Are You Overusing Your Qualities?

Are You Overusing Your Qualities?

Part 3 on Living with Wholeness.

A couple of weeks ago we spoke about identifying weaknesses. Last week, we also considered the importance of facing our weaknesses rather than running away from them.

Today, I want to bring up another kind of weakness, that we often fail to realize – because strangely enough, it’s masked as a strength or virtue.

Growing up, I knew an aunt who was admired by all for her patience. Her 4 teenagers gave her much emotional angst, and yet she maintained a serene acceptance of the moment and a solid belief in a better tomorrow. Many years later, I realized how this very tolerance of hers was at least partially the cause of her teenagers’ behaviors. Her patience bordered on passivity, and in the absence of boundaries and consequences, and given adolescent risk-taking tendencies, dangerous and even illegal behaviors happened more often than the norm.

Ever since, and especially in my work with clients, I’ve been increasingly aware that many times, what gets in the way of relationships, or performance, is not a weakness, but an overplay of a strength. This is because strengths come far more easily to us – and we can take them too far quite unconsciously – especially when we’re under stress.

Perhaps you may want to consider:

  • Does your ability to get things done ever turn into restlessness?
  • Does you ability to discipline yourself also mean you can sometimes be rigid in your interactions?
  • Does your focus on long-term goals ever show up as emotional disconnect with the present?
  • Does your desire for excellence lead to a depleting obsession with perfection?

Aristotle is known to have said that virtue lies between 2 opposing vices, and that it’s the ‘golden mean’ of a quality that we should aim for. Finding the right balance between opposing forces of our nature is not always easy. Knowing when to accept things and when to change them, when to discipline and when to go with the flow, when to be stay your ground and when to be flexible, is more than about knowing how to do so.

Its about knowing when to do what. And when we’re emotionally attached to a person, situation or outcome, there’s no easy way to know…

These 5 steps can help you disconnect from the moment and then reconnect with reclaimed power and presence. (The example I’ve used below is for those moments when perfection gets the better of us):

What does the situation call for?

Perhaps you have to send out a report to your colleagues and it needs to be ready by a certain time

How am I reacting to it?

With fear – trying to perfect it, for fear of failure, judgment

Which virtue am I perhaps taking too far?

Appreciation of excellence

How can I dial it back (perhaps with another virtue that I value)?

Use perspective – who will see the report, what’s the expectation, let go to details that don’t need to be in. Use self-compassion – be kind to yourself

How will that lead to a better outcome?

It will be ready on time, less stress, less procrastination, greater enjoyment

At the end of the day, it all boils down to wholeness again. Whether we live in the sweet spot of our qualities and virtues, or struggle up and down the spectrum in its search, living with wholeness is about finding the right balance for the situation.

Which brings me back to Rumi, my all time favorite poet, who said:

 Life is a balance of holding on and letting go

I would love to hear of your experiences with finding the right balance. Do you struggle with it or does it come easy to you? Please post your comments below!

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