Strengths and Action/Inaction, Part 2

August 31, 2015

Through the strengths we find that action requires less work than inaction.

If English poet John Donne was right when he said “No man is an island entire of itself…” then we are all connected in some way to our surroundings. And if we are connected to our surroundings, that likely includes other people. Without even trying, we affect those in our environment.

To prove the point, take a five-minute observation walk. That is, stroll around for five minutes and simply observe. Perhaps our presence draws others to look up from their work. Maybe we gently rustle some papers on a table as we pass or scuff the concrete with our shoe. It’s possible that we miss a phone call while we are away. That affects the caller on the other end. Maybe we are outside and a car stops for us, letting us cross the street. Maybe our actions don’t trigger a tropical storm, nevertheless, these are the little ways that we are all constantly affecting our surroundings.

It might not seem like much—just us using crosswalks and a few ruffled papers, right? But let’s multiply “just us” by 7 billion, which is the population of earth, and consider the cumulative affects that we have on our surroundings.

Take air, for example. The air that we breathe is part of a relationship we have with trees, grass, moss, even cacti. What we exhale, they inhale, and around and around.

Since the average person inhales and exhales 2 gallons of air per minute, that makes nearly 3,000 gallons of air cycled in and out of our bodies in one day. Multiply that by 7 billion and we are looking at 210,000,000,000,000 gallons of air circulating through our collective lungs each day. (Not to mention all the animals, too.)

Something as common and autonomic as breathing puts us into an epic cycle of life that connects us to virtually everything else.

In fact, we breath so much during our lives that we actually make physical contact with the past. That is, by the time we are 20 years old it is statistically probable that we have had oxygen molecules in our lungs that were also in those of Genghis Khan, Cleopatra, Nostradamus, Van Gogh, and Queen Elizabeth.

So what?

What air is to our lungs, the strengths are to our lives. For one, our strengths, like breathing, function autonomously—they are always on. For two, the quality of the air affects the quality of our entire bodies in precisely the same ways that the quality of our actions depends on the body of our strengths.

Sure, someone who is high in intellection can create spreadsheets, but is that the best use of their energy? Or, perhaps someone high in discipline could make it through day after day at a shoot-from-the-hip job, but at what cost?

The strengths function like a compass, which tells us where we are presently and where we should go. The strengths tell us what action to take. And, we interpret these “compass readings” based on how we are feeling.

We all know what it feels like to be stuck in a dead-end job, relationship, or lifestyle. Maybe it only lasted a week, maybe it lasted longer, but we know that getting out of that situation takes only one thing: action.

And our strengths are our built-in guides. We can ignore them as well as we can ignore gravity. Such pervasive persistence.

Living outside of our strengths can feel like holding our breath—we may be able to do it for a certain length of time, but eventually we know, if we are to go on, we must take an action.

What are some actions we could take that would put our focus on strengths? Is it a physical action? A mental one? A shift in perspective? A little of all three? Is our connection with the physical world changed by our mental state and our perspective and vice versa?

Be your greatness. Start. Do. Go.

Strengths and Action/Inaction, Part 1

August 28, 2015

Through strengths-guided actions we create lasting and meaningful changes in our lives. The strengths guide us away from inaction.

Every action we take initiates changes in our lives that affect the whole world. Say, for example, we choose parking spot A over parking spot B. As it turns out, parking spot A gets us a door ding, which sends us to the autoshop where we run into our old flame from high school and six months later we’re married…all thanks to parking spot A.

I am sure, by now, we’ve all heard of the butterfly effect.

After all, each action we take puts us in touch with new possibilities and new potential. From something as small as choosing a parking spot to something as grand as choosing a partner or a new pet.

Our actions may not spark a revolution overnight. They might not even seem to affect anything much in the moment. Nevertheless, every step and every breath we’ve ever taken has led us to where we are now. We, alone, are the common denominator in our lives. A series of countless actions, taken as a whole, to create this life.  As they say, “Roads lead to roads.” All of our decisions are interconnected.

Like it or not, what we do matters.

So, where is this all going?

There is another saying, “We cannot un-ring a bell.” And every moment of our lives is the ringing of a bell. Time only runs in one direction, right?

