Michele Minehart

words & yoga

Category: Uncategorized (page 1 of 183)

The Myth of the Strengths

JJ just arrived home from an afternoon full of yardwork and football, exhausted. I flopped onto the chair after a day full of childwork and house-ness, exhausted. He, physically spent. Me, emotionally done.

Wait. Aren’t we exhausted because of the work we’re “gifted” at doing? Weren’t we doing the stuff for which we feel best suited? Why are we so utterly exhausted after a basic day’s docket?

Of course, there’s the standard theory: we did it right. We gave it our all. A case could be made in that direction. I’ll pose a co-existing, alternative idea: that whole “live your strengths” thing is more smoke than fire. (Now, now. I’m not saying to be all Even Steven in everything. If you’re not using your gifts, you’re in the wrong spot. But there’s a theory in the world that says you only do what you’re good at and forget the rest. I’m challenging that.)

You see, I recently dove into some lit reviews on the benefits and dangers of youth sports. Stick with me here. There’s great benefit to joining the local baseball team and even traveling a bit with club soccer. However, studies are pretty consistent in showing that the earlier a kid “specializes” – sticks to a single sport – the rate of injury jumps much higher, amongst other pitfalls. It seems the human shoulder wasn’t designed to throw fastballs 7 days a week beginning at age 7.

Too much of our gift invokes fatigue. Even for the things we love; our abilities, our talents.

Recruiters love a well-rounded athlete, one that can use her whole body, not just individual parts and pieces. Why would the bigger scope of our lives be any different?

Taking the half of your life that you do well and ignoring the rest isn’t living a whole life. In fact, I think that’s why we see so much burnout, even in high-level spaces. Really fantastic artists and business executives and athletes and healthcare workers still want to be whole people, perhaps with friends and children and hobbies and a service to a greater good. When they cannot fulfill that because their hours are spent doing their “gift”, they begin to suffer. Their angst doesn’t only affect the spaces they don’t inhabit. Their gifts begin to fatigue.

So while I’m not lobbying to pick up yardwork assignments in our household, I can recognize that bearing an emotional burden day in and day out takes it’s toll when it’s overused. Putting our hands into a variety of work, even when some of it is newer or more challenging, relieves the pressure of our primary assignment and begins to help us develop into stronger overall humans.

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New with Tags

It’s yard sale season, the perfect occasion to score a new-to-you anything. Sometimes you can tell the set of golf clubs has been well-used and the owner is exchanging his “starter set” for a better brand. The best finds, however, are the NWT (new with tags) items. These are the things purchased with the highest intent. Maybe it’s some sort of ab gadget or an entire Bowflex lifting system. A set of pastels with the one included canvas missing. A 10-year-old snowboard which kept its sheen thanks to an expensive case and little time on the slopes.

Garage sales, be it the online FB version or the old fashioned stop-on-the-side-of-the-road sort, tell the stories of our best intentions which fizzled.

In talking to a friend about wanting to rediscover her artistic talents, she revealed she missed pottery. She wanted to buy a wheel and a kiln to rekindle the habit of creating. I asked her if she ever took a community class when it was offered, or spoke with the local art teacher about getting access to materials before taking on a costly and space-consuming attempt.

“No, I just figure that if I have the things in my home, that I’ll use them more often. It’s so much work to try to get to a class or a studio.”

I anticipate my friend will become not a potter, but an owner of a potter’s wheel.

Not to dismiss the need for the appropriate gear before setting out to try a new hobby, but our garages tend to give us a glimpse into our society’s approach to change. We try to better ourselves by buying something for ourselves. We mistake consumption for transformation.

I heard once that any problem that can be solved by throwing money at it isn’t a very interesting problem. I believe the theory to hold true as it pertains to our personal growth. If a bigger budget would make you the person you wanted to be, I’m just going to say, you won’t be a very interesting person.

Money, and subsequently, stuff, makes things easier. We like easy. But rarely does easy equate to good. Quicker? Easy can do that. Cheaper? Easy can get behind that one, too. Easy cannot give depth, however, or longevity. It doesn’t bring about change that lasts.

The writer who will lock herself in the closet at 5am with pen and paper when a laptop isn’t available is a writer. The gal with the Macbook Pro sitting on her desk with a few scribbled notes about the next big book idea is an owner of a Macbook Pro.

The guy who laces up in the middle of winter because he needs to get in 10 miles is a runner. The guy with brand new Under Armor fleece lined compression pants sitting in his drawer owns nice running gear.

We are not a sum total of our stuff. Our character is revealed in how we live. As Annie Dillard said, “How we live our days is, of course, how we live our lives.” What we keep in our garage, basement or closet has only the smallest influence on those things.

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Promises, promises

My educational background provided me with a public relations mind, so I get it. I know the “felt need” element of selling anything. I realize that often in this world we simply need to give people a reason before they care, specifically before they care enough to take action.

Seeing how this is my training and often a part of my job(s), I regularly hate myself.

The problem with felt-need based promotion is professionals actively work to make you feel like you’re not enough. The entire process is creating a ____-sized hole, which you come to believe can only be filled by what the promotion offers. In order to be enough, you need a faster car, a bigger home, more shiplap, less bodyfat, more probiotics, less plastics, and perfect children.

(My least favorite explanation that advertisers give for you making these purchases: “You deserve it.” While I do think you’re indeed a fantastic person, why do we cling so tightly to this earning-based mentality? But that’s another post.)

An article shared by my teacher’s teacher (My grand-teacher? My upline? I lack the vocabulary here.)  added to this notion, specifically in how this is experienced in the fitness and health industry:

I don’t care about elite performance, but I do care tremendously about living long enough to know my grandchildren. I care deeply about having a solid quality of life and aging gracefully. I want my later years of life to be filled with beautiful memories of close friends and family and not full of doctor visits, endless bottles of pills, and long hospital stays. I want to take long walks on the beach when I’m 80, holding hands with my husband without being afraid of falling down. I want a tribe who cares about that. (-Michael Keeler)

I won’t say we’re all perfect just the way we are. It’s a both/and situation. We are enough, and we have work to do. We’re not finished. And the needs we feel? They’re real. Our humanness means we feel, we think, we grow. It is the nature of the universe to expand, and thus we won’t reach some state of doneness.

You see, many people (myself as one) are not interested in all the shortcuts to meet our actual needs. Six-pack abs are a superficial means of striving for acceptance and worth. Marketers want you to believe that a gorgeous midsection yields likability, but truth be told, I know plenty of people who have a rockin’ bod and are still assholes.

These real needs cannot be solved by a purchase for $49.95. It takes more than the right exercise or pair of pants – it takes time, energy, and a personal investment. These needs are only met with change; a change that happens below the surface of appearance.

I believe the heart of the author’s letter to the fitness industry was saying, I want change. I’m ready to do the work. Please help me. Until any of us get to that point, we’ll just be thinner (and probably poorer) versions of our same self, with the same needs lingering below the surface.

So here’s my disclaimer. Perhaps I’ll include it as fine print on all my “promotional” materials (because, ultimately, somehow, I have to tell you the options I’m offering to help you along the way): my yoga classes, my written ideas and thoughts – they will not change your life. Only you can do that. 

It comes from within, my friends. It’s a well that doesn’t run dry, but only you can do the digging. I’m trying to be the kind of person who can hand you a shovel and bring you a beer, because that’s what I’m looking for as I do my own digging.

Carry on, my friends.

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