Thriving As An Introvert: Lisa Jansen of Life Done Differently On How Introverts Can Thrive & Succeed In A Society That Seems To Favor Extroverts
Learn about yourself and introversion. The number one thing that has helped me thrive and succeed as an introvert has ben to learn about myself and my introversion. In my mid-20s, I went through a phase of intense learning about psychology and personality traits. I read many books on those topics and spend a lot of time reflecting on them to develop a better understanding of who I am as a person, what my strengths and weaknesses are, and what all of that means regarding how I engage with people and the world. Learning about introversion and what it means was a big part of that. The high level of self-awareness resulting from this has been invaluable to me in life and my career. Furthermore, by learning about my personality traits, I automatically also learned about those of others, making it much easier to engage and work with a wide range of people.
In a world that often rewards outspokenness and social networking, introverts can sometimes feel sidelined or overlooked. The workplace, educational institutions, and even social settings can often seem engineered to suit the strengths of extroverts, leaving introverts searching for a space to flourish.
However, introversion comes with its own set of unique strengths — deep thinking, the ability to focus, empathy, and keen observational skills — that are invaluable but often underestimated. The question then becomes: how can introverts not only survive but also thrive and succeed in environments that seem skewed towards extroversion? In this interview series, we are talking to introverts, business leaders, psychologists, authors, career coaches, organizational leaders, and other experts in the field who can talk about “How Introverts Can Thrive & Succeed In A Society That Seems To Favor Extroverts”. As part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Lisa Jansen.
Lisa Jansen, an accomplished author and proud introvert, has published three books, including her latest, “Life Done Differently: One Woman’s Journey on the Road Less Travelled’, which follows her decision to live full-time in her camper van while her peers are following more traditional paths in life. Her other works include “One Size Does Not Fit All: Discover Your Personal Path to a Happier Life” and “The Nomad’s Ultimate Guide to New Zealand.”
Beyond her books, Lisa contributes articles to the travel magazine, Motorhomes, Caravans & Destinations and maintains an inspiring blog at www.lifedonedifferently.com.
Born in Germany, Lisa moved to New Zealand in 2007 and holds a Master’s in Management and International Business from the University of Auckland. Alongside her writing, Lisa excels as a marketing consultant.
Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us your “Origin Story”? Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
I grew up in a small town in Germany in a fairly traditional family. My mom was a teacher, and my dad ran a car dealership together with his brother. When I was 22, I decided to spend a year studying abroad at the University of Auckland in New Zealand. I fell in love with the country, and almost 17 years later, I’m still here. New Zealand is my home now, and I could not imagine living anywhere else.
Back in 2017, at the age of 33, I quit my well-paying job to figure out what life has to offer when you’re not sure if you want to follow the traditional path around marriage, kids, mortgages, and careers. I spent five years living in my campervan, traveling around beautiful New Zealand. Along the way, I found myself and the answers I was looking for. I wrote about this journey in my third book, Life Done Differently: One Woman’s Journey on the Road Less Travelled.
Can you tell us a bit about what you do professionally, and what brought you to this specific career path?
I’m a writer and a marketing consultant. I did some marketing papers at university and also had a part-time marketing job. I liked that marketing is both creative and strategic, so after I graduated, I pursued a career in marketing. In 2015, I started working for myself, providing marketing services and advice to a range of businesses here in New Zealand. As such, I get to work with many different people and experience different company cultures and leadership styles, which I enjoy.
Writing has always been a passion of mine, and over the last few years, I’ve been fortunate to make a bit of money as a writer through my books and writing for a travel magazine. Though the marketing work still pays most of my bills.
Thank you for all that. Let’s now turn to the main focus of our discussion about Thriving As An Introvert. In order to make sure that we are all on the same page, let’s begin with a simple definition. What does “Introvert” mean to you?
For me, introversion is predominantly about needing alone time to recharge. Extroverts, on the other hand, need interactions with people to feel energized.
