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Have You Unwrapped Your Gifts?
My fascination with strengths started when I heard an interesting talk a few years ago. I have forgotten much of what the speaker said that day, but one thing they said still rings in my ears is: “Strengths are individually wrapped gifts that the creator of the universe gives to each person the day they’re born. The tragedy is that many of us don’t open our gifts.”
That really resonated with me and motivated me - I wanted to unwrap my gifts! And that started me on a treasure hunt for my unique strengths. Back then, I’d never heard of Strengths-Finders and I didn't know how to figure out what my strengths actually were. So I thought about what I wanted to be good at - I kind of “cherry picked” my gifts. (Have you ever done that, or am I the only one?!)
Here’s what happens to a lot of us: we want to be great at something that isn’t really natural to us, so instead of developing our natural strengths, we try to open someone else’s gift! As a result, we end up spending time working on our weaknesses, trying to turn them into strengths. I found that whole process stressful, exhausting, and discouraging.
We’re Born Extraordinary but Spend Our Lives Becoming Ordinary
I hate to think of all the time I’ve wasted fixing my weakness. One of the first things I heard John Maxwell say was, ”If you spend significant time working on your weaknesses instead of developing your strengths, if you work really hard, you might claw your way all the way to mediocrity! But you'll never get beyond it.”
That sounds like a lot of effort for very little return. I didn’t want to be average! Since my strengths are what could make me extraordinary, I decided to shift my focus from fixing my weaknesses, to discovering and developing my strengths.
Content With Average
Unfortunately, a lot of women I talk to don’t think they have talents, or they think that it’s selfish to spend time developing their strengths. They have grown content with being average. Scripture says that God made each of us special. He doesn’t have favorites and he didn't forget anyone when He was handing out strengths. Spending time learning how to stay in our strength zone is required if we want to reach our potential. It's not selfish, it’s what God expects from us.
Parable of the Talents
In Matthew chapter 5, we read about a wealthy master who trusted three of his servants with his wealth while he was gone on a trip. To one servant he gave one talent, to the second he gave two talents and to the third he gave five talents! I love this analogy, because the word ‘talent’ in scripture was a large sum of money. One talent was about a million dollars in today's currency.
I think this parable has some great lessons for us!
First, finding and using our talents can be a lot of work! The servants had to figure out what to do, find a way to invest their master’s money and get him results.
Second, God doesn't give us each the same talents. We are given the talents He wants us to have and we’re expected to use them to create results.
Well, if you know the story, the second and third servants doubled their master’s income and they received a “Well done good and faithful servant.” As a result, the master gave them even more responsibility, more talents, and more opportunities for success. But the first servant took his one talent, -and lets not feel sorry for him because that was about a million dollars - and he hid it. The master was not happy - he fired the servant!
If we want to reach our potential and hear “Well done good and faithful servant” we need to maximize our strengths. We need to be like the servants who worked at getting the most out of their talents.
Your Talents: Who You Are, Not What You Do
Scripture says that we’re supposed to shine brighter and brighter each day. Our strengths should be multiplying, not diminishing. As women of faith, we each have a call on our life and it just makes sense that God has fully equipped us to run our race. All we have to do is discover and develop our strengths. Then we will begin to see that our success isn’t tied to what we do, but who we are in Him.
Businesses have begun to realize the importance of focussing on the strengths of their employees. One interesting study conducted by the Leadership Institute found that the quickest way to decrease performance and productivity within a company was to focus on employees’ weaknesses. They studied over 20,000 employees in over 30 different countries and found when they began focusing on their peoples' strengths, their productivity and performance soared by 36.4%. But when they tried to fix their employees weaknesses, job performance went down by 26.8 %.
Why Do We Try To Fix Our Weaknesses?
That’s the $60,000 question. I think we try to fix our weaknesses to protect ourselves, to blend in, to not be embarrassed by being wrong or different.
If you think about it, as children, we learn to stand in line, color in the lines, and not to call attention to ourselves, because showing off is bad. So we get good at becoming average. In a way, we learn how to hide. I don’t know about you, but I remember the day I began to hide - to make sure I didn't stand out.
The Day I Began to Hide
I was in fifth grade and Mrs. Latham called me to the board to work out a math problem, right after our class genius, had worked out a really hard problem in front of the class. I stood at the board. I turned red. My mind went blank. I was mortified when my teacher finally said, “Jeane, since you don’t seem to know simple math, please take your seat.” That was the moment I started to hide. I made a secret promise to myself to avoid ever going to the board again if at all humanly possible! I lived in fear of the blackboard for the rest of my academic career! So instead of trying to learn, I tried to be right - which, as we all know, is the death of learning.
Can you recall a moment when you went into hiding: when you decided it was safer to fit in than stand out. Maybe it was when you didn't get invited to the party, or didn't make the cheerleading team, or when someone laughed at you. You decided it was better to be unnoticed than unaccepted. So you began to hide, to become average.
Of course, we all care about what others think of us. But what could we have accomplished, if we had spent our time becoming more of who we were instead of hiding or trying to be like someone else! Many of us have hidden ourselves and our uniqueness, for so long that we’re not really sure who we are or what we think. We’ve been caring what other people think for way too long.
