Our Individual Quirks of Mind is the ninth in our series introducing some of the tools and strategies featured in our forthcoming book, The Art of Living in Discovery: Thriving in Life with Intentional Resilience. Designed to help you to take responsibility for your mind, these blogs present a variety of ways to become more aware of how your mind functions and how to identify when your mind is wonky. As you play with and practice these ideas, you will find that you can bring your mind back to an inspired state and into balance.

Our Individual Quirks of Mind

Barbara A. Bernard

Barbara A. Bernard

A painful memory can often direct the choices in our lives. In a workshop recently, the group was talking about nurturing the body,. A middle school student said she wasn’t doing sports or any other physical activity because kids had made fun of her in volleyball one time. It was clear this had been a very painful and embarrassing moment in her life. When I told her that I didn’t choose to play volleyball either, because I don’t have good eye-hand coordination, I saw a look of amazement and recognition in the young woman’s eyes.

Describing how I can’t easily tell left from right, I laughed, saying I have “two lefts.” I actually have to think hard about which is left and which is right. Because I struggle more when time is a factor, I choose not to do team or competitive activities in which others need to depend on me. Even so, I don’t let that stop me from finding joy in play and exercise.

To the pretty middle school girl before me I said, “Please don’t let the quirks of your mind or that painful experience keep you from being in your body. There are SO many other activities you can enjoy!”

Coming to terms with what is challenging allows us to discover more of our power. The way I am oriented in the world is something I’ve learned to recognize as a quirk of my mind. When I fully understood this about myself as a young adult, I was determined to find a way to enjoy being physical, particularly in the outdoors, despite the wiring in my brain. I didn’t want my mind or my processing speed to keep me from honoring my body, so I looked for things I could do at my own pace.

If I believed that my ability to be physically active depended on participating in sports or activities that involved speed and responsive coordination, I would not be physically active. I have had to find forms of exercise that do not depend on a quick IMG_4895response or eye-hand coordination. I can do things that allow me to participate as an individual and at my own level or speed, like yoga, walking, biking, skiing, and in-line skating. What I’ve discovered is that by claiming all parts of ourselves and our learning process, we no longer have to hide who we really are.

We experience new freedom in our lives when we choose to embrace our quirks of mind and are brave enough to be honest about them. One example of this is a business executive I know who, when interviewing for a new job, explains that he will always need an editor for any documents he must write for public consumption. Spelling and the finer aspects of punctuation and grammar aren’t his strong suits, although he works hard to do his best in these areas.

That he sometimes struggles with the order of letters in a word does not mean he is not smart. Because his ability to negotiate contracts and business deals in the millions clearly demonstrates his expertise and intelligence, his honesty has never deterred prospective employers. They have readily been able to look beyond his spelling ability and give him editorial support so that their organization can benefit from his business skills, his intuition, and his mastery.

Someone else I know struggles with focus and is easily distracted. As she has come to own who she is and how she works best in the world, she does not give in to the idea that because she won’t follow through or finish things, she may as well not start, or that she shouldn’t set goals because she won’t meet them. Instead, she takes steps to minimize distractions whenever she starts to work. Over time she has discovered that interference in her visual field creates the greatest challenge, so she has learned to seek quieter places, even corners, where less is around to look at and distract her. This allows her to complete tasks, which in turn supports her generally in doing her work. As a result, she feels she is able to create and contribute more fully in the world.

Another example is the highly intelligent manager in his thirties who has realized that his intellect alone is not enough to do well at his job. He knows that it doesn’t come naturally to him to interpret social behavior and others’ emotions. Because he really loves his work and wants to succeed at it, he decided he needed to ask for help and learn more. He sought out a mentor to teach and coach him, and he bought books to read about emotional intelligence. He also engaged a therapist to help him identify his feelings and recognize the nonverbal messages his staff were sending. His willingness to address his challenges and to learn more has helped him be more successful on the job. Now, much of what used puzzle him as he interacted with his co-workers is slowly beginning to make sense.

The process of being brave and coming to terms with our challenges can lead to discovering ways to do what we really love to do. Allowing others to support us  when necessary can be one of the most rewarding parts of our journey.

Have you thought about or identified the quirks of your own mind? Do you know what strategies you use to accommodate them?

With each year we can gain a deeper understanding of how our minds work, what our strengths are, and what is challenging for us. This is true for everyone. With the knowledge that “we are enough,” we can then contribute in a way that nurtures our hearts and souls.