Whether we ever play baseball or not, we all need to learn how to throw our fastball in life. Sometimes our jobs can make us feel like a hamster on a wheel, not totally fulfilled and maybe even frustrated. I once coached a client who wanted help figuring out why she hated her job. She enjoyed the work as a dental hygienist, including her boss, her short commute, her coworkers, and her clients. So why didn’t she love her job? To help her analyze her situation, we put pen to paper and evaluated the following components of her life. Maybe you should pause right now and get some writing materials, so you can do your own self-analysis.
How do you identify your fastball?
Four characteristics will help you nail it down.
You feel effective when you’re throwing your fastball. Even if you’re not the world’s best at it, you know you’re good at it. Maybe you’re great at working with people, intuitively picking up what they’re feeling or thinking. Or you might thrive when given problems to solve, or when bringing order out of chaos. A friend once came to my office for some coaching, and she noticed that organization and filing is certainly not my fastball! She looked around and said, “Dawn if you’d just change this, this, and this, it could really help you.” She named three simple things that didn’t take much time and effort, but that made a huge difference in my office. I looked at her in amazement and said, “Kathy you’re looking to make some extra money. Why don’t you help people get organized? You really enjoy it!”
When you get the chance to throw your fastball, you look forward to it. I once had a horrible job that brought me down every day. I didn’t realize how badly it was affecting me until I started a new activity scheduled for Tuesday nights. It wasn’t a money-maker, but it was something I really enjoyed. So on Tuesdays, I’d drag myself reluctantly to work, then remember I had that fun activity in the evening. I’d perk right up, and my whole day was transformed. To figure out what your fastball is, think of your own gifting, and the things you really anticipate doing.
When you get to throw your fastball, you feel very focused. You’re in tune with yourself and have no trouble getting the job done quickly, easily, and well.
After you throw that fastball, you feel fulfilled. You know that you’re not just successful, but also significant. It gives meaning to your life.
Pause right now to jot down the top three things that really satisfy your soul. Look at those characteristics above and figure out what activities are the wind beneath your wings. For more help check out THIS.
These activities are the opposite of throwing your fastball. Whether you’re good at them or not, they suck the life out of your bones. When you find out you have to do them, you immediately get tired – it just drains every part of you. We often talk about the importance of avoiding toxic people, and being with toxic people is a toxic activity. However, toxic activities go beyond being surrounded by toxic people. They’re the tasks that make you feel like a failure, or like you’re not worthy. For me, a toxic activity is filing and cleaning up my office. For others, it may be dealing with interpersonal conflict or filling out paperwork. Basically, it comes down to this question: “What do you loathe?” That is a toxic activity for you.
Unfortunately, toxic activities may be unavoidable. Some of us absolutely hate getting up in the morning. Others despise bringing work home, or can’t bear the office environment. But all too often, these tasks must be done in order to pay the bills and keep the roof over your head.
Four responses to toxic activities:
1. Procrastinate, because our initial gut response is, “I don’t want to do that.”
2. Ignore it, hoping someone else will come to the rescue and do it for us.
3. Gut it out and just do it, like taking medicine while holding your nose.
4. Count the minutes ’til it’s over, then feel like we’ve survived.
Toxic activities generate negative energy in our lives every day, and hamper our effectiveness. Imagine a baseball pitcher who has practiced and worked hard to become the best. But then right before the game, someone straps his arm to his side. It doesn’t matter how skilled he is and how hard he’s worked to throw that fastball: he can’t be successful because something is crushing him and preventing him from performing well. That’s what toxic activities do: create high stress and low productivity.
Chained by learned helplessness
Some things in your life may be so toxic that they bind you, like an enormous elephant held by a tiny chain. The elephant is strong enough to break the chain, but she doesn’t know that. Why? Because when she was a baby, she couldn’t break the chain. So she grows up limited by the chain and confined in a tiny space of captivity. In the same way, we get stuck in toxic activities that have always been problematic in the past. Then we can’t be successful at the things in which we really are gifted. Are you struggling with learned helplessness? Find out HERE.
How to minimize toxic activities
1. Just stop.
Stop doing the activity and see if anybody notices or cares. Get to it when you can. Stop trying to be perfect for everybody. I’m very driven and hard on myself, so I have to remind myself to live on my terms. If my messy office doesn’t bother me, it doesn’t matter what everyone else thinks. Be the best you that you can be, but let go of less important things.
