We were intricately created with great strengths and intentional purpose. It is easy to forget this and hard to really identify those giftings or strengths at times. In my own journey of self growth, my mind would basically collect all of the feedback the world gave me to identify what my weaknesses were. My philosophy was… identify weakness, eliminate the weakness, then I would be able to continue my personal growth. The huge problem with this is that I was letting other people balance my strengths and weaknesses for me. In all honesty, it left me feeling defeated at times, until I gained the understanding I needed.
We all hear it to some degree...you think too much, feel too much, too motivated, too laid back, not enough of this, or not enough of that. Just fill in the blank. Perhaps those things that are intricately unique to you are your best giftings to this world.
As a culture, I firmly believe we don’t spend enough time celebrating the strengths and giftings of those around us. We don’t speak life into people nearly enough. We don’t look at people and appreciate how they are different from us, instead we set expectations that everyone (to some degree, whether conscious or subconscious) should think and act like ourselves. And when they don’t, the words we use can break others.
A few weeks ago I was part of a intellectual conversation about this...one that created a paradigm shift for me. This individual introduced me to Clifton Strengthsfinder. Maybe you have heard of it, I know it is used a lot in corporate and business settings but it is profoundly beneficial in all areas of life. He told me a fascinating story… during the 1950’s there was a study done using 6,000 students. These students were given a speed reading test with no prior teaching. They took the data for comparison, taught these students how to speed read, then tested them again...the results were fascinating! For the students that were not naturally good at speed reading...their results went up minimal BUT for the few students that naturally read around 300 words per minute, after they were taught skills on how to speed read, their results went up to almost 2,900 words per minute. The greatest gains in human development are based on investment in what people do naturally...areas or talent, strengths, gifts.
I thought about this study for a long time. It puzzled me and went against every notion I have worked towards...my mindset has always been focus on the weakness. Fix it and you will grow but in reality, when we identify our natural, God given strengths and invest in maturing them and using them, we grow exponentially. We are then in the best place for God to use us as He created. We have the ability for true success and accomplishment.
It’s beautiful and freeing.
I loved this quote from the StrengthsFinder page:
“All people have a unique combination of talents, knowledge, and skills -- strengths -- that they use in their daily lives to do their work, achieve their goals, and interact with others. Gallup has found that when people understand and apply their strengths, the effect on their lives and work is transformational. People who use their strengths every day are six times more likely to be engaged in their work and three times more likely to say they have an excellent quality of life.”
After I took the test I was a little surprised to see certain items show up as my strengths. I actually had to wrestle through the majority of my top strengths. I will explain why in a moment…
When Gallup was doing all of this research all of the strengths were narrowed down to 34 strengths, and from there are four main domains in which these strengths fit under:
and Strategic Thinking.
When you get your results back, the focus is typically on the top 5. People can have a a few strengths from each domain, it varies for most people...except me. Mine was extremely heavy on the Strategic Thinking!
This is the part that stumped me...I had come to view my intense thinking as a weakness. I have been told over and over that I was too intense, too deep, too complex, think too much, it is something that always hurt me because I felt that this is how I was created. I saw it as my greatest weakness, the more I tried to suppress these things the more it burdened me. I had no idea that within this domain of thinking holds my greatest gift to the people and world around me. And more than that, this is how the Lord of All creation designed me.
I have been passionate about sharing this with people because it offers a level of freedom and grace within relationships and connections. I love that these are used in a corporate setting, I hope that more and more people will invest into this test for their own personal growth. It offers such a grace and appreciation to look at someone and say, I see that this is what you are gifted in, I may not be gifted the same, but I can appreciate your gift and praise your gift.
It gives an opportunity to speak life into others.