Guest Post by Tanja Gardner
I haven’t always been in touch with my purpose
Can I tell you a secret? Back when I was first starting out in business, the idea of “having a bold mission” just didn’t resonate with me. You see, when I left my copywriting job to go into full-time entrepreneurship, I knew I wanted to make a difference in the world. But I had absolutely no idea what that difference was supposed to be.
So I figured I’d work with what I had, and use my skills as a copywriter to help other people make their difference in the world. If anyone ever asked me about my mission, that’s what I’d talk about. But somehow, even though it was “a mission”, it never felt 100% like “my mission”.
And I resigned myself to that being enough… until I discovered just how strongly I felt the pull to help fellow introverted business owners.
From the outside, it looks like I accidentally “fell” into my mission
Let me be clear: I’ve never thought of a purpose or mission as something fixed, unchanging, and cosmically ordained that we have to “find”. Instead, I believe we get to choose our purpose – to make a conscious decision about what we want our lives to mean. I also think our missions can change over time: your purpose now probably won’t still be your purpose in 5 years’ time.
When I look back over the past 18 months, some part of me can’t help wondering…
If you’re curious, you can read the full story behind my introvert-focussed business on my website. The Cliff’s notes version is that I realised I was introverted after reading a blog post on the topic… And that post sparked such a deep-felt sense of recognition that I ended up building a business around the concept.
Then, as I started to work with fellow introverts who were dealing with the same frustrations I had, I realised something. Helping them lit me up in a way copywriting just didn’t touch. It was what I wanted to do with my life.
Apparently, my mission had found me.
The problem: it’s easy to assume only extroverts get to have bold missions
Before I could figure out what to do with that mission, I had to get past a major internal block. I had to get my head around the idea that I, as an introvert, could actually have a mission in the first place.
Why? Well, here are some of the impressions I’d formed about people who’d found (or chosen) any kind of bold mission:
- They were natural born leaders who were either comfortable taking the helm, or at least wanted to learn the skills to be there
- They were natural risk-takers who were happy to throw everything they had behind a single cause
- They were “people people” who lived to enrol as many people as possible in their mission, as quickly as possible
None of those things described me. I far prefer finding a leader I can respect and trust, and then supporting them; compared to leading others myself. I’m probably one of the more risk-averse entrepreneurs I know. And I’ve always subscribed to a “no one right way” credo that involves doing my thing and letting others do theirs.
All of which are fairly common traits among introverts. And all of which seemed to make me a lousy candidate for being someone with a bold mission.
Then I realised my introversion could actually be a serious plus
As I learned more about introversion, I discovered that introverts aren’t – as they’re sometimes portrayed – just “failed extroverts”. There isn’t just one set of desirable strengths and skills that make you an extrovert if you have them; or an introvert if you lack them.
Instead, we introverts have our own set of typical strengths and skills. And while each introvert is different (so we won’t all have every skill), each of those skills is more common in us than in our extroverted friends.
I also learned that my “no one right way” credo applied just as much to potential ways to fulfil a mission. And I realised I had strengths that could help me fulfil mine, including:
- Writing: introverts often enjoy – and are great at – written communication, and it’s definitely one of my strengths. Since so much of movement-building involves writing (web copy, emails, blog posts, etc), that’s a great skill to have.
- Building expertise: my purpose is to help fellow introverted entrepreneurs. That means I need to build a reasonable level of expertise in the challenges they struggle with, and the potential tools and resources that might solve those challenges.
- Creating deep, lasting relationships: it’s not true that we introverts are anti-social, but we’re often “differently social”. Rather than quickly making a big group of friends, we prefer to slowly build a few strong relationships over time. And those kinds of deep relationships are essential for me to make the difference I long to make in the world!
In other words, I already had many of the strengths I needed to fulfil my mission… I just needed to recognise them and how I could use them, instead of focusing on what I lacked.
How about you?
Do you see yourself as more of an introvert, more of an extrovert, or somewhere in between?
How does your answer to that question affect the extent to which you feel able to fulfil your own mission?
And – regardless of your introversion or extroversion, how good are you at identifying your strengths and working with them?
Please let me know in the comments!
Tanja Gardner from Conscious Introvert Success is a deeply introverted (but not even *slightly* shy!) heart-based entrepreneur who helps fellow introverts to grow their businesses without exhausting themselves.
Or you can check out Conscious Introvert Awesomeness: her free community for introverted business owners to connect with and support each other.