Do we really need to work on our weaknesses? To build up those areas that we are bad at? Is this what it takes to be successful and to lead a good life - to try to make ourselves into someone different - someone more complete, or more balanced? I am not against personal growth. I think it is crucially important to be growing and developing all the time, but to focus that growth on the areas of our weakness is to miss out on our areas of strength - our genius. Everyone has elements that they are amazingly good at, and others that they are less talented in - would you consider focusing on those areas of talent instead of those areas of weakness?
I came to the conclusion through the study of spiritual growth and development that it is very important to focus on our strengths - that enlightenment is a relaxing into our natural self, and so it can only be achieved through discovering your strengths, not by building on your areas where you have trouble. Of course along the way we do deal with our issues, and transform some of our negative tendencies, but following the easy path that is natural to us is the only thing that makes this complete awakening journey possible.
About the same time that I was developing these ideas about spiritual growth Roger Hamilton was discovering the same thing in a completely different field. He was asking the question what is it that makes people rich and successful, and by analysing the interviews with many successful people he found that there was one common element that he called 'Flow' which is doing what comes easily and naturally, acting in a way that engages and inspires you - another way of saying the same thing - working with your strengths. He found that you could predict the fortunes of famous people by seeing how they went in and out of flow - when they try to do something that is less natural to them their success is limited, and when they try to do something that comes really naturally they are highly successful.
Of course people don't find the same things easy, they don't find the same pathways to awakening come to them naturally, and they don't find the same approach to business works to put them into flow, so both Roger Hamilton and I started to explore the different approaches and came up with systems of personality types that define how you find your flow, where is your strength, and what approach to life would work for you. Interestingly after developing this system, and integrating it with Roger Hamilton's system i have since discovered that a nearly identical system keeps popping up all over the place. Clearly it is a universal truth. The iiching uses it, ancient greek medicine uses it, Carl Jung describes it. A simple but powerful tool to help us find our effective approach to life.
How do you recognise Flow?
We all have many different abilities, and this chart represents the full range of human talents and activities. You are capable of all of it. On the right is extraversion - people, variety, celebration, and on the left is intraversion - structure, details, precision - We are all capable of both, but some people are more comfortable being in one than the other, some people prefer to spend their time having more conversations, and some prefer less. The question is not one of ability but one of joy. How much fun do you have in that activity? is there something that you could do that would be so joyous and inspiring that you would want to do it every day, and then get up in the morning and want more? That is flow - inspiring, motivating, timeless. There is no room for anxiety, stress, depression, because it is too much fun.
Extraversion vs Intraversion
The first opposition - left to right we already discussed - intraversion - structure, contemplation, order vs Extraversion - variety, and spice and social life. Which one would you like to spend more time in? or would you balance them equally? Where do you find your joy? And where do you find your energy - how long could you keep up in each of those situations? I am an extravert, and I do spend time alone, but it is not where I find life easy - the easy joy comes in performance and conversation. Where is yours? Some of us are more balanced, and we need a fairly equal amount of each. This is called Ambiversion, and sits in the middle of the chart.
Intuitive vs Sensing
The up/down axis is called Intuitive vs Sensing in modern psychology. These terms are a little misleading. We all have intuition, and we all are able to sense things, but what we are talking about here is the way that you act and plan - the way that you move forward into the world. The Intuitive approach is to creatively, intuitively grasp the big picture, to come up with a grand vision that makes sense of things, and to move towards that vision. They are visionaries, and creatives, The Sensing approach is to start with what is right here and now, and to get a feel for this moment - to tune in, and take one step forward rather than thinking about the big picture they feel into the current situation. I always say that a good test for this is how you would approach gardening - a strongly intuitive person makes a map of the garden first, that may take many years to actually realise - a strongly sensing person would get out the seeds and plant them. Another way of thinking about it is that the intuitive envisages the future, while the Sensing is present in the now.
Where do you fit in this? Are you more sensing or more intuitive? more extraverted, or more intraverted? Can you see where you find your flow and your joy?
The 8 Profiles
In exploring these different elements of finding our flow we end up with 8 different pathways, or channels that it is possible to flow through. Of course each of us is an individual and has unique talents special to them, but there are 8 basic channels along which we travel in life. Finding one that works for you can really speed up your personal growth, and ease your journey through life.
The Hawk - Creator
The Hawk is the most intuitive and creative of all people they are full of ideas, and possibilities - invariably too many to be able to ever put into practice or bring into reality. They love to explore and try new things. (often they are accused of having attention deficit disorders, but this is generally a negative way of seeing something that is actually a positive trait) In business they enjoy inventing products, and projects, and then letting other people manage and develop them, while moving onto the next cool idea that they have. In spirituality they often gravitate to shamanic practices that allow them to explore the various realities of the universe without feeling limited to one or other particular practice or experience. If this is you then use that vision and creative ability to guide others - they cannot see as clearly as you, and your clarity of vision can allow others talents to be used well, but don't imagine that you are a good manager - that requires an understanding of human nature, not simply knowing the right direction to take. Herding people is like herding cats - not something to be undertaken lightly.
