Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Play to your strengths

Most western schooling systems are (in theory!) geared towards exposing young people to a wide range of mental and physical disciplines, including reading, writing, 'rithmetic, religion and recreation. Rumour has it that common-sense never made it onto the curriculum, simply because it can't be twisted into beginning with an 'R'.

As we move through the educational system, we are encouraged to identify our weaknesses and our strengths; to ameliorate the former, and strengthen the latter. The problem is, a lot of people continue through their adult lives concentrating on what they can't do, rather than strengthening what they can.

Life is finite. It's not being 'anal' or 'driven' to move toward putting some focus in our lives. It is common sense.

You could do worse than take a few minutes to write down the things that you find easy to do, things that you tend to get lost in, losing all sense of time while you are involved in them, things that bring you a great sense of happiness and fulfilment. Then cross out the ones that involve eating, drinking and sex, and see what you are left with.

Most of us know what these things are without even writing a list. And yet, a lot of people spend a lot of their lives doing things that they aren't good at, and don't enjoy. Some of those things are unavoidable. Others are things we have drifted into, and now feel that we can't get out of them without upsetting or disappointing people.

I was once involved in a Church survey where we gave out anonymous questionnaires to all the volunteer leaders. The questions included ones that asked whether they were happy in the work they were doing, and whether there was other Church work they felt their skills would be better suited to.

The responses were surprising. There were a lot of people who weren't happy, and felt that there were other things they'd be better suited to. And a quick mixing and matching of the skill-sets showed that if they were shuffled around, the Church work could continue with everyone doing stuff they were good at, and DID want to do.

The even more surprising thing was that when the whole group was confronted with this, and the suggestion was made that people should come forward and work on ways of re-distributing the leadership roles, nobody did. People were happier being comfortably miserable, than making a fresh start with something they knew they'd be better at.

I'm have a deep suspicion that this is not a unique scenario.