I’m a very impatient person. I want things to happen RIGHT NOW. One of my biggest pet peeves–no, it’s bigger than a pet peeve–one of the things that annoys me the most and infuriates me to no end, probably more than anything else in life, is when people talk about doing something or wanting their life to be different in some way–and then do. nothing. about. it.
I always saw this as a weakness. Something I need to work on: being more patient. Finding more empathy for others and not jumping to conclusions and judging them for (what I perceive as) being lazy and sitting on their ass doing nothing.
Then, a few years ago, I took the Strengths Finder assessment. I can’t even remember what prompted me to take it. But for some reason I did, and it was literally life-changing.
Life-changing? Isn’t that a bit drastic?
The answer is: no. It was life-changing because it completely flipped how I saw myself in the world. It also completely flipped how I saw the concept of strengths and weaknesses. The guy who came up with the Strengths Finders assessment has one main theory behind his work: instead of spending time, energy, resources focusing on our weaknesses and attempting to improve them, turning them into strengths, we should find out what our strengths are and spend our time, energy, resources, on getting even stronger in those areas and finding roles in our work and life where we can thrive by harnessing our strengths.
This philosophy resonated so strongly with me. It makes so much sense. It wasn’t until after I took the assessment that I understood why it made so much sense to me: one of my top five strengths is maximizer, or making the most of what is available by building on it to make it even better than it already is.
Penelope Trunk writes extensively about why it’s so important to understand ourselves. It is the only way we can find our place in the world, not only where we belong but also where we will thrive. She writes about understanding yourself by knowing your Myers Briggs personality type (another assessment that does similar things to the Strengths Finder), and coincidentally she and I share the same personality type: ENTJ.
The Strengths Finder assessment helped me to understand so much more about myself.
My top five strengths are: activator, maximizer, strategic, communicator and achiever.
The reason I’m so impatient? It’s because my number one strength is activator, which is someone who puts plans into motion, ideas into action, and makes things happen. As a person of action, of course I would be annoyed when I hear someone say they want to change something but then do nothing about it. The next strength for me is maximizer, which I mentioned already. Aside from resonating with the concept of Strengths Finders, maximizer manifests in my life by what I do for a profession: I’m an editor. I take someone else’s words and tweak them until they are as best as they can be.
After maximizer for me is strategic, which is seeing the big picture: the end goal and the path to arrive at that desired destination. This is why I have a propensity for starting new projects. I have a vision and I know how to make it happen. Once it’s up and running, I tend to loose interest in every day maintenance because I want to bring another vision to life.
Then it’s communicator: expressing thoughts and ideas clearly. And, again, I understand why all my work involves words and storytelling. Not only do I tell my own story but I help others tell their stories through teaching and through providing platforms like a magazine and a reading series.
Lastly is achiever: working towards goals and accomplishing what I set out to do. Combined with the activator theme, this can be deadly. I find it to be rewarding because, yes, I do accomplish what I set my mind to. But I also find it frustrating because I want others in my life to function the same way. So that we can accomplish great things together.
This is where my maximizer theme also comes in to play: I can see the strength and talent in others, and I have a knack for encouraging them and getting them excited about putting that strength and talent to use.
That is another great thing about the Strengths Finder–once it identifies your top strengths, it also analyzes how you typically operate and what type of people you should surround yourself with based on your strengths and the strengths of others.
For example, the analysis of my activator strength tells me that I should partner with futuristic, strategic, or analytical people who will lend their direction and planning to my activation, thereby creating an opportunity to build consensus and get others behind the plan. By doing this, we complement each other’s strengths.
In order to achieve this type of symbiotic relationship with others in my life I first had to understand myself and my own strengths. This allows me to tell my own personal story in a way that helps others also understand me. When you understand yourself, you can tell the best, most authentic version of your own true story and encourage others to do the same.
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