Bet On Your Strengths

pushupcs700_0I suck at math. I always have. It got so bad that I almost didn’t graduate from high school because I just couldn’t get through algebra.
In college, I had to take every math class twice before I could pass it. I became so comfortable with it that I knew the first time I took College Algebra or Statistics, I knew it was just for practice.
It was frustrating and it made me even doubt what the hell I was doing in college in the first place.
Eventually I got through all my college math courses. I even got decent enough that I passed Research Methods and Advanced Research Methods on my first try.  By then I had learned I needed to read my math books just like they were any other text book and teach the material to myself. Still, I was never good at advanced math, I just learned how to get through it.
I was unhappy for a lot of my high school and early college years because I struggled and focused so much on my weakness with math. It wasn’t until later when I started focusing on my strengths like art, writing and behavioral sciences that I became happy. Only then did I really start to feel smart and like I belonged on a college campus.
I literally felt free when I didn’t have to take another damn math class and was able to actually focus on what I was good at.
A Deficit Mindset
Many of us spend much of our lives unhappy and unsatisfied because we are constantly focusing on our weaknesses. We focus on the things we aren’t good at and neglect the things we are good at.
People who suffer from depression, low self esteem and anxiety are especially notorious at this.
Many of their personal stories paint them as victims and not victors. They feel weak and only focus on their weaknesses, not the strength it took for them to even survive the sometimes traumatic experiences they went through.
When people have this deficit type of mindset, they tend to not only focus on their faults, but also the faults in others instead of focusing on their positive qualities and seeing other people for who they are.
This type of mindset can affect any of us.  If we focus on or weaknesses and try to become better, of course we can improve, but we will probably never become great at it and we will expend a lot of time and energy for minimal gains.
What if we used that same amount of time and energy to focus on something we are good at?
Sticking with the math analogy, I know someone who has a great business mind, but she isn’t particularity good with numbers so she hired someone who is and that has allowed her to take a lot of her energy off of the finance part and focus more on creating the business of her dreams.
Had she allowed the fact that she wasn’t good with numbers scare her from starting a business or bog her down with late nights balancing books and getting frustrated, her business may not have been as successful as it is. She may have never been free to do the things she was good at doing such as marketing and networking.
FOCUSING ON YOUR STRENGTHS WILL MAKE YOU HAPPIER
By putting all of your energy into your strengths and not so much on your weaknesses, you’ll not only be happier,  but you will start taking your life to a new level and start living more authentically.
I have a client who was recently very depressed and suicidal. On paper she is very successful. She’s smart, married, has one child, makes six figures, has a beautiful home and a luxury car. She has accomplished everything she has ever dreamed of, but she is unhappy because she’s always afraid of losing it all.
She worries about losing her husband, losing her job and losing everything that comes with that. Although she is brilliant, she is constantly telling me about all of her faults. It’s like she doesn’t even see her strengths. She’s focusing so much on her weaknesses and worried that other people will see them, that she is filled with anxiety and depression.
Her “weaknesses” are keeping her unhappy, distracting her from the wonderful life she has right in front of her, and serving absolutely no purpose at all other than driving her crazy.
We don’t have to pretend we don’t have weaknesses. We have to embrace them, except them and then focus on our strengths. Our strengths are our keys to living more authentic lives.
Focusing on your strengths can boost your confidence and overshadow your weaknesses. 
One last example from a couple I counseled.
The wife was so focused on her husband not being a “manly man”. In her eyes, a manly man fixed cars and was a great handy man. That simply was not her husband. He was mechanically challenged. She focuses so much on that area of “weakness” that she was very unhappy in the marriage.
Through strength based counseling she learned to see her husbands strengths. First of all, he was a good man, a good husband and a terrific father. He adored her and the kids, took care of business and yes, maybe when the sink got clogged he was clueless to fix it, but that’s what handymen and plumbers are for. She actually fell in love with him all over again when she learned to focus on his strengths. She had almost stopped seeing him for the things she had falling in love with him for.
Unfortunately, many people never learn that and she could have ruined their marriage simply because of her world view of what made a man a real man and focusing on what she perceived as her husbands faults.
Many people do this to themselves. They are living day to day unhappy because they are constantly focusing on their deficits instead of embracing their strengths. They drive themselves to unhappiness, misery and even suicide.
“You need to bet on your strengths and don’t give a f*ck about what you suck at,” is one of my favorite quotes by entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk.
I’m not saying not to challenge yourself. I believe we need to challenge ourselves and put ourselves in uncomfortable situations in order to grow. What I am saying is, if you suck at something, don’t let it tear you down. Find something you are good at and become even better at it. That’s what’s going to take you to the next level.

