The late Jim Rohn was once asked by a group of psychiatrists what single thing he thought most messed with the mind. His answer was not becoming all that you can be. Building on his answer, I would add that it is impossible to become all that you can be if you are trying to build your life success on acquired rather than natural skills.
Everyone is born with innate potential for a unique set of capacities, skills, and abilities. Unfortunately, very often this potential is left undeveloped, as people seek to build their lives and especially their careers on capacities and skills that are outside their innate potentials. These acquired capacities represent skills and abilities that are foreign to who a person naturally is.
When I left private practice where virtually every client is unhappy with their lives, I was surprised to discover that many of those outside of therapy also disliked what they did for a living. A recent article I read put the percentage of people who don’t like their job at 60%. After 20 years of coaching individuals and researching the issue, I would have guessed that the percentage was even higher.
What is going on that so many are not happy with what they do? In addition to performance feedback that focuses on what is missing rather than what it there, people don’t usually perceive their unique gifts and talents as anything special. It is one of the cruel jokes of being human that it is difficult to recognize the value of those things that we do easily and well. If something we have accomplished was difficult and required hard work we readily accept congratulations. But we are often surprised by praise we receive for those things that we do naturally well.
Because our natural skills are more easily developed and more fundamentally satisfying than acquired skills we have a tendency to take them for granted. We figure that if they are easy for us to do then they can’t be worth much, and we dismiss them with a flippant Oh, I’ve always been able to do that, it’s no big deal. Instead of letting this attitude alert us to the presence of one of our natural skills, something that is uniquely ours, we push it aside in our pursuit of acquired skills. It is exactly this attitude that messes with the mind and prevents us from becoming all we can.
Developing acquired skills limits us by stealing time from our use of natural skills. Even if you get good at using them and gain satisfaction from what you accomplish using them, they always require more effort to develop. As you focus on acquired skills, your natural skills will atrophy from lack of use. The final irony is that no matter how good you get at using an acquired skill you will never have the depth, breadth, and grace with it that you have with a natural skill.
A life built on acquired skills will mess with your mind. It will keep you exhausted physically, psychologically, and emotionally, while at the same time confusing you about why. It will prevent you from becoming all that you can, and it will keep you from the richness of your natural potential while feeding you just enough to keep you frustrated. Don’t let your mind be messed with! Discover, develop, and use your natural strengths to build a life and career of meaning and fulfillment.
Gary Jordan, Ph.D., has over 27 years of experience in clinical psychology, behavioral assessment, individual development, and coaching. He earned his doctorate in Clinical Psychology from the California School of Professional Psychology – Berkeley. He’s the co-founder of Vega Behavioral Consulting, Ltd., a consulting firm that specializes in helping people discover their true skills and talents. www.aciforcoaches.com