Focus on Your Awesome – Run YOUR Race
We are all familiar with the saying that what we focus on is magnified. The things we spend our time thinking about become a reality for us, so why might I ask, do we so often focus on our weaknesses, the things we don’t feel like we’re good at? Let’s change that. We have a lot of awesome going on already.
Stories are our lives in language. Welcome to the Love Your Story podcast. I’m Lori Lee, and I’m excited for our future together of telling stories, evaluating our own stories, and lifting ourselves and others to greater places because of our control over our stories. This podcast is about empowerment and giving you, the listener, ideas to work with in making your stories work for you. Story power serves you best when you know how to use it.
In the Disney recreation of the events of the Triple Crown-winning horse and Secretariate’s incredible underdog triumph–in the movie Secretariate–there is a scene where Secretariate’s owner, Penny Chenery Tweedy is in the stable, nose to nose with her beloved horse who is just overcoming an injury before his big race. No one is certain how he’ll perform because he hasn’t been feeling well. She looks him straight in the eye and she says, “I’ve run my race by not giving up, (she had fought for the horse for funding, she’d put her families fortune on the line, she’s stood up against other horse owners in media discussions, she had stood up against family pressure in order to get Secretariate to this place, to these races.) “Now,” she continued, “it’s your time to run your race.” The movie ends with the Belmont Stakes race, the third and final race of the Triple Crown, in 1973, and Secretariate is expected to go nose to nose with his rival of the year, Shamm. About a minute into the race, these horses are neck and neck taking turns pulling slightly ahead of one another when Secretariate begins a pull away that at first leaves people scared because they don’t believe Secretariate can keep up that pace. They’re afraid he’ll wear down and not be able to keep the pace. Those watching the race go from excitement as the horses start out, to anger that the jockey is letting him go too fast too soon, to almost big-eyed quiet as they watch the impossible. Secretariate never falters, in fact, his stead speed increases as he leaves Shamm what feels like halfway around the course and wins by 25 lengths. Even those who don’t care about horse racing get tears in their eyes when watching the footage of this race because there is something about the power of that horse, running his own race, and pulling so far ahead, doing the impossible, and we get to sit and watch it happen. It’s one of those magical moments in history where your heart is simply caught in your throat and your joy and respect for that beautiful animal crowds out all other emotion. I share this scene with you because when Penny turned over all her expectations, told Secretariate that she had already won her race, now he simply got to run his best race, because he could, I felt a sense of freedom and understanding in my own race. I don’t need to run the same race as Chris Ducker or John Dumas or the other podcasters and online entrepreneurs. I can and should run my own race, born of my own strengths and my own insights and my own definition of success. I get to run my race. Secretariate got to run his race. Penny ran her race. What is your race? When someone says “Run YOUR Race,” what does it feel like to you?
In episode 25 we talked about how when you bike you look where you want to go, not where you don’t want to go – you focus on the route around the rock, not on the rock that you want to miss. Because if you focus on the rock – you’ll hit it. Every time. With this in mind, it seems to me that focusing on our strengths is a way to shine, hone what we’re good at, and spend less time focusing on that thing or things we feel like we need to change. It’s a fact, we are not all good at everything. That doesn’t make us broken. That doesn’t mean something is wrong with us. What it means is that we are in a greater position to need one another – and that’s a beautiful thing. But we can’t run our race or play our part if we are trying to be someone else with someone else’s strengths, or if we are caught up in our perceived weaknesses rather than knocking it out of the park with our own brand of kick-butt awesomeness.
Full disclosure, I’m guilty of this in my home, we focus on the C that isn’t an A and query after how that can be improved. Too often we forget to celebrate the A’s, instead, we want to improve what we perceive as broken, rather than celebrating what is working. I don’t know if that’s a cultural thing, maybe it’s just a human thing—we look for how to make things better. But what if all along we’ve been focusing on the wrong thing? What if focusing on what is right is the way to make things better?
Simon Sinek said, “Spending too much time focused on others’ strengths leaves us feeling weak. Focusing on our own strengths is what, in fact, makes us strong.”
