Our strengths are our weaknesses (and fortunately, visa versa, because I’d be in big trouble!). My creativity, zest, and desire to get things done are great assets – until they’re not. Put me behind a slow driver or in front of someone who doesn’t get it or wants to deliberate, or in the middle of a slow, boring process and I’m at my worst. Impatient, antsy, impulsive and hyper are adjectives that have been used to describe me.
I’ve figured out a way to turn that frown upside down and turn my liabilities into an asset. I’m not talking about the upside of the creativity/zest/activator. I’m talking about the downside.
I like to use the story of the Buddha – sorry, bear with me once again – as a metaphor. The Buddha liked to keep a student nearby who was impatient, antsy, impulsive and just generally annoying. Someone once asked him why he insisted on keeping the student so close by and the Buddha said, “She is not my student. She is my teacher.” (haha I am the Buddha’s teacher!)
I’ve always told that story in relationship to difficult people, but in this context I’m telling it in relation to myself and when I am my own worst enemy. One of the things I have had to struggle with the most in my lifetime is that voice in my head (mine, that is) that is constantly somewhere else. That voice is in the past being unhappy about something. That voice is in the future worrying about something. That voice is in the present complaining about something or someone, usually myself but often someone or something else. Unfortunately/fortunately the antidote for that voice is being present, and meditation is the best exercise for that.
I have to admit that I don’t meditate that much these days but I do work at being present on an ongoing basis. The little devil in me in the form of impatience, boredom or annoyance are the perfect cue to practice being present: I’m not exercising either these days (but I will. soon!) so I do some isometrics. I stop to practice gratitude and appreciation of the beauty around me. I use my compassion for someone who is going as fast as they can or doing the best that they can. I stop and think about my loved ones.
I’m embarrassed to say that these opportunities to practice being present are all around me as I’m frequently resisting the urge to be bored or annoyed. I’m proud to say, however, that I think I’ve reached a milestone because an usually long and tedious responsibility has recently become a pleasant and enjoyable occasion. I imagine my being present also improved the experience for those around me as I stopped fidgeting and looking completely unengaged.
I can’t help but reflect once again that our shortcomings are our opportunities. If we fail to look at our shortcomings we are missing out on probably what we need the most to cultivate our well-being. I once was unable to look at my shortcomings at all, but by thinking of them as strengths on an effectiveness spectrum, I can see them for all that they offer. Where in your life have you been stuck and given up looking for a solution? You have the tools and skills already. Take a fresh look and make it happen!