Are You What You Always Wanted To Be?

I’ve given you poo talk; I’ve given you lubricant talk; now I’ll give you serious talk. Mostly.

Some may wonder how introverts like me end up in people-centered jobs. If working in health care requires strapping on a daily social mask, how in the world did I get there?

The Answer?

After reading Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain, I’m one step closer to understanding. In my bible—er, Cain’s book—she mentions Brian Little, a prized and well-loved college professor. Dynamic and outgoing, his enthusiastic teaching style entertained as much as it educated. By all appearances, he was an extrovert. After a lecture, however, this popular figure retreated to a bathroom stall, propped his feet up on the wall, and hid from the rest of humanity.

So how could an introvert like Professor Little appear so outgoing to others? Because of a phenomenon he called Free Trait Theory. He suggested we all have fixed traits (in his case, an introverted personality), but we also have free traits, and together these traits coexist and allow us to pursue careers that align with our “core personal projects.”

In other words, like an orgasm, we can fake the heck out of it for work we consider important.

And that, my friends, is how I can function like an extrovert in public and then hide in my car like a hermit whenever the walls start to crumble.

Core Personal Projects—How Do We Find Them?

So how do we identify our “core personal projects”? The search is not always easy, and introverts risk flubbing it up. They’ve spent so much time “conforming to extroverted norms” that they often ignore their own career preferences.

To identify your core personal projects, Cain proposes three steps:

1) “Think back to what you loved to do when you were a child.” When someone asked you what you wanted to be when you grew up, what did you answer? Although the specific occupation may have been off-base, the underlying desire probably wasn’t.

In first grade, I wanted to be a librarian.

Hmm, a person surrounded by books…

2) “Pay attention to the work you gravitate to.” At work, which tasks do you prefer? What do you find yourself most often doing?

I gravitated to the academic—teaching, reading medical literature, solving diagnostic puzzles.

Ahh, the plot thickens…

3) “Pay attention to what you envy.” If you envy something, you likely want it pretty badly.

Until I started writing, I never experienced envy. I believe—to a degree, of course—that we make our own luck. But then I wrote my first novel. Suddenly, news of published authors rendered me green. Not pretty.

Bazinga! And yet another introvert gets her wings…

So What’s My Point?

Perhaps I misidentified my core personal projects when I toppled down the career chute.  Don’t get me wrong—I love science and pediatrics and medicine. But I feel more at home when I write.

Was I meant to be a librarian, after all?

Perhaps this is all a bunch of hooey—yet another excuse for discontentment. But just for fun, give it a try. Walk through these three steps. Are you what you always wanted to be?

All images from Microsoft Clip Art

 

198 Responses to “Are You What You Always Wanted To Be?”

  1. acflory

    I think the question is not whether we are introverts or extroverts, but whether we are communicators or not. Extroverts communicate by performing. Introverts communicate by writing. IMHO. ;)

    Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      Excellent point. I definitely prefer the written word. Then again, when I get on a subject I’m passionate about, I won’t shut up. Just ask my husband… (Of course, that only happens when I’m with only one or two people that I feel comfortable around. If there’s a group of people, I’ll be a silent little clam.)

      Like

      • acflory

        lol – I’m the same… unless I’ve had one too many. After that it’d take a herd of elephants to pull me from my soapbox. Wine gives me sinus headaches now so I’ve stopped being an embarrassment at parties. ;)

        Like

  2. Kylie

    Aha! The commenting loophole! I debated between becoming a librarian and a public health wonk. And now what I’m happiest doing is writing. Hmmm. Much to figure out.

    Like

  3. talesfromthemotherland

    While not new to your blog, I wasn’t reading yet in Oct. So this is new to me, and very interesting! I’m learning that I’m much more introverted that it once seemed and this post struck a chord. Glad I found it! It is also, interestingly tied to my own post for this week… Could I have Been Anyone Other Than Me? Isn’t that what we’re both asking? :-) Enjoy your hiatus Carrie, even if we miss you terribly! xo

    Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      Thank you!

      If you haven’t read Cain’s book about introverts, you should add it to your list. Very interesting read. Opened my eyes and made me realize I wasn’t as weird as I thought I was–I was just an introvert. Okay, maybe I’m still a little weird…

      Like

      • talesfromthemotherland

        But it’s a wonderful weird… ;-) I’ve seen that book around. As no one sees me as an introvert, I did not read it. However, I think there’s an interesting point in who we might have come into this world as (shyer) and who we had to become to survive in the world where we landed (introvert). I’ve spent most of my life way out there, extrovert for sure. But inside, I’m realizing I crave a lot more quiet and solitude. I am often burnt out after days of socializing… so I may check that book out after all.

