, sculptor, scientist, engineer, composer, and inventor are all highly introverted. An introvert is likely to enjoy time spent alone and find less reward in time spent with large groups of people”
Needless to say, there are some similarities…
A common thought of us introverts seems to be that we feel different than, and do not fit in with, the majority. However, according to Isabel Briggs Myers the opposite is true. As she describes in MBTI Manual: A Guide to the Development and Use of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, roughly half the population of the US (50.7% to be exactly) has an introvert preference. The excessive introvert that I am, I never would have thought the population of extroverts and introverts is actually the same.
The first thing that came to my mind after reading that number was that if you were to extend this distribution to the rest of the world, it would mean that roughly half of the world’s entire population can be struggling with feelings and minute decisions on a regular (maybe even daily) basis, yet somehow the other half of world’s population probably wouldn’t have by far as much difficulties regarding the same decisions.
For introverts, even the simplest little things such as saying no to a birthday invitation, going out with friends, speaking up in a crowd to give an opinion (let alone clearly disagreeing with someone) can cause all kinds of mental struggles which may last until finally a (usually unsatisfying) decision has been made…
But why? Why should you (introvert or not) put yourself aside and allow extremely unhelpful thoughts, opinions or feelings take over control of your life while they do nothing but make you feel irritated, uncomfortable, unhappy or maybe even depressive?
Sure, it’s nice not to be seen as a weirdo and just fit in with the herd…
But wait what!? There is no real herd here, the groups of extroverts and introverts are equal So now what?
Well, if two groups count equal individuals, a decision made by the individuals from one of the two groups simply can’t be labeled as unusual, uncommon or abnormal because there’s no majority from which can be deviated.
I came to realize that if there are approximately the same amount of extroverts and introverts, a decision made by one of the two can never be uncommon. In other words, the feelings that you may experience as an introvert aren’t strange or weird at all, so why should you not listen to them and set your self being aside?
Well, you shouldn’t. There are lots of other people not doing it, so why should you?
Maybe you’ll have to ask yourself this:
Do I really want to keep struggling with minute decisions for the rest of my life? I sure hope not.
Can’t I just do something about my struggles and probably enjoy the rest of my time on this planet just a bit more? Sure you can. If someone like me with a disastrous combination of introversion and pessimism can do it, so can you.
Alright, it may not be easy, I give you that. Sometimes the world around you may just seem to fall apart, even though you’ve given your absolute best to prevent disasters from striking you on every angle imaginable. Yet it happens anyway… All at once…
But does it mean that although you may expect the world slapping you in the face while you’ve given everything to prevent it, you shouldn’t try to do it anyway?
Even if you only had the slightest chance to improve your lifetime decision-making power, shield against emotional stress, or maybe even your quality of life in general in the smallest way possible, shouldn’t you try it anyway?
I think you should. At least give it a try and see what happens. After all, by doing so, you lose nothing other than a bit of energy and that’s easily fixed. Just eat an extra sandwich or sleep a little longer…
But how exactly do you improve your decision-making power or your shield against emotional stress?
Unfortunately, I think there is no definitive answer that counts for everyone. After all, everyone’s situation is different. Even if you may have a clear problem which you want to tackle, I think there is never a “best option” to improve your lifestyle.
Simply put, if you have an idea, or if you’re inspired by someone else’s methods which you believe can really improve your quality of life, just go ahead and try it and see what happens. No matter how extraordinary something might seem, or what others might say about it, just try to remember:
Even if this has the slightest chance to improve my quality of life in the smallest way possible, it’s worth trying it anyway.
Humans are creatures of habits and for creatures of habits, change is one of the biggest challenges that exists. However, if you are really willing to tackle your struggles, the motivation to proceed with the change that comes with a new way of dealing with things will come naturally.
Now, enough with my reasons and motivational bla bla…
If you don’t know where to begin, or if you’re looking for alternatives to what you’ve already tried, here are some methods you can get started on right away and which I try to incorporate into my life as much as possible.
1). Apply the 80/20 rule whenever possible
“for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.”
The 80/20 rule can be applied to all sorts of stuff and by realizing this, learning to apply the 80/20 rule can make your life a whole lot easier, effective and fun. Because I think applying the 80/20 rule can have such a positive impact on your life, I will likely dedicate a whole post to it somewhere in the future, but for now you may try to apply it by asking yourself:
Which 20% of the people I interact with and/or invitations I receive cause 80% (or more) of my irritations, stresses or uncomfortable feelings?
I myself am always having a hard time making social decisions, so I know this can be a tough one to answer honestly without thinking about the consequences of the next steps, but try it anyway.
After you’ve given your absolute honest answer, start thinking about ways you can eliminate those 20% of the people and/or invitations that cause 80% (or more) of your irritations, stresses or uncomfortable feelings, preferably also using the 80/20 rule.
In this case, the followup question you want to be asking yourself might look like something such as:
What is the easiest and/or quickest way to eliminate at least 80% of all my irritations, stresses or uncomfortable feelings caused by the 20% of the people I interact with and/or invitations that I receive?
Usually, the answers that emerge to just two of these type of questions is all you need to identify your personal solution. If, in this case, it means you should give up a relationship with a childhood friend, relative or even your partner, so be it.
Now, please don’t jump to conclusions and burn all your bridges behind you. Make sure you’ve asked the right type of questions, given honest answers and sit on them for a while before doing something unfounded. Unfortunately, the harder the honest answers were to give and/or the longer they took to present themselves, the harder it will likely be to realize the solution.
