home free stuff is this you? how we work services introverts - wow! testimonials nancy okerlund contact us resources

Nancy Okerlund
Volume 1, Issue 3, 8/10/07

Collecting "Hap Hits"

My dad, Harry Sherman, was a master vegetable gardener. He died four years ago in July at the age of 90. This year on the anniversary of his passing, I decided to spend the day gardening.

I'm not a master gardener of anything, but I love being in the dirt and I love to weed, so our yardful of flower beds - mainly tended by my gardening-loving partner - was just the place for me.

My dad was an introvert and as I slowly, carefully weeded, deadheaded and did a little transplanting (with instruction!) I compared notes on these two introverts and their gardening - my dad and me.

Introverts are known for their ability to focus and concentrate deeply for long periods. It has to do with the predominant introvert brain chemical, acetylcholine, and it has to do with more blood flow and higher activity in the frontal lobes in the brains of introverts. As brain experts say, the brain is always torn between speed and accuracy, and the introvert brain prefers accuracy. (Focus and concentration are good for that.) My dad was such an introvert gardener. His concentration was endless. In early winter there were the piles of seed catalogs. He studied them and ordered regularly-changing varieties of tomatoes, beans, eggplants and all the rest - and tracked the changes from year to year. In late winter/early spring there were the hundreds of baby plants he raised from seed, treating each one like a little princess or prince, it seemed to me.

And from the time the garden was planted (and it wasn't small), he could give a detailed report on the well-being of everything in it, whenever you asked. His focus seemed almost single-minded, into at least late September. (My mother had a love-hate relationship with the garden.) He always moved at a slow pace (even when he was young), and seemed to pause often, leaning on the hoe, looking out onto the prairie.

He successfully used the garden as a way to get lots of alone time - except for short visits from the outside world, it was his private space. I sensed a certain sadness at the relative lack of attention he gave the rest of the yard, but his priority was clear - and it wasn't trees, grass or flowers.

I, on the other hand, am an introvert non-gardener. I love the idea of gardening and I love the actual experience, once I'm doing it. But between the idea and the experience is a big lake of ambivalence. Here's what I can say about my ambivalence: that natural introvert tendency to focus and go deep plus the part of me that loves being in the dirt could easily equal me walking out into the backyard to "do a little weeding" and not surfacing for 3 hours.

That could be wonderful except I haven't made gardening a priority, so my life isn't set up to spend hours and hours doing it. I've been living in the fog of ambivalence - attracted but not committed. Indecisive and not very happy about it.

For my dad, growing things was in his blood - it had to be a priority. He must have recognized that and gave himself to it. And he got untold pleasure, even in the face of frequent North Dakota droughts.

Here's why it's important for introverts to be clear about our priorities. Researchers have a term called "hap hits". It refers to a feeling of satisfaction, enjoyment - "hits" of happiness. Introverts get hap hits from experiencing things in depth. Extroverts get hap hits from lots of stimulation. Typically they thrive on a wider net of experiences than introverts. As introverts, if we spread ourselves too thin and don't experience our natural inclination to focus and concentrate in depth, we miss out on hap hits. And probably also feel over-stimulated - a double whammy.

As for me and my day of gardening, I got a lot of hap hits. I let myself go at my own pace (rather than having a goal of weeding the whole yard). Each little section I worked on was a pleasure - it was tending in-depth! And I got to be with my thoughts and feelings about my dad - lots of introspection, in the dirt :-). And now, a few weeks later, I can see that my lake of ambivalence has shrunk to more of a pond. I'm not a gardener but I do spend time in the dirt.

End of food for thought, on to practical ideas:

A Practical Idea for Introverts

Notice where in your life you focus and concentrate for long periods of time. If it's not happening to your satisfaction, choose something attractive to focus on and carve out some time to concentrate on it with some depth. Go for hap hits! Or if you're tired out from trying to squeeze your concentrating into a too-busy life, take a look at your priorities - do you have too many?

A Practical Idea for Extroverts

Spend 10 or 15 minutes listening to an introvert in your life talk to you about something they love to do.

© Introvert Energy 2003 - 2007 | all rights reserved | 612.823.3199 | nancy@introvertenergy.com