by Jeff Miller
Understanding who we are and what we have accomplished are key components in the journey of embracing our heritage. However, these components only capture one dimensional snap shots of a few isolated data points within our individual identity. They are unable to fully reveal all of the multiple aspects or the dimensional depth that we holistically embody (essentially the difference between a flat photo versus a collage of photos versus a sculpture; more on this in another post).
I intuitively knew I was an achiever type, but in the past that label felt very negative. Through a couple assessment tools and the discerning council of my wife and friends, I have been able to walk through my own (mis)perceptions and accompanying false humility. I’ve begun to see the positive and am now able to both feel successful and appreciate my accomplishments.
It was a great moment when I was able to connect the dots of who I was created to be with what I have accomplished. My support team has helped me see that many of my vocational, avocational & personal achievements were special. What I had done took a lot of hard work and dedication, as well as gifting. To fly in Navy fighters & go through Topgun (“the best of the best”)… to be part of a team that rang the opening bell at the NY Stock Exchange… to see needs around me & help strategize, plan & launch ways to meet them… to listen to friends share ideas and then suggest tangible action steps needed to make them reality… to run the Chicago marathon. Those are achievements were only able to be done through using my God-given gifts! And, this is why I am so passionate about enabling others to experience the freedom of being all they can be.
Much of the above sounds cool by American-driven rugged individualism, but they are just a portion of who I was designed to be. And, everyone is created with their own individual, multifaceted and cool gifts! However, the challenge with achievement is that all our accomplishments are based on the past and what we have done. Although what we have done influences and shapes us, past achievements are not always a good indicator of what to do next or of who we are becoming. It can be easy to rest on the laurels of our previous success and not want to look forward or consider change. Frankly, it is hard work to map out what may be next, to be stretched to do something different (yet most likely better). We can create something truly amazing and it becomes a signature. Perhaps a dish, song, story, artwork or product design that everyone loves and wants us to keep doing over and over. But when continually remaking the same recipe, are we able remain creative? In repeatedly doing the same thing (that once was successful) can we slowly become stagnant and risk-adverse?
I was reminded of this achievement tension while watching a chef show (yes, I will also own being a foodie). During the show a couple of renowned chefs discussed the topic of signature dishes. Their conversation riveted me. Their take was that signature dishes are the biggest challenge to innovation for them as a chef. Although it is good to know what customers like and enjoy, they noted that understanding can also lead to your frame of reference becoming smaller and smaller. Their conclusion was that giving people what you know they like can be soul-destroying.
Wow. How much of our heart and soul have each of us trashed by trying to please others and conceding our ideas in order to do something others want? Or worse, have we lived out what we had always wanted to do through our kids or others? That was part of my personal story and a source of my extreme achievement aversion.
Yes, I’ve become okay being an achiever and feeling accomplished. Yet, I do not want to become comfortable in doing the same thing over and over because it once worked well. If you and I do not continue stretching, improving and growing ourselves, we are prone to becoming sedentary, set in our ways and inflexible (when was last time you touched your toes or ran a mile?).
My intent is to begin building upon the identity series and discuss practical aspects of how to embrace our heritage. I believe understanding identity is a foundational piece in knowing who God created you to be. Yet, in order to fully move forward, we also need to go back and do a little excavation work in our history. To aid that dig, we will explore ways our achievements, our family of origin, and our past experiences can hold us back from fully realizing our potential.