A common explanation that resonates with me is this: An extrovert and an introvert both have ten coins at the beginning of the day. For each interaction with other people, the introvert loses a coin while the extrovert gains a coin. For each half-hour spent alone in a quiet place, the introvert gains a coin, and the extrovert loses one. Coins represent energy in this example, and I think it does a great job explaining the difference. You can easily see how, at the end of a day spent in a busy office, store, or other workplace, the introvert will have used up all their coins and needs alone time to recharge, while the extrovert is energized and ready for a night out in town.
Can you help articulate a few of the challenges that come with being an introvert?
There are three main challenges I encounter regularly. First, many extroverts struggle to understand what it’s like to need quiet, alone time to recharge. This sometimes results in them perceiving my need to be alone as rejection or a sign that I don’t like them or don’t want to spend time with them when, in fact, I’m just out of energy. In the workplace, this is sometimes seen as not wanting to engage or participate in the team culture or not being a team player. I find this frustrating as it’s simply not true.
The second challenge I come across often, especially in the workplace, is not being allowed enough time to think things through on my own. Like many introverts, I work better when I have the opportunity to ponder a challenge and think through different solutions on my own before needing to engage with others. So spontaneous brainstorming sessions or group discussions without enough time to prepare can be challenging.
Thirdly, as an introvert, I am very noise-sensitive and value quiet. I find it challenging that this is often out of my control. No matter how much I want quiet, all it takes is one person nearby with a loudspeaker who likes to play music, and there goes quiet. I think this is one of the most significant imbalances between introverts and extroverts. If you are extroverted and like loud music and noise, all you have to do is bring a device and play it to get what you want. Introverts who like quiet, on the other hand, rely on everyone around them respecting that, to get what they need.
I’m sure that being an introvert also gives you certain advantages. Can you tell us a few advantages that introverts have?
Absolutely. I consider being introverted as one of my biggest strengths. I love my ability to focus deeply on something. People often admire that I have written three books because investing that time and focus in one thing would be a challenge for them. But for me, it comes naturally. I love that. This ability to think deeply and solve complex challenges has also often been an advantage at work.
I also love that I don’t need a lot of external stimulation to be at my best. I have a rich inner world that can keep me entertained for hours. Give me a few books and pen and paper, and I would be happy on my own for days, if not weeks. I sometimes feel sorry for extroverts who depend on other people for a good time.
Finally, I value that as an introvert, I’m very comfortable doing things on my own. I travel a lot and love being active in nature. I often go hiking, cycling, or kitesurfing on my own. If I would always wait for someone else to be available to come along, I would have missed out on many great adventures.
What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being an introvert? Can you explain what you mean?
I think the biggest one is still that introverts are shy. People encounter someone who is quiet and doesn’t say much and automatically assume they are an introvert. And when they meet someone outspoken and confident, they believe that person is an extrovert. In reality, introversion has relatively little to do with shyness. Personally, I’m an outspoken and confident introvert — especially in a work setting. I’m often one of the most engaged and active in meetings, so people assume I’m extroverted. They don’t see that after the meeting, I feel drained of energy. Similarly, I know shy people who might be quiet in group settings but value them a lot because people give them energy, which likely means they are more extroverted.
The other myth I would like to dispel is that introverts don’t like people or don’t like spending time with people. I think most introverts enjoy time with people, especially close friends and family. However, being around people takes energy, which means we often crave solitude after a while, no matter how much we love the people and enjoy being with them.
Do you have any role models who are also introverts? What have you learned from them that can help introverts navigate the challenges and benefits of introversion?
I love reading books about people (especially women) going on solo adventures. Maiden Voyage by Tania Aebi is one of my all-time favorite books. I also love Cheryl Strayed’s Wild, Bewildered by Laura Waters, Swell by Liz Clark, and many similar books. I don’t know if all of these women are introverts, but the fact that they set out on big adventures on their own and had a great time doing so (and were able to focus long enough to write books about their adventures) suggests to me that they at least are somewhat introverted.
