relationships

365 Challenge: Day 5 – Shy

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Shy: being reserved or having or showing nervousness or timidity in the company of other people

Am I shy? My instinct is to say overwhelmingly yes, but I’m more like the 80/20 rule when it comes to being shy. How so, you ask?

Undoubtedly, if I walk into a room where I do not know anyone, I will find the closest empty spot and attempt to blend into the scenery (wearing those plain colors comes in handy, you see, of course)! Strangers are scary. They want you to talk to them. They look at you and probably make up terribly embarrassing things about you. OK, now that’s just silliness.

Yes, I am shy and I do try to blend into the scenery. I worry about others’ perceptions of me, but not enough that I am overly anxious about it. I probably won’t be the person who initiates a conversation if I am completely foreign to the crowd and the gathering’s purpose is not something I am passionate about. For example… if I were to walk into a crowded room of readers, genealogists, writers, grandmothers, etc., I’d feel comfortable and strike up a conversation. But if I walked into a room of people all waiting in line for something, or an auto parts store, or even a train station, I would not want to interact with anyone.

I don’t get obviously nervous, e.g. sweating profusely or babbling. I just pull out my phone or a book and ignore everyone else rather than make an effort to be congenial. If someone attempts conversation with me, it’s a 50/50 shot whether or not I will respond with any sort of non-verbal or verbal invitation to continue to conversation. I won’t be rude, but I’ll use close-ended answers rather than be open-ended in my replies, hopefully politely discouraging further attempts at communication.

That said, if I walk into a room full of people with common interests, I will initiate conversation. And if it’s people I know, I will also converse and enjoy the time. But I’m not entirely comfortable where I let my guard down. I still consciously think about the fact that I’m around more than 1 or 2 people at a single time and need to be acutely aware of everything I say and do.

However, on some rare occasions, when it’s more than just me and 1 or 2 other people, I do find myself quite comfortable around others and willing to talk or engage in some sort of discourse. And when it does, there have been 3 types of scenarios or reactions:

  1. I’ve had a few drinks such that I’m less conscious of my surroundings but not so altered to the point where anyone would think differently. It’s enough to make me what I assume is how everyone else generally feels: Comfortable, unconcerned, open, relaxed…
  2. I’m having a rather confident day where I feel ultra sexy, handsome, smart, cute <<insert adjective related to wherever it is I am>>; as a result, I feel like I’m standing out for positive reasons and others will naturally flock towards me. (No, I don’t think I have self-image issues… it’s more like… “I’m fine with who I am and being average, but today I see a whole lot more.”)
  3. I’m in search of something that I believe I can catch, conquer, amass, learn or get. Perhaps I was in a bar/club and flirting in search of meeting someone. Or maybe I’m trying to show off certain strengths to convince someone to do something my way. It could be that I’m the focal point among people I’m known for a long enough time period where I know they know my flaws and idiosyncrasies, and I don’t mind it being obvious!

I certainly couldn’t claim I’m 100% shy, especially given some of the things I’ve seen myself do over the years. I am fairly strong when it comes to public speaking. I’ve led teams of over 100 people in the corporate world. I’ve flirted and left a bar with someone I barely knew. I’ve been naked (without having any drinks) in front of a few others for a non-sexual purpose. (A dare… don’t ask… it’s enough to admit it).

But my initial reaction to anything I believe will have people I don’t know is generally not a positive one. When friends suggest bringing another friend along, my mind thinks “scary stranger.” When someone talks to me in public, I’m usually highly aware of my surroundings but at the same time, turning off an ability to hear anyone say something. So while I know there are 3 people in one corner and an exit in another and a cashier looking around for the manager, I fail to recognize 1 of those 3 people just said “excuse me, do you know where ‘x’ is?” And when I do, I ALWAYS respond with “I’m sorry, what?” and an expression similar to that of a 3 year-old being forced to eat vegetables.

