The column “Find Your Buried Treasure” appears weekly in the Chanhassen (MN) Villager. This column was published on September 2, 2010.

At two unrelated conferences I attended recently, I was in breakout sessions in which we were asked to choose which of several geometric shapes we were drawn to. Then we were given a description of the characteristics of people in each group. My initial choice was a triangle, although I couldn’t really tell you why. But when the characteristics were described, it was clear that I was in the wrong group. I’m a circle, no doubt about it.

I’m not sure what the basis of this analysis is, or what research went into it or how it was determined that different types of people are drawn to circles, squares, triangles or squiggly lines. And frankly, it’s not something I care to pursue. But it did get me thinking of geometrical shapes, especially as they relate to the time we spend and the attention we give to different aspects of our lives.

This is certainly not a new concept. Circular pie charts have been around forever. As have graphs in different shapes and sizes, including squares that are divided again into four smaller squares that show different combinations of opposing criteria, such as extroverted/introverted and bold/cautious.

Even though I now know it’s not my “sign,” I’m still drawn to the triangle, at least in relation to my work. Maybe it’s because there are three distinct areas of work that I do – writing, speaking, and coaching – so each of them fits neatly into one point of the triangle.

Except that in real life, things never fit neatly and precisely into whatever shapes and forms we try to place them in. I don’t spend equal amounts of time every day, or every week, on each of my three areas of business. Nor should I. There are too many variables involved, and each of them has different requirements. Even within each category, there are too many differences to be able to balance them against each other.

Writing, for instance, is what I’ve been doing the longest, and I’ve worked on a number of different writing jobs over the years. Some are one-time projects, like a specific book or article I may be writing or editing, while others – like this column – are on-going. Some have specific deadlines, and some don’t. Those are the ones I need to watch the most carefully, because working on them can get bumped too easily by something that’s more urgent or time-sensitive.

With professional speaking, which I’ve been doing only for the last few years, the work is divided into preparing promotional materials, soliciting speaking engagements, preparing or updating the program, and presenting it.

Dream Coaching is something I’ve been doing for just over a year, but it feels like the kind of work I’ve been preparing all my life to do. This section of my triangle involves talking with potential clients about the program, and about all it can help them accomplish. Once I’ve been hired, there’s the coaching sessions themselves, plus the preparation and paperwork I do before and after each one. And there are different parameters and formats for group and individual coaching, although the program is the same for both.

So other than being able to put my work into the three different points of a triangle, there’s no way I could ever make it an equilateral triangle – which is one with equal sides and angles, for those who’ve forgotten their high school geometry. But one thing I’ve realized since I started analyzing and writing about this is that even though there are so many differences in the three types of work I do, there are common elements to all of them.

Whether I’m writing, speaking, or coaching, I want it to open people up to gifts they may not even realize they have. I want them to be able to see something in themselves and others that they may never have seen before. I want respect to be a part of everything I do, because respect has always been an important issue with me, and I think there is too little of it left in the world anymore. I also want people always to get useful and practical information from me that can help them improve their own lives and the lives of others.

That’s really at the heart of everything I do, no matter which area I’m working in, how much time I’m spending on it, or what configuration my triangle takes because of it.

And now that I think about it, I believe the heart is the very best shape of all.

© Betty Liedtke, 2010