Team up with somebody that’s good at doing the toxic activities that drag you down. Back in my music days, I was a stage director. I had big ideas, but realizing the details it would take to accomplish those ideas was hard for me because I’m not a detail person. Details would drag me down, therefore they were toxic to me. To remedy this I would intentionally bring alongside an assistant director who was strong in details, and we made a solid team, coming up with great productions. Think of people at your work who can fill in weaker areas that may be toxic to you, but they’re great at doing those tasks.
Teamwork at home
For example, my daughter excels at organization. When she was in high school, I asked her, “Honey, could you do something for me?” She got that look teenagers have when they know they’re about to be roped into doing something they hate. I continued, “Would you please organize the pantry for me?” I could see the light come into her eyes as her body relaxed and she took a deep breath of confidence. For her, it was a wonderful task! She did the job and then explained her system to me. “Mom, here are all the cans. I put the vegetables on the left and the fruit on the right. But I put the tomatoes in the middle because there is some question over whether tomatoes are vegetables or fruits. “ That’s how detailed she is! But it was wonderful! She was done in 45 minutes and I was happy as a clam. In that case, I teamed up with my daughter to accomplish a necessary task at home, and we both came out ahead.
3. Build your strength.
If you want to throw your fastball, spend time practicing it. Put time into your schedule for it. Even in an entry-level position, you may find parts of your job that caress your strong points and giftedness. So intentionally pursue those aspects of the job. Weave your way towards earning that position in the company.
I know a young woman who loves feeding the homeless. In college, she volunteered for a company who did it as a fundraiser, but then she graduated and had to get a ”real job,” joining the corporate world. And she hated it! She was good at her work, but unhappy because it didn’t give her significance, fulfilling her desire to help the homeless. So she went back to the company she used to volunteer for and got a paid position there. Even though she earns less money, she loves what she does. Think about this if you want to live a life of significance. You can be successful and have a lot of money in the bank and have people admire you, but unless you’re throwing your fastball, you’ll never feel significant. Sadly, you could reach retirement and realize you didn’t accomplish what you could have.
4. Change your mindset.
This is not about only doing the things you like to do. There are tasks we don’t like but that is an integral part of being successful. Maybe it’s picking up the phone to make appointments. Or dealing with people all day long. But they must be done. If a weakness is part of your highest income-producing activity or part of throwing your fastball, you’ll need to adjust your mindset.
View weaknesses as opportunities for growth
When people see Joe and me on a broadcast or on stage or at a training, they think it looks easy. They don’t see the hours spent developing materials, or the 30 years of experience, or how I’m online all the time to learn things. For instance, I ended up becoming a LinkedIn specialist. I had no desire to do this. I’m a grandmother who was born long before the Internet! But I realized that social media has become an important aspect of what we do to be successful and use our giftedness. So I learned to think differently about this weakness, seeing it as an opportunity for personal growth.
If a weakness is an important part of your success, you can’t ignore it. We are so effective at helping people get on the phone and book appointments that we needed more leads. The best place to find them was on LinkedIn, but I didn’t know how to use it. I had to figure it out for myself because nobody was training the skills. I studied a pilot program by IBM that increased their lead generation by 400%, and they did it with only 7 sales reps. After I figured it out, which took me four months, I now train others in this methodology. It wasn’t fun or in my gifting, but I had to grow in this area.
How to handle your toxic activities
Sometimes you might think you have to fix all your weaknesses. No, you don’t! You only have to fix the ones that you need to become more successful with your fastball. As you take a look at your weaknesses – toxic activities that drain the life out of you – figure out which one or two you can improve so you can spend time in your giftedness. Nobody is good at everything. Once you figure out which toxic activities are holding you back, decide how to improve them and chuck the rest! Be the best you can be and stop worrying about areas that don’t matter.
The dental hygienist I mentioned earlier was in the wrong career. I took her through this step by step process and discovered that she used to be involved in theater. She had a beautiful singing voice and loved being up in front of people, but she couldn’t do that on her job. Because she wasn’t being fulfilled, she was miserable. We had to find ways to incorporate her fastball into her life. We decided on public speaking. She needed more training to start a speaking career, but she got it done and is now thriving. Unfortunately, many people don’t think about their fastball before they choose a career. In order to pay the bills and put food on the table, we may take a position that is less than fulfilling.
Are you throwing your fastball?
If this has happened to you, take heart! You can still pursue your passion and learn to throw your fastball. If you’re not sure exactly what that is, think of all your activities and find the ones you’re good at, that you look forward to doing, feeling focused and energized while doing them. Which activities satisfy your soul and give you significance? On the other hand, know which activities are toxic to you. Figure out the one or two you need to improve so you can spend more time in the “fastball zone.” Ditch the rest if you can, and enjoy the resulting elevation in your quality of life.