I am pretty sure my body language gives off the vibe “don’t talk to me” but on the flip side, when I do know you, absolutely no topic is off limits. You want me to reveal a horrible secret about me, sure… I’m honest and blunt about those things. You want to talk about something deep and troubling, OK, happy to cover how it felt to have a kidney stone at 8 years-old screaming “what the hell is coming out of my #$#@.” (I got a puppy out of it because no one believed me when I said I was peeing blood!) I’ve got super high boundaries but they are very easily removed.

So there’s the 20%. A bit disorganized today in my thoughts, but at the same time, I think it probably showcases a lot about who I am.

365 Challenge: For those new to these posts, I’m posting a characteristic I either currently have or I want to have. Check out more here.

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365 Challenge: Day 4 – Creativity

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Creativity: the use of the imagination or original ideas, especially in the production of an artistic work

Everyone has a creative side; it’s about how creative you are as an individual versus what it is you are creative in. Some of us have creative jobs but lack creativity in our personal lives. Others have your stuffy corporate career but a few exhilarating passions where your creativity knows no bounds.

I have traditionally held non-creative positions throughout my career: technical writer, business analyst, project manager, SVP of Technology, VP of Program Management, et al. And in those positions, it was generally about “how much can I get done in how quick of a period with the biggest positive impact?” Every so often I’d include a fun picture in my presentation or a cute quote in a semi-casual email. But for the most part, I was non-creative.

In my personal life… 50/50. I like to clean and organize things. Everything has a place and must be put back in it as soon as you are done. I struggle with expanding my taste outside of a few certain colors (black, white, grey and brown); well, in truth, I’m a lot better these days. I have a bunch of orange and yellow and blue in my apartment. And purple has always intrigued me. But not in my wardrobe very often.

So where’s my creativity? That’s easy! I’m a writer. I could make up a story about any character, setting or plot and have a thorough vision in my mind of what it would be. I can create a family tree full of wicked and loving characters with a history of complexity among their relationships. I can say things I wish I could say to someone in reality. I am really good in this area – and before you think I’m getting egotistical, don’t even go there. I’m just acknowledging a strength I’ve… mastered? No… polished? No… CREATED!

But in truth, it’s one of the only creative aspects about me. I tend to look for the most direct solution, but I am capable of challenging myself to find something alternative that’s got… a flair? If I’m unable to convince someone of an opinion or decision, I search for another method. If my audience prefers visual, then I’ll figure out how to present visually. So I am creative in my approach, just not as my primary drive.

Confession for today: I wish I could sing or play a musical instrument. But alas, I am tone deaf. I cannot remember words to songs and therefore make up my own. I couldn’t tell a harmony from a chorus. Nor do I care, I suppose. Because for me, it’s not about the educational or institutional side of music. It’s about the creativity that can be unleashed in words or sounds.

How often have you been in a bad mood when you heard a song that pulled you out of it immediately? Don’t you frequently put music on just to listen to music even if you’re not doing anything else but sitting there with your ears attuned?

The violin or the piano would be my go to instrument, in addition to singing, of course. Drums don’t really do it for me. Nor does a guitar. Yes, certain chords (ah, I do know a few terms) or beats from those instruments are pretty intoxicating, but the piano and the violin have moved me to tears and utter excitement at times.

But when I think about this type of creativity, it’s really an essential part of life. It’s as necessary as choosing the direct and expedient path in some ways. And it’s present in everything we do, even in some of those basic corporate jobs. In managing my department’s finances, I looked for ways to maximize efficiency and costs: I found creative ways to make it happen. And I found creative ways to track it. Note, creative as in fun and positive – not illegal. Don’t go thinking I’m some sort of Al Capone Jr.!

So… as I look towards my next job, I think creativity is more important. No, I’m not going into years of training to become an opera singer (although… that might be an interesting challenge). But I think shifting the balance so it’s a little more creative is becoming the target. Publishing intrigues me… I could spend my entire day talking about books and writing.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the last few months of downtime. I’ve read nearly one hundred books. I’ve created 3 websites (professional, for my book, and creative). I’ve dived into social media and begun posting stuff all over the place (even about me, like this challenge)! Maybe I’m not so shy after all… and that’s going to be tomorrow’s characteristic.

