As a kid, I was incredibly fortunate to grow up on forty acres and have my grandparents as my next-door neighbors. I craved spending time with them, as they would always teach me valuable things, which I found so intriguing. One day, when I was about 8 years old, my grandma showed me how to plant a tree. I was so excited! She had a tree seedling in bucket and a shovel in hand. We picked out a place down by the garden, where there were very few trees. She said that the tree needed space to grow since it was going to be big. As she dug the hole for the baby tree, as I called it, she said that it was really important to tend to this seedling. She went on to explain that, in order for it to grow into a big and beautiful tree, it depended on us to give it the extra water it would need, and that mother nature would take care of the rest of it. With the last bit of soil packed around the seedlings base, I went back up to the house with the small bucket to retrieve water from the spigot. Year after year, with its extra water and tender loving care, the tree’s growth was remarkable, and eventually its canopy (the crown) expanded.
The growth of the tree is symbolic to life. Just as my grandma and I nurtured the seedling with water so it could grow naturally strong and develop its expansive canopy, we grow similarly as humans. According to Webster’s Dictionary, the natural ability or power we all have is “talent”. Although this may seem broad, the Gallup organization states it simply. They refer to the natural ability as being a talent, a special set of skills that is part of our hard-wiring. When we utilize these skills, it’s like second nature to us. It doesn’t require much thought or effort because we are instinctively doing it. When our talents are fostered with knowledge, they become our strengths. Getting the opportunity to use our strengths and doing what we do best delivers an incredible amount of satisfaction. So much so, that we yearn to do more of it because it fuels the soul and give us purpose in everything we do.
When we have a knack at performing these natural skills, it can create blind spots for us.
Let me further explain.
If I have a natural strength to organize things, I am “hard-wired” as an arranger. I thrive on figuring out how to put all the pieces together and do it with maximum efficiency. When the pressure kicks up at home or work, my strength is even more present and can extend into those lives that are connected to me. So, I will attempt organize every detail, both mine and theirs, because that is in my DNA. Oftentimes, those strengths can cast shadows over the people in my life, like the tree’s canopy. The shadows can inadvertently cause others to feel like I am controlling or even stifling them, especially when it comes to growth, development or even support. If I am unware of my strength, my actions could cause people to check-out or disengage despite my best efforts. It is only through awareness that I can be an advocate of change for my strength.
When it comes to life, just as natural as the tree’s canopy expands with growth, so does our canopy of strength. To accelerate our growth and development as individuals, it is essential to understand the positive attributes along with the potential shadows of our strengths. In addition, the more aware we become, the greater opportunity we have to use our strengths to encourage and support others differently.
Our strengths can cast shadows over the people in our life much like a tree’s canopy. The more aware we are of the shadows, the greater opportunity we have to use those strengths differently. Robin Bush