Have you seen American Idol? I watched the first two shows this season to see what all the hype was about. Most of it was painful. It was like watching a train wreck – I couldn’t look, but I couldn’t look away. Among some people who had fabulous auditions, the show also edited together some of the worst “singers” – using the word loosely – that I have ever heard. (Glutton for punishment? Here is an example)
And even more unbelievable to me was the fact that many of those crooners seemed to be genuinely upset that they did not make it to the next round. I thought to myself – what on earth would make people believe in themselves and their abilities so blindly that they could not accurately self analyze?
Your secret suspicion
Pop culture today has a new mantra “You can be anything you want to be!” It seems so encouraging! Such a fabulous motivator. Just try harder. Eventually you’ll get your hearts desire if you don’t give up.
But what if – even in the midst of all the encouragement and motivational books telling you that you can do anything if you put your mind to it — you secretly suspect that you really don’t have what it takes to realize a dream?
When my daughter Stephanie was 15 months old, she discovered the kiddie step-stool. It is was a little pink plastic stool that we use to help the children reach the sink so they can wash their hands and brush their teeth.
Once Stephie discovered that her view of the world was vastly expanded when she used that stool, she carried it around the house to access everything – from my cellphone on the kitchen counter to the baby powder on her dresser (which she proceeded to empty out over her head, and make a wonderful sticky paste by adding in some lotion.).
Discover what is it is that you really want
One thing that some of my coaching clients ask for is help in clarifying what they really want. I consider that to be a very enlightened request. Often when we determine a goal that we want to attain when we achieve it, we are disillusioned by its reality because it is not what we really want.
I hear this often from lawyer friends. It seems like such a prestigious position – one where you receive immediate respect from the general populace. Everyone thinks you are smart and rich and wise. The reality is that many lawyers hate their jobs. Buried under piles of paperwork, the stress of billable hours, which feels just like the stress of sales quotas, working with people who believe you can work miracles for them, when sometimes the best you can do is give them just shy of a fair shot.
Others realize that all they want is the perception of a certain life — not that life itself. For example another friend used to work in administration. Office work. She used to say how much she wanted to just live in the country on a farm. So one weekend she offered to house-sit for a friend who actually lived on a farm – sheep, dogs, cats, chickens, horses, you name it. We all thought this would be paradise for her. Alas, on the second day, my good friend recognized that she had nurtured a romantic view of peaceful evenings watching the sun go down from her back porch, overlooking her spread. The reality was — in a nutshell — sheep’s poo and rotten eggs.
Do you really want to be a lawyer? Or is it really that you want to be rich and respected? Law school may not be the only path to your true desire.
Do you really want to own a farm with animals and acres of land? Or do you actually just want a more simplified, quiet, life — rich with small town type relationships?
Do you really want the work that the promotion involves? Or do you simply want to have more autonomy and a larger paycheck?
Discover what you actually have – know your strengths, and use them
Everyone has strengths. Do you use them intentionally? Leverage them? Or do you take them for granted and spend most of your time focusing on improving your weaknesses? If you are a parent, do you spend most of your time focused on your child’s weaknesses or do you spend time helping them to build and leverage their innate strengths?
Even more important — do you know your strengths?
There are many different facets to our strengths — the following acronym helps me to remember some of the most basic.
Skills (Learned and practiced abilities)
Talents (Natural inborn abilities)
Resources (Borrowed abilities)
Energy (motivation and physical vigor)
Nourishment (emotional, spiritual, and physical “food”)
Gifts (Supernatural abilities to promote the church body – for followers of Jesus Christ)
Temperament (character/integrity/moral fiber)
Hegemony (authority/power by position)
Over the next weeks I’ll explain in more detail what I mean by each of these.