To Be or Not To Be: Shy, that is, the question.

365 Challenge: Day 3 – Consistency

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Consistency: conformity in the application of something, typically that which is necessary for the sake of logic, accuracy, or fairness

Consistency is important to building relationships and trust. If you exhibit erratic behavior, it might result in someone lacking a clear expectation of how you will react or act, therefore believing you are potentially unreliable. I strive for consistency in all that I do. It’s different than being repetitive or a perfectionist (although I am told I am the emblematic perfectionist on steroids! I, however, disagree: I don’t take steroids and can’t help if I have a super power).

Consistency is demonstrating that you have a methodology in how you go about your activities and thoughts, thus projecting a model behavior that earns someone’s trust and confidence. It’s not having coffee every morning at precisely 7:03 am. It’s far from wearing a matching tie and shirt to work each day. It’s not the opposite of spontaneity either. The end result is that others believe you will generally respond in a certain manner, thus allowing some level of prediction in how the events will unfold. It’s not smiling one morning when it rains, and yelling the next when it rains again.

I’d say that I’m about 90% consistent in most areas of my life.

  • I look down at a set of steps before I embark on the path; it’s a learned behavior that helps ensure I don’t trip over something (or my own feet); that said, I’m generally very adept at maintaining balance and judging my walking abilities. Except that time I walked into an open window and nearly cut my eye brow off. (Grr… all your fault, Mom! NOT MINE.)
  • I will immediately see a glass as half empty rather than half full. Eventually, I come around, but pessimism edges out optimism 51 to 49!
  • I wash my hair and face before I wash my body. Top to bottom – gravity rules!
  • I won’t reveal my opinion first before anyone else. Not because I lack confidence. But because hearing others allows me to consider other options, thus rounding out what I really think of a situation.

When does the 10% kick in?

  • I’m not going to just run to the edge of a cliff and dive into the water without taking in the surroundings. But I will jump off it just for the heck of it sometimes, even though I’m not a good swimmer and can’t be sure there aren’t rocks just below its surface.
  • Boredom sets in and the conscious thought is to try it alternative way #2 and not primary way #1. Yikes, I sound like a Borg. (Star Trek species… but they probably wouldn’t admit that, so epic fail here.)
  • Recognition that the consistent choice hasn’t reared the intended goal and I go with the opposite to see if I reach an alternative solution.

Nonetheless, I view consistency as a characteristic I use to judge others. I tend not to be comfortable around people who are random or act unusual. Consistency is that feeling of being curled up in a blanket by a warm fire with a cup of cocoa sitting near your grandmother who is baking chocolate chip cookies from scratch. It’s a baseline I can use as a starting place from which to determine the best next step or path.

Consider Robert Frost’s 1916 poem “The Road Not Taken,” if you don’t mind going on this little journey with me. The general interpretation is the quintessential “what if” scenario where people try to figure out if they made the right choice versus just doing or accepting either option. If you are consistent, you may consistently spend minutes, hours, days thinking about which option to take. If you are consistent, you may consistently choose the first option presented to you (e.g. the closest, the shortest, the most scenic – whatever your normal preference is…). BUT…

What if your consistency is based on your gut instinct? I’ve found that in the 10% of times when I am supposedly inconsistent, I’m acting on some internal adrenaline change. A built-up knowledge base, hidden beneath the surface, which acts on my behalf when I’m unfocused or disinterested. Do I find those unusual and abnormal decisions character-weakening or strengthening?

Strengthening… because if I live 90% of life being consistent, that hidden 10% reacting to something new and different is still based on 90% consistency, thereby offering a higher chance of success. It would take some climactic event to truly alter the intrinsic values and thought-patterns I’ve assembled over the years.

That said… the challenge I see here is how to exponentially expose the 10% to newer and alternative options which I can analyze and consume, leading to even stronger depths. I want to and should keep the 10%, but their contents should not be static; they should grow with each new, learned set of behaviors.

Way too psychological. Simply said: Be sure the consistency is challenged from time to time; don’t let spontaneity become the only way you’ll take a risk. Even an educated one.