Do you ever feel like you’re playing a role in life that you don’t care much for? Maybe you’ve got a passion for one thing, but in order to be a team player, or a good example, or to pay the bills, you spend your days doing work that leaves you feeling tired and empty at the end of a shift. You might even lie in bed wondering whose life you’re really living.
Most of us have felt this way about some aspect of our life at some point, though we’re not likely to share the frustration with too many people. This idea—that most of us live lives that aren’t in step with who we are—is the focus of one of Redmond’s Lake Powell Leadership Retreat video discussions. How can we discover what our strengths are and find a role where we can volunteer those strengths most of the time?
According to Marcus Buckingham, less than 20% of people have jobs that allow them to play to their strengths, and his research shows that there are three major reasons why not. You might expect the reasons to be something like the economy, or lack of education, or family obligations, but Buckingham says the most common reasons are simply three myths that limit our ability to live the life we could choose.
Myth #1 – As you grow, your personality changes. Kids seem to have a way of trusting themselves. They know what activities they love, and which they dread, but at some point most of us come to believe that growing up means leaving behind who we were. The truth is that the most dominant parts of your personality are going to stay the same as you grow. We don’t become someone new, we become more and more of who we already are.
Myth #2 – You grow the most in the areas you are weakest. If your child brings home a report card with a D in math and an A in English, which grade gets your attention? It might seem like there’s a lot of room to grow in math, but the truth is that we all grow the most in our areas of strength. They could invest countless hours in math and go from horrible to really bad, but they’ll grow the most—and make a bigger impact in their world—if they spend that time working on things they’re naturally good at, instead.
Myth #3 – A good team member does whatever it takes to help the team. Especially at work, we tend to feel comfortable with the idea that we need to be well-rounded. But imagine a basketball team full of ”well-rounded” players— they’re all reasonably quick, decent shooters, not bad at rebounding, and pretty good at seeing the floor. That’s a losing team. In life and work, just as in basketball, a team is well rounded precisely because each of the members isn’t. Don’t pitch in to be helpful—if you want to be valuable on your team, take time to identify your unique contribution to the team, and bring it!