How Introverts Can Take Big Steps Forward in Life (Even When It’s Overwhelming)

an introvert takes a big step

Introverts are brilliant and creative, yet they may not feel capable of taking big steps, like starting a business or writing a book.

My grandfather was a colorful, engaging man, brimming with stories and “-isms” that always left his audience spellbound — which delighted him to no end. That, along with his crooked smile and the fact that his eyes actually twinkled, earned him the nickname Sneaky Pete. His maxims have been told and retold so many times that I can no longer remember which ones he actually said to me. Such is the breadth of his mythos.

One of my favorite sayings in his repertoire was the declaration that someone had “bit a fat hog in the ass,” which was his delightful way of telling them they bit off more than they could chew. I can’t recall whether it was ever uttered to me directly, but it doesn’t matter; in either case, I will never forget it.

However, here’s the thing about me and fat hogs that makes me think he never did: As an introvert, I did not often bite them (and not just because I’m a vegetarian).

Why Some Introverts Might Struggle to Take Big Leaps

Throughout my time working with introverts as a personal coach, I’ve come to discover this tendency to move cautiously through life is not unique to me. Many introverts I’ve met are extremely brilliant, competent, and creative, yet they often don’t feel capable of taking big leaps, like starting a business, writing a book, or even leaving a toxic relationship. Before they take one step forward, they may feel they need to have all the details meticulously mapped out.

Why is this?

The science is in; introverts and extroverts function differently because they are different. Compared to extroverts, introverts are more likely to be listeners rather than speakers, observers rather than players, and thinkers rather than doers. For many of us “quiet ones,” our reticence is born out of a deep thoughtfulness and an aversion to conflict. This aversion may be so unconscious that we equate going after what we want with conflict because it might inconvenience someone else. We can do this without even realizing it.

But if we’re going to take the leap, we must learn that the value of bringing our best selves to the world outweighs the possibility of irking some people along the way.

It is why we are here.

Introverts, it is time to bite our own fat hogs.

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Ask Yourself, Is It True?

If you’re an introvert who has already chomped down, and you are finding yourself in a state of paralyzed panic, not knowing what you’ve gotten yourself into, I have one question for you: Is it true?

Whatever ugliness is rearing its head, stop and try to look at things as objectively as possible. Challenge the little voice in your head that is telling you such doom and gloom. Do you not have any of the needed knowledge or skills to make this project happen? Have you never done anything at all similar in the past? Can you not think of one other time in your life where you have done something hard — and it worked out?

Is it true? has become my go-to mantra/question, both for myself and for those I’m lucky enough to work with as clients. It may not take away all the fear and anxiety (I would argue that if it did, you might not have taken a large enough bite), but it’s a callback to yourself and what you are truly capable of.

The truth this question reveals is that your fear is never true, at least not entirely. And if it’s not true, then you just need to figure out a plan to move around it. 

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Pick the One Thing That Will Make Everything Easier

One of my favorite tools to employ when I hit the point of panic is another question. This one comes courtesy of Gary Keller’s book, The ONE Thing. The question he poses is the same one I ask when my clients hit an impasse:

What is the one thing you can do, such that by doing it, everything else will be easier or unnecessary?

Keller doesn’t call the book The ONE Thing for no reason. As introverts, we can look at a goal and see all the things: all the tasks down to the most minute detail and all the potential setbacks, even the most extreme ones. Case in point: Once I talked myself out of sending an email because what if the economy collapses tomorrow?

However, the key to taking a big leap is to identify the one thing that will make it easier — not the top five things or the top 20.

For example, let’s say you want to publish a book, but the whole process of finding an agent and sending query letters seems overwhelming. Perhaps you’ve wanted to publish this book for a long time (years!), but you just seem to keep spinning your wheels, not getting anywhere. Think of one thing you can do today to move a little closer to your goal. You don’t have to figure out all the things; just one thing. Maybe you start by researching potential agents online, then making a list of the ones who seem promising.

I’m not saying this part is easy. Deep thinking is a strong driver for many introverts, and because of this, we’re programmed to look at things from every angle. This can apply to our to-do lists. Sometimes just deciding which task has value over another can be a struggle in and of itself, because we can see how each task is essential — and how things could go wrong at any step.

But remember, even if you get something wrong, you have still moved one step closer to your end goal — because you can learn from your mistake and try going in a different direction. Then once your one thing is complete, you pick the next one thing. And so on, and so on, until you’ve reached your ultimate goal.

As a bonus, if the one thing can be done in solitude, then your introvert ability to focus intensely comes swooping in as a major strength! That’s it. One thing and then another, and then another. That’s how you move past this fat hog and on to the next.

It’s Simple But Not Easy

The last thing I’d like to address is Fear of the Fat Hog. Paralysis by analysis is a real threat to us introverts. If you’re finding yourself in this position — on the edge of taking a big leap but unable to move forward — a coach may be able to help. Sure, I’m saying this in part because I am a coach, so I believe in the transformative power of coaching. I’m also saying this because I’ve seen coaching work for so many introverts.

I honestly believe that empowered introverts will save the world from its current state. Coaching can be an incredible means to help you take that leap.

For good measure, I want to offer one more aphorism, this one from my mother:

“It’s simple but not easy.”

Like all the work we do to create better selves and better lives, it’s true that there aren’t any shortcuts. Yes, there are tools, guides, and support systems that can be tremendously helpful, but real change happens only when you commit to some heavy lifting.

It’s simple but not easy. But you can do it. I know you can.

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