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Resilience and the Double-Edged Sword of Strength

What to do when your strengths make you get in the way of yourself.

There are the two questions asked at basically every job interview:

1.       What is your greatest strength, and

2.       What is your greatest weakness.

Whether we are in a job interview or simply exploring our personal growth, my firm belief is that our greatest strengths and weaknesses are one and the same—like the blades of a double-edged sword. Nothing demonstrated this more perfectly than a morning spent art making with members of the US Air Force as they explored the theme of resilience.

RippleDoodles involve making a large doodle or line drawing, noticing what shapes and images you see, and then embellishing the shapes with markers or paint. The breakthrough element occurs during 'processing' of the resulting artwork.

I was working with the Commanding Officers and personnel from an Air Force fighter wing maintenance unit. The presentation was invited by the Squadron Commander, after I was named Honorary Commander of her unit.

I explained how expressive art making can explore and improve resilience. Then, based on the intention of ‘resilience’, everyone worked in groups to create large doodles. Next, they looked for images and shapes which were embellished with paint.

How Art Reveals

The resulting images were profound. Some examples include:

·         The Safety Officer painted a Band-Aid;

·         The Sergeant in charge of staff promotions painted a teddy bear;

·         Another officer painted an apple; and

·         the Squadron Commander painted a Hershey‘s Kiss.

How Strengths Can Negatively Impact Resilience

During the artwork processing, the discussion about the symbols (as related to resilience) was concentrated, deep, and revealing:

·         The Safety Officer who painted a Band-Aid expressed that while her strength was how much she cared about the Airmen, fear of their injury or harm caused her a great deal of stress.

·         The Sergeant in charge of promotions who painted the teddy bear expressed that his strength was in how much he cared about the Airmen’s professional development. He wanted to see people achieve and succeed in their jobs, and his greatest job stress was having to tell people that they were not promoted.

·         The Officer who painted the apple, in the same group piece as the Commander’s Hershey’s kiss, talked about the importance between work/life balance. The Officers described that only through a healthy lifestyle (symbolized by the apple) could they truly perform the best while enjoying the sweetness of their work (symbolized by the Hershey’s Kiss). However, due to their job demands, they (like so many of us) found it difficult to achieve that balance.

Resilience and the Double-Edged Sword of Strength

These military leaders, in charge of maintaining aircraft for the most elite air force in the world, engaged in a powerful conversation about the double-edged sword of personal strength. The paintings allowed them to explore how these strengths could undermine their resilience, and the resulting effects on job satisfaction and performance. This, all through the simplicity of a large doodle, tempera paint, and a paintbrush.

While these men and women were astounded by the ease and depth of their experience, I was not. Techniques like the RippleDoodle can effortlessly work through the head-driven analysis that leaders, influencers and entrepreneurs are trained to use; they connect us with a deeper and more holistic source of wisdom.

RippleDoodles to Improve Resilience, and More

I love RippleDoodles (and other expressive arts techniques) because they’re an excellent resource for getting immediately out of the head and immediately connected to your Deep Inner Wisdom. The techniques can be applied to gain insight into any personal or professional situation. This is the fun, beauty and simplicity of expressive art making: it is dynamic and can be used for leadership training, business development, and well beyond.

Originally published at www.JodiRoseStudio.com

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