Thursday, February 12, 2009

Finding My Strengths

Awhile back I bought a book called Now, Discover Your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton. Backed by the Gallup Organization, the authors promote the hypothesis that people are most likely to succeed and excel in all areas of life by determining and honing their talents or strengths, not by trying to correct their weaknesses. After years of research involving surveys of literally millions of people, Buckingham and Clifton established a list of thirty-four strengths. What's a strength? It's a positive theme of talent marked by "spontaneous, top-of-the-mind reactions, . . . yearnings, rapid learnings, and satisfactions."

Included in the price of the book was a log-in code which would enable the purchaser to take the online StrengthsFinder Profile. This is a paired statements instrument reflecting the survey responses the authors had received from literally millions of people and calibrated to replicate how successful people with various talents had tended to answer. Not opposites, not right-vs.-wrong; rather, designed to reflect predominant patterns. Eighty-five questions ranked from Strongly Agree to Strongly Disagree, with an option for "Neutral" in the middle.

For various reasons I put off taking this instrument. But a couple nights ago I finally did. My top five out of the thirty four are listed above. The only ones that I think need explanation are "Context," which has to do with finding understanding and foundations for present action in historical realities, and "Input," which doesn't mean I like to put my oar in with other people, but that I revel in collecting input and information of all sorts, whether I need it right now or not.

I can see myself in these . . . There are one or two other themes I really thought I'd come up with instead or too, but maybe they're my No. 6 and No. 7. I can't find out, though--unless and until I pay a healthy chunk of change to the Gallup Organization for a consultation with a strengths coach.

Buckingham and Clifton make a good point in that strengths are not weaknesses. If say, my Input strength seems to be leading me astray as I stay up half the night looking up random facts on the Internet, it's because I lack the concomitant strength of Discipline. This is good for me to remember, because I've had authority figures in my past who have made out that my signature strengths themes are really failings and deficiencies. Especially in terms of pastoral ministry.

So what do I do with this knowledge now? I guess that's what I should learn, put into context, get an idea about, gather input, and then go on to chart a strategy.

No, seriously, if I trust this StrengthsFinder instrument and its results, maybe the first thing I have to do is accept these qualities about myself and embrace them as useful, valuable, and good.

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