Have you ever heard some enthusiastic, optimist person spout statements such as, “You can be anything you want to be” or “What you believe, you can achieve!” As nice as these kind of grandiose motivators may sound, they are not true. You can’t be anything you want to be nor can you do anything you want to do. Yes, we all have strengths and great potential but we also have limitations and weaknesses - things we are not very good at. Accepting this reality and working within it is a part of finding joy and fulfilment in life.
Some of us need more ‘reality thinking’ and a little less ‘possibility thinking’. No, I’m not referring to talking yourself down or to some form of ‘worm theology’ (“I’m just a nobody!”) ... just a good dose of honest, sober thinking. Others of us need to see ourselves with fresh eyes so we can break free from the negative limitations that other people have put on us or we have placed on ourselves. Our potential is far beyond what we are currently living out.
Each of us has STRENGTHS - unique aptitudes, skills and abilities. Yes, we can DO whatever we are gifted to do and we can BE whatever we are wired to be. Our strengths are something we discover more than something we decide. This takes a commitment to exploration. The greater the variety of things we attempt and the experiences we engage in, the more likely we will discover what our strengths are ... and what they are not! This is part of the adventure of life.
Our strengths are what we are good at and also what energises us. A good experiment is to take time each day over the coming week to reflect on and respond to two simple, open-ended statements:
- “I felt energised when ...”
- “I felt drained when ...”
This activity helps us gain some much needed self-awareness. The smart thing to then do is to lean in towards doing more of what energises you and less of what drains you. And the good news is that what drains you probably energises someone else. Of course, we will never completely eliminate all draining activities. After all, someone has to do the dishes and take out the rubbish - not because you feel especially gifted to do so but just because it needs to be done!
Most of you are aware that I made a major vocational change last February as I finished up as Senior Minister of CityLife Church, a position I had held for 22 years. There were many factors contributing to this decision but one of them was that I was no longer enjoying this role in the last few years as much as I did earlier on. I was spending two thirds of my time in all the meetings that were required to lead such a large, complex organisation and each weekend I was responsible for overseeing 11 church services in 4 locations. I spent many years speaking 4-5 times a weekend myself ... on top of busy midweek activities. Over time, it became more draining than energising for me.
During my processing time, my amazing wife, Nicole, once asked me, “If you didn’t have your job today, would you apply for it?” Now that’s a good question! As time went on, I realised that I wouldn’t. And I realised that my life calling wasn’t limited to the role I had served in for over two decades.
Now, 11 months on, I am loving life again and finding fresh joy in coaching church and business leaders, as well as speaking at various churches and conferences, without the burden of also leading a large church. That required some tough choices ... but it was well worth it.
How is life and work going for you? You have far more power and freedom to determine your future than you realise. I urge you to “go with your strengths” ... even if it requires making some big changes in your life or vacation. You’ll be glad you did ... and so will those close to you. Plus, the world will be a much better place.
P.S. For further reading about going with your strengths, check out Marcus Buckingham’s excellent book, “Go Put Your Strengths to Work.”