These women overcame many significant obstacles on their journeys, often through focus and tenacity, two traits associated with introversion. Reading about their journeys has been really inspiring to me and has given me a lot of confidence that I can overcome challenges by focusing on my introverted strengths.
Here is the primary question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the “Five Things Introverts Need To Thrive & Succeed In A Society That Seems To Favor Extroverts”? If you can, please share a story or an example for each.
1 . Learn about yourself and introversion.
The number one thing that has helped me thrive and succeed as an introvert has ben to learn about myself and my introversion. In my mid-20s, I went through a phase of intense learning about psychology and personality traits. I read many books on those topics and spend a lot of time reflecting on them to develop a better understanding of who I am as a person, what my strengths and weaknesses are, and what all of that means regarding how I engage with people and the world. Learning about introversion and what it means was a big part of that. The high level of self-awareness resulting from this has been invaluable to me in life and my career. Furthermore, by learning about my personality traits, I automatically also learned about those of others, making it much easier to engage and work with a wide range of people.
2 . Make time for yourself
Introverts need alone time to feel energized. And energy is required to function well in life. Ensuring we get enough time to recharge is necessary to thrive and succeed. Of course, this is often much easier said than done, given how busy most people’s lives are. But I think it’s essential for introverts to prioritize this in their life.
3. Build a life that works for you
One of the great things for my generation and younger people is that we have more options and flexibility than any other generation before us. Many of us have an opportunity to actively create a life and lifestyle that works for us. For example, one of the few good things that resulted from the pandemic is that working remotely is now much more common. This is excellent news for many introverts who value being able to work from the quiet of their home at least some of the time. Of course, not all jobs can be done remotely. However, it is now also more accepted than ever to change careers even into your 40s and 50s, so if a busy workplace is a key challenge for you, maybe consider changing careers to something that can be done from home some of the time.
Building a life that works for you isn’t just about work, either. Many introverts value having a small group of close friends instead of being part of a big community. Many introverts thrive when they have a creative outlet, whether painting, writing, designing, or something else. Many introverts value spending time in nature. These are all things we can consciously incorporate into our lives to create one that allows us to thrive as introverts.
4 . Be part of the change you would like to see
I think it’s crucial that introverts speak up for their needs and start to create the change we would like to see in the world and workplaces. If we leave it to extroverts to shape the world, it will never be one designed for us introverts to thrive in. Whether it’s joining the social committee at work to make sure there is an introverted voice represented, speaking to your manager and team members about what it means to be introverted and how they can create an environment that supports you, or helping friends and family understand the different needs of introverts and extroverts, and overall, speaking up for what you need (in a confident but kind manner). Whatever it is, do something to help create the world you want to live in.
5 . Balance your needs with those of the people around you
As much as introverts have to make sure we get the things we need to thrive and succeed, we also must remember that extroverts have needs, too. Most extroverts aren’t loud and needy to annoy us. It’s their way of getting what they need. Just like extroverts have to sometimes be quiet and give us space, we have to meet their needs at times. While extroverts usually outnumber introverts, I have worked with teams where most are introverted, and this can be very challenging for extroverts who struggle to get the interaction they need to be at their best.
It’s also important to remember that introverts are often much more aware of their personality traits and the difference between introversion and extroversion. Curiosity about human nature and different personality traits seems much more common among introverts. As a result, while we often know why extroverts behave a certain way and why that is different from how we engage, many extroverts don’t have that same level of awareness. That means it’s often on us to take the lead on creating awareness for everyone’s needs and balancing them.
How should an introvert navigate social relationships and networking, activities that are often touted as extroverts’ forte? Do you have any advice for introverts in these areas?
I would say the most important thing is to choose wisely which events you attend and which relationships you want to invest time into. The reality is, we have limited energy, so make sure you spend your energy on the most important and most valuable people.
