My grandfather was a colorful, engaging man, brimming with stories and “-isms” that always left his audience spellbound — which delighted him to no end. That, along with his crooked smile and the fact that his eyes actually twinkled earned him the nickname Sneaky Pete. His maxims have been told and retold so many times that I can no longer remember which ones he actually said to me. Such is the breadth of his mythos.
One of my favorite sayings in his repertoire was the declaration that someone had “bit a fat hog in the ass,” which was his delightful way of telling them they bit off more than they could chew. I can’t recall whether it was ever uttered to me directly, but it doesn’t matter; in either case, I will never forget it.
However, here’s the thing about me and fat hogs that makes me think he never did: As an introvert, I did not often bite them (and not just because I’m a vegetarian).
Why Introverts Struggle to Take Big Leaps
Throughout my time working with introverts as a personal coach, I’ve come to discover this tendency is not unique to me. Many introverts I’ve met are brilliant, competent, and creative. Yet they often don’t feel they are capable of taking big leaps — asking for the promotion, writing the book, quitting the job before they have the next step meticulously mapped out.
Why is this?
The science is in; introverts and extroverts function differently because they are different. Compared to extroverts, introverts are more likely to be listeners rather than speakers, observers rather than players, and to think rather than act. For many of us, our reticence is born out of a deep thoughtfulness and an aversion to conflict. This aversion may be so unconscious that we equate going after what we want with conflict because it might inconvenience someone else. We can do this without even realizing it.
But if we’re going to take the leap, we must learn that the value of bringing our best selves to the world outweighs the possibility of irking some people along the way.
It is why we are here.
Introverts, it is time to bite our own fat hogs.
Ask Yourself, ‘Is It True?’
If you’re an introvert who has already chomped down and are finding yourself in a state of paralyzed panic, not knowing what you’ve gotten yourself into, I have one question: Is it true?
Whatever ugliness is rearing its head, stop and look at things as objectively as possible. Do you not have any of the needed knowledge or skills to make this happen? Have you never done anything at all similar in the past? Can you not think of one other time in your life where you have done something hard and it worked out?
“Is it true?” has become my go-to mantra/question, both for myself and for those I’m lucky enough to work with as clients. It may not take away all the fear and anxiety (I would argue that if it did, we didn’t take a large-enough bite), but it’s a callback to ourselves.
The truth this question reveals is that our fear is never true, at least not entirely. And if it’s not true, then we just need to figure out a plan to move around it.
Pick the One Thing That Will Make Everything Easier
One of my favorite tools to employ when I hit the point of panic is another question. This one comes courtesy of Gary Keller’s book, The ONE Thing. The question he poses is the same one I ask when my clients hit an impasse:
“What is the one thing you can do, such that by doing it, everything else will be easier or unnecessary?”
Keller doesn’t call the book The ONE Thing for no reason. As introverts, we can look at a goal and see all the things: all the tasks down to the most minute, all the potential setbacks, even the most extreme ones. Case in point: Once I talked myself out of sending an email because what if the economy collapses tomorrow?
However, the key to making our big leap work is identifying the one thing, not the top five things, or the top 20.
I’m not saying this part is easy. Empathy is a strong driver for many introverts, and because of this, we’re programmed to look at things from every angle. This can even apply to our to-do lists. Deciding which task has value over another can be a struggle in and of itself.
But even if you get it “wrong,” you’ve still moved closer to your end goal. Once that “one thing” is completed, you pick the next “one thing.”
As a fun bonus, if the “one thing” can be done in solitude, our introvert ability to focus intensely comes swooping in as a major strength here! That’s it. One thing and then another, and then another. That’s how you move past this fat hog and onto the next.
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It’s Simple, Not Easy
The last thing I’d like to address is Fear of the Fat Hog. Paralysis by analysis is a real threat to us introverts. If you’re finding yourself in this position — on the edge of taking The Leap but unable to move forward — a coach may be able to help. Sure, I’m saying this in part because I am a coach, so I believe in coaching’s transformative power. But I’m also saying this because I’ve seen coaching work for so many quiet creatives.
I honestly believe that empowered introverts will save the world from its current state. Coaching can be an incredible means to help you take that leap.
For good measure, I want to offer one more aphorism, this one from my mother:
“It’s simple, not easy.”
Like all work we do to create better selves and better lives, it’s true that there aren’t any shortcuts. Yes, there are tools, guides, and support systems that can be tremendously helpful, but real change happens only when you commit to some heavy lifting.
It’s simple, not easy. But dear introvert, you can do it. I know you can.
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