Sure, we can revisit the past through conversation and evaluate, explain, and deepen our understanding of what has happened. True, we can mend what has been broken. We can learn. But, we can never un-live a moment or, in any real sense, un-do an action. Literally.

What a tremendous gift! What an amazing responsibility we are given in life…to live in a reality where nothing can be taken back! Where every single thing we do (or do not do) ripples out into the future forever—in sometimes big, sometimes small ways.

A reality where nothing is static, where we are constantly changing.

No?

A microscope will tell us as much. Right now there are 7 x 1027 atoms making up each one of our bodies—and they are all moving.

That, by the way, is this many atoms:

7,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 / seven billion billion billion

And, that’s right, they’re all buzzing around and changing places at speeds so fast that they give the impression of stillness. Of solidity.

Even at rest, we are in constant motion.

So, the question becomes, what are we to do with this reality where everything is changing? The strengths would tell us, “Get in the zone!” Because that is where the nectar is. The zone is where everything else drops away and we feel tuned in to our life’s purpose.

When we are living from our strengths we know easily and naturally what actions to take. We do not second-guess ourselves. Our confidence grows. All of which is the opposite of what happens when we take no action, denying our strengths.

When we are in the zone we are likely living in the moment and living in our strengths, and when we are living in our strengths we are likely taking action and making changes that our future selves will agree with and appreciate.

So, how to get there? Noticing our strengths is a start and acknowledging them in ourselves and others. It sharpens our instinct and our reflex to respond to situations from a place of strength and action.

Because most decisions start with a choice, the best way to get into a strengths mindstate is through awareness. The more aware we are, the more options we perceive. And the more options we recognize, the more potential we see being available to us.

Can we feel our billions upon billions of atoms moving? What qualities of our strengths are so alive within us that they bring us to that still quiet place of life’s great meaning? What action can we take right now that moves us toward a greater strengths awareness?

Be your greatness. Start. Do. Go.

Strengths and Choice

August 27, 2015

Each time we choose to live in our strengths, we are choosing to change the patterns of our thinking and our lives.

Let’s take a moment, right here and right now, to close our eyes for 20 seconds and not think about anything.  Twenty, nineteen, eighteen, seventeen…

How was that?

Notice how without any effort at all thoughts arise?  Isn’t the very attempt to “not think” itself a type of thought?

We have, on average, 50,000 thoughts a day.  That’s right, fifty thousand thoughts every day.  Including weekends and holidays.

That means, if we are awake for sixteen hours, we think 50 thoughts per minute—all day long.

It might be worth asking ourselves, if we are always processing ideas at this velocity, “Where do they all come from?”  And, more importantly, “What is their fuel?”

By choosing to tune our minds to a strengths perspective we are putting our thoughts in touch with a language and a set of ideas that promotes our greatness.  We are choosing strengths-fuel.

And, happily, when we choose to live in our strengths, we don’t need to change everything all at once.  In fact, we don’t even need to change a single action at first—we just need to begin adjusting our thoughts.  The actions will flow naturally later.

Gearing our thinking toward the strengths means making a conscious intent to respond to life with a strengths reaction.  This usually means pausing and asking ourselves some questions when a challenge arises.  Take, for example, that person who gets under our skin, or that deadline at work, or that to-do list that keeps growing…

In these circumstances, we might pause, consider our strengths, and ask: What is our pattern here?  In the past, how have we reacted to stressors such as these?  Has that response worked?  Was it sustainable?

Even if we react, at first, as we always have, we created an intent, at the very least, to raise an awareness of our reaction.  After a while, by practicing this, we become less likely to be and feel pushed around by life.

Not living in our strengths can mean doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.  So…

What messages are we repeating to ourselves throughout the day?  What is our dominant thought?  How could it be classified?  Are we in active pursuit of our greatness?  Are we working toward thought patterns that promote a strengths reflex?

Be your greatness. Start. Do. Go.

Strengths and Instinct

August 26, 2015

Our strengths function like instincts tuned to our life’s path. The more we trust their messages, the easier we move about in the world.

