In over 20 years of recruiting, one of my favourite questions to ask applicants is this: "do you know what kind of environment you need to blossom?"
And so it is with a great irony (such is life) that I discovered that I actually don't know the answer to this question for myself. And have perhaps never known.
Why is this question important?
It is entirely possible that by sheer luck, one finds oneself constantly in environments where one flourishes. Or that by sheer force of will that one can constantly turn any situation to one's benefits. Or that sheer blissful ignorance shields one from the vagaries of discontent.
I think that all of us had been in all these 3 states at some point of our lives. But at some stage, the question, if left un-grappled with, will become more insistent and express itself in ways that include broken relationships, persistent sense of "not-quite-right", physical ailments or, in my case ... increasing difficulty in making decisions I feel good about.
How do you differentiate between an environment that is toxic versus stretching versus blossoming? Or is perhaps the question more about what is one's definition of toxic / blossoming (as Kelly McGonigal pointed out in her TED talk "How to make stress your friend")?
I kept telling myself that these environments were "good for my self-development" and justified the vicious cycle as forcing me to become more "true". But at which point does "self-development" become toxic?
Perhaps one way to approach this question is by asking ... "are the people in this environment genuinely committed to me growth and blossoming?" Then listen for the answer in your quiet moments when you are not filled with angst.
At the end of the day, I believe we can't blossom alone 🌹
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