Tuesday 15 January 2013

Lights will guide you home

Over the last 7 weeks or so I've noticed that some job specs/opportunities/ideas have lifted my spirits, ignited my bones if you will (thank you Coldplay),like a little spark of energy or frisson of excitement. Whilst others have felt more heavy, like they were pulling me down.  Sometimes I'm reading something with interest and then a certain line or word will make my heart sink. And I say that because it literally feels like something heavy sinking inside of me...all emotions are 'felt' physiologically after all.

Without really analysing this at all, over time I realise I've been more and more drawn to the types of things and areas that have caused these little 'sparks' and I've been spending less energy on the sorts of things that have dulled them again.  I wrote  a post about 4 seconds ago berating myself for having no direction, but I guess I meant a purposeful direction that I'm in control of. Because actually over time, through no grand plan of my own, a sort of direction has been emerging. Whilst I've been lighting all those little fires, some have been sparking, even if only dimly and even if only inside me, and it turns out they've been lighting a little path for me to follow...I've yet to see exactly where it will lead to mind.

Now, some might call this intuition.  I've been told I have very good intuition, I just haven't worked out how to use it or listen to it and I think there's some truth in that.

I tend to have a 'gut feel' about things, but I normally try to reason and think or rationalise it which is clearly never going to work. My own brain normally drowns out the nice, quiet intuition bit. I've always been pretty good at recognising when something energises me but when things have drained me or made me feel just a leaden sort of dread, I've taken that to mean I was just scared or pathetic and should push myself, try harder and do it anyway.

For example. I'm currently working on rechanneling my energy and passion for learning, growth and wellbeing into a career in teaching. (and again, in an earlier post I mentioned not knowing how to talk about myself any more...turns out I do, there it is).  I've taught EFL before and always dreaded getting a class of older children. I think at the time it's because I was only about 5 minutes older than them.  But I've carried that thought with me. Whilst researching teaching posts recently I spotted there was a training position at the High School I attended, teaching Modern Languages, which I studied. Perfect. Except it felt quite a lot less than perfect when I read it. I felt like I should be excited, but wasn't.  To begin with I thought it was just because I was being a big scaredy cat. But actually, it's not that at all. It's because I'm more interested in unlocking potential than a specific subject, in skills than content, in learning than teaching and because I want to be able to make a difference to small children during their very aptly called foundation stage.

So, I've been reading my bad feelings about things wrong.  I think the reason why some things have felt wrong for me, is because they are. Mmm, not exactly a news flash!  I'm going to make a concerted effort to listen to these feelings more and instead of ploughing on, convincing myself I should do the things that feel wrong, use them to help me narrow down what I DO want instead.

Being a big positive psychology geek I've been doing a lot of reading about strengths recently.  The concept of strengths is not a new thing but my experience of how people tend to talk about strengths is not how the positive psychology world views it. They view it much more in terms of draining and energising. They argue that a strength is not simply something you're good at. We can be good at things that also drain us. It's a common problem in workplaces that a manager spots a 'strength' and then all related work gets sent in that person's direction. Meanwhile that person totally hates whatever it is they're annoyingly quite good at and gets more and more demotivated.  I've had plenty of conversations over the years (starting with my History teacher when I announced I wasn't taking History GCSE) that went something like: "but you're so good at it". I do like being good at things, but not when they make me miserable. It's taken me this long to work out that being happy is more important than being good or successful at something. And if positive psychology has taught me anything, it's that you're much more likely to achieve both of those things if you start off with the happy bit.

The real question isn't are you any good at it, but does it make your heart sing? Or does it make your heart sink?

So in a round about way, my ramblings about little sparks of excitement, listening to my intuition and the real meaning of strengths all come together to reach pretty much the same conclusion.

Trust. Yourself, your instincts, the path you're on.  There'll be little sparks to light your way. If you're looking out for them.

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