        Like

        • Carrie Rubin

          They say that’s the best way to differentiate introverts and extroverts. Extroverts are energized by social contact; introverts are drained by it.

          Like

  4. Anastasia

    Soul sister…. I love these kinds of posts (and loved Quiet, as you know). I just signed up for coaching from HallieCrawford.com career coaching with the kind of format I can respect. Finally. It’s nice when things click, isn’t it?

    Like

  5. Xaeyruudh

    I guess this is kinda late to be commenting on this, but it caught my eye. I discovered personality tests at a fairly young age, as a result of my mom leaving books like Please Understand Me laying around. I enjoyed them, and I noticed that my results didn’t necessarily change over time but rather they depended on which parent I was currently spending time with. When I was with mom, my “profile” showed an extremely introverted thinker. When I was with dad, even just for a weekend, I appeared to be a somewhat extroverted feeler. This has always puzzled me a bit, because I was careful to answer the questions according to what I felt/thought/whatever… not the way I thought I “should” answer them. My only conclusion was that I (or children of dysfuntional families in general) have to have a bit of chameleon… which is all a longwinded way of saying this post is interesting and illuminating for me. The free trait theory and my early “chameleon” explanation seem to be compatible. Being like dad wasn’t something I wanted, but avoiding his judgement (and attention for that matter) was. I was faking it, sure, but it was subconscious for me, not an active thing. Thanks for posting this.

    Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      I think your description of being a “chameleon” is apt. I suppose most people feel that way at times, but I think perhaps introverts experience it even more. We are most comfortable alone or with our inner circle of family and acquaintances, but we can put on a good front when need be. We’re just a little exhausted afterwards. I would also suspect that your ability to be a chameleon means you’re pretty adaptable–always a good thing.
      :)

      Thanks so much for stopping by my blog. I appreciate it!

      Like

  6. Main Street Musings Blog

    I was surprised to read that you were at a work conference. Somehow I had assumed that you had take a hiatus from the medical profession because you seem to accomplish so much–raising kids, writing a blog, publishing a novel (just to mention a few . . ) ! I’m thinking when you were four you wanted to be wonder woman . :)

    Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      Oh, no, I haven’t been in clinic for 6 months. I’m taking a hiatus. I was just about to enter a non-clinical tract, and then I decided to take a year to focus on the writing. So no wonder woman here. But I still keep up my educational and licensing requirements. One never knows what the future holds.
      :)

      Like

      • Main Street Musings Blog

        Ah! But you still have wonder woman qualities to me. :) Always wise to stay current and have options.

        Like

        • Carrie Rubin

          Most definitely. I’ll need somewhere to return to with my tail between my legs when my book ranks 1.5 million out of 1.51 million Amazon books.
          ;)

          Like

  7. sweetmother

    i love this piece. as i always do when i read your blog. you know, i wrote something on characters today and i think it’s partially because of your book. the characters are very strong and i’m really enjoying the read. anyhoo, enjoy the conference, but no quaking in the stalls inbetween lectures…lol. oh, and on the post above, the one thing i remember from childhood in this regard (and my dad remembers it too) was that i LOVED harriet the spy. my dad said i carried a notebook around like she did, all the time. just to ‘write’ investigative things down. something like that. interesting, isn’t it? much love, sm

    Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      Perhaps you were meant to be a detective? The funny detective–that could have been you. You could have shown up at crime scenes in tight white pant suits baring half your bosom just like they do on TV.

      Thanks for the nice words about my characters. Given I wrote the novel a while ago, and I feel I’ve learned so much more about writing now, I think I can make them stronger for my next one. But I suspect I’ll always be more plot-driven than character-driven. Which is probably why I love thrillers.

      Thanks for stopping by Sweet Mama. And yes, the conference was fantastic (the Cleveland Clinic gives good conference). And you’d be proud of me. I ate lunch at a table with strangers both days!

      Like

  8. runningonsober

    Fabulous stuff Carrie. I am an introvert at heart too, a wallflower, a watcher… I can put on my mask and act out-going and stuff in-person, but I really have to work at that.

    Let’s see, I loved music and cookies as a child. Today finds me writing about cookies and sharing music I love. Don’t ask me where the running came from since I was allergic to running as a child. But I was introverted, and running is an introverted activity and it gives me a chance to listen to lots of music, so I guess I answered my own question.

    I hope you’re enjoying your conference. Hopefully you snuck some cookies in in your purse. :) Have a wonderful weekend!

    Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      It sounds like you stayed close to your childhood desires. Good for you!

