Remember the ancient story about David and Goliath? A young shepherd David going to battle against the enemy giant Goliath? He ends up killing Goliath with only a few smooth stones torpedoed by his leather slingshot. The part of the story that is particularly powerful is what happens before that final scene. The King, whose people are battling Goliath's army, calls David before his throne and offers his own personal body armor to wear to go up against the giant.
Now this is no small offer. The King has been a hugely successful warrior and leader of his people, achieving epic victories through the years. And he's always worn this special armor to protect himself and he's used the sacred sword to defeat his enemies. Now he offers them to David.
So David tries on the armor and the sword. But they don't fit him ... at all! He staggers and stumbles around under the weight of someone else's armory.
And now David makes the most strategic decision possible. The King and others see it as foolish. But David knows it's smart and courageous.
"Thanks for your generous offer, O King, but I have to go into battle in my own armor, using what I've always relied on and what I'm best at!"
So David goes to face the giant, dressed in his shepherd's clothing, and holding in his hand the weapon that has brought him success in protecting his sheep against the wild animals in the wilderness--a leather slingshot and some smooth stones.
And the rest is history.
Here's the point. When it comes to facing your life well, the most effective, strategic decision you can make is to stand in your own armor, not someone else's.
Why? Because standing in your armor is when you're at your strongest, most powerful, and fulfilled place. It's all about strategic energy management.
I'm talking about your brain function and its natural preferences.
Brain Function and Natural Preferences
Your brain is wired with neuronal synapses--connections between cells (neurons) that produce certain behaviors. By the time you're sixteen years old, you've lost half of these networks (billions and billions)--thankfully--otherwise, you would as an adult be like a small child frozen in sensory overload. So in this case, less is more.
By your teenage years, the synapses that have remained are the ones from which are created your talents, your natural preferences.
Your smartness and your effectiveness depend on how well you capitalize on your strongest connections.
As Marcus Buckingham puts it,
"Nature forces you to shut down billions of connections precisely so that you can be freed up to exploit the ones remaining."
So you begin to notice that when you engage in certain behaviors and reactions, they just "feel right" to you, while others, no matter how hard you practice, always seem stilted and forced. This is good and as it should be.
Strategic energy management is all about utilizing and building on your natural preferences. That's the most energy efficient.
Brain experts remind us that when we are operating outside of our natural brain preferences, our brains are expending 100 times the level of resistance; as contrasted to when we are leading with our natural preferences which expends 1 times the level of resistance. So which way is more energy efficient?
T1 vs. Dial-up Connections
It's like connecting our computers with a hyper-fast T1 line versus an old dial-up connection. Which works better? Which is more efficient? Which has the greatest speed and productivity?
Living our lives from a place of personal natural preference is the T1 connection. Living life trying to be something we're not is the ancient dial-up connection.
And the consequences of "dial-up" is devastating: fatigue, hyper-vigilance, immune system suppression, reduced function of the frontal lobe (the thinking, processing, evaluating, and creativity brain center), memory problems, discouragement and depression, self-esteem problems, high levels of ongoing stress. We are literally killing ourselves prematurely.
Dr. Phil puts it this way,
"Ignoring who you truly, authentically are can literally be killing you. Forcing yourself to be someone you are not or stuffing down who you really are will tax you so much that it will shorten your life by years and years."
Why Strengths Work Is So Vital
This is why I value strengths work so much. It's about identifying our natural preferences and then discovering specific ways we can utilize those strengths more intentionally. It's about validating and affirming each other's strengths (which really is a way of validating the true person in front of you and setting them free, via their T1 line, to be at their best and strongest place). It's about exploring together how each person's strengths can be brought together with the other person's strengths and strategically managed and leveraged in ways that help the couple to be at their strongest, most effective relational place--discovering the relationship's T1 line.
Imagine what happens when couples approach their relationship from this vantage point--the affirmation and honoring of each other's most authentic self, and then building a relationship on this strongest of strong foundations. It's allowing each other to wear the right armor as opposed to forcing them to wear something else. It's identifying the couple's unique armor and then together going into battle to face the giants of life. That's the way giants are battled successfully.
Here's the way one couple I did this strengths work with described their experience:
"My husband and I have been married for 14 years and have worked through our share of challenges during that time. Working with Greg helped us re-kindle the spark that we had lost track of during those challenges. We now have a renewed vision of why we're together and how to honor and leverage each of our strengths in exciting ways. Thank-you, Greg!"
I'm teaching a strengths workshop for couples about these very issues (March 23, 1-5 pm, San Francisco, CA). Registration deadline is March 17. And it's limited to 10 couples. If you're interested, go to this link for more information: Strengths-based Couples.
Looking for a Speaker or Coach?
If you or someone you know in your organization is looking for a keynote speaker or workshop teacher for events in your company, congregation, or association gatherings, I would be happy to come speak on this theme or others like it. And interested in strengths coaching? Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or look at the Speaking or Coaching pages of this site.