Have you ever had that feeling where something inside of you just wants to get out, a yearning and desire to be more? When you think of a Cheetah, it just instinctively knows to run like the wind. Take this freedom away and what have you left? A suppressed Cheetah screaming to get out.
Is your Cheetah screaming to get out?
When I was a child, my Mum often used to say God has given each one of us ‘gifts’. It took me a while to understand what she really meant, yet I grew up knowing that each of us had something unique to offer the world, the challenge was how to find what it was.
As an adult you should think back to anytime in your life when you experienced happiness whether it was recent or even as far back as in your childhood. As a child we allow ourselves to truly experience things in the moment allowing us true joy. This is something we seem to lose as we become adults, often allowing our experiences of our past to affect our perceptions of the present, and this so often leads to us projecting the past to replay into the future resulting in fear, which truly robs us of the present.
I love the word's "having child-like faith" - "just believe and you shall receive" - because life can truly be like this. Unfortunately, sometimes we have to rewire out minds to think like this again and believe like a child again. We literally have to retrain our 'conditioned minds' out of the bad habit of shrinking back and becoming fearful.
A dear friend of mine, Miranda Barnard, changed her own life over 10 years ago after having someone tell her the words above. She had been suffering from autoimmune disease and a person had specifically said she should look back to a time in her life that had given her joy. This took her by surprise, looking back to her childhood, where she had shared immense joy being creative. This led her to buy a pattern and make a beautiful handbag. From this was born her business Rosabella, which sells gorgeous vintage accessories and beautiful handcrafted mohair bags, belts, hats and stoles and has been running for over ten years. She was able to turn around her own adversity and create something amazing.
"Your 'cross to bear', is your gift to share" Sam McDonald
It wasn’t until 2007 that I became curious to understand myself better and took the Myers Briggs personality assessment, yet found it lacking for what I was in search of – my ‘gifts’. However, what it did do was to pique my curiosity and I went on in 2008 to take the Gallup Strength Assessment. Again, my curiosity was piqued, but only momentarily, as I had to ask myself yet again “what now?”.
The reason being, the assessment was not the quick fix I thought it might be. It is not a test you take, then put away, now knowing who you are. If it was that simple, we would all be taking it.
I was fortunate enough one day, in 2015, to come across an online clip, where I heard DeAnna Murphy, Founder and President of Strengths Strategy Inc®, asking herself the very same question regarding the strength assessment – “I know who I am, what now?”. It was DeAnna's 'why', that prompted me to sign up for the Strength Strategy Coaching Certification. I have since gone on to study Strengths in depth, specifically the application of the 34 Strengths, through the Strength Institute in South Africa and Strengths Strategy® Inc. USA, the leading strengths application organisation in the world.
This is an on-going process, because once you buy into Strengths, you buy into the journey for life. Strengths becomes a way of life. It takes commitment to learn as much as you can about your individual reports, before you even engage in Strength Coaching. It is a promise to yourself and to others, to learn what you can, and commit to the ‘interdependent’ practice of allowing others to bring their strengths to compensate for your ‘non-strengths’ and vice versa, because as the adage goes “no man is an island”, and for us to function optimally, we need to work together allowing everyone to bring their Strengths.
"We need to get curious, not just about the contributions of each strength but what the energy of the needs require, the over-use patterns, and what have come to be called the Toxic Circle Triggers - meaning those “triggers” that set off our dysfunctional/toxic patterns- and start leveraging strengths to mitigate weakness"
A cheetah innately knows it has been put on the earth to run. It is after all the fastest land animal on earth. But what happens when a Cheetah has this innate ability taken away?
Virginia McKenna, who starred in the classic movie Born Free and received an Order of the British Empire in 2003 for her work on behalf of captive animals, says that her participation in Born Free made her realize that “wild animals belonged in the wild, not imprisoned in zoos". Freedom is a precious concept, and wild animals suffer physically and mentally from the lack of freedom captivity imposes.” PETA
This makes me think of people, because for me, when we are not able to be what we have innately been put on the earth to be, we can also suffer physically and mentally from the lack of freedom, or the ‘captivity’ of what being 'something we are not' imposes.
“An Oxford University study based on four decades of observing animals in captivity and in the wild found that animals such as polar bears, lions, tigers, and cheetahs “show the most evidence of stress and/or psychological dysfunction in captivity” and concluded that “the keeping of naturally wide-ranging carnivores should be either fundamentally improved or phased out.” A survey of the records of 4,500 elephants both in the wild and in captivity found that the median life span for an African elephant in a zoo was 16 to 17 years, whereas African elephants on a nature reserve died of natural causes at a median age of 56 years. Researchers concluded that “bringing elephants into zoos profoundly impairs their viability.” PETA
It seems to me the stress and/or psychological dysfunction in society today is an epidemic, the worst it has ever been in the history of man, and Autoimmune Disease is becoming prevalent around the globe. Is this because we are being held captive to expectations and norms forced upon us, unable to be the person we were meant to be? I wonder if people who play to their innate Strengths, people who do the work they were born to do, live longer?
“people who use their strengths every day are three times more likely to report having an excellent quality of life, six times more likely to be engaged at work, 8% more productive and 15% less likely to quit their jobs.” Gallup
What we do know, is that 80% of people are unhappy at work. Just imagine those millions of people. Have you ever thought of the ‘knock on effect’ of this in society? How does it play out in families when parents go home and transfer their emotions into the home environment? Or children going home from a day at school or university who have been with a unhappy educators, or unhappy students? What will it cost for us to continue along the same path? Einstein knew when he said, “insanity is doing the same things and expecting different results.”
