My writing for today was inspired by a recent conversation I had with my mom about her day at work. In her area of social work, my mom is a shining light to families and caregivers who have someone in their lives who is experiencing early memory loss, dementia or other cognitive or physical changes. Her life’s work involves creating an inclusive and welcoming community for individuals with cognitive or physical changes who may otherwise have lost that connection.
I have always admired my mom’s relentless pursuit of service to other people; it wasn’t until my most recent conversation with her that I truly understood how remarkably she employs a strengths-based approach in shaping the life experience of others. Dementia and early memory loss are undoubtedly difficult. By choosing to focus on what each person can do and shaping their environment to enhance those abilities, my mom helps them to thrive in this stage of their lives as they embrace the gifts and talents that continue to lie within them. She finds unique ways to connect people with memory loss to a shared community that leads to greater engagement and meaning in their day-to-day life. What could be perceived as a limitation is turned into an opportunity to uncover beautiful strengths and qualities within every individual.
The inspiration for my life’s work is rooted in my desire to help others maximize their unique strengths in pursuit of reaching their potential in all areas of their lives. An “aha” moment came after my conversation with my mom; I saw a connection between my mom’s strengths-based approach with an older population of people and my work with young student-athletes. Her commitment to seeing others for who they are rather than defining them by what they can’t do has had a great influence on me. Understanding this common thread we share in our work created this “circle of life” experience for me; no matter how young, old, experienced or novice we are, we are at our best and able to thrive when we are encouraged and guided to lead with our strengths.
We can choose to focus on what limits us and let that prevent us from reaching our potential; we can perceive limitations in others by focusing on their weaknesses and defining them by what they can’t yet do. But imagine the positive effect we could create by shifting the lens through which we look at ourselves and others. While there are things we cannot control in life, we have an amazing opportunity to break from the chains of perceived limitations by focusing on what we can do now, how we can learn more, and trusting that the process of growth or change will lead us to our desired outcome. Outside of ourselves, we can appreciate the people around us for who they are while also choosing to see who they are capable of becoming as they continue to grow.
To have a mom who models a life of service to others is nothing short of a blessing. I am grateful to have learned from her example that there is beauty and a quiet empowerment that comes from opening our eyes and hearts to the strengths that lie around us and within us. Through which lens are you looking?