As I have already viewed two books on the subject of the “strengths” view of personality  , which focuses on one’s God given talents and abilities and how one can best develop them and leverage them into abilities and excellence, something I consider vital in people finding their proper place in this world and in achieving what they were put on this earth by their Creator to do, I thought it useful to examine my own report and what it says about me. In an earlier entry I examined some of the strengths I saw in myself as a result of the recent crisis of 2010 that included vast areas of my own life , including religious ones, and what I speculated might be my own strengths.
What I would like to do now is examine the results of my own strengths test, show what strengths were identified, what that says about me, some ideas for action, and some ways for all of the strengths to be developed in a useful fashion. I believe that we all need to know what we were put on this earth to do, and our God-given strengths and abilities provide the context for the purpose and mission we were put on this earth to accomplish. Rather than harangue ourselves about our weaknesses (and we all have them) we ought to examine what we do well and develop those capacities to the utmost not only for ourselves but also to fulfill our purpose in the larger body of Christ. That said, let us go on.
Top 5 Strengths:
The top five strengths found for me by the Strengths Finder test were: Input, Strategic, Learner, Ideation, and Individuation. Of the five, only Individuation was a surprise for me, given I had thought other skills more notable (like Context or Futurism). Nonetheless it makes sense when one looks at what is said about my top 5 strengths in the results.
Input: “People who are especially talented in the Input theme have a craving to know more. Often they like to collect and archive all kinds of information.” This is certainly true of me, and no one who knows me well at all would deny my voracious appetite for knowledge about all kinds of odd and obscure things–witness my blog entries and the quirky sorts of books I read.
Strategic: “People who are 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.” Again, this was not a surprising trait, as it shows up in my Myers-Briggs profile as well. Indeed, the combination of “input” and “strategic” makes for a rational person driven to provide input, which rings very true.
Ideation: “People who are especially talented in the Ideation theme are fascinated by ideas. They are able to find connections between seemingly disparate phenomena.” Again, this tendency of mine is fairly easily recognizable, and is something that leads to all kinds of odd connections being made in my own life and writings, about which there is abundant evidence.
Individualization: “People who are especially talented in the Invidualization theme are intrigued with the unique qualities of each person. They have a gift for figuring out how people who are different can work together productively.” I must admit this was a bit of a surprise to me, although upon further reflection I realized that I have long enjoyed quirky and unique people as well as recognizing and fostering what was unique about them. I also realized that I foster my own quirky sense of uniqueness in the face of what social pressures exist to blend in with the crowd, something I am congenitally unable to do.
Strategies For Action:
In the below section one will see the “strategies” provided to develop these gifts, many of which I have engaged in and find interesting to continue, and others of which I have not done as well and might do better in the future. Those suggestions in bold are those I find particularly useful to apply.
- Look for jobs in which you are charged with acquiring new information each day, such as teaching, research, or journalism.
- Devise a system to store and easily locate information. This can be as simple as a file for all the articles you have clipped or as sophisticated as a computer database.
- Partner with someone with dominant Focus or Discipline talents. This person will help you stay on track when your inquisitiveness leads you down intriguing but distracting avenues.
- Your mind is open and absorbent. You naturally soak up information in the same way that a sponge soaks up water. But just as the primary purpose of the sponge is not to permanently contain what it absorbs, neither should your mind simply store information. Input without output can lead to stagnation. As you gather and absorb information, be aware of the individuals and groups that can most benefit from your knowledge, and be intentional about sharing with them.
- You might naturally be an exceptional repository of facts, data, and ideas. If that’s the case, don’t be afraid to position yourself as an expert. By simply following your Input talents, you could become known as the authority in your field.
- Remember that you must be more than just a collector of information. At some point, you’ll need to leverage this knowledge and turn it into action. Make a point of identifying the facts and data that would be most valuable to others, and use this information to their advantage.
- Identify your areas of specialization, and actively seek out more information about them.
- Schedule time to read books and articles that stimulate you.
- Deliberately increase your vocabulary. Collect new words, and learn the meaning of each of them.
- Identify situations in which you can share the information you have collected with other people. Also make sure to let your friends and colleagues know that you enjoy answering their questions.
- Take the time to fully reflect or muse about a goal that you want to achieve until the related patterns and issues emerge for you. Remember that this musing time is essential strategic thinking.
- You can see repercussions more clearly than others can. Take advantage of this ability by planning your range of responses in detail. There is little point in knowing where events will lead if you are not ready when you get there.
