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Tuesday, August 25, 2009


The truth about our strengths is that we don't always know what they are. Dr. Chip Anderson dedicated his life to helping people discover and maximize their strengths through an aptitude test called Gallup Strength Finders. He writes that when people have a particular strength they are able to do what that strength enables them to do with great ease. Often times, we assume that others are capable of doing what we do. And so Chip writes that we "don't think that there is anything special about [us] or that [we] have any particular strength or talent."

I'm lucky enough to be a part of a community that gave me a language for my strengths at a pivatol time in my life. Consider the point in time when I took the Strength Finders test:

I was twenty-six, on a marriage retreat with my husband, and working at a film financing firm in Beverly Hills as an executive assistant. I went to work everyday butchering myself over to-do lists, filing systems, travel logistics, and calendar items. I had just left a job as a secretary at a church and landed my first position in the film industry, so I was extatic and determined to MAKE THIS THING WORK! If I over looked certain details on my boss's travel itenerary, I would just work harder the next day to master this slippery job which seemed always to be out of my competency.

I remember going to Mosaic and hearing one of the navigators say, "Strength Finders will change your life." I laughed. I thought, "Seriously, you shouldn't say those sort of generalities from a platform."

But after a weekend away with Dwayne, having learned his strengths, then my strengths, and how they worked together, I woke up to a crushing realiztion.

"I have to find a new job," I told Dwayne in the car ride home. I realized after that weekend, that I would never be more than mediocre as an executive assistant, because it played to all my weaknesses. And furthermore, my particular set of strengths had no value in that type of work environment.

Here's what I brought to the table - my strengths in order:

I won't bore you with the details of what exactly each of these terms mean, but let's just say that Gallup encourages someone with these particular strengths to pursue teaching and/or writing - not secretarial work.

So thanks to Mosaic and Gallup, I have been given a language to identify the particular strengths I bring to my marriage, to my workplace, but a new arena has opened up for me in these last two years where I'm struggling to see just exactly how my strengths manifest - motherhood.

I was thinking about this today as I drove home from a weekly playdate with a new mom friend. I am surrounded my mom friends who blow me away. It's easy for me to see how each of my mom friends excells as a mother and to see her own particular strengths manifest in motherhood.

Take for example my mom friend from Albania. Before she had three children under three, she studied as a lawyer and as you can imagine has an incredible mind.

And so her particular strength as a mother manifests itself in the way she teaches her children and trains their minds. Everyday she does a school lesson with them, and a Bible lesson. And she thinks critically about every little thing that may influence their minds: music, TV, toys, books.

My other friend in Santa Monica, is a bright source of energy and ideas. Not only does she come up with ingenious ways to stimulate her daughter's growing senses and mind, but she is a people magnet. Women flock to her and she has used this strength to be a resource for other mom's. She started a mom's group that quickly outgrew her living room and thrives to this day, as well as a baby music class, and each week she's trying new and exciting things with her daughter, leading the way for us other mom's to follow.

Her particular strength as a mom is creating networks and resources that help us all to be better mom's.

Another friend, who has been a huge influence on me as a mother has the ability to lead her children. She has always had a plan and stuck to it. She has found one or two books to help guide her as she guides her children, and the fruits of her dedication are evident. I want to say that her kids are well-behaved, and they are, but that's not the essence of what she's done right. Because I don't think having perfect, shiny little cherubs is healthy for the children. Her kids still goof off and get in trouble, but their hearts are open and sensitive. They listen to their parents and they have an absolute sense of security in their parent's authority. There is an intangible victory my friend has won as a mother and is fighting to win everyday. She's fighting for her children's hearts and spirits.

Her particular strength is a practical wisdom about training her children's hearts.

I could go down the list and name the rest of my mom friends, but I point out these three to say that I doubt these mom's see or realize their own strengths. I think their own values and world view are so intrinsic to their being that they don't fully comprehend what particular gift they have to offer to motherhood and their children.

But I see it, and I am hungry to know how my strengths manifest themselves in motherhood. Because it's hard to see your own nose. I choose to believe, despite the anxiety and fear in my heart, that I AM a good mother and that I offer to Noelle a unique gift in myself.

But the practical fall-out of this gift is two-fold:

1) Recognizing and maximizing the strengths I have in the particular arena of motherhood.
2) Not neglecting the lessons I can learn from the other brilliant mom's around me, and allowing their strengths to both enrich my daughter's life and to strengthen me as a mother.


Blogger Erika Hettinger said...

You ARE a brilliant mom, Christin. You put all of your strengths into it (not just your top 5.)

You constantly seek what's best for your family (not just Noelle). You work on what's best for Dwayne, what's best for Christin, What's best for the marriage, what's best financially, what's best as far as jobs go, what's best as far as parenting techniques. You try to find what's best, and if something doesn't work out, you figure out why, and then find something new.

Noelle is lucky to have you as a mom! :)

4:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I too was shocked by the Strength Finder test/book!

I love how you've applied it to motherhood to actually build up and encourage other moms.


12:57 PM  
Blogger Gwen said...

Once in a while I check out your blog connected through our son's "jackatrandom" links. Always enjoy your thoughts and words.

Had to comment on this one. Strengthfinders was the tool that gave definition to my life. The descriptive categories brought new meaning to who I am and a new understanding of why I function the way I do. In fact, my blog title, I've Been Thinking, comes from my strength of intellection, thus the subtitle, My Mental Hum. I have two of your strengths - empathy and connectedness :). Love to write as well. Some time ago wrote a post on strengthfinders.

Oh, and I found it difficult, too, to "play" with my younger children (they are all grown now). It was something I often had to make myself do. But on the other hand, I love to sit and talk and have quality time with my kids, which I still love to do.

Looks like you have a busy season coming up with teaching. Where do you teach?? Love to take your classes.

1:34 AM  
Blogger Christin said...

Thanks Erika and Sarah!

Gwen, I would love to read your post about strengths finders. And I also really appreciated your comment that you found it difficult to "play" with your children when they were little, but that you came into your strengths as they got older and were able to have meaningful conversations and time with them.

I look forward to doing the same with my kids! It's great to be reminded that that phase of parenthood also exists. Thank you!


7:56 PM  

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