Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Joel. Michawn. {Part 26 - Who We Are, 2}

In the last post, I went more in-depth into what is called the Energy Profiling System by a lady named Carol Tuttle.  Her system, which she talks about a LOT on her blog, and in her book have helped Joel and me a ton.  We highly recommend all of that material. 

But today I'm going to talk about another helpful tool that we were introduced to by our friends, the couple who were actually the first (and only) people we met with who actually went after root issues...and therefore helped us greatly...even to the point of Joel moving back in after 3 1/2 months of living apart. 

The tool I'm talking about today is a book called Strengths Finder.  According to the front of the book, it's sold over 4 million copies and is the #1 Wall Street Journal Bestseller...so it's hardly a secret tool. It's used by many businesses in order to fully utilize the strengths of their employees.  Our friends' church sells it at their bookstore and everyone in leadership at that church is required to use this tool...again, in order to understand each other and work together best, fully being aware of others' strengths...where one might lack in a certain strength someone else who is stronger in that area can take over.  It's all very logical, is it not?

This book is very practical in its approach...very short, easy to read, and to the point.  The goal of this book, this tool, which is 'the culmination of more than 50 years of Dr. Clifton's work (Dr. Donald O. Clifton, Ph.D....the father of Strengths-Based Psychology)' is to simply identify your strengths.  Because, the old adage that states that "You can be anything you want to be, if you just try hard enough" isn't actually true, is it?  No matter how much I tried or wanted it as a child (had I actually tried or wanted to), my natural talents and even physicality were never going to be what it took to become the next Mary Lou Retton.  It wasn't a matter of determination, self-discipline, or desire.  So therefore, no...you can't be anything you want to be.  Truly. 

But, as this book states, you can be a lot more of who you already are

So...who are you already?

What are your strengths?  How did God hard-wire you? 

While we've always been the types to just roll with the flow...'why people gotta put us in a box?'...'don't label me,' etc., I think the last 3 years have proven to us, and to many of you too maybe, that finding out more about yourself is more of a pro than a con.  When you know more about yourself, it doesn't mean that you have to be labeled to a T...it just provides a light in.  It's still scary to me...the risk of being labeled for all eternity.  Or, being labeled in a wrong way just because I have certain tendencies (example, labeled as a harsh person just because I am a Type 4...because I'm not a harsh person).  But...I think that our story, and what I wrote in the last post, gives great arguments for knowing ourselves, and knowing our loved ones, better.

The Strengths Finder book breaks it all down into 34 basic strengths that each of us have to a certain degree.  So, you buy the book which includes a code, you use the code online to be able to take the quiz, and then you are provided with a list of your top 5 strengths.  If you want to see how all of your strengths rank (all 34), you can get those for a little extra moolah.  Because of our last 3 years, I was like, 'um, yes...I want to know all I can in order to prevent this from ever. happening. again!'  lol.  KnowhutImean, Vern? 

So, I got all the information I could about me and the Mr.  And it was really very revealing and helpful.  And interesting. (Read all the way to the end in order to see how this information fits together and how it all played out in our lives in the past 3 years)

Some of the terms used for the listed strengths are self-explanatory.  For those that aren't, I'll try to explain. 

They say that opposites attract.  While there are some things about Joel and me that are definitely pretty opposite, we've always said we're, in general, more similar than opposite.  If there were a line marking two extremes, one on each end...if you were graphing Joel and me along that line, we would both fall somewhere in the middle. 

I think that was confirmed when we saw that 6 of our top 10 strengths are the same.  And 2 of our top 5 are the same. 

We both got Includer as #2.  We both want to include people and make them feel a part of our group.  :) 

The other one that we both got as part of our top 5 was Adaptability.  I mean, does that not just make perfect sense?  That is the reason why I was able to not only survive, but thrive, for so long with that gypsy lifestyle.  Joel got it as his #3.  I got it as my #4. 

I'll list out our top 10s here.  You can see if you think you might have any of these strengths.

