One of my favorite quotes is from the two-time noble prize winner Marie Curie who said, “Life is not easy for any of us, but what of that? We must have perseverance and above all else, confidence in ourselves. We must believe we are gifted for something and that this thing must be attained.” I like this quote because of its emphasis on confidence and certainty about our gifts. And as someone with a set of personal core values that includes excellence and accountability, I am inspired by Curie’s challenge for us to both believe in and attain those gifts.
As people (human beings vs. perfect beings) there are a few things innate in all of us that can serve as barriers to “attaining our gifts.” Whether we are aware of it or not, we all have our share of what’s called self-limiting beliefs and subsequently fear driven behaviors. For some this mindset can be crippling, prohibiting us from living a life of meaning and contribution, and becoming everything we are capable of becoming. Often times we know who these people are given their propensity to spend extended periods of time in the drama triangle as victims (it’s always someone else who’s keeping them down) or persecutors (blowing other people’s candle’s out to make theirs burn brighter). And then there are rescuers who when approached by victims or persecutors, quickly take their side instead of exercising enough true caring to skillfully redirect the conversation. Incidentally the science says we all spend time in the drama triangle, it’s simply a question of how much.
In writing this blog I was thinking about an old friend of mine at work who is extraordinarily gifted around the inspiration and influence of others. There are few people I know who can breathe life into individuals and organizations the way he can. What’s most amazing is how often I find him in this place. So what’s his secret?
I would say three things, self-awareness, transparency and mindfulness. He has a very deep and real understanding of who he is, what he is feeling and how he is behaving. And as a leader he is very honest and transparent about these things, which does two things; open the door for us to support him as needed, and letting the rest of us know it’s ok to not be perfect all the time. Mindfulness, as defined by Todd Kashdan in his book Mindfulness, Acceptance and Positive Psychology, “…facilitates action in line with core values, enhances performance, increases engagement in the task at hand, and helps us appreciate this moment of life, whether it be a moment of joy or of pain.” This is clearly a skill and practice my friend is committed to and honing on a daily basis, as evidenced by the perpetual energy he exudes as well as the smile on his face.
So what of us, any of us? Do we believe we are “gifted for something and that this thing must be attained?” As leaders do we subscribe to the philosophy of finding our voice (our “magnificent birth-gifts” – Covey) first, before we can help others find theirs? If so, may I recommend you follow the lead of my long time friend in the practices of self-awareness, transparency and mindfulness, and come from a place of truly believing in yourself and passionately seeking to become everything you are capable of becoming.