- Find a group that you think does important work, and contribute your strategic thinking. You can be a leader with your ideas.
- Your strategic thinking will be necessary to keep a vivid vision from deteriorating into an ordinary pipe dream. Fully consider all possible paths toward making the vision a reality. Wise forethought can remove obstacles before they appear.
- Make yourself known as a resource for consultation with those who are stumped by a particular problem or hindered by a particular obstacle or barrier. By naturally seeing a way when others are convinced there is no way, you will lead them to success.
- You are likely to anticipate potential issues more easily than others. Though your awareness of possible danger might be viewed as negativity by some, you must share your insights if you are going to avoid these pitfalls. To prevent misperception of your intent, point out not only the future obstacle, but also a way to prevent or overcome it. Trust your insights, and use them to ensure the success of your efforts.
- Help others understand that your strategic thinking is not an attempt to belittle their ideas, but is instead a natural propensity to consider all the facts of a plan objectively. Rather than being a naysayer, you are actually trying to examine ways to ensure that the goal is accomplished, come what may. Your talents will allow you to consider others’ perspectives while keeping your end goal in sight.
- Trust your intuitive insights as often as possible. Even though you might not be able to explain them rationally, your intuitions are created by a brain that instinctively anticipates and projects. Have confidence in these perceptions.
- Partner with someone with strong Activator talents. With this person’s need for action and your need for anticipation, you can forge a powerful partnership.
- Make sure that you are involved in the front end of new initiatives or enterprises. Your innovative yet procedural approach will be critical to the genesis of a new venture because it will keep its creators from developing deadly tunnel vision.
- Refine how you learn. For example, you might learn best by teaching. If so, seek out opportunities to present to others. You might learn best through quiet reflection. If so, seek out this quiet time.
- Develop ways to track the progress of your learning. If there are distinct levels or stages of learning within a discipline or skill, take a moment to celebrate your progression from one level to the next. If no such levels exist, create them for yourself (e.g., reading five books on the subject or making three presentations on the subject).
- Be a catalyst for change. Others might be intimidated by new rules, new skills, or new circumstances. Your willingness to soak up this newness can calm their fears and spur them to action. Take this responsibility seriously.
- Seek roles that require some form of technical competence. You will enjoy the process of acquiring and maintaining this expertise.
- As far as possible, shift your career toward a field with constantly changing technologies or regulations. You will be energized by the challenge of keeping up.
- Because you are not threatened by unfamiliar information, you might excel in a consulting role (either internal or external) in which you are paid to go into new situations and pick up new competencies or languages quickly.
- Research supports the link between learning and performance. When people have the opportunity to learn and grow, they are more productive and loyal. Look for wars to measure the degree to which you and others feel that your learning needs are being met, to create individualized learning milestones, and to reward achievements in learning.
- At work, take advantage of programs that subsidize your learning. Your organization may be willing to pay for part or all of your instructional coursework or for certifications. Ask your manager for information about scholarships and other educational opportunities.
- Honor your desire to learn. Take advantage of adult educational opportunities in your community. Discipline yourself to sign up for at least one new academic or adult learning course each year.
- Time disappears and your attention intensifies when you are immersed in studying or learning. Allow yourself to “follow the trail” by scheduling learning sessions during periods of time that will not be interrupted by pressing engagements.
- Seek a career in which you will be given credit for and paid for your ideas, such as marketing, advertising, journalism, design, or new product development.
- You are likely to get bored quickly, so make some small changes in your work or home life. Experiment. Play mental games with yourself. All of these will help keep you stimulated.
- Finish your thoughts and ideas before communicating them. Lacking your Ideation talents, others might not be able to “join the dots” of an interesting but incomplete idea and thus might dismiss it.
- Not all of your ideas will be equally practical or serviceable. Learn to edit your plans, or find a trusted friend or colleague who can “proof” your ideas and identify potential pitfalls.
- Understand the fuel for your Ideation talents. Where do you get your best ideas? When you’re talking with people? When you’re reading? When you’re simply listening or observing? Take note of the circumstances that seem to produce your best ideas, and recreate them.
- Schedule time to read, because the ideas and experiences of others can become your raw material for new ideas. Schedule time to think, because thinking energizes you.
- You are a natural fit with research and development; you appreciate the mindset of visionaries and dreamers. Spend time with imaginative peers, and sit in on their brainstorming sessions.
- Partner with someone with strong Analytical talents. This person will question you and challenge you, therefore strengthening your ideas.
