“Find out what you love to do and do that for a living”.

Someone said this to me many years ago in America. ” What? But that’s cheating”, I thought to myself. Surely work can’t be fun? Isn’t that just self-indulgent?” All that guilt. Being paid for doing what you love?

Then I realised that I didn’t actually know what I loved to do any more, what I  was naturally inclined to shine at. I’d spent so many years getting better at all the things I had to be good at.

Funny how you don’t always see what you’re good at. It comes so naturally  that you don’t notice your natural talents and strengths. Or you feel like cheats when you use them. ” Oh, that! Well that’s easy, so that doesn’t count”, says a friend who is naturally drawn to fixing things. Like broken down printers and paper jams and doors that won’t shut properly. She comes alive in these kind of situations and relishes the prospect of another breakdown. She’s a fixer.

Me, I don’t even want to go near a printer really. I like people, helping people get through their breakdowns, something that sends my friend running for cover. Just like a goldfish doesn’t know what water is until you take him out of it, it can take stepping outside yourself a bit to get back to what comes naturally to you.  We tend to focus on what we can’t do, what we’re not good at, and berate ourselves for that.

So much stress, anxiety and unhappiness is caused by the expectations we put on ourselves to be other than the way we are. You wouldn’t ask a labrador to run a race at the Brighton dog track,  and you probably wouldn’t buy a greyhound as a child-friendly pet. And yet we expect ourselves to be good at everything.

Sure, there will always be stuff that needs doing that you would rather someone else did. But true health, fulfilment and success depend on building your life around your strengths. Find other people to cover the bits that you hate but they love. That’s not cheating, it’s sensible. Win-win.

Strengths are different from “learned to be good at”. You feel energized and alive when exhibiting your highest character strengths. So take a look through your life and identify times when you felt really “in the flow”, fully absorbed, time was flying, and it felt like “this is the real me”.  What was happening? What qualities of character were you using? What makes you “flow”? Not so much the activity itself but the aspects of character you were exhibiting.

I know someone who just loves to plan. Give him an idea, a possible project, and he’s broken it down into chunks, time frames and to do lists “Goody! Let’s make a flow chart!”. Try and stop him!

What are the qualities inherent in you that, if you built your life around those, you’d be laughing? Or are you a greyhound trying to be a family pet? Round pegs in round holes. Let other people do the bits you’re not designed for if you can. Don’t waste another moment  trying to be someone that you’re not.

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As a seven year old, I had a dream. I imagined that it was possible to heal people by touching them with my magic finger. Later, as a doctor, then acupuncturist , educator, mindfulness coach and course leader that dream is still my passion. It hurts me to know that mental illness is still stigmatised, hidden ...

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A growing number of powerful reports from highly reputable organisations have repeatedly spelled out the costs to people, business and nation of mental ill health. Excellent research has outlined the main factors that impact people’s mental health at work, what causes stress, leads to burnout and increases the risk of illness. In recent years courses ...