“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There is nothing enlightening about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.”
Known to millions as “Nelson Mandela’s inaugural speech,” this quote beautifully illustrates the power of our gifts: they are brilliant, and they can terrify!
Understanding gifts is the heart of coaching. The first step is to understand that a gift IS a gift. Unfortunately, a lot of us have learned to “gloss over” what we do well, to minimize it, or even to deny it. Just because it comes naturally to you, doesn’t mean it isn’t special! Appreciating that which is special is something we more easily do when we see it in another than when it is in ourselves.
Twenty years ago, I saw the renowned Pediatrician T. Berry Brazelton speak. During the question and answer session, a mother had a question about her toddler’s activities, and from snickers and the other side comments, it was clear she didn’t have support from many in the audience. Rather than focusing on the mother, I was riveted by Dr. Brazelton. He just kept looking at her, expecting her to continue. When she faltered, he gave an encouraging nod to let her know he was listening. He listened as if she was the only person in the room. He then answered her with honesty, with respect, and with encouragement. I was enraptured. This man had such a gift for creating trust and fostering caring communications!
I was so inspired by Dr. Bazelton, that I told people about the experience. In response to my story, I learned that when I’m at my best, I do the same thing as he. What an awesome thing to learn! What do you admire in others, but overlook in yourself?
Blanchard and Homan (Leverage your best, ditch the rest) created an excellent process for identifying your gifts. Please answer the following questions:
• What do I naturally, easily, and effortlessly do when no one is looking?
• What about me inspires others, even though it is easy for me?
• What did I learn easily and continue to develop effortlessly?
• What do I get compliments on that I never even have to think about? (Some examples include humor, perceptiveness, style, logical thinking, physical courage, a flair for design.)
• What about me makes people jealous?
• What do I know is special about me but try to hide?
• What about me gives me guilty pleasure?
• What is my secret vanity?
Better living requires you to not just identify your gifts, but to embrace the value they can bring to you and to others. You also need to accept the responsibility for the impact your gifts have. And, as with all better living topics, you can CHOOSE to use your gifts, or not.
Mary Ellen Sailer, Ed.D.