The Monkey - Performer
Where the Hawk has IDEAS, the Monkey has IDEALS - something that they stand for - that they believe in and want to share with others. They are most comfortable on stage as musicians or actors, or public speakers, and have the ability to inspire others towards a vision or a goal. They can be amazingly impractical, for which they need to rely on others in their team or community to help them to some extent, but the passion, and inspiration that they give can unite and energise others and bring them towards the goal together. I am a monkey, and I find the most important lesson for me is that I should not think about goals and plans, but about caring, and looking after my community, and in so doing I can unite them and serve them, and they in turn look after me. In spirituality they often gravitate to practices that involve performance of course - so they may join the band, or do taichi (generally done in a public space with people looking on) or other things that allow them to shine.
The Elephant - Communicator
The Elephant is the most interested in conversation. They are gentle and wise for the most part - supporters who would like to see other people succeed. They make great coaches and counsellors, and gossips. Also in many cases great team leaders and CEO's because they use their talent for coaching and understanding people to help everyone succeed. In business the elephant needs a team - that is where they shine. Don't try to do things alone if you are an elephant - make connections with others, and do things together. You can even find an existing project or community and help that succeed. In the same way as they listen to others and try to understand others they can look towards themselves and understand themselves this leads to awareness and mindfulness based techniques such as buddhist meditation, or other forms of self awareness.
The Honeybee - Connector
The honeybee loves to connect - they connect with nature, with the universe, with themselves, with animals and plants, and with other people. It is that interconnection - that love that flows between things that makes them tick, and keeps them inspired. They love to meet new people, and connect them up together. Make great matchmakers, agents, and dealmakers. In business they should focus on creating effective teams - putting people together who will be able to do great things together. Where an elephant makes the best team manager, a honeybee makes the best team builder, and not just teams, but other deals and arrangements - some people need things, other people offer things - put them together and magic happens. Spiritually they are often drawn to techniques such as yoga that are focused on connection with yourself, and with the universe. Also deep ecology often draws them - to find their peace in natural connection.
The Dolphin - Server
'How can I help you?' - this is the classic phrase of the server - whether it is as a waiter offering food, as a doctor offering treatment, or as a shopkeeper offering goods, as a personal assistant or labourer offering their time and work - it is all the same thing - 'how can I help you?' The dolphins are the most practical and hands on of all the different profiles. Some of you may find it surprising to see dolphins in this light but consider that before europeans took over when the aborigines around the swan river, Perth needed fish they would call the dolphins by knocking two stones together, and the dolphins would herd the fish together near the shore so that one could easily spear one without even needing to get in the river - and even more - for old people who had trouble weilding the spear the dolphins would throw the fish onto the shore with their tails so that one need only pick up the fish off the ground. Dolphins are helpful creatures indeed when the relationship between them is developed. Perhaps one day we will learn once more to build relationships and the dolphins will one day again be so close to us. In business they can be great at sales because sales in its most positive form is not about pushiness, but truly about service. In spirituality they gravitate towards traditions that have a strong focus on service - christian traditions such as the salvation army for example, or the hare krsnas with their focus on cooking etc.
The Bear - Protector
The Bear can be the most fearful of all the profiles, but it has good reason - their focus is on long stable, slow growth - growing trees, investing money, growing families and communities. They look towards the long, slow, stable growth and this growth can be disrupted at any point by accidents or emergencies, so they look to avoiding risks and making sure that life remains undisturbed by danger. In business they can be great at research, grantwriting, investment (both of money and of time) and investment is seen not just as a business activity, but also as an approach to life and family. In spiritual traditions they appreciate long stable traditions that grow over many lifetimes. This may found through any of the ancient traditions - Judaism, Islam, The Vedas, but they tend to be comfortable with these traditions that have stood the test of time.
The Unicorn - Organiser
The Unicorn is the most refined, elegant of all the types. They love to do things well, and keep things organised and beautiful. The western classical art forms are great expressions of the unicorn - classical music and painting, ballet etc. These take time and practice to do, but when perfected are very profound and powerful. In business they are best at producing things to the very highest quality. Make great craftsmen, and event organisers. Spiritually they like to use their talent for elegance to produce beautiful rituals and ceremonies - whether that means high church christianity, or pagan magic, it is all the same - candles and incantations, beauty and transcendence.
The Beaver - Systemiser
The Beaver's strength is in problem solving - putting together solutions, and building on those solutions to make more complicated systems - like machines (literal or metaphorical) - they are comfortable dealing with construction, mechanics, puzzles. In business they can do well to make small replicable systems and to copy what has worked for others so that they can keep their focus on the system, and not getting so stuck in running things themselves. Spiritually they love to be able to ask questions and to understand so they gravitate to traditions that allow deep thought such as the Theosophical Society, or Kabbalah etc.
Find your Way, Find your Flow
So where is your flow? how do you find your joy and your self expression? How can that be applied to your life? What profile do you think you are?