21. Discovering Where You Are
In previous chapters, we provided information on inventorying your innate abilities and how you naturally use them. In this chapter, you will inventory where you currently find yourself, how you talk to yourself, and how your environment affects you.
Although people don’t change, their environment and circumstances can. And you have the power to change your environment and circumstances. You also have the power to change your internal monologue and significantly impact your life.
Once you know your design and recognize the environment you need to thrive, the next step is to start consciously creating that optimal environment for yourself. If you’ve discovered from your ability inventory that you are an orchid, you must begin building a greenhouse to meet your needs.
Some people I profile are orchids attempting to survive in the desert. Some declare that they don’t deserve a greenhouse or they’ll build one later…or they’ll create a greenhouse for themselves after they build greenhouses for everyone else. Instead of moving toward their most beneficial environment, they sabotage their own growth and success, believing it nobly self-sacrificing to deny themselves. In reality, only by accepting their design and working with it can they experience the success they were meant to have.
I recall talking with a woman who had a nicely balanced profile. It wasn’t edgy or dramatic; it was stable. In reviewing her profile with her, there weren’t many obstacles to address because she was doing well. While it is likely she will never be an extraordinary standard bearer, she is blessed with an extraordinary contentment in her pursuits and circumstances.
Her example brought home to me that the more people are gifted, the more they are challenged. Consider the artistic community, comprised of people who have a great capacity for creativity and growth. These same people can also suffer great angst and become overpowered by it. Many end up isolated, lonely, disenchanted and worse.
Whether you are an orchid or a cactus, you are awesomely and wonderfully made, and your design comes with its own blessings and challenges.
Have a ConversationWith Yourself. To effectively manage your abilities, you must first learn how to hold an ongoing conversation with yourself regarding your abilities. By bringing into play the different facets of who you are, you can create the consistency and balance your profile needs. Learning which of your attributes to use in any given situation will enable you to stand in the center of your significance.
I train people to have positive conversations with themselves about their innate abilities. In these conversations, I urge them to be truthful, positive, gracious, and practical.
I go back to the metaphor of your abilities being like the white Arabian stallions in Ben Hur. You must make sure that you control the reins, that your abilities are positioned correctly and moving in unison, the way they’re designed to move. It requires constant maintenance and management and conversation with yourself.
In a sense, with this ongoing conversation you are parenting yourself positively. By learning to nurture yourself, you gift yourself with the positive movement, peace of mind, safety and security that you need to move toward the success and significance you are designed for. By accepting joyfully your childlike qualities and gifting others with your mature abilities, you can experience joyful significance. The blending of all your attributes is required for you to gain optimum significance.
Before you can effectively converse with anyone else about your abilities, you must first gain an understanding and perspective of them yourself. If you haven’t talked with yourself about your abilities and gotten them arranged in your mind, you leave yourself open to communication problems. In relationships, not articulating your needs sets up other people to disappoint or frustrate you because you expect them to guess your needs. They inadvertently trigger security and momentum issues that are important to you. Your effectiveness is diminished before you can have a conversation with them about their needs.
Many individuals who have strong nurturing characteristics are not nurturing toward themselves. Their internal conversation with and about themselves is driving, non-relational, ungracious, unforgiving and relentless.
During a tour of Israel, on the road to Emmaus, we stopped near a giant ravine. On the far side of the ravine walked a boy shrouded in black from head to toe. He made his way along a steep slope with all the sheep following behind. It was an ancient scene to which our professor added some perspective. In ancient times, you could identify a shepherd because his flock would follow him anywhere. You could also identify a butcher…because the butcher wouldn’t have the shepherd’s nurturing relationship with the flock, the sheep wouldn’t follow him. So the butcher had to take a long stick and drive them to market to be butchered. In the natural use of our abilities, we can nurture other people and butcher ourselves without being conscious of it.
Actively listen in conversation with others. Just as you actively listen for what’s going on inside you, use active listening techniques to filter what is being said by others and to hear the true need behind their words or tones.
A woman sounded upbeat and excited during her profile interview. She was in her forties with four children. What she shared about her health didn’t fit. She’d recently been told she had only ninety days to live. An aggressive form of cancer had invaded her organs. You would never have known it from her voice. She was a Team Builder, Aesthetic andEngineer. She had followed these rules: toughen up, be less outgoing, and don’t be an artist. When I spoke to her on the phone at the start of her profile review, she tried to be upbeat and optimistic with me. I told her I was “looking forward to addressing where your rage and anger come from.” There was a long silence at the other end.
Then she said, “I’m not angry, I’m not full of rage.”
I replied, “Well, depression can be anger turned inwards. And cancer can be swallowed fury, so I wonder where is this coming from?”
And she answered, “Well, I’m not angry about anything.” Ten minutes into our conversation, her tears were flowing freely.
Until then, she hadn’t been given permission to be angry. Growing up, she’d learned that it wasn’t appropriate for her to get angry. Others in her family who expressed their anger inappropriately were negative models for her. As a Team Builder, she believed she was supposed to be a model of good behavior. To her, that meant being absolutely optimistic about her cancer. Everyone in her family was caught up in the tragedy of a young mother about to die. I looked past it to concern myself with her living moments and the cause of her fury.