- Sometimes you lose others’ interest because they cannot follow your abstract and conceptual thinking style. Make your ideas more concrete by drawing pictures, using analogies or metaphors, or simply explaining your concepts step by step.
- Feed your Ideation talents by gathering knowledge. Study fields and industries different from your own. Apply ideas from outside, and link disparate ideas to generate new ones.
- Select a vocation in which your Individualization talents can be both used and appreciated, such as counseling, supervising, teaching, writing human interest articles, or selling. Your ability to see people as unique individuals is a special talent.
- Become an expert in describing your own strengths and style. For example, answer questions such as: What is the best praise you have ever received? How often do you like to check in with your manager? What is your best method for building relationships? How do you learn best? Then ask your colleagues and friends these same questions. Help them plan out their future by starting with their strengths, then designing a future based on what they do best.
- Help others understand that true diversity can be found in the subtle differences between each individual–regardless of race, sex, or nationality.
- Explain that it is appropriate, just, and effective to treat each person differently. Those without strong Individualization talents might not see the differences among individuals and might insist that individualization is unequal and therefore unfair. You will need to describe your perspective in detail to be persuasive.
- Figure out what every person on your team does best. Then help them capitalize on their talents, skills, and knowledge. You may need to explain your rationale and your philosophy so people understand that you have their best interests in mind.
- You have an awareness and appreciation for others’ likes and dislikes and an ability to personalize. This puts you in a unique position. Use your Individualization talents to help identify areas where one size does not fit all.
- Make your colleagues and friends aware of each person’s unique needs. Soon people will look to you to explain other people’s motivations and actions.
- Your presentations and speaking opportunities will be most engaging when you relate your topic to the experiences of individuals in the audience. Use your Individualization talents to gather and share real-life stories that will make your points much better than would generic information or theories.
- You move comfortably among a broad range of styles and cultures, and you intuitively personalize your interactions. Consciously and proactively make full use of these talents by leading diversity and community efforts.
- Your Individualization talents can help you take a different approach to interpreting data. While others are looking for similarities, make a point of identifying distinctiveness. Your interpretations will add a valuable perspective.
Putting The Pieces Together In Context:
Let us now, having provided a lot of information on the abilities themselves that the Strengths Finder test found (and which I consider to be accurate), let us examine the bigger picture these strengths form when put together in their proper context. It appears as if there are strong interrelations between many of these tendencies within my personality and makeup that are useful when put together.
First, I would like to point out a lot of the similarities that are present. Several of the strengths listed (Input, Ideation, Learning) focus on reading as important, the love of understanding what comes from books, while others (Individualization, Ideation, Strategic) focused on observing and interacting with people. Personal interaction and the written word are the primary ways I have for both gathering the raw materials for ideas and strategies and understanding and then for providing such input and suggestions and proposals that result from the process.
It would appear that my strengths are all very closely interrelated. For example, the Input and Learner skills are focused on collecting information as well as engaging in a continual process of expansion of one’s base of knowledge and one’s competencies. This engine of increasing knowledge and study (which involves a lot of wide ranging research, an activity which I enjoy greatly) feeds the development of Ideation and Strategy, which are focused on the output of all that information fed from complicated interconnections, directed towards creating a better future for individual and unique people (Individuation). It would appear, therefore, as my brain is an input of massive amounts of diverse information directed in very insistent ways towards making things better for people, especially for those people and areas that are unique and often neglected. This seems a fair picture of what I try to do in this blog and in my life in providing a way for that information to reach others who may (hopefully) respond to it and profit from it.
A few of the outputs are fairly consistent as well throughout various strengths–a focus on answering the questions of others, writing, and developing plans and goals for a better future tailored to individuals with unique backgrounds. These interrelated abilities would seem to indicate that a position where the gathering and learning of new information in large quantities for the development of specialized and detailed future-oriented plans for human beings would be ideal for both the productive use of my personality and skills.
Now, it only remains to find some sort of gainful employment to where these gifts and talents may be profitably harnessed for the benefit of myself and others. Given my lack of skills at such highly-sought after abilities in woo and empathy (which are the primary sorts of opportunities available and which do not play to my strengths), and due to my interest in human systems rather than technological ones, it would appear as if interests should be honed in the ways of teaching and writing–which might appear obvious to many people already. I would love to do both, as a living, should opportunity allow. I suppose one must be made aware of what opportunities are present, so that the proper place may be found and the proper talents developed, to the proper ends, by the proper means.