Thursday, January 19, 2017

Finding Your Sweet Spot

You should consider the task of finding clarity as important as brain surgery. Would you want your brain surgeon to check her phone for texts and emails, look for Pokémon, or fixate on the latest Kardashian gossip?  No, of course not.  Your life is important so she better be totally focused on you and your brain.  That being said, for this task, you should keep that level of commitment to yourself.  Even if you are not ready for your own mission statement at the present moment, you will be soon enough!  

Question One:  What do you love?

Start this exercise by writing about the things you love in life.  We’re not talking about the things you just like or those that you are content with having.  What do you l-o-v-e?  Use these words to help you start writing.  Don’t do it in your head, write it down.  The magic happens when we write things down so do it this way.

What are your:
Hobbies
Interests
Dreams
Pastimes
Obsessions
Pursuits
Likes
Favorite books to read

Remember to be thorough.  Don’t jot down only one item for each topic, write at least ten.  What are your values?  What are your passions?  What do you enjoy?  Notice we did not ask about what your parents or spouse would like you to do.  What do you like?  What did you hate about your last job?  What would have made that job absolutely amazing?  This is your chance to be completely selfish.  As children we all resented having to share a favorite candy bar with a younger sibling, so this is your chance to take the bigger half and not feel guilty about it.  What are you passionate about?  It doesn’t matter if it makes any money, if it’s hard, or if others view it as stupid.  This is your passion we are talking about.  So, what makes you happy, excited, and full of life?

Question Two:  What are you good at? 

This is the part where you will explore your strengths.  If you need help just think about your daily activities. What sorts of things come easy to you?  What things flow for you?  What do you find yourself excelling at with the least amount of effort?  What do you do better than your friends? 

What are your:
Talents
Skill sets
Aptitudes
Accomplishments

What kind of compliments do you get from friends or colleagues?  What kind of praise do you receive from your boss?  What flattering remarks did past bosses have to say?  Think back to school days. What did professors or teachers praise you for? The reason we are interested in what you are good at is because we want to leverage this.  Everyone is great, or at least good, at something, many things actually.  It’s just that many people rarely give this much thought until it’s brought to their attention, like now.

Regarding skills and talents, you should consider everything across all areas of life.  These skills can also be intangible like listening, talking, persuading, flirting, analyzing, or making fart sounds with your armpit.  Write down anything and everything that you are good at doing.  The more you acknowledge and write down, the greater your head start with where we are going. 

Question Three: What serves the world?

What could you do to serve the world?  You are here reading this book so we already know that you want to make a real difference for society.  What could you do or provide on a daily basis to make the world a better place?  What has value?  What kind of strategy would make the world a better place to call home?  What service would not only benefit others but also be profitable for you?  Many people make the mistake of focusing on how to make money, not realizing that monetary gain is just a by-product of adding value in the form of a product or service.  When you know how you can provide valuable goods or services to others then you will know how to get money.  What could you do that no one else has had the courage to do?  How could you help your neighborhood, community, religious group, city, state, continent, or planet?  As you go about your day, what do you notice about the world around you and how can you create a positive impact?

Gather your answers from all three questions and let’s see how they all fit together.

Looking at the graphic you will notice that as we intersect the three circles there are four areas that need explanation.  The overlap between what you are good at and what you love is what we call “self-serving.”  It is self-serving because it is simply all about you. As per the definition, “having concern for one's own welfare and interests before those of others.”  Psychology might define this type of person as a narcissist.  Although this person is using his strengths and doing what he loves to create success, we must also consider the cost.  Can you think of twenty examples of people who seemingly have everything but are incredibly unhappy?  You can probably do that with ease.  These people frequently report that despite the wealth and success, they feel as though they are missing something.  Our belief is that they are missing a sense of purpose through service. 

The overlap between what you love and what serves the world is labeled “not sustainable,” because you are not utilizing key strengths, which can cause frustration, stress, and overwhelm.  It can also lead to exhaustion due inefficient effort and wasted energy.  Think about the person who is so passionate about saving the ‘X’ that they fail to serve themselves and eventually run out of steam. You begin to feel used up or spread too thin.  Ben Franklin said, “When the well is dry we know the worth of water.”  Even on an airliner you are instructed to take care of your flow of oxygen and then be of service to others in need.

The overlap between what you are good at and what serves the world we (and Kenny Loggins) call “the danger zone.”  One reason this is the danger zone is because it lacks passion.  As you already know, passion is a huge driver of behavior but when that passion is absent our talents and strategy for service becomes mediocre at best.  Think about the person who was good at helping people and felt a duty to save unloved children so he chose a career in social work even though he was not really passionate about it.  Over the years, with no passion driving him, he would just show up and do his duty with no real desire, just because he thought it was his responsibility. That truly is a sad, sad life. 

“Nothing great in the world has ever been accomplished without passion.”  Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel

That brings us to the fourth and central overlap.  This is where all three circles intersect and it’s what we call “the sweet spot.”  This is the point of highest contribution.  It is here that your passion will fuel your desires and those desires will be supported by dominant skills.  In systems thinking this would be called a reinforcing loop.  In this dialogue, a reinforcing loop is one in which an action produces a result that influences more of the same action thus resulting in growth or decline.  When we live with passion and see the positive result in the world, we become supercharged to continue to build valuable skills and resources, which in turn drives our passion even further.

Perhaps you’re wondering how you will know when you’ve found what you truly love to do.  Well, does it make you feel good?  If you feel it in your gut that you’ve hit the jackpot then you’re most likely right.  Does it make you congruent from head to toe?  When you think about it do you believe it to be right?  When you ask your heart, do you know it to be the right thing to do?  When you ask your gut, do you feel that it is right that it is you? There have to be no reservations about it whatsoever.  If you feel the slightest doubt that it’s not your passion, then most likely it’s not.  You must hunger to overcome any obstacles to pursue your passion.  You must see the benefit of your actions for a cause greater than yourself. You must feel that you have the necessary skills to overcome any and all obstacles that stand before you. Once you have that then your search is over. 


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Taken from the forthcoming book, Bankroll Your Mind, by Larunce Pipkin and Rich Perry

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