Embracing These 5 Harsh Realties About Life Will Make You Stronger

Embracing These 5 Harsh Realties About Life Will Make You Stronger

Life is beautiful. There is no doubt about that, but life can also be hard. Sometimes we make it even harder by refusing to accept its harsh realities. We can even create our own little fantasy worlds to try to protect ourselves, but embracing these five harsh realities about life can make us stronger and help us live more authentically.

1. Everyone Is Going To Die

I know this isn’t a pleasant subject, but it’s a fact. Everyone, including you and everyone you love are going to die. When my uncle passed away at age 65, I thought for sure my dad would at least live to be 65. That gave me many more years to improve our relationship and get closer. A couple of weeks later he got hit by a truck and was left in a coma for 1 month before he died. People are here today and gone today. Instead of this being something to get depressed about, it should motivate us to live our lives, find purpose and cherish the people we have in our lives while we still can.

 2.  Motivation Is Bullshit

Many of us are not living the lives we’re supposed to live because we’re waiting until we feel motivated to do something. We’re waiting until we feel like doing it or until it’s the right time. It may never be the right time and we probably never will feel like doing the things we need to do so JUST DO IT! If you want to write a book, don’t wait until you feel like doing it or the book may never get written. If you have an ideal for a business, don’t wait until you have everything figured out to start working on it because you may never have everything figured out.  Most of us don’t feel like going to work in the morning, but we do because we have to. Treat your goals and dreams the same way.

3. The Perfect Partner Doesn’t Exist

Most of us have an image in our head of what the perfect partner will be like. I have been guilty of creating this fantasy partner in my head where we have this perfect relationship and that isn’t realistic. Holding on to that image too much will make anyone we are in a relationship with pale in comparison and perhaps make us appreciate them less by expecting too much. That isn’t fair. There is no perfect partner. That doesn’t mean we settle for just anything, but it means that we should expect to have to put in some work and if we are with a partner who is also willing to work with us then the relationship will become something beautiful and fulfilling even if it isn’t perfect.

4. Life Hurts

Living your life, going after your dreams and goals is amazing and exciting, but it doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy. Life is going to knock you down, but you have to get back up. Don’t give up on something you want just because it doesn’t work out the first, second or fifth time! You grow from your experiences. You learn from the pain. Instead of going through something, learn to grow through it. If you’re hurting, use that pain to motivate you to get through it and come out stronger.  Living your best life isn’t easy, but it’s worth it. The alternative is not living up to your full potential and dying with so many goals, dreams and talents wasted all because you were afraid to grow through the pains of life.

5. Nothing Lasts Forever

This is one of those hurts of life; nothing lasts forever. We fall in love, out of love, or lose the ones we love. We’re young and then we’re old. We’re all going to die. This is life. Whenever you’re growing through something, rather it’s a break up or grieving the death of a loved one, remember that this is part of the human experience. You’re not alone. Again, use this to motivate you to live life, cherish it and appreciate it while you can. If we all lived forever, if everything lasted forever, when would we appreciate or do anything? Many people who have a terminal illness spend the last few months of their lives trying to finally live. The good thing is, we don’t have to wait until we’re dying to start living fully.

“Embrace reality, even if it burns you.” -Pierre Berge

Who And Where You Are Today Is Right Where You Are Supposed To Be

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Many of us spend a whole lot of time not being happy with ourselves and our current situations. We we always think there is somewhere else we should be at this point in our lives and would have a lot less stress if we learned to embrace who we are and where we are right now. We would have a lot less stress also if we learned to let go instead of trying to control situations and other people.

How much of our energy is spent beating up on ourselves or trying to make an outcome turnout in our favor or stop someone from doing something that really isn’t in our control?

I have to admit that during certain parts of my life I wasted a lot of energy trying to control the future, trying to control other people’s behaviors and even emotions. I went to great lengths to keep people from getting mad, to keep people from leaving or to get people to be who I wanted them to be. It was exhausting and robbing me of my sanity, but during those times, I thought it was keeping me sane. I thought it was keeping my world balanced, but in reality it was destroying certain parts of myself and my life.

