What School Didn’t Teach You
Posted on June 16, 2012 in Fulfillment, Self Improvement by Sandra Bienkowski
I have more than 30 journals piled into an old trunk. I’ve been writing in journals since I was 10. I started with tiny diaries with a lock and key, and moved on to hardbound journals. The words never stopped flowing. If a teacher said we were going to have an essay test, I was one of the few in class excited about it. I took college English in high school. Teachers said I had a talent for writing. Combine that with my penchant for analyzing and questioning everything—especially people—and I knew in my teens that I wanted to be a writer and journalist.
But I didn’t feel smart. My grades were all over the map. I needed a tutor to get through high school math. I despised math and didn’t understand its purpose. Friends would ask what level of calculus I took, and I’d laugh. Calculus? Are you kidding me? I never took a class.
Yet no one ever told me, “That’s okay.” No one ever said, “You don’t have to be smart or have strengths in everything.” My struggle in math and the parent/teacher expectation that I get straight A’s left me feeling dumb and inadequate. While I have the ability to come up with ideas to write about all day, every day, off the cuff, no one said, “Explore the strength of your creativity.”
It was well into adulthood before I learned being well-rounded is a bunch of crap. While being aware of your weaknesses is good, focusing on your weaknesses is a waste of time. Sure, you may have to put a little extra effort into decent grades in subjects you don’t like when you are young, but your power and happiness is found in your strengths.
Your strengths are your guideposts to your purpose. Channel your energy to hone your strengths (instead of trying to improve your weaknesses), so you can maximize your potential. Think of your strengths, abilities, interests and passion as your compass. They point you in the right direction. Weaknesses don’t mean you are flawed or not smart; they are only friendly indicators of what you shouldn’t be doing. (Turns out, I will never be a math professor.)
I believe we are all born with unique gifts that reveal who we are supposed to be. Kids show signs of who they are meant to be through their interests. There’s a famous chef who loved preparing food with his mom when he was a child, and an Olympic champion who never left the pool as a kid. There is the young girl who feels alive when she is pretending to be other characters and knows she is supposed to be an actress. Purpose reveals itself early and could expand if more people focused on it, instead of zeroing in on fixing those weaknesses.
I cringe when I hear stories of parents trying to redirect a child’s interests because, (for example) they don’t think music is a lucrative or solid profession. How do you know you don’t have the next Mozart in your midst?
When I wrote for SUCCESS, a national magazine with a lot of content devoted to living your passion, we’d get letters from readers who didn’t know what they were passionate about and they wanted help figuring it out.
We’d tell them what we learned from the experts: Your purpose can be found in your strengths—what you love doing. Here are some questions to help you find your strengths …
What did you love doing as a child?
What topics do you gravitate toward reading for enjoyment?
What activities make you feel strong?
What activity absorbs you to such an extent that you lose track of time?
What would you do even if you didn’t get paid for it?
Marcus Buckingham, author of Go Put Your Strengths to Work and Find Your Strongest Life says, “It is important to discover your strengths because the luckiest people are the ones who get to say to themselves every day: ‘Today I had the opportunity to do what I am most invigorated by and what I do best.’”
People who find their strengths and live their purpose aren’t lucky he says. “They made the effort to figure out what strengthens them.” He suggests catching the moments that invigorate you and concentrating on them. Follow where they lead and ask yourself: “How can I get more of that?”
Discover and focus on your strengths. It’s your path to unleash your potential and purpose–and who you were meant to be.