Signs, Strengths Finder and Sweet Surprises

Once again, it’s been a while since I’ve posted. How does that happen? Oh yeah, it’s that whole working mom thing. That nine day work trip to England in October wasn’t exactly conducive to my blogging habit. Nor was the overnight Fifth Grade Camp trip I took in November, although entirely different from the business trip in every other respect. My seven-year-old’s issues continue to take a lot of time and attention even though we no longer speak of them here. And then, of course, we had the holidays, and another international trip, this time for the whole family.

One thing that’s remained constant over the past few months is the stream of signs pointing me back to this blog. For example, in October, I got a sweet email from a friend in which she encouraged me to write. She said I have a gift. I really like her. I liked that email. It made me feel super happy and special and like I should make the time to write so that others can benefit from my incredible gift. She didn’t use the word “incredible” but that’s not important. What matters is that I realized that you should not be deprived of my talent.

Speaking of talents, another affirmation came through StrengthsFinder 2.0, and its corresponding talent themes. StrengthsFinder is a methodology for identifying your natural gifts and figuring out how best to apply them in your life. You take a 177 question timed test (20 seconds per question) to determine your Top 5 talent themes. Instead of giving you common personality types that aren’t categorized as good or bad (ex. “extrovert” vs. “introvert”), StrengthsFinder hones in on your unique and specific strengths (aka talent themes). The methodology has been validated over years of research and application, across corporations around the world, as well as in other settings like churches and non-profit organizations.

Here’s the cool part. Because there are 34 different talent themes, the likelihood of two people having the same Top 5 strengths, in the exact same order, is 1 in 33 million! That means that if all 5.5 billion adults on the planet took the test, your result would only be the same as around 165 other people in the entire world. Based on this level of uniqueness, you get a “personalized” profile report that includes a description of your strengths, suggestions for action and example applications.

My StrengthsFinder results validated not only that I should write, but that I should share about my faith and focus on connection…. in other words, exactly what I try to do with this blog! My assessment specifically highlighted “my comfort with language,” “ease of written expression” and knack for “finding the right combination of words.” While not surprising, these characterizations added some needed fuel to the fire that drives me to write. The surprises in my assessment turned my creative drive back into a raging fire.

First, I learned that Connectedness, described as having faith in the link between all thingscan be viewed as an innate gift. People with this strength think there are few coincidences and that most events happen for a reason.  Apparently, this is one of my strongest gifts!

The realization that it is a natural ability to see how seemingly disparate things are connected triggered a breakthrough in how I see the value of my writing. It validates my perspective and makes me want to write all the more about how God is in everything.

What’s more, this new paradigm opened my eyes to see that when other people don’t relate, it doesn’t necessarily mean what I’ve written is wrong or bad. On the contrary, Connectedness may just not be one of the reader’s strengths. And that’s okay. It’s sort of like how, if I’m totally honest, I don’t really understand sports. I mean, I get the rules, but I just struggle to understand the point of it all. I almost always just end up rooting for the winning team. Or, if I’m really committed to a team, like of course I am to the Dallas Cowboys (go Dak!), I’ll root for them through the whole game, but if they lose, I’m not really that disappointed. I just think about how happy the other teams’ fans must be and how it all must somehow be for the greater good.

It’s not just my Connectedness talent that causes my indifference to the big game. I also lack some key talent themes that lend themselves to loving sports. Competition isn’t in my Top 5, for example. Neither is a talent theme called Positivity, described as a contagious enthusiasm. My husband’s having Positivity in his Top 5 finally explains how he stays dedicated to the Toronto Maple Leafs, despite an unprecedented number of disappointments. Or at least it helps to explain it. I’m not sure anything will ever fully explain his unwavering dedication to a team with the worst record of all time in any sport. But I digress.

The point is that it helps to think of how others might react to my blog in a similar light to how I view sports. Just like sports fans wouldn’t allow my “Oh well, it’s just a game. Maybe it was just the other team’s time.” attitude to change how heartily they root for their team, nor should they, I shouldn’t be overly impacted by those who read my blog and think “Why does she have to write about what she writes about? She’s seeing connections where there are none. Why does she over think everything so much?”

We just all have different strengths and weaknesses, and that’s okay.

Just because a reaction to my writing is less than “Wow, you have an incredible gift,” it isn’t necessarily (and most likely is not) a reflection on me. Perhaps the reader struggles to see the connections I write about because Connectedness is at the bottom of their list of strengths. And that’s okay. Or perhaps the reader just doesn’t really get the point of blogs. Maybe her Top 5 is filled with more extroverted strengths than mine, like the Woo and Communication talent themes, and she would rather be out at a party or socializing than reading an introspective piece like this. And that’s okay.

It wasn’t just my Connectedness talent theme that led me back here in some way or another. My top strength, Strategic, mostly seemed to verify that I’m in the right 9-to-5 job, but I also saw some applicability to this blog, especially when I read about the ability to recognize patterns. My third strength – Input – is a craving to know and collect more. The opportunities for action for people with this talent theme state repeatedly how important it is to share information with others. Like, you know, through a blog. Intellection, my fourth talent theme, is characterized by introspection and intellectual activity, two traits that are pretty obviously well-suited to a writer. Ideation is the last of my Top 5 and is the closest strength to creativity. It’s described as being driven by ideas.

Now, I have to say, I was honestly shocked that Ideation was in my Top 5 and Analytical was not. Analytical is more or less what it sounds like, and it’s something I’ve always identified as. I have always seen myself as one who is always questioning, analyzing, needing proof, as the talent theme says. Always good at math and logic, people still tell me regularly that I should  be a lawyer.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Analytical is my #6 talent theme, but for now, I haven’t paid for my full report and I’m not sure I’m going to. Ideation’s appearance in place of the expected Analytical has given me permission to be this blogger / writer that I want to be. It showed me how to press the stop button on some old, negative tapes that play in my head, the ones that say “Don’t forget, you were always a little bit better at math than English. You should not be writing. Why did you ever stop programming? You are wasting you gifts and should become an actuary.”

Thank God I have listened more to the more encouraging voice inside me, the one that shows me where to look for signs that I’m on the right track, that of course nothing is wasted, that it’s no surprise I started this blog. It’s just who I am. I don’t always have to understand the why and the how of it. Even if life gets in the way and forces a three month break, I should not abandon my writing.

So, here I am, back to blogging, yet again! And that’s more than okay.

(If you want to see if you have a similar journey to mine, go to this link to read more about Strengths Finder 2.0: http://strengths.gallup.com/default.aspx. I would love to hear about your journey!!)

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