It is time for us to do something differently
Unlike animals we have been given free will. Freedom is one of my very top values and, to be the person I was put on the earth to be, in an interdependent, ‘mindful of other people’ kind of way and this has to be the biggest gift I can ever give myself, and others.
Reading through Viktor Frankl’s, ‘Man's Search for Meaning’, I recognize that all of us need meaning and truth in life. Meaning - finding one’s value and purpose. Truth - being real and authentic to who you innately are.
So where is your ‘Cheetah’?
When you discover and begin to actualise the person you innately are, you will be utilising all your God given strengths, because when we find work where we can bring our strengths, we move into the A+ Zone where we will be highly energised, engaged, happy and perform at levels we have only ever dreamt of. A Strength requires that we add skills, knowledge and experience to our innate Talents.
“People who know their strengths are also 8% more productive - and teams that focus on strengths every day have 12.5% higher productivity” Gallup
I work with people to understand who they are through their talents and strengths, getting to the very core of their intrinsic value, and then help to futurise their potential. I believe once you discover your value, your purposes in life flow naturally from this. I often look at one’s adversity and have come to realize the value of this too, and how this can give you insight into what you could possibly offer to the world. You see, there is a one in 33 million chance of anyone having the same top 5 Strengths in the same order as yours and when you add your personal data from our journey in life, you’ll come to realise how totally unique you really are. We have all been through adversity and this can become "your cross to bear is your gift to share". So what could you do with your adversity?
Nick Vujicic was born with a rare disorder, tetra-amelia (born without fully formed limbs), and yet has gone on to become one of the world’s most unusual motivational speakers, and is an author to more than two best-selling books. Hundreds of people flock to hear him speak. I have no doubt of his ‘influencing Strengths’. Every one of us has a purpose. Understanding your Strengths assists in understanding what you can naturally bring to the world.
“What would happen if we actually study what is right with people?” There is a short answer to this question posed by Dr. Donald Clifton, a pioneer in the field of strengths psychology and creator of the Clifton StrengthsFinder. In the last 50 years, Gallup has learned that people and organizations grow more when they focus on what they do best rather than trying to fix their weaknesses.” Gallup
What happens when you can’t be yourself?
One of my most often used statistics is that 80% of people are unhappy in their work. My point? Unless we recognize early in life what we love to do, and who we are, which today is easily measured through an online assessment, coupled with Strengths education and coaching, we will continue to go through life feeling like a cheetah locked in a zoo.
As an adult, think back to a time when you were your happiest person and remind yourself of what you were doing and what you love to do. How did you feel at the time and can you remember what you were saying to yourself? What were others saying about you at that time and how did they experience the greatness of what you had to bring? How did this experience feel to you? Recognise the Cheetah in yourself and do more of this. If you would like to take a guess at your Strengths you can follow the link here which will lead you to clues of the 34 Strengths.
Discover what you are supposed to do and do it!
I’d like to finish by quoting a tale ...
The Greatest General
by: Neil Eskelin
Let me tell you about a man who died and met Saint Peter at the pearly gates. Realizing Saint Peter was a wise and knowledgeable person, he said, "Saint Peter, I have been interested in military history for many years. Tell me who was the greatest general of all time?"
Saint Peter quickly responded, "Oh, that's a simple question. It is that man right over there." as he pointed nearby.
The man said, "You must be mistaken, Saint Peter. I knew that man on earth. He was just a common laborer."
"That's right, my friend," replied Saint Peter. "yet he would have been the greatest general of all time -- if he had applied his Strengths and recognised his innate abilities."
You were created with natural abilities and an internal compass that guides you toward a particular focus for your life. That's only the starting point; the next step is yours. You have an obligation to expand that potential to its ultimate destiny.
Michelangelo said, "It is only well with me when I have a chisel in my hand."
When you get to do what you do best - it’s time to celebrate
Sam McDonald has been married for twenty-seven years and has four children. Their home is in Hampton, UK and Camps-Bay in South Africa. She is a Futurist and Chief Visionary Officer for WITH - Global Change Institute (www.with.org.za) with a dream for each individual to know and understand their uniqueness through their Strengths, Interdependence and Purpose and use these in service of a better humanity.
She is a Normative Visionary, Systems Thinker, Disruptor, Change Agent, Activist - With a PG-Dip in Futures Studies from the University of Stellenbosch, influencing thinking in order to create futures led enquiry & change towards a future we all want to be part of - linking strategic leadership and management with futures thinking using Interdependent Rules of Engagement© and the StrengthsFinder© Assessment as tools of choice to help people understand each other's unique world views which are coloured by their Strengths Language.
She moved to South Africa in 1983 from Nottingham in the UK and works globally living between both countries utilising online technology and offers in-person workshops with teams of qualified Strength Coaches.
She works with motivated clients using the Strengthsfinder® assessment as a power tool for:
Strength Based Interviewing & Recruitment
Assisting motivated individuals to fall in love with their careers and find the work they were born to do.
Working with high achievers to discover their value and purpose
Working with Start-ups to gain momentum, motivation & self-awareness of the Entrepreneur
Assisting Students to gain a greater self-awareness, expediting their career path, building confidence and self-esteem.
Working with individuals to re-engage in their work environments & leveraging their strengths
Working with marriage relationships to help you love again and understand the toxicity, reduce negative experiences, create understanding and, in turn, assist with long-term strategies for lasting transformation
Finding your true Purpose, Passion and Value in Life
Falling in love with your life and work again
She teaches the 'Interdependent Rules of Engagement© & Vulnerability' to focus on living 'Interdependence' as the key to healthier environments - choosing this as 'rules of engagement' over 'Dependence', 'Co-Dependence' & 'Independence'.
Follow the link if you would like to find out more about Coaching through your Strengths.