Guidepost #9 in Brene Brown's book 'The Gifts of Imperfection' is on "Cultivating Meaningful Work: Letting Go of Self-Doubt and 'Supposed To'." This is a good chapter, but I can't say that I practice it very well.
This is what emerged from her work in this area, as shared on p. 112:
- We all have gifts and talents. When we cultivate those gifts and share them with the world, we create a sense of meaning and purpose in our lives.
- Squandering our gifts brings distress to our lives. As it turns out, it's not merely benign or "too bad" if we don't use the gifts that we've been given; we pay for it with our emotional and physical well-being. When we don't use our talents to cultivate meaningful work, we struggle. We feel disconnected and weighed down by feelings of emptiness, frustration, resentment, shame, disappointment, fear, and even grief.
- Most of us who are searching for spiritual connection spend too much time looking up at the sky and wondering why God lives so far away. God lives within us, not above us. Sharing our gifts and talents with the world is the most powerful source of connection with God.
- Using our gifts and talents to create meaningful work takes a tremendous amount of commitment, because in many cases the meaningful work is not what pays the bills. Some folks have managed to align everything - they use their gifts and talents to do work that feeds their souls and their families; however most people piece it together.
- No one can define what's meaningful for us. Culture doesn't get to dictate if it's working outside the home, raising children, lawyering, teaching, or painting. Like our gifts and talents, meaning is unique to each one of us.
According to the author, these "gremlins" are like toddlers: If we ignore them, they get louder. So, she says, it is best to do that which seems counterintuitive: She suggests acknowledging the messages; writing them down; and owning these self-doubts and supposed-to's. She believes that doing so gives us power over them by allowing us the opportunity to say, "I get it. I see that I'm afraid of this, but I'm going to do it anyway."
This is all very interesting, and makes sense. It's also very likely why I struggle with it so much. Honestly, I have embraced my gifts and talents before, but I am not right now. I don't really even know how to get there from here.
One other thing she brings up is accepting our "slashes." Most people are no longer defined by one thing (occupation, hobby, gifts, talents, etc.), but we are actually defined by many things. For instance, it's hard for me to acknowledge being a blogger, or a runner. Instead, when people ask what I do, I kind of drop my head and mumble something about fumbling my way along into middle-age. According to the author I am a father/husband/grandfather/manager/writer/runner/thinker/coach and who knows what else.
She quotes theologian Howard Thurman's:
"Don't ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive."
Yeah... that sounds nice. I'm trying to come alive. I would like to. It's a day to day challenge at the moment.