2). Minimize the chance of receiving choices at any given time on which you really should not (want to) be dealing with them
One of the first things most of us do in the morning is probably take a look at our phones. This is understandable because we’re living in an information rich society with social anxieties such as the fear of missing out (FOMO), we’ve somewhat been programmed by all information-spreading companies to take as much information to us as possible.
But is this really necessary?
Can’t you just put your phone on airplane mode before you go to bed and not take it off until you’ve completed your morning routine?
What’s the worst thing that can happen when your friends, family or colleagues are talking about something you haven’t heard of?
Maybe you’re afraid that they will see you as an outsider, the only one not knowing where they are talking about?
I’m sure there are a couple of more reasons why you might be afraid to miss out on something, but the chance of not knowing where people are talking about is probably one of the biggest reasons why you might be afraid to miss out on something, so let’s continue with that.
If all you’re scared about is not knowing where people are talking about, it’s easily solvable. Usually, you won’t have to read an entire article or watch the entire news to participate in a conversation, you just need the subject, not the details. So, why not just ask?
I’m sorry, I didn’t hear it yet, what happened?
I’m sorry, I think I’ve missed it, what did he say?
With the simplest little questions such as these, you’re usually good to go and participate just like you could have done after wasting time reading an entire article or watching the entire news.
To come back to the point why I really wanted to list this practical exercise, the nicest thing of realizing this is that, not only will you be able to save yourself a ton of time by not wanting to consume all information you can get, but you can also avoid (difficult) decisions at times you don’t want to hear about them.
Why would you want to read a message of someone going on and on about something unimportant that happened, what time to pick you up next week, or what he/she should give to your boyfriend/girlfriend for his/her birthday while all you’re trying to do that evening is binge-watching House of Cards, The 100 or Narcos?
Why should you want to read that your colleague is sick so you’ll have to work double time, even before you’ve drunk your gigantic mug of coffee, eaten your breakfast or have been under the shower?
I don’t know, because I think you shouldn’t.
Now, there are some exceptions of course. If a close friend or family member is really really sick and it may just be his/her last living days on earth, or if your wife can go in to labor any moment, of course you want to make sure you minimize the chance of missing that one important message, but other than that…
Just go ahead and try it: put your phone on airplane mode once you’ve decided you’re done for the day and want to relax, but certainly before you go to bed and make sure not to take it off until you’ve had your morning routine, you’re at work, or you’ve had your lunch. When you´re emotionally just a bit more stable than let´s say, late in the evening or early in the morning and you feel like you can handle some decisions, you may want to consider the following approach.
3). Wrap your head around one (difficult) decision at a time
Multitasking is extremely overrated. Nowadays, people seem to think that you can only be productive if you’re capable of doing at least three tings at once, preferably within a tight schedule. According to Forbes:
“98% of the population doesn’t multi-task very well.”
If you want to give someone a hilarious picture to look at, just try doing the dishes, watering the plants and folding up the laundry while playing with your cat all at once. It just doesn’t work very well…
BTW, this doesn’t only count for work- or household related stuff, but for anything really. Trying to do even just two things at once can be disastrous, or will at the very least, result in sub-optimal results for both activities. I think the The Huffington Post nailed it with the following sentence:
“You can liken your brain to a computer – the more windows and programs in operation, the less speed you have overall.”
Not only do we try to do multiple things at once with sub-optimal results as a consequence, but we may even try to do impossible things….
Try reading a book, while watching (and/or listening) television. It’s literally impossible to let your eyes focus on the pages of a book and the television at once, yet many of us (including myself) have probably tried it. However, let’s say you would accept the fact that we humans are incapable of doing such things at once and you would just leave your television of, you may just read the entire chapter you want to read a lot easier, storing a lot more of the information in your memory and even finish a lot earlier, leaving you with time to turn on and really focus on the television, again storing more information in your memory….
I can understand that this may sound very obvious, but the same rules apply to perhaps somewhat less obvious activities such as decision making. Just like trying to read a book and watch television at the same time, trying to wrap your head around a ton of decisions at once will results in sub-optimal results. Instead, try to deal with one decision at a time, preferably giving priority to the decisions which impact your nearest future. You can make some exceptions though…
If your presented with a decision which isn’t attached to major consequences and you feel like you already know what (you would like) to decide, just decide.
Let’s say you’re invited to a birthday party of which you instantly know you probably won’t really enjoy going to, you can decide not to decide immediately, but you’ll probably just end up thinking about it over and over again until you can’t postpone the decision any longer. In the end, the decision will most likely be the same or possibly even worse in case you decide it’s to late to cancel and you end up sacrificing yourself by going anyway, even though you’re not looking forward to it. Even if you still decide not to go, you could have saved yourself a lot of focus and “decision-making power” between the invitation and the final decision because of all the worries and switching costs that may have been the result of thinking about it over and over again.
As little as they might seem, keeping decisions floating around in the back of your head will cloud your judgment and can result in mistakes, possibly bigger than you could have ever imagined.
I hope I’ll be able to help at least one person on the planet with this post, even if it may just be in the smallest way possible. However, this blog won’t do much good without an audience so please feel free to comment to share any thoughts and/or your personal experiences. Also, do not hesitate to share any other stuff that might be helpful for other readers. If you decide to take part in the discussion by commenting, please make sure to be nice at all times. Founded criticism is OK, but any rudeness will get your stuff deleted. Also, make sure to use your personal name, don’t use any business names and don’t put your URL in the comment.