Finding Our Passion, Finding Our Gift

Quick review time. We’ve discussed a few of Alan Loy McGinnis’ Rules for Building Self- Confidence from his book, Confidence: How to Succeed at Being Yourself.

    • Focus on your potential instead of your limitations
    • Replace self-criticism with regular, positive self-talk.
    • Replace fear of failure with pictures of yourself functioning successfully and happily.
    • Refuse to allow rejection to keep you from taking the initiative with people.

Today let’s focus on McGinnis’ advice to “Find something you like to do and do well, then do it over and over.”

Please don’t stop reading even if you are well along in your career or family life and feel like you’ve followed your passion and are set for life. God keeps calling us to move closer to him, or to improve this world, even when we can look back on our accomplishments with well-earned pride.

 Discover your gift/passion/calling.

Some people know from childhood what their passion in life, or particular gift, is. Others of us would be delighted to follow a passion if we could figure out what that passion is or what gifts we have. We want to use the gifts God gave us to build his kingdom in this world and create more meaning to our lives, but we wonder what does God want us to do, exactly?

In her book, The Eighth Day of Creation: Discovering Your Gifts, Elizabeth O’Connor writes, “We ask to know the will of God without guessing that his will is written into our very beings. We perceive that will when we discern our gifts. Our obedience and surrender to God are in large part our obedience and surrender to our gifts.”

O’Connor believed, “A primary purpose of the Church is to help us discover and develop our gifts and in the face of our fears, to hold us accountable for them so that we can enter into the joy of creating.” She believed that parents bear the same responsibility to their children.

Questions to help us find our passion:

What would we do, if we could do anything? How would we spend our days if money and time were no object? Ok, after we all vacation somewhere without rain or snow, what then? Often our desires tell us what path we are invited to follow. I don’t mean the longing for material things, or the infatuation with a particular person. Rather, does some path stir our very souls?

Can we remember ever being so absorbed in concentration that we were unaware of time? When we were simply present to the moment and invigorated by the experience? For me that happens when I’m writing. Sometimes it’s a struggle, but occasionally the words flow from my soul to my fingers. Then I’m in the zone! I’m in the Holy Spirit. Do you have times like that? Did you a long time ago? What were you doing?

“What would we do if we knew we could not fail?” Not realistic you say? Failure is a very real possibility. In fact, failure is almost guaranteed. At first. That’s how we learn. From our mistakes. We learn by failing and then thinking and trying again. And the learning and trying IS the success. Not the end product. Mother Teresa says, “God doesn’t ask us to succeed. He asks us to be faithful.” O’Connor says, “When we do not allow ourselves the possibility of failure, the Spirit cannot work in us.”

What is the deepest wound of your life? Take a minute here to feel the pain again. I know we become very good at pushing the pain aside. We must, in order to go on with our lives. But feel it for just a minute now. Was it a miscarriage? A loved one’s death? Was it abuse? An illness? An abandonment? Can you feel the tears welling? That tightness just below your heart?

Maybe your passion will be found in protecting others from experiencing that same pain. Or from walking with others as they recover from that experience. Perhaps your passion will lead you back to school to learn to help others heal, either physically or emotionally. Maybe you’ll participate in a support group to encourage and demonstrate how far you can come after the trauma. I know you’ll find that helping others becomes amazingly therapeutic.


This week, let’s spend time in prayer or meditation, asking the Spirit to help us know our calling, but let’s listen to our dreams, too.

Don’t let fear win. Dare to be different. Each of us is unique, and when we try to imitate others, we lose what makes us special. O’Connor says, “We cannot listen and speak and work out of our own centers and at the same time give our attention to weighing whether or not others are approving of us.” Break away from other’s expectations and learn to evaluate criticism, if you pay it any mind at all. My grandma used to say, “Consider the source.”

Be faithful. Follow his leadings. Follow that glimmer that rose to your mind when I asked what you’d do if you knew you could not fail. Because that glimmer is probably the Holy Spirit who is enticing you. Encouraging you. Inviting you.

Be a little careful before talking about what you discover. Though it will be good in time to seek confirmation from others, for now, ponder these things in your heart. Hold them close and don’t subject your glimmer to the harsh logic of others’ opinions until it has grown from a spark to a glowing lantern.


Betty Arrigotti

Limitations, Rejections, Fear of Failure, Oh My!

Let’s spend 4 minutes with a few more of the Twelve Rules for Building Self- Confidence from Alan Loy McGinnis’ book, Confidence: How to Succeed at Being Yourself. 