When she hung up the phone after getting some of her anger out, she had hope because she had a plan, whether she lived or died. If she lived, she planned to be a model of thriving. And if she died, she planned to leave a legacy for her children as a model of thriving in adversity.
Her kids were teenagers and joked with her. She had permitted them only to be upbeat and positive. They were not allowed to be confused, angry or afraid. Her husband, a quiet man, was grieving. I told her she needed to write him a letter telling him not to revert to being withdrawn without her. She needed to write to her kids about her wishes, hopes and dreams for them. I told her she had to bring her true feelings to the surface and obtain closure.
The Pollyanna attitude she’d adopted accomplished nothing. It simply passed on the generational sin of pretending to be perfect. It masked her true grief and anger and would cause it’s own grief in the future.
Learn to listen for what’s behind what others say. It will enable you to tap into their needs, concerns, fears and frustrations and relate to others in a deeper, more meaningful way.
Engage in conversation with the Creator.This is an important but often overlooked conversation. It trips up a lot of people, but when we learn how to have this conversation, it connects us to the greater purposes and eternal truths that touch our lives.
There is a story of Jesus surrounded by a group of adults. Children standing behind the adults couldn’t get through to see Jesus. The adults believed the children shouldn’t be allowed to bother Him and prevented them from coming forward. But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me.” He invited the children to come play, visit, sit on his lap, and snuggle. We adults often miss the mark in our conversations with our Creator. When adults hear Jesus’ invitation, their reaction is: “Let me go get cleaned up. Let me put on my best clothes. Let me learn some Hebrew or Latin so I can converse effectively. Let me get a holy mat so when I sit on his lap, I won’t smudge it up. I won’t look Him in the eye, and I’ll only speak when I’m spoken to.” That’s quite different than the children’s natural, joyful, immediate response.
We may be overwhelmed, distracted, frustrated, bitter or angry. Coming into conversation with our Creator that way can distort, devalue or deny our intention. Our thoughts are that we’re not good enough, that we’re too messed up. The wall of guilt and justification we put up can sever true communication with our Creator.
It’s fear in the form of the hissing snake again…and getting ready to get ready without acting or moving. The answer is movement. Our adult self must step aside and let the child within each of us come, engage and receive.
What is your purpose on this planet? Here is the key to ultimate significance, full enthusiasm, full safety, full blessing! This is the area of mirroring back your creation to your Creator.
I met and profiled a young man who was enthusiastic and unusually wise for his age. Over the next few years, he embraced his profile and demonstrated his ability to practically apply what he learned to various aspects of his life. As he matured and succeeded in his life, he developed sophisticated problems. He had married, established himself financially, and purchased a vacation home at a resort while still a young man. Then he discovered that he was bored by life. His wife’s grandmother died, and he was asked to serve as pallbearer. Although he hardly knew the grandmother, the experience had a profound effect on him. At the funeral home, he was confronted with an open casket containing the woman’s body. It triggered him to think about life and death, and life beyond death. The question hung in his mind: Is that all there is? The more he thought about it, the more hopeless he felt. He contemplated his own life, decades more of making money, continuing relationships, and the Why of it all.
His reticular activator had been turned on. Later, he walked into the family living room while his mother and his aunt were watching The Jerry Springer Show. The program was about a mother who’d been sleeping with her daughter’s boyfriend. It prompted him to consider the existence of evil. His parents were atheists, and he had never been taught the concept of evil. He occasionally went to church, but disliked the restrictions and deleted it from his life. He had grown well in every regard except in his conversation with his Creator. From despair and hopelessness, he decided to seek a way to fill that void.
I discussed with him how he could engage in conversation with his Creator and locate a spiritual environment that would fit him. I told him to find a church where people with questions can feel comfortable asking them. To go where he could wear shorts and sandals and be accepted. I described how a Free Spirit has to engage. I gave him specific books and articles to read. He now enthusiastically embraces the Faith he has chosen. His success in business is now only part of a bigger picture for him.
If you haven’t already done so, I encourage you to find and name your Higher Power. A conversation with an inanimate, vague and arbitrary Creator isn’t likely to be meaningful or beneficial.
Put yourself in a championing environment. We all need someone to champion us. Who is championing you? How are they championing you? When coaches review a client’s profile, I ask them, “What kind of coaching environment does your client need?” This can vary greatly from one person to another. One client needs a safe place where they can be vulnerable; another needs an environment for brainstorming and synergy; one requires a place to find clarity; another needs an environment where growth can be inventoried and celebrated; still another needs a place of balance between responsibility and freedom. Choose the environment or environments you would want and share your selection with one of your personal champions.
It is important to surround yourself with others who want to grow and move forward in their lives. For quite a while, I was involved with a close-knit group that worked well together on creative projects I found rewarding. We had fun together, and members of the group were warm and supportive. However, after a while, I noticed that most people in this group were more interested in commiserating about their difficulties than in finding solutions and moving forward. They effectively encouraged each other to remain stuck in place, and it virtually became the group glue that everyone shared, being miserable. I decided to distance myself from them and spend time with others who shared my desire for growth. If you find yourself in a similar situation, you’ll need to make some decisions and changes to move forward in your life.