A lot of the desire to control outcomes and people come from us not trusting that things will eventually workout in our favor. Some people will call it not having faith in God or the Universe, therefore we try to take control over things that are really out of control. I’m not talking about sitting back and not taking action in your life and just hoping things will happen by happenstance, but I am talking about not worrying excessively over whether you’re going to get the job you interviewed for when you’ve already interviewed and given it your all. I am talking about not worrying whether or not your friend will be mad when you let her know you can’t lend her $20 because you barely have $20 yourself.

We all have our own way of trying to keep our world in balance, especially when we don’t trust that things will be okay no matter what and that the Universe, for the most part, is working for our good. What we have to learn, what I am still learning, is that life is good right now. That everything that is happening right now is just the way it is supposed to be. That where I am right now is where I am supposed to be. I am not behind, I am not trying to play catch up to this other me that is living a better life, and I have not missed out on some magical opportunity that will never come back. I am exactly where I am supposed to be right now.

Realizing that and letting go of trying to control every little thing frees us from our past. Who we were back then and what we did back then was just fine for back then. Who we are at this moment is also just fine for right now. Once we stop trying to control circumstances and people, once we stop beating up on ourselves for not being better, we will realize how much control we actually have over ourselves, our thoughts, our emotions and our present moment. We all want to be better, to be happy, to grow, but sometimes we have to enjoy life as it is today and just be and realize that where we are and who we are right now is good enough for today.

Allow Yourself To Have Fun

istock_000015814289xsmallThe other day I found myself feeling a lot of anxiety. It was even manifesting itself in the form of physical symptoms like a slight headache and uneasy stomach. It took sitting with myself in introspection to realize that part of the anxiety I was feeling came from me taking things too seriously and not allowing myself to relax and have fun.

These things included situations in both my personal and professional lives. I wanted everything to be so perfect, afraid of making any mistakes, that I wasn’t truly enjoying what should be great and nurturing experiences.

I had become rigid and so critical of myself that I was feeling trapped and suffocated in the same way I have seen many people who are so afraid of making a mistake, looking like a fool, taking a chance or letting people see them vulnerable that they walk around stoic and detached or anxious and miserable. I was afraid to turn left or right, to get out of my lane, so I just kept moving forward even when I didn’t like or care for the direction I was headed.

I’ve never been the adventurous type, I’ve  always been afraid of taking risks, big or small. I always felt like I had to do the right thing, even if that right thing meant living a boring, safe, unfulfilled life.  I’ve never been spontaneous and have always admired people who are.

I’ve always been afraid of what other people may think or say if I did something unexpected or that put me first.

In many ways those other-imposed and self-imposed rigid boundaries were preventing me from living my best life, a full life, something I am always advocating for in the people I work with.

Last night I was watching the final episodes of season two of In Treatment, a show about a therapist and his clients that used to come on HBO. In one of the episodes, one of the therapist’s clients, Walter, a 68 year old man who had spent his whole life caring for and worrying about everyone else while maintaining rigid parameters while putting himself last, discovered that despite everything he had done his whole life, he had never truly lived or been happy. It was a depressing discovery and he felt like he was too old to start living, but his therapist, Paul, assured him that it was never too old to start focusing on himself and living a full live, but it had to start now.

I don’t want to be that way. I don’t want to discover one day at the age of 48, 58 or 68 that I have never truly lived because I have been so busy worrying about other people, what they think about me and not living the life I was meant to live, never truly being happy.

So many of us are living, but aren’t truly living. We aren’t fully participating in life. We are too afraid of making a mistake. We have to allow ourselves to be spontaneous, take risk and to not always worry about being appropriate or what other people may say or think.

We were not meant to be this rigid, this repressed and afraid of living the life we have been given. We have to find away to relax, enjoy life and have fun, to stop taking ourselves and everything so seriously so that we can see the true beauty of life. Many of us live with guilt and shame that has been placed on us by others or ourselves that keep us from moving forward and enjoying life. We have to let that go. We have to get out and enjoy life, experience life so that we can live a full life in touch with our whole self.

Sure there will be mistakes we make, lessons learned, but those will only serve to help us discover our boundaries and learn discipline, but for us to discover those parts of ourselves we have to loosen up, stop punishing ourselves and allowing others to punish us.

Life is meant to be lived, to be fully experienced, not to be so inhibited and rigid that we are just going through the day to day motions until the day we die.

Today, do something different, step out side of your comfort zone, of the boundaries that have been set for you by yourself and others. Live life and trust yourself that you won’t fall off the deep in, but will discover what life was meant to be. Start today and hopefully you and I both will continue to make really enjoying life and having fun with less inhabitions and fear, an essential part of our existence.