Focus on your potential instead of your limitations

McGinnis says, “All of us have weaknesses. The important thing is to determine which ones are improvable, then get to work on those and forget about the rest.”

What if we really aren’t competent? Then we figure out what help we need and stride confidently ahead, knowing we will learn from our mistakes. All successes are built on learning from failures. Failure, if we learn from it, is simply one step closer to success. One of my favorite quotes is from Kent Sayre’s book, Unstoppable Confidence!, “If you want to do something well, it’s worth doing it poorly at first.”

What if we don’t feel confident? We fake it until we make it. We act as if we were self assured. The more we behave as if we were confident the sooner we will feel confident. Our words and our thoughts and our beliefs and our actions all are intertwined, affecting one another.

What if we don’t feel as good as everyone else? Each of us is a child of the King of Kings. As such we are royalty! We are no less (and no more) than everyone else. By the very gift of our life we are wonderfully made. We are so important that God himself wants to be in a relationship with us. He gave us unique gifts and delights in us, his creation! He wants us to feel good about ourselves so that out of that confidence we can accomplish something wonderful with the gifts he’s given us.

Even if it’s one of those down days when you are convinced you don’t have any strengths, bask in the knowledge of being a beloved child of God.

Think about the wonder of having an almighty, all knowing, all loving God who counts the hairs are on your head and loves you so much that he wants to become steadily closer to you. God is thrilled with you just the way you are! He is very easy to please. True, he’s hard to satisfy and he will always be encouraging you to grow, but he is delighted with you right now, too.

Replace fear of failure with clear pictures of yourself functioning successfully and happily.

This follows along the same principles as improving our self-talk. We want to influence our subconscious and heal the years we’ve been sending it negative talk and images.

Sports psychologists discovered that when athletes practice envisioning themselves performing their skills perfectly, their actual performance improves. We think in pictures, as well as words. If we can picture ourselves succeeding, behaving in a confident manner, our actual confidence improves, as does our behavior.

In the book, Unstoppable Confidence!, Kent Sayre cites “neurolinguistic programming,” or the study of how verbal and nonverbal language affects our minds. He recommends imagining our memories of our failures, or unconfident responses and then turning the memory to black and white, getting smaller, quieter, less important. Next we should imagine ourselves in Technicolor on a giant theater screen behaving in a confident manner. He writes of imagining the action complete with strong sound, smells, tastes, and feelings.

Visualize yourself with strong posture (back straight, eyes meeting eyes) and gestures. Notice others in the scene responding well to you, smiling, nodding their heads. Rehearse daily, if necessary, until you envision confidence as a matter of habit.

Refuse to allow rejection to keep you from taking the initiative with people. Like a good sales person, the ability to accept rejection is necessary for success. McGinnis advises us to:

  • Expect some rejection as normal
  • Consider that sometimes perceived rejection isn’t rejection at all, just misinterpretation
  • Accept that some people reject everyone, not just you
  • Try to learn from the rejection
  • Allow yourself the right to get angry when appropriate
  • Keep trying until you connect
  • Don’t withdraw because that is a sure path to loneliness

Kent Sayre builds on that advice, “In all interpersonal relations, assume that you can get and maintain a rapport. Operate under the belief that you have far more in common with the person than not, and you will easily connect with him or her.”

Dr. Phil would say not to let that person take your power away from you. It matters less what they think about you than what you know about yourself.

With all this talk of how positive we should feel about ourselves, and all this effort to grow in confidence, is there a tiny voice warning (or maybe it’s shouting), “Be careful! Don’t go overboard!”? McGinnis foresaw that worry and included

2 anchors that keep our self confidence from turning to pride:

  • Worship – Look up. Recognize the grandeur of God. When we know God is in charge we keep proper perspective.
  • Compassion – We can have great self-confidence without having it turn into pride, so long as we are always looking for places to serve and to love.

He reminds us, “Self confidence, like happiness, is slippery when we set out to grab it for its own sake. Usually it comes rather as a by-product. We lose ourselves in service, and suddenly one day we awake to realize that we are confident and rather happy.”

Next week we will expand on McGinnis’ advice to “Find something you like to do and do well, then do it over and over,” as we explore another author, Elizabeth O’Connor.


Betty Arrigotti

Positive Self-talk

Welcome back to our second week of growing in confidence.

