Julia's Guardian Angel Fund

Friday, July 13, 2012

Being Comfortable With your Calling

I'm a personality test junkie.  Since I took my first Myers-Briggs personality test back in 1989, I've been hooked.  I love learning about myself, helping to explain my idiosyncrasies, and learning more about others so that I can better understand how to relate to them.

By far, my favorite personality test is called Strengthfinders.  My husband introduced me to it when, as a manager at a corporate retail company, he was required to take the test along with reading the book Now Discover Your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham.  Since then, I have read several books on using our strengths for success.

I found this book while doing a Google search.  It's Living Your Strengths - Catholic Edition.  It was just the book I needed to read this summer.

Now, let me tell you about how this whole Strengthfinders test works.  You answer a series of questions (so this is self-reported) in an on-line test.  What is revealed to you are your "Signature Themes."  Donald Clifton PH.d. , who created the test, had a very optimistic philosophy.  Instead of working really hard at correcting our weaknesses, we better serve God and humanity by using our strengths (or talents).  There are 34 signature themes.  Statistically, the chances of meeting someone with your exact themes is 1 in about 275,000.  The chances of meeting someone with your exact themes in exactly the same order is about 1 in 33,000,000.  So, while God made us in His likeness and image, He gave us a wide variety of strengths with which to work.

At a used book sale this summer, I also picked up another Strengths-based book, StrengthsQuest, which is for students.  It takes the 34 signature themes and shows how they apply to working in school and determining a career that would best match your strengths.  I bought this because I think our kids are failed by our schools (and us, too, sometimes) in career guidance.  Just because someone is interested in something does not mean it would be a good career for them.  As my eldest approaches high-school, I hope to use it to help him find his strengths and use them for the greater glory of God.

Here's a personal confession:  I am not always comfortable in my own skin.  Strangely enough, I am most uncomfortable with my strongest strength.  Actually, I think it might be fairer to say most people are uncomfortable with my strongest strength upon which I become uncomfortable.  People become uncomfortable with my busy-ness. 

So, I will just lay out my signature themes in rank order, just in case you want to understand me just a little better:
People especially talented in the Achiever theme have a great deal of stamina and work hard. They take great satisfaction from being busy and productive.

People especially talented in the Communication theme generally find it easy to put their thoughts into words. They are good conversationalists and presenters.

People especially talented in the Ideation theme are fascinated by ideas. They are able to find connections between seemingly disparate phenomena.

People especially talented in the Strategic theme create alternative ways to proceed. Faced with any given scenario, they can quickly spot the relevant patterns and issues.

People especially talented in the Input theme have a need to collect and archive. They make collect information, ideas, history, or even relationships.

Perhaps, for me, one of the biggest realizations I had in learning these things about myself, was that discontent is the norm.  The other big ah-ha moment I had was realizing that because Achiever is my top theme, I put work before everything.  Things need to get done, in my book.  So much so, that I often add things to my to-do list that I have completed, that weren't there so I can cross them off, giving me a sense of "achieving."  Here's the wierd thing...that theme is my theme, not one I necessarily expect of my kids or husband.  Anyone who has seen my house can attest to the fact that I also do not apply "achiever" to my homemaking skills!

There are so many beautiful nuggets I could share with you from the Catholic Edition of Living Your Strengths but I just don't have the room or time.  But, I will leave you with two things.  If the statistics  gave you weren't enough, here's what St. Paul had to say about it in Romans 12:6-8 (from the USCCB website):
6 Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us exercise them: if prophecy, in proportion to the faith; 7if ministry, in ministering; if one is a teacher, in teaching; 8if one exhorts, in exhortation; if one contributes, in generosity; if one is over others, with diligence; if one does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness. 
 And second, the parable from Matthew 25:14-29 (which I won't quote here for brevity) that Jesus told his disciples before his passion, death and resurrection about the master who entrusted "talents" to his servants while he was away.  Of course the word "talents" here represents money, but because this is a parable, you can think talents.  The point of the parable, which some people find harsh, wasn't about investing huge sums of money but rather about using the talents God places within each one of us.  God expects us to develop those talents and use them wisely.  In the parable, not every slave was given the same amount of "talents"; each was given "according to his ability."  So, it is with God and the distribution of talents and gifts among individuals.  In the parable, the master was furious with the servant who did nothing with their talents.  The master wanted the servant to take a risk and grow their talents.

Developing our talents into strengths requires risk.  We must step out, try new things or take a chance by doing something we may fail at, at first.  But if we do not take some risks, emotionally, physically, and spiritually, we will never grow.  God expects no less from us.  So, get out there and serve the Lord.

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