For many introverts, social relationships and networking events will always be a chore rather than fun. So that’s how I approach it these days. I ask myself if it’s worth my energy. If the answer is yes, I go and make the most of it. If the answer is no, I often find a reason not to go. When I do go, I try to prepare for it by having some extra free time leading up to it and, ideally, afterward, to recharge my batteries. That allows me to actively engage and maximize the opportunity to build and nurture meaningful relationships.
What are some practical tips you can offer to introverts who want to succeed in the workplace, which is often geared towards extroverted behaviors?
I think we’ve already touched on a lot of things that can help introverts navigate the workplace. It starts with finding the right career and workplace that values and enables introverted ways of working. From there, I think it comes back to making time for yourself, being part of the change you want to see, and balancing your needs with those of others.
Another thing I’ve found valuable in the past is seeking out the other introverts on the team and connecting with them. There are bound to be some, and it helps to connect with like-minded people at the workplace.
Have you noticed any specific ways that being an introvert affects mental health or overall well-being? Any tips for introverts to maintain good mental health?
Personally, my biggest lesson as far as mental health goes is that it’s all about balance. I don’t know if that’s specific to introverts. It probably applies to extroverts, too, but maybe what balance looks like is different. Not surprisingly, mental health can become a challenge for me when I don’t have enough time on my own to recharge. However, it can also become a challenge when I have too much free time and end up spending too much time in my head. I love that I have this rich inner world, but sometimes, I forget to get out of that world and engage with the real world.
So for me, the key to mental health is balance. I need to have enough quiet time to recharge but also enough going on to keep me busy and connected to the world. My tip for anyone — introvert or extrovert — struggling with mental health would be to look at how you spend your time and whether you need to balance the various aspects of your life better.
In your opinion, are societal views on introversion changing? If so, how do you think this impacts introverts positively or negatively? Can you please explain what you mean?
I do think it’s changing. Popular books like Quiet by Susan Cain and articles many leading publications have increased awareness for the difference between introverts and extroverts. In my work, I now frequently encounter leaders who understand the importance of creating a work environment that supports both, which is exciting and encouraging. However, I also think we have a long way to go. Unfortunately, the people who still need to change and learn the most are often the hardest to reach, as they wouldn’t usually engage with topics like this. That’s one of the reasons why I think it’s so important that everyday introverts speak up and help create the change we want to see in the world.
Nevertheless, on the whole, I feel like things are changing for the better for introverts. There is more awareness for our needs, and remote and hybrid working seem to work in our favor. I had lunch with a client the other day. I would categorize him as an old-school extrovert. And yet, when I asked him about the culture he wants to create at his company, he spoke about the importance of considering both introverts and extroverts. That conversation left me feeling encouraged that things are changing.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“If you want change, you have to create space for it.”
It’s a saying I came up with a few years ago that has been a guiding principle in my life since. It’s about letting go of something to create space for something new. For many of us, our lives are so busy, that it’s hard to make time for anything new. But if you’re unhappy with your life, you need to change. And change needs space. So let go of something, make time and space, and see what comes your way.
It’s this saying that led to me quitting my job, buying a campervan to live in and travel around New Zealand for almost five years. I wanted change, but I didn’t know exactly what I wanted. So I created space by quitting my job — and from there everything fell into place. I started writing more and now, almost six years later, I’ve written and published three books and countless magazine articles and have a very successful career as a virtual marketing consultant.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I would love to start a movement around embracing each other’s stories and differences and opening people’s eyes, minds, and hearts to all the different ways you can live an amazing life. Most of the media and messaging we’re bombarded with every day tells us that there is only one way to live a “good life”: Get educated, get a job, get married, buy a house, have kids, and keep working until you are 65 or longer. There is nothing wrong with that way of life. I just feel like we sometimes forget that it’s not the only option. I would love to start a movement to share stories about people from all walks of life who live all kinds of lives to inspire others to think outside the box.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
I have a blog and website called Life Done Differently. That is also where people can learn more about my books. And I’m also on Facebook and Instagram.
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!
Thriving As An Introvert: Lisa Jansen of Life Done Differently On How Introverts Can Thrive &… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.