On my mind

I've been thinking a lot lately about the idea of “playing to your strengths.” It started with vanity. Last month I made an impulse purchase in the Sephora check-out line: this peel (stay with me), and when I used it I was bowled over by what an immediate difference it made to my skin. Because I'm lucky enough to have naturally good skin, I never spend much time or energy making it better. That got me thinking. I know from experience that, despite many hours attempting to make my thighs leaner, it's far more rewarding to focus on whittling my naturally small waist because the results come so much faster.

I was still mulling that over when I spent an afternoon with a lovely singer friend. She's had quite a bit of success, but she confessed to me that because singing and performing have always come easy to her, she's never worked all that hard at it. She had a recent epiphany: if she could do this well without putting in a ton of effort, imagine where she might be if she really worked at it.

This resonated deeply with me. I have a strong and constant urge toward self-improvement, as I think many of us do, which means that my focus goes most often to correcting my deficiencies and developing new skills I lack. That can be incredibly satisfying; for example, after forcing myself to cook more I'm now relatively good at it and I love it. Often, though, it can feel like a never-ending struggle to be better at everything. I remember back when I was in high school and starting the college application process, some wise person (probably Mama Bossy) told me that it isn't true that colleges are looking for well-rounded students. No, they're looking for a well-rounded student body. Each applicant doesn't have to be good at everything—in fact, colleges want each student to have true depth of talent and passion, even if it's only in one specific area.

What if we're trying so hard to be well-rounded that we're missing out on that depth? What if, instead of relying on the things that come naturally to us to…come naturally, we focused our efforts toward those things and made them really great? What if we allowed ourselves to be bad at some things, and just go of them?

I don't know yet exactly how I want to apply this to my life (identifying exactly what your strengths are seems to be key in this equation), but it's giving me food for thought. You?

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