      The conference is excellent, but I’m spending too much time checking updates on my iPad. Such a handy device, but I’m probably annoying my fellow attendees.
      :)

      Like

  9. Perfecting Motherhood

    Sorry for not coming over sooner. My DSL connection has been more down than up this past week and I’ve about had it with ATT and their crappy service. I hate how they say I have to buy a new $100 modem as there’s apparently nothing wrong with the line, but somehow the modem works sometimes. And when I ask about their UVerse internet, they scream, fiber cable is the best, yes, switch with us. Hmm, have you been screwing around with my DSL line? I have a feeling I’ll be working at the library tomorrow morning, argh…

    Anyway, I read another book but Quiet a few months ago regarding second or third careers, and it pointed out the exact same questions to identify these career choices. It was a big ah-ha moment for me, for sure. I have never done in my career anything I aspired to as a child. And I can thank my own mother for it, who poo pooed every career idea I had. She almost died when I told her I was dropping out of science and biology at the university and going to the English side. And then I ended up in marketing communications.

    Can you guess what I wanted to do as a child? Write and illustrate children’s books and travel the world to take pictures. From the age of 6 or 7, when I could write on my own (I could draw before then) and from the age of 7 when I got my first Polaroid, these were my aspirations. Crushed by everyone in my family, teachers, you name it. Because those were not careers and I wouldn’t make any money. I swear, I’m never, ever doing that to my kids! Otherwise, tape my mouth closed.

    Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      Don’t you just love the time suck that is technology? Sorry your DSL line is giving you trouble. I know the headaches that can cause, especially when so much of what one does is on line!

      Too bad your aspirations were squashed. Why not allow people to pursue what they want? Yes, we have to be realistic and bring home a paycheck, but one can often still manage to do this while following their dream. That’s why I don’t want to crush my son’s dreams of being a magician (well, I guess they call themselves illusionists now–more cool). Sure, we still talk about other careers, and I guess hope he chooses something more stable, but who am I to say he can’t succeed?

      Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      Well, Sandee, you just managed to say in only a few words what I tried to say in an entire post. Exactly! Love your grandma’s insight!

      Like

  10. acflory

    I don’t think I was born an introvert – apparently I used to sing at the top of my voice in public when I was a kid – but I certainly became one. Now I’m a happy introvert because I’ve finally worked out how to combine the many loves of my life in writing. Only writers are allowed to be true ‘generalists’.

    When you’re a Jill of all trades and master of none, becoming a writer is almost compulsory. :D

    Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      “Only writers are allowed to be true ‘generalists’.”—I like that! And is likely very true.
      :)

      And I bet you were always an introvert. Singing aloud to anyone who’d listen when you were young probably just means you weren’s a SHY introvert.
      ;)

      Like

  11. Fathead Follies

    Very thoughtful post. Apparently I like to entertain and make people laugh, which is what I’ve done in my last two chosen fields. Now if only someone would pay me to do it…

    Like

  12. Diane Henders

    I could never decide what I wanted to be when I grew up. Fortunately, I haven’t grown up yet, so there’s still time. :-)

    I’ve had an inner narrator for as long as I can remember. Even as a kid, I always described experiences to myself in words, and it didn’t occur to me until a few years ago that most people don’t.

    I’ve done jobs ranging from interior designer to computer geek, but it took me 46 years to realize I’ve actually been a writer all along. Some of us are slow learners…

    Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      Oh, yes, I’m one of those slow learners–well, at least when it comes to life’s trajectories. But I imagine it’s better late than never, right? And all of those other experiences only serve to enhance us.
      :)

      Like

  13. littlebluelady

    Ha! I found you Miss Smarty Pants
    Now I know where you live, too.
    I always wanted to take over the world when I grew up. Oh… Wait… I guess I always knew exactly what I wanted to do!

    Like

  14. aFrankAngle

    Great post Carrie. Your extrovert side comes out in your writing … thus a reason who enjoy writing. As for my early career path memory – well … I grew up in a very rural area, and I was in high school when I figured out those majoring in engineering weren’t going to work for the railroad.

    Like

  15. Kourtney Heintz

    I’m not sure. When I was five, my grandmother asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up and I said, “Green.” My cousin wanted to work at a grocery store (she now teaches English). Green was my favorite color, it represented everything I loved. I always loved reading and writing. And I also have experienced intense writer envy. So I guess yes, I am green in my own way. :)

    Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      I think anybody who answers the question “what do you want to be when you grow up” with a color is destined for a creative life, so I would say writing seems a perfect fit for you! I love that answer–“green.” So simple and innocent.
      :)

      Like

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