Near the quaint village of Lake Ann, Michigan lies Ransom Lake, a hidden treasure with a secluded trail wrapping its shores. This trail makes an ideal morning walk to recenter one’s spirits. For three days over the holiday break we joined our daughter, Anna, on this walk only a short distance from her home. As we approached the lake on our fourth day, I said to Anna, “I noticed you turned left onto the trail each of the past three mornings. What is it about turning left?” She simply stated it was a habit – a comfortable direction to turn.
I have appreciated Susan Cain’s description of introverted personality tendencies in her book “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.” She describes research pointing to a natural tendency of introverts to be highly sensitive. “Highly sensitive people process information about their environments … unusually deeply” (p. 136). Cain goes on to describe research pointing to introverts’ desire to seek shape and order in their lives, limiting unexpected surprises through a comforting sense of familiarity. I may be making some leaps from Cain’s work, but it seems to me Anna’s pattern of consistently taking the same path around the lake allows her to focus her spirit and energies on the nuances within the familiar. My morning walk around my city block follows a similar pattern. I seldom vary from the 2-3 routes I have developed into a fond habit. I find comfort in following my route allowing me to closely observe the subtleties within the familiar.
I could hear the voices calling out to me, “Be adventurous, turn right this time”. Yet, we happily continued down the well worn path to the left. In varied encounters throughout my life, I have experienced pressure to alter my habits – to “turn right” on occasion – as if that was the way to a richer life. To follow my take-away from Cain’s work, this “turning right” message is one with greater value placed by the extroverts in our society. In the predominance of an extroverted world’s value systems, introverts can get caught up in feeling they should follow a different path than they choose. There are students like me in classrooms today that face pressure to try something different – with the implied message it is good for you. How different it might be to instead focus our energies in helping
our introverted students better understand themselves. Through a greater understanding, it may be they make their own decision to turn down a different path one morning – not because it is the “right” thing to do – but because they choose to do so.