This is different to asking, What are you good at?
Both are important questions. Here’s how they work.
Those around you may be able to see you’re good at some things and not so good at others, and they might advise you to pursue this rather than that. If you take notice of what they think, for some reason or other, you may end up doing the wrong things for you.
How does it feel? is an energy question. It’s asking which of the skills you employ will be employed by you with energy and innovation, promising a multiplying of your unique contribution.
I know I have skills that I’ve developed to survive, and others have said they think I do these things well (often the things these people value most). These things do not energise me, though, but I know others who love these things and perform them way better than I ever could.
This is one of the basic things I remind people of when it comes to identifying what they need to be doing.* I’m thinking about this because I’ve recently been on the receiving end of someone looking at my skills but not asking How does it feel?
Whilst it’s important to take seriously whatever someone intends as helpful,** one of the unfortunate consequences is we begin to question our hearts. John O’Donahue didn’t know just his words would be very helpful to me when he wrote:
‘If you try to view yourself through the lenses that others
offer you, all you will see are distortions; your own light
and beauty will become blurred, awkward and ugly.’
O’Donahue goes on to liken negative introspection to digging up newly sown potatoes every day to see if they’re growing.
If someone is going to help us move towards what it is we must be about with our lives they have to open their hearts to us. This goes beyond opening minds – which allows someone to recognise what we do and how we do it – towards their discovering something of what it feels like for us. The thing with becoming open-heart people is that it’s impossible without our willingness to disclose our hearts to the one opening theirs to us.
Behind all of this formation of skill and energy there has been a journey. This journey has required you that you let go of certain things to be able to keep hold of more important things – different for each of us. An open heart recognises this and understands how these things cannot be picked up once more – we are moved onward by our journeys.
I have written previously about what Carlos Castaneda called the path with a heart; the reason the path has a heart for you is because it identifies with the beat of your heart.
Here’s one last thing from John O’Donahue, warning us to beware comparing and contrasting ourselves to others and their paths:
‘When you compare yourself to others, you are inviting
envy into your consciousness; it can be a dangerous
and destructive guest.’
(*I ask people to keep two lists as a first reflection tool: one begins “I loved it when …” and contains the things they’ve huge amounts of energy for; the other begins “I loathed it when …” and includes the things people feel sucks energy out of them. You can read more in Marcus Buckingham’s Go Put You Strengths to Work; also, Austin Kleon mentions sculptor Constantin Branscusi‘s Vampire Test in his new book Show Your Work: ‘If, after hanging out with someone you feel worn out and depleted, that person is a vampire. If, after hanging out with someone you still feel full of energy, that person is not a vampire. Of course, the Vampire Test works on many things in our lives, not just people – you can apply it to jobs, hobbies, places, etc.)
(**I always spend a number of days reflecting on the things people say to me but I am careful in how I do this – check out Seth Godin’s connected thoughts which he offers today. )