Do you ever feel like you don’t exactly know what you’re good at anymore? I do.
10 years ago if you asked me my strengths I would say I’m good at writing (this was in the academic world) and I teach a decent Intro Sociology class. I have a memory for obscure facts, if not for doctor’s appointment dates. I’m a good friend/daughter/partner-in-crime. I’m fairly adventurous with food. I’m great at reciting movie quotes.
Ask me today, and 10 years of growth have altered what I identify as strengths.
Yes, I’m good at making 4-5 different dinners at the same time. I have a decent understanding of toddler-ese. I draw a mean driveway chalk town. I pick myself up (literally & figuratively) every single day. I’m a pretty good writer, or at least I’m brave enough to be an honest writer. I’m still a good friend/daughter/partner-in-crime. I’m showing growth as a mom. But there’s more.
Growing up for me isn’t about reinventing myself, just finding things out about myself as they surface. I’m discovering intersections between things I’m good at and things that I like. And, most of all, I’m accepting the things that I’m good at and cultivating these strengths rather than forcing myself into a different box.
A dear friend introduced me to a book late last year that my thoughtful parents bought me for Christmas. It’s called, Strength Finders 2.0 by author Tom Roth. Have you heard of it? As I understand it, Gallup Poll high-ups created Strength Finders to help workplaces maximize the potential of their employees by drawing on natural talents. The premise is to identify an individual’s talents and then develop and utilize the employee based on those strengths. Each book comes with a code to an in-depth online quiz. Readers take the quiz, get a list of their top 5 (out of 34 possible) strengths, as well as action plans based on those strengths. The book itself is a short introduction to the theory, and then a 3-4 page description of each strength. Since a SAHM like me read it, it’s not just for the office.
I took the quiz in January, and was both surprised and affirmed by the results. My strengths, in order:
I appreciate that this might look like a foreign language to those not familiar with the Strength Finders book. The simplest explanation of my strengths (the one I used for my husband):
I see potential in all people, and am eager to help them develop that potential. I see each person as an individual, and treat them as such (e.g. when teaching I would use different methods for different students.) I’m really good seeing another’s viewpoint. I’m a life-long learner with a thirst and passion for knowledge. I believe everything, and everyone, has a context and a history. Things only make sense to me when I consider the whole picture, including the past.
Wow, right? If I went through the book without taking the quiz, I don’t know if I’d pick these out as my strengths. Looking at them now, I see them so clearly in myself. See a list of all possible strengths here.
As with everything, I want to apply this to my kids. What are their natural strengths? Strength Finders briefly argues for schooling based on strengths, though the likelihood of this is slim. But parenting based on strengths? That is possible. Yes, my children are still developing, but what if I applaud their strengths rather than emphasize the things they need to improve? So often I say, “You need to work on your listening/be a better listener.” But how often am I telling my daughter how wonderful she is at putting herself in her brothers’ shoes?
I want my children to learn the things necessary to flourish, but more than anything I want them to be happy. To feel good about themselves and about the world. What better way to boost self esteem than to focus on their strengths? To encourage them to live according to what they naturally are good at instead of forcing themselves down the “right” path that might not be right for them at all. I already see this in my oldest at age 6. Scary.
So that’s my new goal. To parent to my children’s strengths. To recognize these natural talents and help them to maximize their potential. To stop emphasizing what they need to improve, and instead focus on what they do well.
I think it’s possible. Developer is one of my strength, after all.