Strengths and Breathing


December 4, 2015


Despite being invisible, oxygen makes up about two-thirds of the weight of all living things. Specifically, living things contain a lot of water and water contains a lot of oxygen. In fact, 90% of water’s weight is oxygen.

Again, despite being invisible, we cannot last long without it.

Interestingly, breathing is the only autonomic system of the body that we can also regulate. Another way of saying this is that the lungs are the only organ in our bodies that we can at any moment take control of. Under normal circumstances, we can take deep breaths, shallow breaths, long ones, short ones–however we choose.

Our bodies will breathe for us so that we can focus on other priorities, it’s true; but should we ever want to take over the lungs and focus solely on breathing, we have that option.

And so it is with our strengths. Because they speak to the core of who we are, they are always active. Even when we are distracted, busy, or unaware, our strengths are still very much alert, looking for opportunities to be expressed. While this does happen unconsciously, we are always able to activate them consciously.

In the same way that we might do with our breathing, when we stop and take a few deep breaths, we can stop and say, “How can I activate my strengths more fully?”

And the more we practice this, the clearer the answer becomes.

Our comfort zones and our confidence zones are largely related to what our areas of strength are. That is why some people might feel very much at home in large groups (woo, self-assurance, command) while others would just as soon deepen connections with a few people at a time (relator, empathy, harmony).

Finding ways of keeps our strengths active and nourished in any situation can feel a lot like work because it requires us to step out of what we know. But, making that effort can pay off in terms of broadening our perspectives, overcoming fear, recognizing opportunities, and having new experiences.

Knowing and understanding our strengths doesn’t mean only seeking experiences within our zones; it means, instead, recognizing what our zones are and using them as launch pads for branching out and finding new ways that our greatness can be applied. This means trying new things.

The best part is, if we try something and it doesn’t “work”, we are still us. Sure, our egos might get a little bruised now and again, but the core of who we are is not likely to be irreparably damaged by us stepping outside of our comfort zones.

The opposite, however, may cause actual damage as well as lasting pain. That is, living in fear of having new experiences and never stepping out strips us of the experience of truly seeing what we are capable of. If we only live in our comfort zones we will never know our true greatness.

After a certain age, it might be easy to think that we already “know” who we are. After all, we’ve already experienced so much. And, while it is true that we do learn a lot along the way—it’s unlikely that we will ever be done with the desire to experience new things. Even turning on the TV is a manifestation of the desire to see something new.

Our strengths are more than tools for getting by, they are our keys to greatness. If we truly seek to develop them, we must be willing to experiment with them. Sometimes that means stepping out of our comfort zones and speaking up or diving in or, even, getting comfortable with spending time alone.

Three Questions

What is my comfort-zone?

Is it truly a comfort-zone or is it a complacent-zone? Am I avoiding truly living because I am fearful of new experiences?

What do I love about being me? How can I share that quality with someone in the next 60 minutes? GO!

Five Minute Action

Breathing meditation:

Take one minute to jot down how you are feeling. It might look like this: Tired but happy. Feeling a little stress about work. Looking forward to the weekend. Need to remember to do laundry and buy books on Sunday. I am a little worried about my plants.

Set the timer on your phone for three minutes.

Sit with back straight.

Take deep breaths in through your nose and out from your mouth.

When the timer goes off, jot down how you are feeling after the focused breathing.

(If you find your results worthwhile, try upping it to four/five/ten minutes of deep breathing.)

Be your greatness. Start. Do. Go.

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