“A wise man makes his own decisions; an ignorant man follows public opinion.” ~Chinese Proverb
I’d like you to ask yourself a simple question: Do you know if you’re an introvert or an extrovert?
If you’re uncertain of the answer, you might accidentally be draining your energy with too much time spent socializing, or boring yourself to death with too much time spent in solitude.
Extroverts get energized by large groups of people and lots of external stimulation, whereas introverts energize themselves when they have time for themselves in low stimulus environments.
Understanding your social type can make a huge positive impact on the quality of your life.
My College Years as an Introvert
Back in the days when I didn’t understand my introverted tendencies, I used to think that there was something wrong with me.
Attending college in the U.S. was pretty confusing for a typical introvert coming from Finland.
There was a whole lot more partying and socializing going on that I was used to.
At times this environment was very exhausting for me since it didn’t fit my personality that well.
I went to bars and parties just like any other student, but I wasn’t always able to enjoy myself while there.
I remember one incident when my girlfriend, at the time, got mad at me because I looked miserable at one of the parties we were attending.
Of course, I wanted to fit in so I tried forcing myself to be more extroverted from there on.
That never really worked out.
I found it incredibly tough and draining to try to sell myself as an extrovert. The approach clearly wasn’t working for me.
It became obvious that something had to change. And since faking extroversion wasn’t really working for me, I began spending more time alone.
I discovered that taking time for myself was working pretty well, especially after days that had been full of socializing.
But soon I began realizing the drawbacks of this approach as well. I noticed myself drifting into bad moods after too much time spent in solitude.
I had moved from one extreme, of accepting all party invitations, to declining the majority of them. Neither extreme worked well for me.
This is when I first realized that I needed to find a good balance between the two approaches.
I learned a lot about myself during those years. I’m now able to arrange my ratio better between solitude and my social life.
- I recently went backpacking in Europe by myself staying in hostels along the way. Traveling alone ended up working well since I was able hang out with fellow backpackers just as much as I wanted to. I always had the option of hitting the road solo if I felt like it.
- Since I understand my need for “battery recharging” in solitude, I’m able to decline social invitations without feeling guilty (well, most of the time).
- I’ve learned to make compromises when it comes to things like going out. Many times I go to parties for shorter time periods than the average person attending. I try to focus on the quality of interactions while there instead of the quantity.
It’s Not Black and White
Sorting people into introverts and extroverts is a convenient way of arranging people into two different categories of social type.
I acknowledge that this isn’t a black-and-white issue, so very few people are complete extroverts or complete introverts. We fall somewhere along the line between extroversion and introversion.
So naturally, if you are more of an introvert than an extrovert, which I am, you’ll have a different need for the amount solitude than someone who is predominately extroverted.
We are all unique.
Awareness of your position on this spectrum of introversion and extroversion is the first important step in discovering your perfect balance between social and solitude. With this knowledge you can begin living a more enjoyable life.
Finding Your Golden Ratio
1. Vacation Choices
If you had to choose between these two options for a vacation, which one would you choose?
- A vacation with yourself, a good book and a warm beach, or…
- A vacation spent with hundreds of new people, partying on a cruise ship.
Answer this question honestly. Don’t think of what you should do but which one you’d pick if you didn’t care what anyone else thought about you.
As you might have guessed, if you answered the first option, then you’re most likely more of an introvert. If you chose the cruise ship you have more extroversion in your spirit.
2. Your Dream Day
Imagine your dream day. What activities would you do? Where would you like to be? Who would you want to hang out with?
Answering these questions will give you a good picture of the optimal balance of social and solitude that suits you best.
If you imagine your perfect day to be with a surplus of people, then you are more of an extrovert.
In my own case, my dream day would consist of time spent with family and close friends. I’d also like to spend time alone with my own precious thoughts.
3. Previous Data
You have an incredible amount of data in the form of life experience to determine what ratio of social and solitude suits you best.
Do you find yourself needing solitude after hanging out with people, or do you get bored if you’re by yourself for too long?
You might have gotten stuck with a certain ratio just because you thought it was the socially acceptable way to go. Since you have a unique personality, you shouldn’t determine your time spent in social activities through what’s considered to be “normal.”
4. Saying No
If you’re an introvert and you suspect that your social life is depleting your energy, it is vital that you make a change to your old ways of operating.
In order to do this you must learn to say “no” to some invitations.
Try declining a few invitations and see what the results are in terms of your well-being.
5. Your Favorite Venues
Extroverts get energized from high stimulation places such as nightclubs. For them these are great places to attend.
You might be happier at venues like coffee shops where you can still be social but in your own style.
Instead of staying home in solitude, sometimes you could just choose a venue that suits your personality better.
6. Doing the Right Thing
How often have you not wanted to do something that you knew was the right thing to do, yet chose to do it anyways? Were you happy you did it afterward?
This has happened to me many times, and I suspect the same is true for you.
For example, I don’t always feel like eating healthy foods when I have the choice of something tasty, yet unhealthy. Nevertheless, when I go for the healthy option I feel great about my decision afterwards.
The same sometimes applies to socializing. Sometimes your mind is telling you to stay comfortably at home, but you feel great after you’ve “picked yourself up” and went out anyways.
To find your golden ratio of social time and solitude, it is first important to determine if you are inclined more to toward extroversion or introversion.
After this you can experiment with different ratios and intensity levels of engaging with others and spending time alone.
You can tell if you are moving closer to your optimal point from your energy levels and general well-being.