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.
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.