Observe – Learn -Play

This concept of observing, then learning and then you play, is loosely related to being dropped at the deep end to see if you sink or swim. It’s something I have been battling lately in my belly dance class. I sensed that I felt unhappy about something that normally makes me happy – dancing – I started trying to figure out why.

My dance teacher has the well-intended and sometimes ambitious goal of making us independent dancers. She wishes us to not only be able to improve our technique and learn a few steps in a sequence but to be able to dance freely and maybe even make up our own choreography. Lately that has meant that we’ve been asked to improvise to whichever song she’d decided to play. I’m rubbish at improvising – always have been. But why bring this up in a blog about being introvert?

Well, I can’t even count the many times I’ve been put on the spot: music has been turned on and I’m asked to improvise, I have been sat infront of an video editing board and told to play, or at work, I’m supposed to rely on youtube videos to learn the skills I don’t have. But for an introvert this senario is one of the most frustrating situations that exists.

Introverts, and I am again refering to the book Quiet (reviewed in an earlier post), tend to focus on meaning, we work slowly and deliberately and we tend to practice our skills methodically in solitude. We prepare, digest new information and aim for accuracy. We observe, we think before we act. Improvising to a piece of music goes against my nature no matter how much I’m willing to give it a go. There is no sense of playfulness in this as it requires an enormous effort and concentration trying to get my brain to follow in the quick pace that’s required. You don’t think when you improvise, I hear you extroverts say. True, which is why it’s so difficult for an introvert because your mind will still try.

When do I play? I play once I have had a chance to observe and internalize, and afterwards I can spend time practising, practising and practising again – then I can play with it, knowing that it’s in my backbone.

If you’re a teacher and you have this one student who sometimes seems to just stand there, don’t write them off as not trying. There are several reasons the student doesn’t seem to participate – one is that they are introverts and need a chance to observe and internalize before they jump in.

Buzz and Flow

Do you like the challenge of being dropped into the deep end and coming out successful? Do you admire adventurers who conquer steep mountains and sail around the world all alone? Do you like the buzz of winning the highest price? Maybe even simple things like winning £10 on a scratch ticket? Then you are probably an extrovert.

Introverts are more likely to go for the flow than for the buzz. Personally, I hate the sink-or-swim situations. It used to give me very bad self-esteem after struggling through assignments not knowing what the heck I was doing. As an adult I have realized that the low self-esteem after these situations are very unfair on myself. Most of the time, I do come out of it, having completed what was asked of me, if not to my own satisfaction then at least the everyone else’s. With that said, any sink-or-swim situation I’ve had to get through has left me with the feeling of: “Great, that’s done. Now let’s NEVER do that again.” I’m sure extroverts react differently.

What I like the best is, for example when I write, I get so into what I’m doing that, suddenly, time and space does not exist. The words just keep coming and sometimes it’s even difficult to keep pace with the words trumbling out of my head. I’m not aware of what is happening around me, I don’t notice sounds, the day can shift from day to evening and I don’t notice. I could miss my lunch and forget I’m thirsty. I’ll just keep writing until the flow is gone. Then I look up and it’s hours since I last ate something, the sun has gone down and I’m bursting to go to the loo.

I’m sure introverts and extroverts experience both buzz and flow moments in their lives but how we react to them is different. I always seek the flow moments, whether I’m writing, at work or just going for a walk. That elevated state of functioning has been part of some of the greatest moments of my life. The buzz moments however I quite easily forget. The kind of pushing yourself beyong your preceived limits that produces the buzz feeling, I’m sure, means a lot more to an extrovert than it does to me but perhaps they don’t value the flow of the moment the way I do.

Your thoughts on this would be much appreciated. Are you a flow or a buzz person? Are you an introvert or an extrovert? Does it correspond?