Saturday, December 13, 2014

Three Reflections

Lately, I've been around a friend that I met in Peru, and he is very different from me. This has caused me to reflect on certain lessons that would serve me well to put into practice. They seem to be all related. Here they are:

1.      Don’t seek the most comfortable way.
For some reason, I am a person who seeks the most streamlined way of doing something. I solve problems by finding the ergonomic solution, the one that takes the least amount of energy to put into practice, or at least, it might seem that way. For example, I really like being warm and physically comfortable. I will use energy to get blankets together or put on a coat, and then when I pick my spot and sit, I still remain focused on my physical comfort, and I can’t relax and move from the physical to the intangible, at least in my brain. I spend more energy on my comfort than actually enjoying it and living in the moment.

Yesterday, I bought some shoes that I knew were going to be uncomfortable, but when I danced last night, I wasn't thinking about my feet; I was busy living. When I stop worrying about the future and invest all my energy in the now, I get a fuller, richer experience. I am able to give my focus to the moment and soak it up. It becomes more meaningful and memorable because all of me was living it, not just a percentage.

(Maybe the reason why we age faster, or at least feel older, is that we do not devote all our attention to the events that transpire around us. We have our mind elsewhere, and so time seems to pass us by.)

I cannot live a life of complete comfort, because then every pleasure is satisfied and I have nothing unresolved. There needs to be a thorn in my side to make me struggle. Otherwise, I would never do so. This brings me to my next lesson.

2.      Keep experimenting.
Contrary to what I have somehow programmed or developed in my head, I will never be a final product here on earth. There is never a time when I can sit back and say something is completely done. I am a work in progress, and so I should act like I am in an experiment. One of my friends in Peru told me, “We are young, and we have the right to make mistakes.” Then I thought, are we not all young? When is it time to stop experimenting? If I give myself the motto of “Keep experimenting,” then I see life as something to be experienced. I can try new things, because those things don’t have to be 100% polished when I do them. Things can be rough, I can take risks, I can see my experiments as tests until I finally get it right. And then when I can say that I got it right, that doesn't mean all the other times were in vain, for they shaped me and led to the most polished version of me. I must be willing to try new things, or I will get old very fast. But not just old, stuck in my ways, unwilling, stagnant, uninventive, lacking creativity and vitality. When I say to myself, “Keep experimenting,” I can give myself the opportunity to fail, which might be one of the greatest gift of learning. 

3.      Experience more, complain less.
Many times, I put myself into a bubble. This is mostly a comfort bubble. I use the spectrum I have experienced in this bubble as the basis for determining my mood. When the difference between the highest and lowest point is not very extensive, I will complain more and not be grateful for what I have. Yet as I expand my experiences and am forced to deal with things I wouldn't naturally choose for myself, I grow more appreciative of the things that really are blessings, privileges, or rights. That’s when an air mattress becomes a luxurious queen bed because I've been staying on lumpy hostel mattresses. Or hot water is a privilege because other people never have the option between hot and cold. Or I’m just thankful I can wash my hands with soap in a public bathroom. As our vision expands, we see things for how they really are, and our perspective is clear. Let’s remember what we have, what others don’t have, and what we could be without if we are not grateful enough for our circumstances.

I hope that I remember these lessons and put them into practice in the “real world.” The challenge is to constantly become.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Talents and Abilities

In my church, I have been taught a good amount about developing my talents, but it’s not until recently that I feel like I can really do something with them.

What do we know about talents?

  • Everyone is different. They see things differently.
  • You cannot discover and realize your talents without other people.
  • All God-given talents and abilities should be developed.
  • When we work to improve ourselves and put our talents to work, then we do the most good.

Everyone is different.
People would say to be yourself, but I didn’t have a clear picture of what that was, and I lacked self-confidence (I still do). Especially when it comes to job hunting, I would get discouraged and not want to try: “Those people have a lot more or better skills than I do. There’s so many people applying for the job. Why can’t I get a job? What’s wrong with me?” It’s also futile to compare my personality with others. We are all at different stages of life, and just because time has gone by on a calendar doesn’t mean I need to be progressing at a certain pre-determined rate. I decide how slow or fast I go. I am the one in charge. When I recognize who I am, who I really am, and what I have to offer to the world, I can let go of competition and comparison and just focus on doing what I am supposed to do to the best of my ability.

Another thing I have learned about all of us is that we are complex people. We might take a job or choose a career in one field, but that is not all there is to us. At least in that one field, we use a lot of skills to perform our job. There might be hard-core skills we have, like software design, but then there are other things that may not be as easy to put on a resume, like spatial thinking, an ability to clearly teach a new concept to that someone can understand, or an analytical mind. It is very important not to put yourself into a box and limit your potential only to what employers describe on job postings. We need to find careers that suit our myriad of talents, not conform ourselves to only what is expected of us. That way, we won’t be denying part of ourselves just to get a paycheck.

You cannot discover and realize your talents without other people.
It might be different for someone who has been able to see themselves clearly from a young age, but I felt I was slow to blossom. My self-consciousness, timidity, and self-doubt prevented me from seeing myself clearly. I appreciated the friends and family around me who could accurately describe me, and in a way that I would believe it, since I dismissed so many things about me. Going to new places outside of my comfort zone and familiarity, trying to adapt to them, and making friends in the process—that is the environment that most developed my self-image. By hearing or seeing how my personality or skills have helped other people, my true self gets confirmed to me multiple times until I finally believe and accept it. The next step is to thrive.

All God-given talents and abilities should be developed.
Reflection is all that is needed to be able to put the pieces together. These things were with you the whole time; you just weren’t paying enough attention. When you sit down and really simmer with thought-provoking questions about what you like to do, what you’re good at, when you accomplished something that you were really proud of, and things other people have pointed out to you, the perspective really becomes clearer, and you can start to make possible plans of action to put these skills to work. If I were to negate my true self and try to be someone else, I would do the most damage. I do not do anyone good by keeping my brightness in the dark and not sharing it with others. 

When we work to improve ourselves and put our talents to work, then we do the most good.

I believe that when I do something naturally because I want to do it and I like doing it, and it produces something that benefits another person, then I will be fulfilling my vocation. I will be happier, feel like I am really having an impact, will be creating something that wasn’t there before, feel inspired and enabled, and be having a positive impact on the world around me.

I know that there is no limit to what I can do, only my self-doubt. When I see who I really am and stay true to it with the actions I choose to do, then I will be an unstoppable force for good.

Application: What can you do to see your talents clearly?

  • Reflect on when someone complimented you. What were you doing? How did it benefit the other person? What skills were you using? What can you do to improve those skills and continue to put them in practice?
  • If you haven’t heard of it, read How to Find the Work You Love by Laurence G. Bolt.
  • Take time to ponder, reflect, meditate, pray, and ask yourself or God what your special talents are. How can you use a combination of your skills to pursue a career that is more in line with who you really are?
  • If it doesn’t seem like inspiration is coming, just sit in it for a while, and answers will miraculously pop into your head.