Flipping Ambition: Achieving More by Effectively Slacking Off (Part 5 of 5)

This is part five of a five-part series “Flipping Ambition: Achieving More by Effectively Slacking Off”.  Click here to read the rest of the series.

Make Your Garden Blossom

Now that you’ve dumped your bucket list, weeded out the weeds and identified the pivot points and zinnias that can help your entire garden grow, it’s time for your garden to really blossom. It does this when you focus on your strengths. You will find your strengths also happen to be things you’re good at as well as things you love doing.

That means not only will your garden be bursting with ambition, it will also be bursting with joy.

The blossoming stage may seem like it comes quite naturally once you get the gist of it, and that’s because it does. After all, when people are good at doing something, they naturally want to do more of it. And when people repeatedly engage in an activity, they are typically going to get better at it. The end result is an activity in which you’re skilled that doubles as an activity you love. Here’s why.

Why the blossoms grow:

You find something you like to do, so you keep on doing it. This makes you spiral upward.

Each time you do it, you get better at it, since you’re devoting natural energy and loads of time engaging in the activity. You spiral upward another rung.

Even more energy surges forth, allowing you to spend even more time and greater focus on the activity. You spiral high and higher and get better and better as you enjoy the activity more and more.

You’ve just experienced the organic manifestation of ambition.

Identifying your strengths is critical so you can use your inherent skills effectively and start those positive spirals. The spirals lead not only to higher performance, but more happiness because you are doing things that you want to do and are good at doing.

The opposite can also be true, as seen in an example of a gal we’ll call Sally.

Sad Sally the mediocre soccer player

Sally loves to draw, a fact that’s evident nearly daily. She doodles on her notebooks. She loves playing with chalk on the sidewalk. Her math homework comes with illustrations. When she’s at her Saturday morning soccer game, more than once she’s missed a cue because she was drawing with a stick in the dirt.

A clueless coach or parents may have yelled at Sally or even punished her for not paying attention. They may also keep forcing her to play every week instead of realizing she was more engrossed with drawing in the dirt than kicking a ball. Her punishments for not paying attention during the game may have included running extra laps at the next soccer practice, making her hate the soccer experience even more. But for some reason she is forced to keep playing.

Maybe all the kids on the block are on the team or mom thinks it en vogue to have a “Soccer Mom” bumper sticker on her new SUV. Maybe Sally chose to play but then realized she did not enjoy the sport but feels like she has to keep playing because that’s what’s she’s supposed to do.

Because Sally doesn’t like playing soccer, she never gives it her full attention or spends much time on it. She remains a pretty poor player and feels lousy every time she plays. Just the thought of the game on Saturday is enough to make her cringe.

To add to the mess, she gets chided for doodling on her notebooks and homework, discouraged from drawing on the soccer field with a stick. Not only is she forced to keep doing something that makes her feel bad, but she’s being led from her drawing, which makes her happy.

The situation may go as far as to make Sally think that, since drawing on notebooks, math homework and soccer sidelines is bad, all drawing must be bad. It must be something she should not do if she wants to make other people happy.

There goes the next Picasso.

If Sally’s love of drawing were instead recognized as a strength, it could be nurtured and encouraged. Perhaps she could design notebook covers for her friends or contribute illustrations to the school yearbook. Maybe the math teacher would welcome illustrated flash cards the class could use to help them better visualize their math problems, even if he didn’t welcome illustrations on Sally’s homework.

Sally’s garden could blossom if she was allowed to drop the Saturday soccer games and focus on her drawing. Perhaps she can enroll an art class that lets her use and improve her existing talents while doing something she so fully loves.

Instead of killing the next Picasso, such a strategy helps create the next Picasso. Such a focus on her strengths can help Sally spiral upward, her strengths blossom and her happy garden grow.

You can use the same strategies in your own life to help your garden blossom in a similar manner.

Exercise: Identify your strengths

Figure out what your strengths are by writing down times you feel great and energetic, and then times you feel crummy and stressed.

Then find the common thread to see what your strengths are. What do all the energetic times have in common?

Maybe you like hanging out one-on-one with friends, or perhaps you prefer being in big groups of people. Maybe you like physical activities, like jogging or tai chi. Or maybe you like intellectual things like puzzles or letting your mind and hands go wild creating things like art.

Your strengths may not always be evident in organized activities, but in something to which you are innately attracted. Think of Sally and her doodles on the sidelines.

The bottom line you want to know:

When do you feel yourself shine?

Once you know when you are shining your brightest, you can put the upward spiral into action by not only keeping that shine alive but feeding it as frequently as possible.

Switching your mindset and your self-inquiries can further help your garden blossom. Engage in regular garden maintenance by revising how you look at your schedule and your life.

Change your questions from:

What can I do more of? to What can I do less of?

What else can I do? to What can I stop doing completely?

What else do I need? to What else can I get rid of?

Then top off your garden topsoil with a grand finale question:

What goals do I have that aren’t really things I love or want, but just things that I feel I should want to achieve or that I only want because they would impress someone else?

Rip out those weeds and dump those dead seeds. You need not cultivate them in your garden. Focus instead the upward spiraling and watch your blossoms bloom!

This is part five of a five-part series “Flipping Ambition: Achieving More by Effectively Slacking Off”.  Click here to read the rest of the series.