Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Caroline McGraw of A Wish Come Clear.
What happens when you want to live your dream, but you can’t see past your own personal roadblocks to make it a reality? When I get to this place in my writing and my life, I remember what I learned from my friend Leo*, a man with intellectual disabilities who lives at L’Arche Washington DC. (L'Arche is a faith community where people with and without intellectual disabilities create homes together.)
Once, when he was asked, “Leo, what does it mean to be human?” he furrowed his brow and replied, “To be humble.” When asked, “What does it look like, being humble?” he said, “Well. I don’t know. But I think it helps...to not be afraid of your faults.”
Leo taught me this: You don’t need to fear your faults anymore. The fear of your own frailty doesn’t serve you. If you let go of being afraid, you will have a strange and beautiful energy left over. With this new-found energy, you are able to see the flip side of your faults: your strengths. Recognizing and embracing your strengths is the first step to begin building the life you desire.
To embrace your strengths:
1. Select a particular habit that you’ve always viewed as detrimental to your success. Do you procrastinate on big projects or arrive late to work meetings or read other people’s blog posts when you should be writing your own? (I confess to that last one!) Once you’ve chosen a habit...
2. Look past your initial judgment, and listen for the messages your habit has for you. If you are only late to work-related meetings, your tardiness is telling you something! See your lack of punctuality as a cue rather than a curse, and you may change the trajectory of your career and your life.
However, if your habit is beneficial on one level but distracting on another, it will help to…
3. Set a boundary and stick to it. Forbidding a behavior only increases its allure. Plan to indulge in a beneficial but distracting habit as a reward, at a particular time. You may set a timer for an hour on Twitter, or decide that you're going to have dessert every other night instead of every night. I give myself permission to read online for about an hour each day, but only after I’ve done some writing of my own.
Yes, you'll have to train yourself to do this. As you retrain your brain, remember to…
4. Strategize, linking weaknesses with strengths. When you feel a habit becoming a roadblock, use a strength to steer around it. Freely acknowledge both, and use them to your benefit. If you have trouble getting started on big projects (weakness), but you respond well to direction (strength), can you ask a friend or colleague to prompt you to start?
If I have difficulty not reading online when I need to be writing (weakness), but I get inspired by new vistas (strength), I can get up and move to a location that has a great view and no internet access. (Hello, roof deck with a view of the National Cathedral!) It's all about setting yourself up for success.
If you let go of being afraid of your faults, what strange and beautiful things could you create?
For me, not fearing my faults meant writing a book and starting A Wish Come Clear. I tend to be reticent about sharing my work, and I struggled against that timidity for a long time to no avail. Yet thanks to Leo's words, I've learned to look at it differently. There's a threefold strength behind my shyness. First, my timidity arises in part because the written word is powerful. I've seen how (in the words of Marisa de los Santos) writing "from the bones out" can transform both reader and writer. The prospect of change and connection can be intimidating, and I face that prospect each time I write. Next, the hesitancy I feel motivates me to make my writing excellent before I share it. The 'weakness' actually contributes positively to the quality of the work. Lastly, I'm scared to share my work because it is a part of who I am. Sharing it renders me vulnerable...and yet, paradoxically, this same vulnerability also gives me strength.
As a human being, you are an admixture of limits and potentials, missed chances and seized opportunities. So many small choices have led you to where you are today. Likewise, choosing to see strengths within weaknesses is a small shift in perspective. But a single feather can tip a scale. A single breath of air can ignite a flame, or dash it out. And a small shift can make all the difference.
*Names have been changed.