Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Following The Path of Least Resistance....

........really gets a bad press. It's often interpreted as being lazy and taking the easy way out (and what is so bad about that?). However, after years of taking the path of most resistance and feeling the pain of that, I've decided that I'd prefer another way.

What I actually call this is working with yourself, rather than against yourself. By which I mean work to your strengths, rather than weaknesses. Now this may sound like common sense, but as you know, common sense isn't really all that common.

Working with your strengths

I remember the yearly annual appraisal. Boy that was fun with a capital F! Managers and the managed looked forward to the appraisal with the same enthusiasm of taking out wisdom teeth without anaesthetic. I remember that all too well. I felt frustrated with the appraisal and the thought that I wasn't really bringing my strengths to the table in this position. My then boss, an astute man, said that he felt that I wasn't really working to my strengths, but my weaknesses.

However, when you think of the annual job appraisal, it tends to be approached with the belief that weaknesses must be identified and brought up to scratch.

But what happens to our strengths?

My experience was that whenever I used my strengths to full capacity, the "weaknesses" tended to catch up. Whenever I did the opposite, my strengths atrophied.

Yet that is how we operate in many parts of our lives.

Culturally we do tend to take in the beliefs: "no pain, no gain" "if it ain't hurting, it ain't working" "love hurts". Yes, these are tenets for having a happy life! And underlying all of these is the thought that if things come too easily, then they're not worth having. We must work hard and struggle to feel that we've deserved it.

How many poor souls are overstretching themselves adhering to these unhelpful beliefs!

Life coaches often don't help

Life coaches, self help gurus play a role in perpetuating this as well. We are told that we must strive for our goals and take action and plan where we want to be in 5, 10, 15 years time. No matter if we're worn out and exhausted by the effort of doing so.

Talane Miedaner believes that we should ditch the goals, the "to do" lists and all of those worthy and disempowering "shoulds" and "musts". As relentlessly pursuing goals set yourself up for frustration, stress and disappointment. And that to be successful means being energised, making yourself attractive and a success magnet.

She also says that we can go after goals or attract them.

I agree with her. But there's one thing that she's missed out.

I've read and experienced all sides of the spectrum. I've been the goal setter supreme and felt the pain and pleasure of being relentless in pursuing them. I've also gone the other way and not set any goals at all and that has felt lackdaisical, aimless and demotivated. It could be that I was setting the wrong goals or I wasn't clear why I was setting these goals.

Introvert or Extrovert

Ultimately, it all depends on your personality, temperament and best use of your energy.

(i) There are some people who are in their element going after what they want in a BIG way. It suits the way that they operate and they can become very successful using this mode of operation because IT WORKS FOR THEM. Their mode of operation tends to be the default setting in the West.

(ii) Because there are others who are better off harnessing their energy, visualising clearly about what they want, imagining how good it'll feel, making sure that their self care is of the highest order in order to attract the opportunities, resources, situations and events that they desire.

I sense that there is an extrovert/introvert split and that the extroverts are more likely to go for (i) and the introverts (ii). Because extroverts and introverts thrive on using their energy differently. Extroverts are more outer directed, orientated to the world around them, seeking out people making connections; they are energised from without.

Introverts are inner directed and are more guided by their inner world of ideas are oriented towards the inner world of ideas, imagery, and reflection. Introverts get their energy from within rather than from the outside world. An introvert values quiet time alone for thinking while an extrovert wants time with others for action. They look to the inner world for energy and meaning and need plenty of quiet time and space alone.

There is no "right" or "wrong" - it's just a difference in temperament. But because of the bias towards extroversion, it is the introverts who often find themselves drained by going after their goals in a traditional manner; they are in fact, working against themselves and can set themselves up for a whole host of disadvantages, not least of which is the effect going against their temperament has on their energy levels, which can result in stress related illnesses.

If you're reading this, you're more likely to be an introvert. And because I'm writing it, I am an introvert.

So working with yourself means using your tendencies, strengths to your advantage. It also means knowing yourself. For years I chided myself on not being a team player. I didn't like working with or in teams, I always worked best with minimal supervision and meetings. But because so much of what you see and hear emphasises being a team player, I tried to "force" myself to become one. I had some success, at least on the surface of it, but I felt drained, resentful and exhausted trying to be something I was not.

Working with yourself also means being kind to yourself and taking care of yourself mind, body, energy and spirit. Increasing your energy supply is probably the best way to start working with your strengths and following the path of least resistance. It means that you have more energy for self awareness, acceptance and knowledge. It means being clear about who you really are. Know thyself.

If, for instance, you are seeking to change jobs, careers, be clear under what conditions you will thrive. Write it down, imagine it and use EFT to clear out any energetic blocks you have to create the job, life that you truly desire.

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