Seeing the World Through the Lens of Personality

One year, during our week of inservice and team-building before the school year started, we had an expert on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator give us a test and help us learn to work with people of differing temperaments. Great in theory, but in practice it was the most stressful day for me. I felt boxed in and unheard. My strengths felt diminished and each type was presented in an extreme scenario, making me feel that I didn’t fit anywhere. From that day, I’ve always been squeamish about the MBTI.

20480007_10155076767049825_9027085380737922879_nI love taking those silly personality tests, though and am always interested to see which vacation I should go on or which literary character I’m most like. I connect with StrengthsFinder and the Love Languages and find those types invaluable in my relationships. But I wouldn’t call myself a personality junkie – I’ve stayed firmly away from Myers-Briggs and the Enneagram sounded a little too woo-woo for me.

Until…. I read Anne Bogel’s Reading People: How Seeing the World Through the Lens of Personality Changes Everything. Anne is a well-read personality junkie but she doesn’t espouse one particular type over any others. She highlights the significance of each and the ways that each personality framework can help in different areas of our lives. In Anne’s signature gentle manner, she dismantles each framework into easily understandable language and uses.

Part memoir, part how-to, Reading People reminded me of the importance of knowing myself. Because Anne so brilliantly breaks down each framework, she made it easy for me to “type” myself without the need for an online test. Some frameworks need the tests (think StrengthsFinder) but most can be done by gut instinct and reading. Because of Anne’s descriptions, I was able to come to a better understanding of my Myers-Briggs type and found the descriptors accurate and freeing.

Anne gave me permission to throw out those semi-accurate tests and really delve into personality on my own. This helped me understand the various typings so much more than if I had blindly let the results define me. Over and over, Anne reminds her reader that personality tests are not meant to box people into stereotypes that don’t fit. They’re meant to open up the world and help us see ourselves and those around us more clearly.

If you are a personality framework fan or if you have always wanted to explore these tests more but just didn’t know where to begin, I’d highly recommend Reading People!

20622024_10155076767089825_5788559411035682335_nFor Fun… Anne created a Reading Personality Quiz, linking readings styles to personality frameworks. I took it twice (of course) and got Explorer and English Professor, which are both accurate.

Reading People releases on September 19! If you preorder a copy before then, send your receipt to ReadingPeopleBook.com for a free download of the audio version and access to Anne’s Reading Personality Class, which explores the types from her personality quiz in more depth.

Do you like personality frameworks? What’s your favorite or the one you’ve most connected with? Did you take the Reading Personality Quiz – what were your results?

As a member of the Reading People launch team, I received an advance copy of the book from the publisher. All views are my own.

The Habit of Forming Habits

This fall has been filled with 30-day challenges. From our Whole30 cleanse to setting an alarm at 9:00 each night for bedtime to this Write 31 Days challenge, I’m liking the benefits of these short-term, habit changers.

livinSetting a goal and sticking to it these days is a challenge in itself. There were many days this past month I wasn’t sure I’d have the time or patience or energy to write. I tried to keep about two days ahead in my posts, knowing that life would get in the way. Even with this buffer, half of the challenge happened during the tax extension deadline, leaving me alone with the girls a lot more. Add a week-long trip to visit Frank’s family to the mix, and I was reminded why I always declined to participate in this challenge in the past.

But when is there a perfect time? When am I going to have time every single day for an entire month to write in solitude and when creativity strikes at the right moment? Never. Like any challenge, there is no good time to begin. When we looked at the calendar for the Whole30, we realized that there would always be a reason not to do it – barbecues and holidays and family events happen all the time. So, we picked a start date and went for it.

That’s what I’ve learned most from these challenges – life continues to swirl around us, whether or not we’re committed to being intentional. The choice is creating space for the discipline of writing, of eating better, of going to bed early.

Creating a start and end date is human nature, I think. I’ve read quite a few books in the past few years about taking a set amount of time to live out experiments: 7 by Jen Hatmaker, A Year of Biblical Womanhood by Rachel Held Evans, Loving My Actual Life by Alexandra Kuykendall all take an overarching idea and set aside one-month intervals to complete an experiment. These books are successful because we recognize the need and benefit to setting short-term goals that result in life-changing practices.

