"[...] A strength begins with a talent, so let's start there. A talent is a naturally recurring pattern of thought, feeling, or behavior that can be productively applied. [...] A strength is the ability to provide consistent, near-perfect performance in a given activity. [...] Talents are like "diamonds in the rough," whereas strengths are like diamonds that show brilliance after they have been carefully cut and polished. Your greatest areas of talent, your most likely sources of potential strengths, are identified by the Clifton StrengthsFinder." -- StrengthsQuest: Discover and Develop Your Strengths in Academics, Career, and Beyond (2002)
I'm getting ready to go back to school, to get a college degree. I'm currently researching different schools and programs that are for working adults.
As I was looking through the myriad of papers I have on schools, I remembered a conversation with my friend Jamie about StrengthsQuest (a version of StrengthsFinders that is geared toward students). I checked out the website and decided to sign up, even though I've taken StrengthsFinders three times now, because I wanted the specific focus on students and learning StrengthsQuest offers. I figured that, as with the last three times, my strengths would end up being the same, with perhaps a small variation of one dropping off and another coming on.
Something completely unexpected happened. Only two of my strengths stayed the same. And those two changed places. Three new ones, strengths I'd never considered, appeared in the 2nd, 3rd and 4th places.
I like these new strengths. A lot. The feel like the fit me better than the others that dropped off (Command/Learner -- depending on which time I took it -- Restorative and Intellection).
Could it really be true? Do your strengths -- "the natural talents through which you can fulfill your personal potential" as Gallup defines it -- change through the years? I've been doing a lot of "work on myself", as the cliche goes. I've learned much about myself, about my own dysfunction and that of my family's. Things that affected how I see myself and how I feel about life and the world around me. Most of all I've learned about how God sees me and how He sees my past, as well as my present and my future.
Not everything about me has changed. But some things deep in my core are in the process of being transformed by God -- some even eliminated -- into something completely new. Is it possible this whole process, this journey I've been on for the last few years, has so changed me that even my strengths, my natural talents have shifted, that the real talents are finally emerging from behind the shadows of my complex defense mechanisms I set up long ago?
I don't know. I have no answers. But I sure like the new results.
Here are my signature themes as of today:
|Things happen for a reason. You are sure of it. You are sure of it because in your soul you know that we are all connected. Yes, we are individuals, responsible for our own judgments and in possession of our own free will, but nonetheless we are part of something larger. Some may call it the collective unconscious. Others may label it spirit or life force. But whatever your word of choice, you gain confidence from knowing that we are not isolated from one another or from the earth and the life on it. This feeling of Connectedness implies certain responsibilities. If we are all part of a larger picture, then we must not harm others because we will be harming ourselves. We must not exploit because we will be exploiting ourselves. Your awareness of these responsibilities creates your value system. You are considerate, caring, and accepting. Certain of the unity of humankind, you are a bridge builder for people of different cultures. Sensitive to the invisible hand, you can give others comfort that there is a purpose beyond our humdrum lives. The exact articles of your faith will depend on your upbringing and your culture, but your faith is strong. It sustains you and your close friends in the face of life's mysteries.|
|You can sense the emotions of those around you. You can feel what they are feeling as though their feelings are your own. Intuitively, you are able to see the world through their eyes and share their perspective. You do not necessarily agree with each person's perspective. You do not necessarily feel pity for each person's predicament-this would be sympathy, not Empathy. You do not necessarily condone the choices each person makes, but you do understand. This instinctive ability to understand is powerful. You hear the unvoiced questions. You anticipate the need. Where others grapple for words, you seem to find the right words and the right tone. You help people find the right phrases to express their feelings-to themselves as well as to others. You help them give voice to their emotional life. For all these reasons other people are drawn to you.|
|You are fascinated by ideas. What is an idea? An idea is a concept, the best explanation of the most events. You are delighted when you discover beneath the complex surface an elegantly simple concept to explain why things are the way they are. An idea is a connection. Yours is the kind of mind that is always looking for connections, and so you are intrigued when seemingly disparate phenomena can be linked by an obscure connection. An idea is a new perspective on familiar challenges. You revel in taking the world we all know and turning it around so we can view it from a strange but strangely enlightening angle. You love all these ideas because they are profound, because they are novel, because they are clarifying, because they are contrary, because they are bizarre. For all these reasons you derive a jolt of energy whenever a new idea occurs to you. Others may label you creative or original or conceptual or even smart. Perhaps you are all of these. Who can be sure? What you are sure of is that ideas are thrilling. And on most days this is enough.|
|The Strategic theme enables you to sort through the clutter and find the best route. It is not a skill that can be taught. It is a distinct way of thinking, a special perspective on the world at large. This perspective allows you to see patterns where others simply see complexity. Mindful of these patterns, you play out alternative scenarios, always asking, "What if this happened? Okay, well what if this happened?" This recurring question helps you see around the next corner. There you can evaluate accurately the potential obstacles. Guided by where you see each path leading, you start to make selections. You discard the paths that lead nowhere. You discard the paths that lead straight into resistance. You discard the paths that lead into a fog of confusion. You cull and make selections until you arrive at the chosen path-your strategy. Armed with your strategy, you strike forward. This is your Strategic theme at work: "What if?" Select. Strike.|
|You are inquisitive. You collect things. You might collect information-words, facts, books, and quotations-or you might collect tangible objects such as butterflies, baseball cards, porcelain dolls, or sepia photographs. Whatever you collect, you collect it because it interests you. And yours is the kind of mind that finds so many things interesting. The world is exciting precisely because of its infinite variety and complexity. If you read a great deal, it is not necessarily to refine your theories but, rather, to add more information to your archives. If you like to travel, it is because each new location offers novel artifacts and facts. These can be acquired and then stored away. Why are they worth storing? At the time of storing it is often hard to say exactly when or why you might need them, but who knows when they might become useful? With all those possible uses in mind, you really don't feel comfortable throwing anything away. So you keep acquiring and compiling and filing stuff away. It's interesting. It keeps your mind fresh. And perhaps one day some of it will prove valuable.|
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