During the dark nights surrounding solstice, time naturally leans to reflecting about our lives. The down time after Christmas and as we launch into a new year is a perfect opportunity to consider where you want to go.
This season I have heard a few people say: I thought I would do something more in my life but I don’t know what that is.
My response is: the answer is closer than you think.
Because here’s what I know after a long time of working with people struggling with this quandary, the 2 issues that blindside them:
- People minimize their own gifts and talents.
- People want the answer to come in a neat tidy recognizable package. And preferably someone else to tell them, thank you very much.
Now, here’s the thing. These people have accomplished a good deal in their lives and have genuinely tried to figure it out.
And often for a long time. So they are understandably frustrated.
People minimize their own gifts and talents
For a long time, I thought that I was just like all other employment counsellors. I figured they too were absorbed with helping solve the puzzle of what people were meant to do.
After I got to hang around quite a few, I could see that there were many types of employment counsellors. Some didn’t much care about what I was spending a lot of time pondering.
Here's what I learned from that observation. Where you focus your energy has a lot to do with what your gifts and talents are. This is where your curiosity will amp up, like a 100-watt light bulb. And because you do this all the time, you don’t recognize it as a gift or talent.
Doesn’t everybody do this? you will ask. The answer is no. There may be others who are intrigued in the way you are and it would be good to spend time with them. But you will still come at your gifts and talents in your unique way.
There is something in your life you do when you look real closely is quite different than what other people do.
A good example is my sister. And what she does with food. She contemplates food throughout her everyday activities – reading, shopping, talking with others, looking on the Internet. She takes on the task of perfecting recipes, adjusting and blending with a fine-tuned palate. This year she modified her Christmas cake recipe for my gluten-free diet and her vegan one. And it was remarkable! It also looks beautiful. The top of each of her cakes is decorated with whole pecans.
How I see her approach to food is like it is an experiment. Daily life is her lab and she takes one idea from here and one from there and brings it together to create her own brand of magic.
My sister loves food! She likes gardening, canning, baking, cooking, selecting, planning, taste testing. She spends her other time watching cooking shows and reading cookbooks.
What does she like best about food? This would be a long conversation with her. And it is her journey to pinpoint exactly what intrigues her the most.
Then once she does, she can look out into the world and see how her gifts and talents can help others.
This is how we find that work that feels like something more. The discovery isn’t just about work – it could be about a volunteer activity or a hobby or following an interest to see where it goes.
But here’s the cautionary note. The temptation is great to look for opportunities in the world before identifying exactly what your gifts and talents are.
Don’t jump ahead. Stay here and mull over it. Let it percolate. Observe yourself in the world. Take your dreams seriously.
What I know is also true is you will experience resistance.
Allowing yourself the space to consider what you have to offer is a courageous act. Laurence G. Boldt has coined the phrase “The Voice of Diminishment,” for the part of you that keeps you small. It is the not-good-enough, you-don’t-deserve-it or critical voice that lives inside of you, that rears its head when you move towards your dream. Bravery is needed here.
How do you deal with such a backbiter?
Recognize it. Know that when you are entering a new arena, it will be there.
Acknowledge it. This is an old part of you that developed to keep you safe. It is merely an interpretation of a situation from a long time ago.
Move beyond it. The voice is not the truth. In order for that voice to not dictate your life, you have to be firm in saying – this is not the truth.
The second part is to invest your time and energy into believing in yourself. Another courageous act.
Those inner and sometimes outer voices can be subtle betrayers because they have been around for such a long time and there is some hint of truth. They will give you a lot of messages.
I want the answer in a neat, tidy package
This is where the second issue arises. You will want a “lightbulb” moment, where suddenly everything comes together. And if it doesn’t, you may think you have missed the mark.
Here’s some of the thoughts that accompany the “lightbulb” reaction:
- The idea is too simple or too complex or not important.
- It has been done before.
- Nobody will really want this.
- It was meant to be, it would be easier.
- There would be a sign if I was supposed to do this.
All of this dwells in the same neighbourhood as the Voice of Self Diminishment. We want it to come in a neat package because of another survival part of humanity – we want it to be easy.
Ultimately, I think that what we are seeking is: ease.
I see ease as a recognition; when you are using your gifts and talents, it resonates throughout you. There is both an excitement and a calmness. One way of describing it is like coming home.
Figuring "something more" is not easy. And it would be nice if someone else could do it for us. But like all worthy endeavours is best left to the experts. And that would be YOU!