The (Delicious!) Ingredients of Growth

Let me start with a disclaimer: I am no expert on how to find your true calling in life. I am not a therapist, a career counselor, or a psychic. Rather I am a seeker, a journeyman… an explorer. I’ve spent the better part of my adult life seeking THE source of my much anticipated fulfillment. Despite my best efforts, I must admit that I am still very much a work in progress. I have, however, learned some incredible lessons along the way! Your personal journey is of necessity your own, but you may find these guidelines useful as you navigate the great, wide road to fulfillment.

Use positive words to describe yourself and your skills, to others and to yourself as well! Words create reality!

If fear were rated like fancy restaurants, I would be a 5 star scaredy cat…or at least that’s what I’ve always believed. And since I always talked about how fearful I was, other people perceived me that way as well. It wasn’t until I consciously stopped labeling myself as a “chicken” that I started to see how “un-chicken” I was in most circumstances. Am I cautious by nature? Absolutely! But truth be told, my cautious nature enabled me to become a very thorough researcher and planner…I just like to know the lay of the land before I proceed!

Learning how to view your skills from a positive perspective is an incredible asset in finding your calling. Women in particular have a tendency to downplay or downright dismiss their skills and accomplishments…or worse, to see “the blight” instead of “the light”. Do you see yourself as unable to multitask or as highly focused? As easily distracted or as highly tuned in to the world around you? As having nothing to offer to the conversation or as being a great listener? Practice thinking of and talking about yourself in positive terms…you may be surprised at how quickly a simple change of perspective can create a new reality!

Fear is just a four letter word!

All growth requires some element of risk. No matter how dissatisfied you might be with your current situation, it’s still familiar…and familiar is comfy! Real growth happens when you allow yourself to peer around that unknown corner even though you’re scared to death! Time and experience have taught me that more often than not, my anticipation of new experiences is WAY worse than the actual experiences! Whenever I feel fearful in anticipation of a new experience, I remind myself (sometimes repeatedly!) that fear is just my way of gearing up for a new challenge! Saying so doesn’t always make the fear go away, but it does help me to associate a positive outcome with what most of us see as such a negative emotion.

Flow is also a four letter word…a way better one!

Flow is defined in Wikipedia as “a mental state of operation in which a person is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, involvement, and success in the process of the activity”. Flow is a period of complete focus on an activity where both time and the world outside of your immediate attention seem to disappear. If you have ever experienced a state of flow (you may call it being “in the zone” or “in the moment”), you know what an incredible experience it can be!

I do not have a quiet mind. Under most circumstances I find it difficult to block out the world around me and focus on a particular task ( I like to think of my mind as very active and alert!!). The point is, I am not a natural FLOW PRO and yet I have experienced a state of flow many times during many different kinds of activities…gardening, cooking, researching…even reading a great novel. Your “flow” activities may be completely different. A state of flow occurs when an activity is a good fit in terms of skill set, interest, and difficulty. I’ve learned to pay close attention to those times I’m fortunate enough to have a flow experience…these are the activities that fulfill me and make me feel engaged and successful.

Every experience has a “takeaway”

I’ve covered a lot of territory in my professional career. I’ve been a speech pathologist, a software developer, a master gardener, a grant writer, and a food and nutrition writer for ASKINYOURFACE.COM. I’ve worked with people of many different ages, needs, and backgrounds. After all these years, the one thing I know for certain is that I learned something about what I want and what I don’t want from each and every one of those experiences. No experience is a waste of time and energy if you think of it as a testing ground for what comes next. With any luck, you might even hit on the perfect fit! If not, remember to step back and take some mental notes…what works for you and what doesn’t? What kind of leadership do you respond well to? Do you feel more engaged in a large or small setting, in a solo or team environment? Take time to discover the lesson each experience and each person you encounter has to teach you.

Not all growth is vertical. Think horizontal!

Our culture gears us for the upward climb. We work hard in high school to get into the best college and then we work hard in college to get into the best graduate school or to land the best job. We’re always focused on the next step of the ladder! Perhaps the best lesson I’ve learned along the road to fulfillment is that the detours and side roads hold some of the most valuable experiences. I no longer think in terms of finding my passion…I’m way too multi-faceted for a single passion. My guess is you are too!

There in a nutshell is the wisdom that 54 years of seeking has bestowed upon me! I may not have found the one true source of my fulfillment, but maybe that’s because I’ve found so many varied ways to explore my passions. Wherever you are in your journey, I wish you love, luck, and loads of adventure along the way to keep things interesting!

© 2011 Copyright   Allison Stuart Kaplan LLC

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  1. Wonderful, insightful article! Thanks, Jackie

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