June 9, 2023

Embrace your personality to crush your goals

Let me explain....The writer Elizabeth Gilbert has said that the world has two different types of people: Jackhammers and hummingbirds. 

Jackhammers have a "thing" that they feel passionate about. It calls to them early on and they hammer away at it for their entire lives (or careers). I  am sometimes jealous of the jackhammer type people.  When I think about a topic and the "go-to" person for that topic and I see that person hammering away at that thing for years and years and years and they just keep getting better and better and better, I am so impressed by their focus and determination.

And then there are the hummingbirds. Hummingbirds move around. They go from thing to thing to thing, flower to flower. They have a rich diversity of experiences and bring ideas from one place to the next.  They are cross-pollinators of ideas. Jackhammers might be jealous of their adventures.  

Why am I talking about jackhammers and hummingbirds?

If you are pursuing a passion or a business or any creative project, you might be interested in this event called the Business of Therapy course with Lisa Dion.  The Business of Therapy is designed to help entrepreneurs understand the psychology behind business, get clarity on their visions and make decisions that are congruent with their values.  

But sometimes, we get confused.  You might want to pursue multiple different projects - but feel like you need to drill down and focus, like a jackhammer.  Or, maybe you have been really focused in one area and are worried that you need to try more new things and diversify, like a hummingbird.

Lisa Dion, the creator of The Business of Therapy course is a jackhammer.  And many of the people who are registered for this course are as well. Gilbert, a self-proclaimed jackhammer says "we don’t look up and we don’t veer, and we’re just focused on that until the end of time."  Amazing, right?

Jen Taylor, the behind the scenes producer for the Business of Therapy course is 100% hummingbird. This is probably obvious to people who know me. There will be hummingbirds like me there also.  These are people who are interested in ALL the ideas.  Gilbert says the hummingbirds,"bring an idea from here to over here, where you learn something else and you weave it in, then you take it here to the next thing you do." Amazing, right?

What often happens is that the jackhammers think they should be more like the hummingbirds and of course, the hummingbirds think they should be more like the jackhammers.

The real goal.... be you!

Hammer away at the thing that you are passionate about or flitter around and pick up ideas from here, there and everywhere.

We need both types of people in the world.    One is not better than the other - what matters is that you recognize your strengths and follow them in a way that is authentic to you.

Rumi says: "Let yourself be silently drawn to what pulls you. It will not lead you astray."

You may be pulled into one passionate focus or you might be pulled into a dozen different micro-passions.

Let yourself be silently drawn to what pulls you.  

You could be BOTH a Hummingbird AND a Jackhammer

Over the course of this discussion with my colleagues, we have added the nuance that these personality types are more "parts of self" rather than fixed personality types.  You might be a jackhammer in one area (like your work) and a hummingbird in another (like a hobby) or vice versa.   Rather than feeling confined to the label of just one type, you can consider these behaviors as resources that you can call upon within yourself as needed.  In this way, you really have the best of both at your disposal at all times.  

How the Jackhammer/Hummingbird Metaphor Fits with The "Explore and Exploit" Patterns  of Learning

Another interesting piece of learning that I've added to this conversation since it's original publication is the concept of "Explore and Exploit" that I learned in Anatomy of a Breakthrough by Adam Alter.  Alter describes a pattern of learning in which you first explore areas that are new and interesting.  He says exploration is risky because, "sometimes you don't find what you need."   However, you can not explore endlessly.  At some point, these explorations lead you to a discovery (the nectar!) and then you switch to exploitation mode!   Alter explains that "Exploitation allows individuals to build knowledge in a particular area and to refine their capabilities in that area over time."   

Anatomy of a Breakthrough author, Adam Alter further explains, "You can't make breakthroughs without a period of exploration, but you'll never succeed if you don't follow a period of exploration with precise, targeted exploitation."

This is the beauty of a good metaphor like the hummingbird and the jackhammer - it allows for you to start with a simple concept and then expand it with additional language and nuance as you dig deeper into the topic. 


Sentence Stems:
A simple journaling technique is to simply respond to a few sentence stems with the first thing that comes to mind.
Don't overthink it and also
What you think you would write and what you actually write are not the same.

If I had to choose between hummingbirds and jackhammers, I would definitely consider myself a:_____________________________.

The thing I love about being a (Jackhammer/hummingbird) is that ___________________________________________________.

The benefit to me of this trait is that it: ___________________________________________________.


Going back to add further nuance to the discussion:

Write for 5 minutes about a current project and consider:

How can I invoke my inner hummingbird to EXPLORE and learn new things about this topic?  

When do I need to bring out my inner jackhammer to exploit what I have learned and apply it through hard work?

Take your next walk with this simple prompt in mind…

A sidewalk in a suburban neighborhood with green trees as an example of a mindful walk
About the Author

Jen Taylor, LCSW-C, RPT-S is an EMDR Approved Consultant and Certified Journal to the Self Instructor.  She is a therapist specializing in complex trauma, an international play therapy teacher and a published writer of multiple play therapy chapters.  Jen is the creator of the original 2017 Play Therapy Summit and many other innovative programs for mental health professionals.  Jen uses writing therapy, play therapy and expressive arts for her clients and for other mental health professionals so they can lead more joyful and meaningful lives.  Jen encourages people to try new things and create daily habits that allow for incremental progress towards previously unimaginable results.   Jen is a travel enthusiast, an avid reader, and a girl who lifts weights and runs for fun.  

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