Twenty years ago I read a book called Heaven on earth – 15-minute miracles to change the world. It talked about how to make a big difference in small increments. The author proposed that in order to make a big difference that we get involved in ways that focused on what we are good at doing. Now the finding of this book was a serendipitous gift. At the time I was on the board of directors for CAPSA, the shelter and program for the prevention of sexual and physical abuse in the area I lived in. It was something I very much believed in, and I was honored to be asked to serve on the board, but I was also baffled at the role that I would be able to play. I was by far the youngest on the board, in my mid-twenties, and the rest of the board was made up of influential, and mostly wealthy members of the community. I, on the other hand, did not have the network of wealthy connects most of them already had. How was I going to raise money for the cause? How was I going to help? It was during this dilemma that I found this book. As I read, it made absolute sense to me that everyone should do what they were good at, because most people enjoy doing what they are good at, and then you have fun AND you get more accomplished. You don’t have a bunch of people flailing around in the water, hating what they are being asked to do. With that, I discovered how I could contribute. I could be their writer. As I presented the idea that I would take over the newsletter and help with grant writing, the board was totally on board. I would let those with connections raise the money, and I’d give what I had to give. Focus on my strengths.
No one else is like you. No one else has the same set of strengths that you have. No one is your awesome self. You were made that way on purpose – given gifts and talents to share and amplify, and what if you focused on celebrating the beauty that you are instead of trying to fix the things you aren’t?
What if I told you that you had a responsibility to be your best self? You aren’t accidentally made the way you are. You aren’t a burden on the world. You and your own brand of awesome are here to do what only you can do. What is that? I don’t know. I don’t know you, your life, your dreams, your passions, but I do know that when you focus on the gifts and talents, on the things you are naturally drawn to, that you start to step into your space, your calling, your fulfillment. Try it!
And living small by making excuses that you don’t have anything to give is just ripping the world off, and yourself. It’s a cop-out that might feel humble at first blush, but it’s really just a fear-based response to interacting with the world.
Now, just to be clear. This way of thinking is not to suggest that we never get out of our comfort zone, try new things, or work to improve things we want to improve. What I’m saying is that I think our improvement, our self-love, and our joy of living will increase when we accept, celebrate and share the things we are good at and focus our energy on that acceptance, celebration, and sharing. We create more of what we focus on – so keep being you in all the best ways.
Will there be spaces where we enter the learning zone – practice getting better at what we are good at, or try something new we have an interest in, or push ourselves into new realms of doing and being? I sure hope so. But there is a difference between always focusing on what we can’t do, on what someone else can do well, and never celebrating and sharing our own brand of awesome.
What are you good at? If the first thing that comes to mind is “nothing,” or “I can’t think of anything,” or “not much,” then you are a prime candidate for this work. It means you have NOT spent time coming to understand and recognize your own wonderful gifts. Heck, you don’t even know what they are. How can you be sharing them to the fullness of your capabilities? How can you be lavishing yourself with all that love and appreciation for yourself when you haven’t even gotten to really know your own self. It’s not arrogance to recognize and know your strengths. It’s foundational to being able to live your best life, to know what you have to give and how best to share and contribute.
Want to figure out what your strengths are? An article from the Huffington Post, titled A Better Way to Discover Your Strengths, suggested that the strength finder quizzes that are available are bound to be a little biased, for example, when asked about generosity we are bound to focus on times we were generous rather than all the times we weren’t. The author says that getting a diverse group of people you know to tell you what they feel your strengths are—and to be specific, share specific examples of when we acted on that strength– and then to compare the responses of 10-20 people, will give you a good feel for what you’ve got going on and what you are sharing with the world. But that’s not the last step…
Adam Grant, the author of this article said, “… the stories are sometimes so revealing and exciting that people stop there. But if you don’t map out a plan for using your strengths, the benefits will fade. In one experiment led by psychologist Martin Seligman, people who identified their strengths were temporarily happier and less depressed, but the changes didn’t last. Only those who identified their strengths and then actively used them achieved sustainable psychological gains: over the next six months, they were significantly happier and less depressed.”
Your challenge this week, should you choose to accept it, would be to go so far as to ask your friends, associates, and family what they feel your strengths are – and don’t forget to tell them to be specific with experiences. When I did it, it turned out much different than I expected. I took some razzing from people who thought I was searching for compliments, but it was the responses that surprised me most. Things I thought we weaknesses were actually seen as strengths, ways of being that I didn’t much think about it turns out were very important to others. Try it. See what you uncover. Get to know yourself a little better through the eyes of your people, and see what mysteries you unearth. You’ve got to know if you’re a sprinter, a distance runner, a walker, or a skateboarder if you want to figure out how to run YOUR race. You get to love you, and be you, and make the world a little more colorful because you are.
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