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My Strengths

February 5, 2010

In the LDS religious tradition, we are often told to “liken the scriptures” to ourselves. Scriptures and prayer and so many other things in the church have a use as being tools to find personally insightful revelation for ourselves. This concept is beautiful, theoretically.

Unfortunately, for me, I just couldn’t get it to work out so well. The scriptures didn’t and don’t speak out to me. I am well aware of the “stupor of thought” with prayer, and of deafening silence, but not so much of a burning in the bosom. And putting myself in the scriptures makes me feel like I’m acting incredibly artificially in a bad play (OK, I’m ok with being born of goodly parents…but I think that my goodly parents taught me a little better than to kill a man for long-held family records. Maybe I should’ve likened myself in Laman and Lemuel instead…)

So, for a while, I wasn’t even aware that things could speak out to me. I wasn’t aware that there could be something that fits me, that seems to give me true insight. I didn’t get what people meant when they described the phenomenon.

StrengthsQuestBut then I took the Clifton Strengthsfinder.

I had to take it for a business class my freshman year. We had taken a few other inventories and tests to find out various metrics in the same class, and each of them failed to stir me. I felt that they did tell me something about myself, but I didn’t feel they were necessarily relevant, groundshattering, or useful. (I have a similar reaction to the Meyers Briggs Type Indicator, for example, although lots of people swear by that. I guess the MBTI’s cost [FREE] is a general plus)

So, I went into the StrengthsFinder without much expectation.

However, of the 34 strength themes that it provides, when I got my five, I felt as if I were truly understood. The descriptions of the themes, and not only that, but of how the themes interacted with each other and could manifest and apply in school or work setting seemed like something I could truly grab on to. It was monumental.

Even bigger, in my mind, was how the companion StrengthsQuest site had plenty of tips on how to take advantage of strengths, avoid their shadow sides (or even be aware of the shadow sides in the first place), and how to harmonize with people with other strengths.

I always think to be wary of things like this, and I think this blog covers the top weaknesses of something like the Strengthsfinder. Nevertheless, regardless of the “black box” quality of the strength theme process, I got a tremendously better impression of its metric than, say, the metric of horoscopes. A 180-question inventory is a bit better at teasing out information than the placement of celestial bodies.

So, what were my strengths? The five I had were learner, deliberative, competition, intellection, and analytical.

It would probably take so long to tell you how many ways these themes seemed to fit (and work together) for me. And I know, Forer Effect. (Although generally, I’m not too polite to call people out on BS generic descriptors.) I think the thing for me was that I had written plenty of things before ever taking the StrengthsFinder inventory that remarked on these very themes…I just didn’t have names. I had remarked not simply about the good, but about the bad. For these strengths do have shadow sides. My weaknesses not only reside in the utter deficiency of other strength themes (notice, for example, how my strengths have little to do with achieving, or accomplishing, or doing, but they are great for planning, thinking, learning, etc., This plays out so often in my life…), but also in the shadows of the strengths (the shadow of a strong competitive drive is that things aren’t enjoyable unless you’re winning. The shadow of a strong competitive drive combined with learning, analytical, intellectual, and deliberative traits is that classes aren’t enjoyable unless I’m UNDERSTANDING the material, understanding it better than my peers, and to a deeper level.)

Regardless of the StrengthsFinder itself, I have benefited from working on and applying these strengths throughout my life. These strengths are uniquely mine, and although I sometimes say I’d like to exchange one for another here or there, I recognize that to preserve me, these all are integrated aspects.

I guess next, I’ll outline some of my tragic weaknesses…

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