As we found out in Lesson 6 of this self-care series, we all have our primary strengths and it feels so good to work from them. Rather than jumping on the hamster wheel and spending a lifetime trying to improve our weaknesses, working from our strengths benefits everyone. Sometimes though, our strengths can work against each other. For example, I shared my top five strengths from the Gallup Organization’s Strengthsfinder assessment. In order from number one through number five, they are: Restorative (Problem Solver), Intellection, Strategic, Empathy and Activator. I completely agree with the assessment, and it pointed out to me why I sometimes get majorly stuck in situations where four of my strengths are going full-speed, but I don’t seem to be moving forward with my brilliant solutions. News flash: My Empathy is holding me back. Leaving the present moment, I’m in the near-future, feeling the outcome of the situation through other people’s hearts.
I can not tell you how much this has affected my professional life. There haven’t been catastrophic results because of this conflict, thank goodness, but there have been bumps in the road. In fact, the one time I was fired as an adult was directly related to this conflict. Thankfully, even when it happened, I had the strength to realize the job was simply not a good fit in terms of the personalities I had to work with on a daily basis. I felt strongly about my work ethic and my specific courses of action that led to my dismissal. Sadly, it was my dream job that had effortlessly fallen into my lap — I was managing a great fashion brand’s design room, naming colors and acting as a liaison between the creative team and the manufacturing team. In retrospect, it didn’t require any of my strategic or restorative skills as much as I tried to push them onto both teams. While I still feel the department would benefit from my skills, I couldn’t see the big picture — that my skills disrupted an already working system. My empathy for the limitations of the manufacturing team trumped my duty to the design team and I insisted on compromises from both sides to reach mutually acceptable solutions.
Because of my short-sightedness, I was taking on responsibilities that the manufacturing and creative team should have solved on their own. I should have simply reported the facts to both teams and been a conduit in this particular situation. Had I know my strengths intimately at the time, I would have turned down my Empathy and Intellection strengths because there was no positive result of me feeling a natural conflict between two teams and my overthinking the situation was not helping at all. I would have boosted my Strategic and Restorative strengths a bit so I could have treated the two teams as puzzle pieces and figured out how I could subtly get them to work better together, instead of being a bulldozer. As for my Activator, it would have remained in the middle and been of use a natural result of reframing my Strategic and Restorative strengths.
Since then, I’ve read a ton of brain books and developed a remarkably effective tool that provides my brain with a tactile experience that tricks it into thinking I’m actually controlling it — which, in fact, I am! Click through for another 10-minute exercise that will allow you to do the same thing. Bonus: You’ll get to see my “unit” I use every single day. It will probably make you giggle, which is always a good thing. –Caitlin
*If you haven’t taken a strengths assessment that we recommended in last week’s exercise, DO THIS exercise anyway. It will get you on the right path and will let you take control of anything you want to adjust in your life, including things we’ve discussed in this series like Patience and Practice.
Please join us and our collaborator, Aveda, each Tuesday at 1 pm for some self-exploration + exercises to build good habits and instill positive self-care into your everyday routine. We couldn’t be more thrilled to work on this content side-by-side with a company that shares our values and has such a thoughtful approach to self-care and beauty.
For this exercise, all you’ll need is:
- Empty egg carton
- Paint or markers
You’ll be creating a “dashboard” of your strengths, complete with a RESET button, so you can adjust your strengths as necessary. You’ll place this on your desk or in your workspace and when you get stuck during the day, hit RESET or turn up or down your strengths as you see fit. It may seem strange at first, but you’ll come to know what you need more and more each day!
- Cut your egg carton in half length-wise. You’ll be using the side where the eggs are stored as your “buttons.”
2. Cut your pocketed egg carton in half so you have 6 raised “buttons.”
3. Flip the carton piece over and trim the high points of the carton so the dashboard can sit flat on your desk or surface.
4. Paint or color the “buttons” on your dashboard. I picked colors that I feel relate to each of my strengths. You can write each strength, or the first letter of each strength on the buttons if you’re just beginning this practice. It helps you remember your strengths until you know them by heart.
5. Feel free to use the RESET button a lot when you first start. You can fake twist or push these buttons. Find the tactile method that feels most comfortable to you. It will take about a week for your brain to get in line and remember what you’re turning up or down. Enjoy adjusting your strengths at will!