It's a beautiful evening. Everyone is dressed in their finery and is in high spirits. Tonight you are receiving an award. After a few truly witty remarks, the host announces, "And the award for ... goes to ..." and that's when you hear your name called.
If the ceremony was held tonight, what award would you receive?
The award for...
... pursing your dreams in spite of challenges and unknowns
... keeping it together when things get really tough
... really showing up for friends and family
... committing to excellence and making things happen
... sharing your enthusiasm and sense of adventure with others
... creating new and innovative things in the world
... patiently seeing the good in other people
Given what is meaningful and fulfilling, society often confers recognition for some of the silliest things, like acting well when paid astronomical amounts of money—wow, how do they do it? This New Year's we propose officially recognizing the unique and amazing qualities that make you you. Instead of writing resolutions about what you want to change about yourself, list the qualities and attributes that you value in yourself right now. Give yourself permission to acknowledge all your wonderful ways of being and the remarkable things you do, especially those that may not be so obvious to others.
Speaking for ourselves, one of us might be described as naturally patient, but the other one actually deserves the award for patience given how naturally impatient she is (names withheld to protect the impatient). All of us have natural gifts, but we have also developed other characteristics and skills, often to overcome our biggest challenges. These are particularly prize worthy because of what they say about our ability to grow.
In making your list we suggest you also get input from people who know you well. While this may feel awkward, you will be surprised (and gratified) to learn what others see in you. If you have a hard time getting up the nerve, imagine if someone you cared about asked you to list their outstanding qualities. Most of us would jump at the opportunity to offer this kind of positive feedback.
Another way to identify attributes that may be less obvious even to you is to look at your personality through the lens of a typology. Sometimes we are so close to our way of being that we have a hard time seeing it. While there are several typing systems to choose from, we like the Myers Briggs and Enneagram systems. (You can take a free personality test here to determine your type and read a brief description.)
With this juicy list of qualities you appreciate—dare we say love—about yourself, now contemplate what it would mean to expand upon these in the coming year. Whenever you felt challenged, you would draw on these strengths and amplify them to address the situation, like zooming in on a particular feature and expanding it until it fills the screen, in this case the screen of your mind.
We had a client who really didn't like his work anymore and felt stuck. When we explored what was going on, he was able to touch in with how important providing for his family was for him. As he focused more and more on his desire and ability to be a good provider, he found himself feeling re-energized. He re-connected on a deeper level with why he was where he was, and what is most remarkable, he began to have more clarity and drive to make changes. Two months later he had found a more rewarding job that paid better than his old one. By expanding on his longing to take care of his family, he was able to figure out the steps to becoming an even better provider.
Sometimes when we focus too much on what is wrong about a situation, or about ourselves, or about others, we shut ourselves off from the personal resources that can move us forward. By putting our attention on our strong suits we can create greater energy and space for new possibilities.
Tonight as you accept your award(s), take a moment to look over the crowd and see all the people—family, friends, co-workers—who have helped you to become the person you are. Offer them your gratitude, and then take in the power and joy of acknowledging yourself.
We're serious. Make your list and ask others for their input. It makes for a great group activity while you are waiting to ring in the New Year. (We exchanged awards lists with our lovely copy editor Jill Sughrue, and it was truly gratifying—Thanks Jill!)
Feeling challenged? Instead of continuing unproductive thought loops about how bad things are, scan your list of qualities to see what might help you at this moment. If you draw a blank, focus what would be an ideal helpful attitude (ex: optimism, courage, patience). Now scale it up so it fills the screen of your mind, and then see what pops up after that.
Offering our sincere congratulations on being you!
Beth and Eric
This monthly slow essay is from Beth Meredith & Eric Storm of Create The Good Life.
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