Last week I listed Twelve Rules for Building Self- Confidence from Alan Loy McGinnis’ book, Confidence: How to Succeed at Being Yourself. (See previous post.) Today we’ll focus on one of his points:

Replace self-criticism with regular, positive self-talk. 

Do you remember a few years ago all the media buzz about the “inner child?” They had to find their inner child, heal their inner child, or free their inner child.

At the risk of reawakening the 70s, let’s revisit that idea. Nearly everyone was spiritually or emotionally wounded at some point as a child. We might look back at our classmates, our siblings, or sadly, even our parents, whose criticisms still echo in our minds. We heard their hurtful words and believed them. They became part of our self-image. We accepted ourselves as flawed.

Imagine a parent criticizing:

  • You’re as bad as your father.
  • You’ll probably do something stupid.
  • If you eat that you’re going to get even fatter.
  • You don’t have enough sense to come in out of the rain.
  • I can’t imagine what you have to say that they’ll be interested in.

Or maybe, more subtly, a parent asking a child:

  • Are you going to wear THAT?
  • Why can’t you be more like your sister?
  • Do you really know what you are talking about?
  • What makes you think those people will like you?
  • Are you sure you’re not going to make a fool of yourself?

Can’t you almost feel the cringing of the child who has been beaten down with those statements? Don’t you imagine that child’s chance of success diminished with every comment from the parent?

And yet, we do that to ourselves.

Although our insecurity might have begun in our childhood, we are the ones perpetuating it. Though the parents, siblings, or peers are long gone, or less a part of our lives, we’ve internalized the wounds of our past and inflict them on ourselves now

Little thoughts like:

  • That was stupid.
  • I’m too scared.
  • What do I have to offer?
  • What if they don’t like me?
  • I’m no good in large groups.
  • I’d probably just be a bother.
  • That’s too hard for me. Might as well not even try.
  • I’m not clever (pretty, popular, fit) enough to go over and talk to that group.
  • I wish I had her confidence (intelligence, dress size, hair, good looks, high-achieving kids, life.)

Instead, let’s imagine another child who is about to try something new. This lucky youngster has a different parent who says,

  • They’re going to love you!
  • I know you’ll be great at it.
  • You are so kind and warm and bright.
  • I’m proud of you for taking this new opportunity.
  • Someone will be there to help you when you want help.
  • You always are open to learning new things and you work hard to succeed.

Which child would you rather be? Which pep talk would you rather give yourself?

We carry on a running conversation in our minds and what we say strongly affects our self-confidence. Let’s become aware of our thoughts when we feel insecure. What are we telling ourselves?

Do we enter a room full of people wondering what they’ll think of us? Worrying that we’ll be judged inadequate? Do we tell ourselves we are imposters? Do we worry we’ll make fools of ourselves?

What do we need instead? We need a nurturing, loving, encouraging parent to give us a pep talk. And just as we have an inner child, we can develop an inner nurturer. We can take responsibility for our own growth and begin to give ourselves the affirmations we need:

  • I’m basically a good person.
  • Everybody has strengths, including me!
  • I have gifts God has given me that the world needs.
  • I have developed skills that I use to benefit others.
  • I’m naturally funny (or talented or kind or helpful or intelligent.)
  • That didn’t go as well as I hoped but I see how I’ll make it better next time.

Those with sports experience who have listened to a coach before a big game know the effects of words. No winning coach berates the team before sending them out to play. Instead the coach will drum up courage and excitement with positive words about the likelihood of success.

My daughter Theresa heard a great illustration of the power of our self-talk. Imagine a commander in a submarine who is looking out of his periscope. He sees something ahead that necessitates evasive maneuvers. He issues the command to change direction. Sailors respond to his command and make the changes, even though they can’t see ahead. They believe their commander and obey.

Our conscious minds are like that commander; they observe the world, reason, and make decisions. Our subconscious believes what our conscious mind says. It has no choice. If our self-talk—the words that ramble in our minds—says we are capable and likely to succeed, our subconscious accepts that. But if instead we feed our subconscious with mental images or words of impending doom, our body responds with heightened anxiety. Adrenaline poses the fight/flight/freeze options. As a result, we will not think as clearly, and so we may cause the very failure we feared.

We all need to quiet and reassure the wounded child inside. This week and from now on, let’s pat ourselves on the back. Reassure ourselves when we’re worried. Congratulate ourselves when we’ve done well. Dare to step outside our comfort zone and then celebrate the step we took.

Blessings on your week!

Betty Arrigotti

For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.  2 Timothy 1:7: (NLT)

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