It is with great horror that my wife Tee recalls her experience taking high school geometry. It seemed that no matter how hard she tried she just couldn’t get it, it made no sense. But if the course itself had not been bad enough, even worse was the dread of having to ask her father for help who being educated and trained as a civil engineer did not get it as to why she didn’t get it. “Matilda (her real name), don’t you understand!” he would snap after giving her what to him was a perfectly logical explanation. “No, Daddy, I don’t understand!” she would scream as she stormed off to her room in tears. Geometry to my father-in-law the engineer, you see, was as natural as breathing air, but to Tee it might as well have been some long forgotten ancient foreign language.
It would be easy for me to be smug about this story since geometry was easy for me, except I had my own comeuppance when I went off to college thinking I was smart enough to major in pre-med – until I had an encounter with a course called organic chemistry. It was for me like that long forgotten ancient foreign language, besides the fact it was the most boring subject I had ever taken. It put an end to my ambition of ever becoming a doctor – and looking back, boy am I glad it did!
Our greatest potential is in pursuing our passions, the things we are best suited for and that we love to do. Likewise nothing sets us up for misery and drudgery more than trying to be who we are not. That is why many coaches, myself included, often use assessment tools to identify behavioral preferences, personality types, and strengths and weaknesses in our clients. The purpose is not to psychoanalyze, but to raise the client’s awareness as to what makes him or her tick, and through that awareness to help them become the best they can be at who they naturally are – not to make them into something they are not.
We all have our strengths and weaknesses, passions and indifferences, things that energize us and those that drain us, and while it is extremely important that we be exposed to a wide array of subjects and experiences – science, math, history, literature, etc. – it is also essential that we recognize our gifts and passions for what they are. It is only when we allow ourselves to be who we naturally are that we can freely pursue living out our highest potential.