Introverts generally get a bad rap in modern society. Bookworms, milquetoasts and geeks alike are generally considered outliers in a world which prizes connectivity, engagement and ‘people skills’ above all else.
Last year, however, Susan Cain wrote a book entitled Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, and began heralding what she calls the ‘Quiet Revolution’. She points out that between two-thirds and half of all people are introverts, but that they live in a world of extroverts, where the emphasis afforded to collaboration can stand in the way of the innovation. In fact, some of the most creative leaders and thinkers, including Rosa Parkes, Charles Darwin and Steve Wozniak, were all introverts who happened to find themselves in positions of prominence despite preferring quietness and solitude. The potential power of ‘quiet’ is beautifully illustrated in this video:
Susan Cain’s empowerment of the world’s introverts relies on the premise that you should embrace your strengths and use them as a force for your own happiness. This is a philosophy touted by Martin Seligman, the founding father of the positive psychology movement. Instead of focusing on the negative aspects of your life, with the aim of being less depressed, positive psychology focuses on building new ways of thinking and behaving, with the aim of making you happy.
In his TED talk, Seligman uses his friend ‘Len’ by way of example of a person who has embraced their introversion and achieved happiness and success. Instead of trying to ‘fix’ his quietness and his reserve, positive psychology suggests re-crafting your life to turn your traits into strengths. Doing this (hopefully) eventually leads to meaning and purpose, and real, not fleeting, happiness.