Saturday, January 16, 2010

Peopled days and quiet nights

introvert-extrovertI tend to see myself as an extrovert.  I enjoy a good conversation, look forward to seeing friends, have learned to make the most of networking events, and will walk a mile (in British weather) to give a pitch or hear a good lecture.

The psychologic literature characterizes traits like extroversion using axes, a +/- scale with an associated inventory of questions to determine where you fall along the continuum.   Jung defines extroversion as being energized by other people, while introverted people are energized by being alone.  I have always tended a bit towards introversion in Myers-Briggs tests, and shrugged it off as simply inaccurate.

The past two days have been a whirl of meetings and presentations.  My lectures at Cambridge went really well, a couple of hours in the morning and two more in the afternoon that generated good questions and discussion and helped me to see what I do more clearly.  Meetings with colleagues and friends flowed one after the other for the next day and a half as I bounced from stop to stop, topic to topic, for a day and a half.

And, at the end, I’m exhausted.

Driving across the rolling countryside to Norwich this afternoon, I really valued the quiet and the space.  Partly it was just having time to absorb and think about everything I’d heard.  Partly it was a feeling that I was ‘talked out’ and needed a day off to recharge.  Partly it came from hearing some hard truths along the way that mirrored some questions I’d been mulling about the shape of the business and where I should settle down.

I feel much more myself today after a good night’s sleep, renewal came from having a bit of time away from people.  It’s the very definition of introverted.

Intro-Extro I believe, as Piaget suggested, that we are always maintaining an active equilibrium between our inner states and the outer world.  Our interpretations balance between assimilation and accommodation of observed facts, between understanding them and adapting to them, respectively.  Similarly, I wonder whether we really are, by nature, simply introverted or extroverted?  I suspect that we are, rather, in a dynamic equilibrium between the two, shifting balance back and forth in response to stress.

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