"You can only become truly accomplished at something you love...
pursue the things you love doing and then do them so well that
people can’t take their eyes off of you."
-Maya Angelou


Oh my. Where did the night go? I was typing away, writing an article on tai chi that's due in a couple of days, when I glanced up at the clock. 10:40 pm! Eek! I'd better save this story right where I'm at, take off my reporter hat and put on my my blogger hat.

Ok. Now that I'm properly attired to blog, let's talk about today's step. I guess I sort of did already, didn't I? Today my step involved working on an article for a local magazine. It doesn't surprise me that I lost track of time while deciphering my chicken scratch notes and composing my thoughts...writing has always had a way of enveloping every inch of my being. Nothing else, except for the challenge of long distance running, makes me every inch of me feel so incredibly alive. So completely present.

A few Christmases ago, my sweetie gave me a copy of The Truth About You by Marcus Buckingham. Part motivational book, part find-your-life's-purpose toolkit, The Truth About You comes with a small, pocket-sized notebook Buckingham calls a "(re)memo" pad. The reader is to use the (re)memo pad to take note of the activities that create that magical sense of being wildly alive and "on fire." These activities and their characteristics would fall under the "strength" category. The notebook also includes a space to record all the activities that create a drained, spent and otherwise disinterested feeling. (And yes, this second list can include things we are "good" at. Simply being good at something doesn't make it a strength.)

I don't know why I thought doing the exercise would lead me to some crazy discovery, enlightening revelation or otherwise out-of-body experience. What appeared in my top 10 list notes were things I've loved doing since I was a kid.

1) creative writing/storytelling
2) feature writing
3) learning new things
4) singing/performing
5) being creative/making things (art projects, crafts, etc.)
6) challenging my body/staying active (running, biking, etc.)
7) helping others/knowing I made a positive difference
8) exploring/hiking & "playing" in the woods
9) traveling
10) spending time with those closest to me

What I absolutely adore about the project I worked on today—and the new one I will work on this weekend—is that it engages so many of these strengths. It's feature writing, so that takes care of one of the top 10 strengths. But it's also creative writing in the sense that my mind is engaged in creative play as I try out and decide which lead will work best, or how to construct this thought while creating a smooth, logical transition into the next. Writing a story is like puzzle play for me. I spill all my notes, quotes and thoughts onto the page, and then shift them around, one by one, until the lock into place to create a seamless, sturdily constructed story.

The project also engages my love for learning new things. When I went into this study I knew very little about tai chi...other than the fact that I think that's what I saw a small group of students doing occasionally on my college's campus lawn. But I was more than willing to learn more about tai chi in preparation for my interviews and even more eager to attend a class and try it out first hand.

And because it's a physical form of exercise, this project can also fall under the category of challenging my body. My main forms of exercise are long distance/endurance running and spinning (cycling), both of which are high intensity and fast. To slow my body way down would definitely challenge for this frenzied multi-tasker.

The fifth strength this project enlisted was my desire to help others...at least I like to think it does. I like to believe that after this story is published, someone will read it and want to try tai chi for themselves. Maybe it will be the first step for someone who is struggling to maintain good health and self-care. Maybe it will bring friendship into the life of someone who feels lonely and isolated. Maybe it will save someone's life, as was the case for one woman I interviewed who used her tai chi breathing exercises to bring her heart back into a sinus rhythm during an episode of atrial fibrillation. I may never know for sure, but I find such joy in the possibility of being able to help someone in some small way.

Everyone has strengths. Everyone. The challenge isn't so much to identify what they are, for I truly believe the foundation of our strengths are laid early on in life. Where I believe the real challenge lies is in giving up the things we are good at, think we are good at or are told we are good at, but that don't bring any sense of joy or fulfillment. As a people please, this was a difficult challenge for me. But when you let those things go, there's more room for the things you are good at—and ENJOY—to flourish more than you ever imagined.

Your One Step:

I'm going to borrow the (re)memo exercise for today's one step challenge: For the next day, keep a small notebook with you everywhere you go. The minute you recognize yourself as being "in the zone" while doing a certain activity write down the activity and the way it makes you feel. For example, "I am writing a feature story and I feel excited, energized, creative and eager to learn more."

Also log those moments when an activity bores you. For example, "I'm helping a friend spruce up their resume. While I enjoy helping my friend, editing and rewriting content that is formal and static leaves me feeling bored, drained of creativity and eager to get the project over with."

At the end of the day, take inventory of the things that fueled you, and the things that drained you. Therein lie your true strengths and where you might want to focus more of your daily energy.

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