It’s a beautiful sunny day and we are sitting on a bench in a busy park when suddenly—without thinking—we glance over our shoulder and catch someone eyeing us. Boom! We turn, and like a magnet, we lock eyes. (Let’s say, for the sake of creepiness, that we know this person and they are a friend.)  How did we know that they were there?

It’s likely that this has happened to us all. Sometimes it can be chalked up to peripheral vision, but not always. So, what’s up with that? Really, how is it that we can tell when someone is looking at us?

Scientists and psychologists have teamed up to term what is called “gaze detection”. And, while they are not exactly sure how, they have found within the brain that specific cells fire when we are being stared at, even from behind, by someone else. Those same cells, by the way, stay quiet when that other person is not looking directly at us…even if only an inch above our heads.

The theory is that it is an evolutionary measure designed to alert us that there is someone there and/or that something is about to happen.

Our strengths function in this way. They are like radars scanning our lives past and present, constantly finding and refining the data of our lives, bringing it to the surface and to our attention.

As we work consciously with them and develop our awareness of their presence, we grow in our confidence that they are always at the ready. And, if they are always on in this way, they are constantly communicating information to us. Someone with discipline doesn’t consciously activate that strength when it feels right. No, the strength is always on, looking for ways to be expressed in the world. That can be said for every strength—from achiever to woo.

And, like instinctively glancing over at our friend in the park, we generally move into our strengths without any pre-thought. Our strengths, in a sense, are us at our core operational level.

That said, not only do they promote the best versions of ourselves, they function as detectors as well, which signal us to action and/or potential action in our vicinity. It’s easy to see that those strong in harmony, adaptability, competition, and empathy are constantly reading the environment and taking the temperature of the room. So, what about intellection, developer, positivity, and focus? How might they serve as key parts of our radars—guiding us, signaling us, and sending up reports?

Our instincts keep us on a sound footing.

How have our instincts served us recently? What type of “gaze detection” is present in our strengths? What qualities and characteristics of life, both inner and outer, do they alert us to?

Be your greatness. Start. Do. Go.

Strengths and Visibility

August 25, 2015

Our strengths provide a light, which reveals what is essential and blocks out all the rest.

Based on data from NASA’s Kepler space module, there are an estimated 60 billion planets in our galaxy alone that could support life. To put that into perspective, if a grain of rice represented each planet, we could fill 30 average-sized homes from floor to ceiling.

Or, think about everyone on the globe. If earth has 8 billion people on it, we are talking about 7.5 times that many planets above our heads.

Depending on your strengths, this thought might be energizing, terrifying, totally irrelevant, or somewhere in between. Either way, like earth, those planets are in systems orbiting stars. Lots of stars, lots of planets, lots of open space. Right?

Then there is this: Pretty much everything in that equation is completely undetectable from earth. Sure, we can see some stars…but 60 billion planets?

So much of what is there, we cannot see.

More than that, the sun blocks out most of what can be seen from here during the day. And, if we live in cities, we know that their electric glow too can hide the night sky.

It’s a miracle that we ever see any stars at all…

What’s interesting is that, here, we’re talking about something being concealed by light as opposed to darkness. We’ve all stumbled through darkness, so, how often does it happen that illumination hides something?

Imagine, for a moment, that the 34 strengths are each stars in the constellation that creates us and our worldview. Our top strengths are our sun, the rest are the stars behind it, which might be other people’s suns. But not ours.

When it comes down to it, at the right distance, a star becomes a sun. And its light creates life.

Our strengths are our ever-orbiting, self-sustaining, perpetual life-forces. Look for them and there they are. They are easy to spot. They block out the rest and make thriving more possible.

In the battle between lights—the brightest one wins. And, in the world of strengths, where there are no weaknesses, it’s all light. One person’s sun is another’s star—both strengths.

In that way, it is by brilliance itself that some things are hidden.

That is to say, our strengths are our brightest lights. They don’t say, “This is right and that is wrong.” No. They say, “It’s all light, and these here are your brightest ones. Focus on them.”

What stars are nearest to us? What are our suns? Are we denying the bright light in our face because we’re trying to see the tiny stars in the distance?

Be your greatness. Start. Do. Go.