March 29, 2016

I’m a huge fan of StrengthsFinder. I love love love the idea of focusing on what we’re good at. The first time I found it, it brought me life. And permission. So much so, all I could do was cry. I’m not weird, I’m not doing it wrong, I’ve got these strengths.

I love it. And I love teaching other people about it.

Your top strengths are frequently so much a part of you, you don’t even know they exist. You either think (a) “Of course I do this – EVERYONE does this. The people who aren’t doing this are what’s wrong with the world,” or (b) What are you talking about? I don’t do that. You think I do what?”

I read through the book before I took the test for the first time. I found certain strengths I thought I’d have, ones that sounded good to me. So when I took the test, I tried to skew my answers to produce the results I wanted.

It didn’t work. It gave me a different list. So then for a while, I said “Whatever. I’m pretty sure the strengths I found in the book are more mine than the list the test produced. I’m claiming the ones I found.”

Over the next few years I took the test a few more times, wondering if it would shift around. It did a little. The order changed, and I think one or two switched out. Later I unlocked the results for the entire list of 34. I wanted to see the ranking of all the strengths. Some of those other strengths I identified are right there in my top 10, where I thought they should be. And some of them are near the bottom, basically in the “You may think you do this, but no one else sees this in what you’re doing” section.

I think they were right.

Huh. That was a little embarrassing.

Over time (like years) I’ve come to see that the list the assessment gave me is pretty dead on. My top 5 should totally be in my top 5. Granted I’d love to focus on my top 10 – they all show up consistently for me. Number 7 isn’t less valuable than number 1 to me.

But. Top 5 is what they give you, so top 5 is what we’ll talk about. Here’s what the words on my list mean for me:
Input – I love collecting random tidbits of information – I research things constantly. The latest TV show (What else has that actor been in? How’d they get started? Are they married? What are they in now?), how the amygdala affects our decisions (Wait, what? We have an ‘emotional’ brain? What other parts of the brain are there? What does emotional center mean exactly? Is that the place responsible for my excessive tears? Is that a biological response or is that something my personality affects?), exercise’s effect on growing our hippocampus (Oh my word, I can get smarter by jogging! How much do I have to do? How is it actually working,  and is that really the best way?), etc. It never ends.

I love to find out new things, and I love to tell people about what I’ve found.

Maximizer – I love helping people be who they are – not who they think they should be, but who they are. To accept it, to step into it and to grow into their potential. Also, I enjoy interacting with people who excel in their area. I’m soooo curious about what they’ve learned. Teaching a brand new skill to a brand new learner can be frustrating to me. I get excited when interacting with people who have the basics (and then some) down and are ready to take it further. Much further.

Individuation – I want to understand everyone. I want to be able to read people and get what it is they’re going through, what they want and what they need. Who they are, how their motivations, fears and hangups affect them. I love understanding how who you are affects how you move through the world and I love finding ways to accomplish a goal that works specifically for you.

Achiever – the sense of accomplishment I feel when I get stuff done is deeply, deeply satisfying. It’s motivating and I love it. I like getting things done, checking them off a list. It’s not comfortable to leave things undone.

Intellection – Thinking about things, mulling them over, turning them this way and that until you find the answer is so so good. Having a question, trying on different answers until one fits is just stinkin awesome.

There’s my top five.

(If you’re thinking about your own strengths, it’s important to remember that what a strength looks like in one person is not necessarily exactly what it’ll look like in another. The strengths interact, influence and shape each other. Input may universally refer to someone who likes to collect and share things, but what someone collects & how they share it differs for everyone.)

It’s funny that I tell people that they are liable to not realize their strengths are actually strengths. That it’ll feel like the way things are supposed to work. I teach this to people, I know it, I have had my own experience with it and yet I still, to this day, do it.

I’ve always discounted intellection. I see it, and it validates me a bit. Being smart is important to me. Having intellection as a strength makes me feel like I am smart. Cool. I leave it at that.

A couple weeks ago, after ten plus years of strengths training and talking and sharing and teaching, it finally occurred to me that intellection is one of my strengths. It is not one of everyone’s strengths.

This was an epiphany to me. After 10 years of this.

I know.

I finally realized that my need to think things through (sometimes for a long while) is part of intellection. I can’t quickly give a response I like to a question. I might spout something off, but my brain will immediately rethink and rethink and I eventually come up with what I really think. I can’t verbally process things. I need to do it mentally and I need a bit of time.

This can make my husband batty if we’re having a ‘discussion’. He’ll say: “Sooooo, do you have a response to what I just said? How about you just say something?” And I’ll come back with something really good like: “Hang on. Give me five minutes here. Or actually I’ll let you know when I’ve got something.” It’s not a real popular response. But! When I do finally say what I think, I can stand behind it. I can say it knowing it’s not unnecessarily hurting his feelings and he’s probably actually going to agree with it.

I finally realized that my tendency to evaluate EVERYTHING I hear is part of my intellection strength. If I’m actually listening – nothing goes in that isn’t considered. Yup, keep that. Uhhh nope, that’s wrong. What about in this circumstance….?

I find it impossible to sit in a large group, hear a speaker and assume that they are right. Each point they make is weighed – hmm, do I agree? Do I have any experiences or evidence that is in opposition? Does that resonate? I can not simply hear what they say and accept it because they said it. This makes for some interesting Sunday mornings.

And I can not just listen and not care whether I agree or not. I can’t just listen and take something good out of it. I either tune out completely or disagree internally and learn some amazing new thing as a result of my disagreement. Or find that the person is actually a genius and I LOVE what they just said.

(Interestingly enough, this does not apply to reading. Only listening. Isn’t that weird??)

Now to be fair, I don’t mind disagreeing. It’s not like we can all agree on everything. But I want a chance to have a conversation. To see if what’s in my brain holds true when brought up against someone else’s thoughts. To hear what the speaker has to say when I bring up what I thought. I don’t mind at all being shown how they really are right and being able to eventually agree, but that just never happens during a sermon. Sermons are one-way speeches. No conversation allowed.

So they make me a little antsy. And now I know that it’s all intellection’s fault. 🙂

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