Years ago, I told someone I was reading Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. This friend was confused why I would be reading a book about introverts – not recognizing that I am an introvert. Even when I’ve talked with my parents about this, they have a hard time believing I consider myself an extrovert. I’m outgoing. I’m great in front of groups of people. We have a great social life.

Years ago, Steve and I were introduced to the idea of “tokens”. When discussing introverts vs extroverts someone asked us, “Where do you draw energy from? In other words, what puts tokens in your bank, and what drains your bank?”

Ever since that conversation, we’ve talked about tokens.

Just a few months ago we had married nieces and nephews in town visiting and we were sitting at lunch together and the topic of “downtime” came up. One nephew shared how important his downtime is and how his newly married wife had a hard time adjusting to that because she doesn’t need downtime, she needs social interaction. So we introduced them to the idea of tokens.

Every day we are spending and gaining tokens. If we spend at a faster rate than we gain, we are often left feeling depleted. If we aren’t spending tokens fast enough we may feel restless. Each one of us puts tokens in our bank at different rates for different activities.

So when I tell someone I’m an introvert – and they question me – I always go back to what energizes me, what puts tokens in my bank.

“In basic terms, introverted people direct their energy inward to their own feelings and thoughts, while extroverted people direct energy outward to other people and their environment.” 

I replenish tokens in solitude, not in social settings. I can be social and I can be outgoing but I often find myself avoiding events where I need to make small talk or be surrounded by lots of people. It’s draining. And yet sometimes I have more than enough tokens to manage it – and truth be told sometimes we do things out of duty regardless of what our bank looks like!

But on the days where my bank is running low, I may skip out on the social lunch – I know that is an activity that doesn’t replenish my tokens. Instead, I may retreat to my computer and organize photos to slowly add tokens to my bank or work on a building project.

As I have come to understand my “bank”, I am more aware of the energy I have and what I’m getting out of activities and it helps me as I’m making decisions about how to spend my time. (Oddly enough grocery shopping and laundry don’t do anything for me and yet I haven’t figured out a way around it!)

Where do you get your energy from?