By AA Patawaran
It’s no joke, living in this world. You might even say it’s a cruel world and we’re just here to dodge the blows, to recover from the impact should we fail—and we often do—to dodge them.
It’s true, we are all just here trying not to succumb to the pull of gravity, which eventually will bring us to the ground, but that is why it is important to avoid the depletion of energies essential in battling the ravages of living. It doesn’t matter whether we are rich or poor, whether we are healthy or sick, whether we are beautiful or ugly—life sucks for all of us when we are weak of spirit, our burdens too heavy that we find it hard to even look up to the star that would light our path to our very purpose.
In my life, I have been blessed that just when I would feel most defeated, something would come to pass to rescue me. I do not use the phrase “come to pass” loosely here because, although this rescuing would happen as if by chance, I believe that they are the result of a course of events.
These rescue missions have been spread out over the course of my life so that I can say it’s like I’ve been on a journey through the desert, where just when I’m all dried out to take one more step, I stumble upon an oasis that replenishes my supply enough to allow me to cover the next stretch.
The first such oasis was when I was 17 or 18 when, after nearly two decades of relying solely on my inner well, I started to see a psychiatrist, the late Dr. Lourdes Lapuz, whose patient, understanding ear had been no less than a savior to me.
Along the way, I would chance upon other watering holes that would replenish my supply of hope and strength. One of them was when a new friend, the artist Itsy Dazo, enrolled me in the self-awareness program PSI in the early years of my career. Through PSI I learned the power of self-healing and self-motivation. A few years later, I chanced upon Neale Donald Walsch and his life-changing book Conversations with God, which set me off on a voyage deeper into myself, later dabbling in inner life exercises like meditation, Eastern philosophies, and spiritual explorations, as guided by other books in the same category as Walsh’s like Rhoda Byrne’s The Secret, Andrew Matthews’s Being Happy, even Sister Wendy Beckett’s Meditations on Silence.
All your strengths are created in the fire of adversity. —Deanna Murphy
Recently, just as I was reeling from a feeling of pure exhaustion when challenges—nothing new because no such thing as life without challenges—were wearing me down, I happened to trudge into yet another oasis I desperately needed at this point in my life.
The keeper of the well, this time, is a friend I made long ago, back in college, Janice Crisostomo Villanueva, who invited me to take part in a program for which she and her team handpicked about 30 people, each of whom was considered “a mover and a thought leader.”
The program is called Shift Up, designed by strengths strategy company People Acuity and founded by Minnesota-based speaker and coach Deanna Murphy. The basic idea behind the program compressed for us into a day’s worth of lecture, discussions, playful activities, and a bit of introspection and revelations, is that each of us has a set of strengths that allows us to flourish, but these same strengths have needs to be met, otherwise they transform into their twin—weaknesses. In other words, though it took us until later in the day to realize that our very strengths, whether it was adaptability or communication or the ability to store information, were in fact also our weaknesses, unless they were continually boosted or recharged. Adaptability, for instance, demands change or variety or the permission to shift gears in response to crises. When those demands are not met, adaptability is left useless and therefore leaves the holder of such strength unmotivated and uninspired. Put a person whose strength is in collecting ideas or information in an environment where he isn’t given the permission to ask questions or is deprived of the opportunity to share what he knows and, over time, he will feel useless and all that he knows, all his curiosity, will prove to be barriers to his ability to contribute knowledge to this world.
Shift Up determines your strengths through a 30-minute questionnaire you are asked to answer online before you show up at the program. We spent the day playing around with five key strengths, thereby discovering more about ourselves, learning about what would drain us of our energy, what would keep us going, and ultimately knowing that our strengths have more chances of making a difference when we plug in with the strengths of others. No man is an island, indeed!
Although the goal of Shift Up is more noble, as it aims to keep each of us strong enough not only to survive but to thrive in this challenging world (and to make this world a better, happier place), it is also very practical, especially for managers who could use the insights from Shift Up to realize that each member of the staff has a certain set of strengths that have particular needs to contribute significantly to the company vision or mission. The principles also apply within the home or to the family, with whom, at the end of the work day, the successes of the day translate to a happy life, just as a happy home or family life also translates to a happy, engaged worker. As Deanna puts it, “Who you are at work impacts who you are at home. By the same token, your experiences at home dramatically impact your way of being at work.”
I am writing this just a day after my Shift Up session and it’s not like the challenges are gone. I just know I can be strong enough to face them. I’ve just drunk from the well and it will carry me, with hope, through the next decade or so.
If you are interested in the Shift Up program or the other speaking topics of People Acuity like “Finding Work Joy,” email [email protected].
The author is also on Twitter and Instagram as @aapatawaran and Facebook as Arnel Patawaran.