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
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
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.