Humans are experts at exploiting things to their full potential. We only need to look at the speed at which technology progresses. Sometimes it feels like technological advances move faster than life itself. What 20 years ago was unimaginable, is so integrated into our society today that we consider it essential. However…
There was a day when we didn’t have a notion of time as we do today, the sun and moon had the function of clocks and we didn’t know that we could transform their energy into movement or electricity.
The only machine capable of transforming solar energy into other types of energy was the human body. The sun nourished the fields, fruit grew, and once ingested in the body, humans used transformed it into psychical energy and movement. (I haven’t become a scientist overnight, I am just amazed by Yuval Noah Harari’s work in his book Sapiens, which if you haven’t read yet, I recommend before even starting).
In Sapiens I found something that made me reflect, and then inspired me to create a metaphor about our potential, which I would love to share with you as it is related to today’s topic: For years, humans had the most important invention of energy production right before their eyes and the failed to notice it. When you boiled water in a pan in the kitchen and got distracted, steam would escape and the lid would jump! This was regarded as a nuisance as no one was able to spot the potential of what was happening… Magic! Heat was being transformed into movement! Eventually, this would result in steam-powered engines and the birth of the Industrial Revolution, but more often than not it became merely another reason to criticise the woman behind the pan. Why do I tell you all of this? Because I believe this is exactly what happens when you are not able to see your full potential as a person, you can end up believing that you are boring or even a disaster because you don’t know your strengths, or are unable to observe all that you can contribute to this world (or you are already contributing without even knowing it!).
That is why, I believe it is time to start living through our strengths. Science and technology progress non stop, and that includes psychology. For 60 years, psychology focused exclusively on the illness model: Healing and diagnosing mental illness in order to avoid suffering, but now there is also a science focused on understanding happiness, satisfaction and human potential. Positive psychology tasked with understanding what makes us tick. Coaching provides us with tools to make the best of our full potential.
Now prevention comes before healing.
However, this is an advance that many people are currently unaware of. That is why I have decided to share it today, for all the people that I have crossed paths with who are stuck because they don’t know what to do with their lives.
‘I don’t know what I want to do. I don’t have a passion or a gift.’ Does this ring a bell?
We have evolved so much that now our problem is not knowing what to choose out of so many possibilities. The Paradox of Choice is that we have so many options to choose from that often we get overwhelmed without knowing what decision to make, especially when we believe our whole future life depends on a single decision. You go to the supermarket and choosing what milk to buy becomes a puzzle. You go to a shop to buy some jeans and there are so many types, styles, lengths… Whatever you buy, it is easy to leave the shop doubtful that you have made the right purchase. Imagine how this process complicates things when it comes to choosing a couple, moving abroad or choosing a career. I could write a whole book about The paradox of choice, but I just thought it was necessary to mention it as it is one of the biggest causes of our indecision and doubts that lead us to question constantly who we are and who we can be.
Thanks to Positive Psychology, Seligman and Peterson developed the theory of character strengths, which helped us to classify human strengths and discover which ones we have through a scientific test called VIA. It has been proved that practising our strengths make us happier. Knowing our strengths is only the first step if you want to discover your gift, and where you want to go in life, your strengths can become your guiding tool. Your compass. Your map. The more you use your strengths, the easier it will be to make decisions in a world full of possibilities and above all, the more you use them the more positive emotions you will feel and consequently, the happier you will become.
Before getting to know the VIA test there were three questions that pushed me to discover my fortés and to decide to focus on them. I would not be a coach today if I hadn’t asked myself these 3 questions.
What could you teach?
Not long ago, a friend of mine was desperately looking for a job, as she didn’t know what she wanted to do with her life. I asked her this question: What could you teach? we all know a lot about something to the point to be able to teach it. She doubtful answered: ‘Maybe, feminism. I have been reading about it for years and I think even though feminism is trendy now, there are so many misunderstandings regarding the topic.’. My friend reads much more than most people of our generation. Thanks to this simple question, she thought of the idea of starting a feminist reading club and host weekly events! I recommended starting by charging a very affordable ticket, and hosting the events at her place, so she had low costs to start with. Little by little she took off and felt so satisfied. Even though you might not have teaching blood, this question may help you discover your gift and what you can offer.
What do your loved ones admire about you?
Don’t be shy, just ask! Sometimes our closest people can be more objective as they observe you from the outside, as they do not listen to the critic voice that limits us and accuses us of arrogance every time we mention a positive quality to define ourselves. (Next week I will talk about this voice, the critic, the infamous SATISFACTION chimp). You can take this as an exercise and next week ask the 5 closest people in your life what they think are your 3 biggest strengths. Maybe you can find similarities in their answers, and the overall information may surprise you and serve you in your journey to move forwards!
What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
Anything that you do for pure joy in your free time may be a hidden strength, we enjoy ourselves more when our strengths are in play. Don’t discard anything: Maybe you spend your free time reading or watching movies, or playing some sports, or partying, or painting little plastic models… Whatever it is, you can take some information from it. It is all about thinking creatively, and who knows… maybe your hobby can become your whole day, as in my case: All my teenage summers reading psychology books on the beach have transformed into my profession. Not long ago I met a friend that I hadn’t seen since childhood, as a kid he was always painting these little plastic figures as he loved it and now he decorates professional models that people buy. If you love partying, maybe your gift is public relations. There are no judgements, what you love contains information as to where your strengths are hidden.
Do you dare to look at your light and ask yourself what really matters? Your strengths are your biggest tool. If you are not using them, your full potential hasn’t been utilised yet.
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Love and Satisfaction!