Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Play Your Free Square

by Victoria Moran

In the game of Bingo, every player starts with a bonus: the free square in the middle. Because everybody gets one, nobody thinks much of it, but the free square is just as valuable in winning the game as B-7 or O-69.

We have "free squares" in our lives, too: talents, abilities, and inexplicable aptitudes that make certain things almost effortless. Maybe we can sing, or we're good at math, or children warm to us and listen when we talk. But when someone comments on our free square, we tend to say, "Oh, that. It's nothing." Because we didn't work hard to get it, the same way a player doesn't have to perform to get a free square on the Bingo card, we undervalue what may be our most serviceable attribute.

Without the benefit of our free square - or squares; you can certainly have more than one - we run ourselves ragged trying to be something we aren't. We work diligently to fit our round pegs into square holes, or to fit our round selves into the media's angular ideal. When we recognize and appreciate our own free squares, though, we can see that the key to our success and fulfillment is inside the person we are, not the one we think we're supposed to be. We can use, trade, barter, and build on the assets that are inherently ours to flesh out our lives with other good things that don't come so easily.If you're unclear about your own free squares, answer the following questions: Is there an area of your life - even one you may have regarded as insignificant - in which good things tend to happen repeatedly and automatically? Do you have an aptitude for something that seems so natural you can't understand why other people struggle with it? What do you get compliments about? How would you finish the sentence, "I've just got a knack for..."

Your answers may indicate that you, like my daughter Rachael, have a free square for money. This child has always had an affinity for cash, both acquiring it and hanging onto it. When she was only three, she once interrupted a grown-up financial discussion to say, "If I had a savings account that was drawing interest, I could make you a loan."Or, like me, you may have a free square for meeting people. I constantly run into people who are helpful, fascinating, and sometimes famous. I meet them on buses, in cafes, riding elevators. It just happens.Perhaps you, like my friend Francesca, have an uncanny penchant for winning things. Since I've known her, she's won a fax machine, a Ford Escort, and a trip to Disney World. What she doesn't win, she can usually get wholesale.Once you identify your free squares, play them by using what's easy to help you with what isn't. When Francesca won that fax machine, for instance, she had been unsuccessfully looking for work for several weeks. She thought about selling her prize - she could have used the money - but Francesca is a woman who takes her free squares seriously. She decided that the universe wouldn't have supplied her with this techno-toy if she wasn't supposed to use it. To try the thing out and see how it worked, she faxed her resume to some personnel directors. Her top pick responded and hired her.The next time you think you might not have what it takes to get the kind of life you're after, enlist the help of your free square. Your particular gift may not look like what you need at the moment; Francesca's fax machine didn't look like a job offer either. Use your free square. Let it work for you. Be proud of it and grateful for it. Bingo!

-excerpted from Creating a Charmed Life: Sensible, Spiritual Secrets Every Busy Woman Should Know by Victoria Moran (HarperSanFrancisco).

Victoria hosts "A Charmed Life" on, live at 9am PT, 12pm ET 4th Wednesday of each month.

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