Toward the end of this year, I picked up a few great books at the library, one of which was "Presence," by Amy Cuddy. There's a whole lot of wisdom within this book-- mainly demonstrating how it's not just the mind that influences the body-- the body can influence the mind, too. Cuddy presents her research, as well as research from many others, in what ends up to be a very empowering read.
While this body-mind connection is fascinating and worth it's own exploration, Cuddy alludes to an excellent exercise I want to focus on, which comes from Dr. Laura Morgan Roberts. In this exercise, you identify your key attributes, explore how these attributes come into play when you're at your best, and consider how you can bring them to play now and in the future.
Perhaps this seems simple. After all, I know who I am. I know my strengths...or do I? As it turned out, this was a very impactful exercise for me. Laying out my core attributes on paper and getting clear about them felt very concrete, like I know what I'm dealing with. Here are some ways that this was helpful for me:
I saw how my attributes work together.
When I listed my key qualities and thought about how I use them when I'm feeling right and "on," I realized that I have a process for how I work, and it is unique to me. For example, my ideal work process for planning a curriculum combines my creativity and passion, as well as my ability to plan and organize. Then, when I'm teaching the course or workshop, I draw on my ability to be present and to flow in the moment-- to let go of the plan. Laying this out showed me how allowing myself to draw on this process, this network of qualities, enables me to enjoy my work and to feel good about what I do.
It became clear how my qualities balance against each other.
There's side of me that is logical, organized, planned, and efficient, and also a side of me that is light, intuitive, fluid, and creative. There's thoughtful reflection, as well as silliness and adventurousness. Looking and leaping. All of these are me, and all can be strengths. Some situations call for me to prioritize and evaluate, and others call for me to bring lightness and openness. When I am all one side, things feel out of balance.
What was also very interesting to me is that (maybe because of all my years as an administrator) I tend to fall most heavily on the side of planning and organization. This is my default, especially when I'm feeling nervous or uncertain. Of course! When things are feeling out of control, I lean toward bringing in my "controlling tools." Sometimes this is helpful...and as you might imagine, sometimes it's the opposite and I remind myself to bring in the lightness, the presence with whatever is occurring and with the not-knowing. So it helps to know that even though they may sometimes be under-used, I have those lighter qualities as part of me, too.
It gave me a practice to return to as a touchstone.
Related to this balancing the various qualities, I now have a new practice that I am trying on when I find myself feeling shaky or anxious...actually a couple of practices!
- I remind myself who I am, that I am a person who has demonstrated these qualities in the past and who can and will do this again now.
- I ask myself which of my qualities are called for in this situation. This takes me out of the space of, "Do I have what it takes?" and into a space of, "I do have what it takes, so which tool from my box shall I select?" A much more powerful place to be!
Basically, this exercise provides data to return to when it feels difficult to remember who I am and what I bring to the table.
Explore your key attributes!
I'm excited for you to take a gander at this exercise! Be open as you do this, writing whatever comes into your mind. If you’re like me, you may have a few epiphanies, new learnings about yourself and how you operate.
As always, I invite you to make some time for this reflection. Pull up a comfy chair and get to know yourself. Fill out this little form and I'll send you a printable PDF to get you started in this exploration.
Stay tuned for next week...a look at how these attributes came into play in 2017!