1.  Connectedness - see?...I had forgotten it was my #1 on here, but I did say in the last post that it was super important to me, remember?  This is the idea that we are all connected.  From the book: We are all part of a larger picture.  We must not harm others because in doing so we will harm ourselves.  In exploiting others, we are exploiting ourselves.  Certain of the unity of humankind, you are a bridge builder for people of different cultures and beliefs.  Your faith is strong and it sustains you.
2.  Includer
3.  Woo - From the book:  You enjoy the challenge of meeting new people and winning them over.  Strangers rarely intimidate you...in fact, you are drawn to them.  You want to learn their names, ask them questions, and find some area of common interest so that you can strike up a conversation and build rapport.  In your world there are no strangers, only friends you haven't met yet...lots of them.  I love that last line!  Haha...so great.  So true. 
4.  Adaptability
5.  Belief - Basically, you possess certain core values and beliefs that are very, very strong and enduring...and from those, you make decisions and live your life consistently.  From the book:  This consistency is the foundation for all your relationships.  Your friends call you dependable, saying, "I know where you stand." Your Belief makes you easy to trust. 
6.  Strategic - From the book:  This strength enables you to sort through the clutter and find the best route.  It is not a skill that can be taught.  It is a distinct way of thinking, a special perspectine on the world at large.  This perspective allows you to see patterns where others simply see complexity.  Mindful of these patterns, you play out alternative scenarios, always asking, "What if this happened? O.K., well what if this happened?" This recurring question helps you see around the next corner.  There you can evaluate the potential obstacles.  You cull and make selections until you arrive at the chosen path - your strategy.  Armed with your strategy, you strike forward. 
7.  Positivity - From the book:  You are generous with praise, quick to smile, and always on the lookout for the positive in the situation.  Some call you lighthearted...and your glass always seems to be quite full.  People want to be around you...their world looks better around you because your enthusiasm is contagious.  Spoiler alert:  This is Joel's #1.  You can see how it could be my #7 probably...but for sure Joel's #1, right?  It's a pretty conclusive and accurate little tool, this book/quiz.
8.  Empathy - I even mentioned this specific thing in the last post.   
9.  Learner - From the book:  You love to learn.  The subject matter that interests you most will be determined by your other strengths and experiences, but whatever the subject, you will always be drawn to the process of learning.  The outcome of the learning is less significant than the 'getting there.'  This is interesting to me.  And while I think the overall sentiment is true, I need to tweak it to better fit me.  The truth is that the outcome of learning is the most important part for me.  Without the outcome, I would have no motivation to learn whatever it is I'm learning.  Because I don't just love learning just to learn...it has to have significant meaning and purpose in my life in order for me to learn it.  For instance, all of this stuff that I'm talking about here in these blog posts.  Or, another example, Portuguese.  I never had any desire to learn a different language.  Ever.  But, it was needed in my life.  So I did it.  I think we all know that I research things a lot.  So, I do enjoy learning...as long as I see a practical need for it. 
10. Relator - From the book:  This strength pulls you toward people you already know.  You may have other strengths that cause you to enjoy the thrill of turning strangers into friends too, but you derive a great deal of pleasure and strength from being around your close friends.  You are comfortable with intimacy.  Once the initial connection has been made, you deliberately encourage a deepening of the relationship.  You want to understand their feelings, their goals, their fears, and their dreams; and you want them to understand yours.  For you, a relationship has value only if it is genuine.  It involves risk, but you don't care.  These are your steps toward real friendship, and you take them willingly.

Now Joel's.  As said already, we share 6 of the same strengths in our top 10s.  So, most of these have been described above in my list. 

1.  Positivity
2.  Includer
3.  Adaptability
4.  Harmony - From the book:  You look for areas of agreement.  In your view, there is little to be gained from conflict and friction, so you seek to hold them to a minimum.  When you know that the people around you hold differing views, you try to find the common ground.  You try to steer them away from confrontation and toward harmony. 
5.  Developer - From the book:  You see the potential in others.  Very often, in fact, potential is all you see.  In your view, no individual is fully formed.  On the contrary, each individual is a work in progress, alive with possibilities.
6.  Arranger - From the book:  You are a conductor.  When faced with a complex situation involving many factors, you enjoy managing all of the variables, aligning and realigning them until you are sure you have arranged them in the most productive configuration possible.  You like to try to figure out the best way to get things done.
7.  Individualization - From the book:  This strength leads you to be intrigued by the unique qualities of each person.  You focus on the differences between individuals.  You can draw out the best in each person.  This helps you build productive teams.  You know that the secret to great teams is casting by individual strengths so that everyone can do a lot of what they do well. 
8.  Belief
9.  Empathy
10. Woo

Interesting, yes? 

So, how did these strengths, and what we lack as strengths, contribute to the past 3 years of our lives?