Re-Learn How to Stand Out
The crazy thing, is that when we get to be adults, we have to learn how to stand out again if we want to make our mark on the world and have any measure of success. People don’t pay of average. They pay for what’s different, what’s fascinating!
Think of any brand name or commercial. They intrigue us with what makes their product special - how it's different than any one else’s. Whether it’s the un-cola, or the mini-cooper, or the toothpaste you use - advertisers know that what makes you buy a product, what makes you turn loose of your cash, isn't based on how their product is like another one, it’s how it’s different. The same is true for people. Our results are linked to recognizing our unique strengths and gifts - how we’re different.
Where To Begin
The first place to look for our strengths is our spiritual gifts’ inventory.
1 Corinthians 12 talks about our gifts and how we must understand them and get good at using them. Everyone needs us to use our gifts so they can use theirs. Discovering our strengths isn't selfish - it’s a command!
If you’ve never taken a spiritual gifts’ assessment, I would encourage you to take one. There are several online tools and most churches have their own classes or assessments that help you identify and begin using your spiritual gifts.
For many years I thought I had a certain spiritual gift, but it wasn’t until I began digging deeper into strengths that I found out why my spiritual gift didn't seem to really fit me. I didn't really understand myself or my spiritual gifting until I understood my personality type.
We’re 99.9% alike
Here’s the thing, humans are all very similar Basically we share 99.9 % of the same traits - the same DNA. That means that there’s only 1/10th of one percent difference between us. But it’s in that tiny difference, that 1/10th of one %, where we find our uniqueness! That difference is our personality. When you understand your personality, you can stop competing with other people, comparing yourself to other people, and stop borrowing their personality style to lead - because there’s absolutely nothing better than your personality style!
God’s Designer Label
Personality is the most unique thing about us and our strengths are hidden there. Personality is God given, so I like to think of our personality as God’s designer label.
Think about our designer. His love for diversity is everywhere. There are over 600 kinds of beetles. (I wonder why we need 600 types of beetles?) And there are no two snowflakes or two finger prints exactly alike. He just seems to delight in differences. And He made each of us to be one-of-a- kind.
Now I know some people who I’m thankful are one of a kind - if you know what I mean. But those people haven’t found out how to use their strengths. Their strengths are out of control, or they’re just using their weaknesses. When we learn what’s strong about us instead of what’s wrong with us, we can begin to adjust our strengths to get the best out of ourselves and get the best out of others. The one thing that no one else has, the one thing that no one else can copy, or steal from you, is your unique personality!
How You Fascinate the World
I like what one author says: ”Our differences are how we fascinate other people.” Everyone woman listening to this podcast is fascinating! We don’t need to change who we are - just become more of who we are!.
Peter Drucker always said that “Strengths are always specific!’ The more specific you get about your strengths, the better the chance you can find your ‘sweet spot.’ Why be on the fringes of your strength zone when you have a chance to be right in the center?
A great way to do that is to take one of the many personality assessments. There are a lot of assessments out there and most of them are helpful. The best one is the one you will actually take and put to use. (Emphasis on PUT TO USE!) Just knowing the labels for yourself won’t change anything for very long. Once you identify you personality strengths, You’ll need to find a way to start using them everyday.
D-I-S-Cover Your Strengths
When people ask me which assessment to take, I tell them DISC because it is so easy to understand and use and it also helps you understand the personality styles of the other people around you. We all have patterns of behavior and when we understand ourself better- when we begin to see our pattern of behavior, it follows that we’ll be able to to see other people’s patterns of behavior. When we can understand the pattern, we can understand the person- even those people who are very different than us. And many times, some of those people share our gene pool! We love them but sometimes we just don’t understand them. Click here to learn more about the DISC Assessment.
Benefits of Understanding
When you understand your personality, It’s like being introduced to yourself for the first time. We think understanding your personality is so critical, that in our company, we don’t coach or train anyone until they’ve taken D.I.S.C. or a similar assessment. Once we understand their personality, often we know more about them than they know about themselves. When we see their unique personality blend, we know how to best communicate with them, we know what motivates them, and how they make decisions. We can even predict what stresses them, and what energizes them. It helps us empower them to achieve success with a lot more ease: but most importantly, it helps them begin to understand themselves and their pattern of behavior.
You Can Wrestle or Dance
I like to borrow a visual that my daughter Megan always uses because she loves to dance. She says that when you learn how to truly unleash your personality on the world, when you stop trying to get better and simply become the very best you, then you can begin to dance instead of wrestle your way through life!
Wrestling and dancing both involve a lot of focus, a lot of exertion, and a lot of interaction. But at the end of a wrestling match, there’s a winner and a loser; at the end of a dance, there are equal partners. Wrestlers resist and push against each other; dancers have this constant give-and-take that looks like magic. Wrestlers end up sweaty and bruised; dancers end up flushed with happiness and health.
It’s up to every one of us to decide if we’ll wrestle or dance our way through life. I hope each woman listening today, chooses to dance - to find out what makes them different and then unleash it on the world.
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