By Bob Cox
Just when I thought I knew and accepted almost everything about myself, I read a book called Live Your Dreams and realized just how far I still had to go to live mine. While this book by Les Brown was thoroughly enjoyable, especially the parts where the author shares a myriad of obstacles he had faced and overcome in life, it was the contents in the final segment that really got me thinking and digging deeper.
At the end of the book is an action planner, which asks a variety of self reflective questions. The most provocative question that got the wheels turning was this: List 10 things I’m good at and then list 10 things I need to improve. When I shared this with my wife Diana, she eagerly grabbed a pen and paper and took vigorous notes as we explored some surprisingly uncharted territory.
When we started, I expected to breeze through it in a matter of a few minutes. An hour later, I was still grappling to answer those 20 simple questions. After I finished, Diana turned to me and was shocked and excited about a pattern that became obvious to her. But before she shared her revelation with me, she asked me what I thought the answers disclosed.
After examining all her notes carefully, a stunning pattern emerged. Number one on my list of things I was good at was promoting peace while on the other side of the proverbial coin regarding the things needed to improve was a fear of conflict. As I carefully examined the answers on the negative side of the ledger, I realized that my fear, which was buried beneath the surface, had lead directly to several other areas I needed to improve. Rounding out the top four areas that needed improvement were staying consistently enthusiastic while working, having more endurance while working and having more fun while working. My overwhelming fear of conflict was covered up by years of chronic fatigue during the majority of my hours at work.
What I learned from this exercise was that all the answers relating to the areas in need of improvement were merely symptoms of my number one fear, conflict. I came to this epiphany as I carefully slid this specimen of fear under my mental microscope. Upon closer examination, it was revealed that I’m at my very best when I’m in a safe and peaceful environment. I can think clearly and answers to life’s most vexing problems come effortlessly. Conversely, I’m at my absolute worst while I’m in a dangerous and volatile situation. My mind shuts down and I cannot think my way out of a paper bag, no matter how many times I metaphorically breathe into it!
While Diana agreed with my personal evaluation, she summed up her assessment of my strengths and weaknesses in just three words: home and work. While at home, all my positive attributes shine brightly while at work, a cloud of darkness descends and the battle to overcome my shortcomings rages on.
Strangely enough, the day before we did this exercise on a crisp and sunny autumn morning, I had a mini breakthrough. While working on the last day of my deadline to sell ads, I pretended as if it was my last day on earth and resolved to enjoy it to the fullest. Much to my amazement, my chronic fatigue fell asleep and was replaced with a light hearted enthusiasm that lasted the entire day.
If you’re falling short of living your dreams, wake yourself up and answer those 20 simple questions. You may be blown away by the secrets that are revealed. As for me, it was a real wake up call!