In order to see that, we have to go back to what happened.  A quick summation of that:

--grace for the gypsy lifestyle gradually lifting since 2010
--really, really rough year in Brazil spring 2011-spring 2012
--a DEEP and unmistakable need for rest and recovery once back in the states for summer 2012
--impossible to rest and recover...just the opposite of that actually when thrown into the tornado of not having the basic need of shelter; working frantically and tirelessly may-october 2012 in order to get shelter...living out of suitcases that whole time
--then, after shelter acquired, the need for rest and recovery was constantly denied me by my husband
--so, never any rest and recovery provided;  as a result, the breakdown of our marriage and my health continued to decline

How could that have all been stopped using each of our strengths? 

I think the key is to know when to use each strength...when to use which of your own strengths, and when to bow out and let someone else use their strength.

So, for instance, there are many many times in life when the strength of Harmony that Joel has (Harmony came in #17 for me) comes in handy.  When I would need to step back and let him shine with that strength he has.  Yet, in our particular situation the past 3 years, conflict was just a part of our lives as related to others (and each other sometimes)...conflict of schedules, conflict of beliefs, conflict of personalities and worldviews and cultures.  There were times in which his Arranger strength needed to take over instead of his Harmony.  Yet his Harmony ruled...and was not used within his marriage at all, but with others...which destroyed his marriage.

So, what would that have looked like had other aspects of his strengths taken over?  Instead of trying to please others (because of his disdain for conflict and confrontation and disharmony), he could have/should have used his Arranger skills in order to say, 'O.K....this is a complex situation involving many factors.' Instead of letting his Harmony strength take over and get him out of balance...even going so far as to not taking care of his in-need wife and instead putting others over her, he could have/should have said, 'O.K., my wife is in need.  Even if that is going to cause problems, I will take care of her...and I will arrange our lives in order to do that.  I will tell people the truth that our family needs a break and a time of healing, even if that brings disharmony and we can't meet their expectations.'  He had the strength and gift available to him in order to get that job done...but, one of his other strengths took over...the wrong strength to use in our particular situation. 

And in his Arranger strength (had he been using that), he likes to try to figure out the best way to do things.  Guess who is great to work with in order to help the most in figuring things out!!  Someone who has the strength of sorting through clutter (complex situations) and finding the best route.  The person who can see the big picture.  The person who instead of seeing complexity sees patterns...and can mark out a plan.  The person with the Strategic strength. 

Lucky for Joel, he was married to someone with that strength!!  Strategic is #6 for me.  Where did Strategic fall in the rankings for Joel?  Next to last!!  #33 out of 34.  See where it can come in handy to know not just your top 5 strengths, but how each strength ranks in your life?  Not only is Strategic something that I am better at...Joel practically doesn't have that strength at all.  That's not bad...just different.  But...one really needs to know that so they can step aside and let the one who does have that strength do what they're best at.

But unfortunately, since January 2012, the overall thoughts about me that Joel was having was that I was difficult and controlling.  And he was getting nothing different from his 'counsel'...they were only reinforcing those thoughts.  Therefore, he had just stopped working with me and listening to me and believing me and even seeing any strengths that I might have.  So, even though we had gifts and strengths that could have navigated us through the complex situations (and have many times over the years), those strengths were no longer being acknowledged.  The wrong strengths were being employed...and the right strengths were being benched and ignored and dismissed. 

Because I was being seen as difficult and controlling and manipulative and non-submissive, and because Joel's counsel was only reinforcing this view of me...there is no way I was being looked to for any of my strengths. 

Sad really.  It all could have been handled and taken care of easily if our strengths were actually being used properly and we were working together.  Sadly, that was not allowed. 

With my Type 4-ness along with strengths like Strategic and Learner (tons of research and reflection during the past 3 years...Joel's Learner rank? #27 out of 34)...had I been listened to, none of this would have happened. 

But with the way Joel was viewing me (because of the wrong use of his strengths in this situation...and because of his selfishness, to be blunt)
his view (and his counsel's view) of the role of husband/wife in a marriage (which we'll talk more about later)
= my strengths were benched and ignored. 

We were only working with Joel's strengths.  And with only Joel's wrong strengths being employed, that is a big part of how we ended up where we are. 

Again, it's just so so important to know ourselves.  To know our spouses/loved ones.  To know the best way to work together

So important.  It's a matter of health vs. disease.  It's a matter of life and death for a marriage.

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