Strengths, Gifts and “Golden Threads”
As if this were the start of a one-on-one coaching session, I want this post about strengths, gifts, passions, and values to make a difference for you. As you read, keep in mind this is about your life, not mine. To add clarity, allow me to narrate parts of my hopscotch career path that has taken me to that sweet spot where I can reflect on the golden threads that led me here. Some stages of my life, like yours no doubt, have been difficult yet in looking back I can see that God had a plan for my life that has proven to be a good one. In fact, God’s plan that I would marry, have children and grandchildren is infinitely richer than anything I could have concocted on my own. You don’t have to buy the “God has a plan” philosophy but if you have a better philosophy that’s worked for you, with my full respect and curiosity, I’d love to hear it.
One way to think of “Golden Threads” is to visualize the convergence of your strengths, gifts, values, and passions. What may begin as a single thread as a child changes as parental influence, other people, books, and events begin to shape your life. New ideas and interests emerge. You’ll make choices that may or may not be in keeping with your developing values.
My top value today is “serenity” and it first appeared when I was about five years old. It was then that I thought seriously about moving into an unused room in the upstairs of our house where I lived with my mother, father, two brothers and a sister. There I would buy bread from the “bread man,” sell it to my parents and live by myself. Alas, my dream of living alone and selling bread to my parents never saw the light of day but I can’t help but believe it was the beginning of my entrepreneurial tendencies. As an adult, I co-founded a business with Jim, my husband, that grew from two to nearly 300 employees in 13 years until we had the good fortune to sell to a major publicly-held food company. Success, yes—serenity, not so much.
When I first had an opportunity to open my own business and three others thereafter—each was based on my need for independence as well as my gifts, values, and comfort level with calculated risk. The payoff was personal growth, fulfillment and the opportunity to use my creative abilities. Each was an ideal setup where I enjoyed the satisfaction of adding value to those I worked with and the luxury of allocating my time and activities in ways that supported family values and fed my soul.
Question: Are you living in alignment with your top values? We all have to earn a living and early jobs are seldom the ones that feed our souls. That’s what our 13 years of being in a labor-intensive fast-growing business were all about. Work and risk every day of all we had. In the beginning, we didn’t have much but when you risk all you have, it’s a lot.
Another value that has shaped my life is a passion for lifelong learning that began with a handwritten letter to my mother from my third-grade teacher, Mrs. Toy. All this time I’ve saved that letter. Someday I’ll pass it along to my granddaughter who is today, a third-grade teacher.
Praise and affirmation of any kind were in scant supply in our home so when Mrs. Toy told my mother I had tested “two years and two months” ahead of my chronological age, my appetite for learning was whetted. From the sixth grade on through high school, after doing homework until the wee hours of the morning, I knelt by my bed and prayed every night that I would have the capacity and the opportunity to attend college and earn a degree. My parents made it clear they thought going to college was a waste of money for a girl. Through divine intervention, I was awarded a full-tuition scholarship to Michigan State University where I met and married Jim and earned my degree. Both were life-changing.
Later, when it was no longer necessary to say, “Mother, may I?” I returned to Michigan State for a Master’s Degree that set the sail for the rest of my life—not so much by what I learned in the classroom but rather for the confidence and growth it instilled by challenging me and putting me in the company of people who were doing interesting and exciting things with their lives. At mid-life, these men and women were adding tools to their toolboxes in keeping with their strengths, gifts, passions, and values.
What tools are you adding to your “tool-box” that will increase your capacity to earn and develop your gifts? Are you keeping up with technology? Are you developing greater awareness and challenging yourself to be the best you can be? Are you reading and developing your speaking and leadership skills?
My years in business, college classes, coach training, serving on numerous boards and managing our busy household taught me how to get things done. Knowing how to size up a job, schedule work, garner necessary resources, delegate effectively and make strategic course corrections along the way are valuable skills to have. I urge you to develop them.
The important thing is this: Are you developing the skills, relationships, and credentials that will lead you to your ideal job? If you’re telling yourself that you don’t have time or you “can’t,” you can bet there are others out there who are finding time and who have the discipline and the determination to do whatever it takes. Those are the people who will get there before you do. Those are the people you’ll be reporting to someday—if you’re fortunate enough to get an interview and an offer.
Question: How much longer will you wait to start bringing into alignment the Golden Threads of your life? Do not allow age or critics or nay-sayers to stop you from living your ideal life. Invest in yourself continually. It’s never too late to take a step in the right direction. Start today, my friend, and enjoy the journey.
© Judith DeLapa High-Impact Coaching 2017