Before starting this Write 31 Days challenge, I was in a slump here on the blog. For a couple years, I had faithfully been writing at least twice per week but over the summer, lethargy set in and I had trouble getting ideas pinned down. I’d write on the fly, I got lazy, and cycled back to “taking a break,” even though that break wasn’t intentional. This month of writing and the accountability of announcing that goal reset my creativity. Even though I won’t commit to writing every day, I hope to bring more intention to the days I do write. I want to stick to a schedule, to plan ahead, and to balance fun, intention, and the casual nature of blogging.

As for taking a month to really look at my strengths, I would highly recommend this. Whether or not you’re in the StrengthsFinder camp, take some time with your favorite personality test. Write out real-life stories of how you see these attributes at work in your own life. This month was a rediscovery into how I best function as a human being, and I’m glad I took the time to really delve into that. It’s been a good awareness reminder of all that I can offer to my communities.

One of my goals in November is to map out 2017 with habits and goals for myself. What are things I’d like to do better? (Laura Tremaine did this a few years ago. I may need to reread her series for inspiration.) You can pretty much do anything for 30 days and I’d like to start living a life of intention, of self-improvement, and of always-learning. Maybe creating life-giving habits is the habit I need to form most.

What are some habits you’d like to form? What are your thoughts on short-term goals?

Thank you for joining me on this month of self-discovery! I’ve so appreciated your comments,  engagement, and encouragement!

livin

This post is Day 31 of the Write 31 Day Challenge. I’m spending the month of October writing about the StrengthsFinder test. You can find the entire series over at Live Your Strengths page.

Finding Sustainable Practices

We just got back from a week visiting family in Philadelphia. We took an early flight, waking the girls up before dawn, not getting coffee until the plane had taken off. But, the payoff is getting home before noon, getting a load of laundry started while the girls take a pre-lunch, post-plane bath. It means taking naps and quickly getting back into a normal routine.

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Children’s garden at Longwood

Our annual trip to the east coast is falling into a rhythm. We always visit Longwood Gardens, an incredible estate filled with winding paths, tree houses, a conservatory right out of the pages of Miss Rumphius, and an enchanting children’s garden. We always spend at least a little time at Linvilla Orchards, playing and eating apple doughnuts. We take a family trip into Philadelphia, seeing the sights and instilling the exposure to history in the girls. This year, we visited the Betsy Ross House, something Bea had been talking about since our last (disappointing) visit to the Liberty Bell.

We spend time playing with cousins, baking with MomMom, and exploring the forest. Bedtimes are stretched and naps are taken in the car. Sweets are eaten more than normal and special treats are the norm.

In so many ways, our regular routine is thrown out the window. But, it’s been neat seeing the routines that are established, even if the visit only happens once a year. It’s amazing what Bea remembers from past visits and what she expects from each one. The magical thing about cousins is that it’s pretty easy to pick up right where the relationship left off.

Parenting in a different home, in a different city, on a different schedule looks well, different, too. A lot of the burden is lifted, as Frank and I are together the whole week. Aunts help manage emotions and redirection is better received when it’s from a fresh adult. Because we’re out of our element, behavior is often not even an issue. Bea is too busy having fun with her cousins.

In a lot of ways, this month of delving into StrengthsFinder has reminded me of parenting on vacation. I’ve had to put what I know about myself to the test, in uncharted territory. Opening up, examining my personality in such a public way, has made me more reflective of what I do in my daily routine. What works, what needs improving?

Now that this challenge is almost over and life can go back to “normal,” I’m wondering what my take-aways will be. How will I transfer all I’ve learned this month into a daily practice? That’s always the key, isn’t it? Taking what we’ve learned, testing it out in the real world, and then tweaking it for the long haul.

How do you take what you’ve learned and turn it into a sustainable practice?

livin

This post is Day 30 of the Write 31 Day Challenge. I’m spending the month of October writing about the StrengthsFinder test. You can find the entire series over at Live Your Strengths page.

Surrounded By Weaknesses

I hate spreadsheets. I don’t know how to set one up and only use them for glorified graph paper. Frank adores them – his eyes shine when he gets to create a multi-page budget and anticipate needs in the future. It causes me vast amounts of stress and it is something where his creativity shines.

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Setting up Crafternoon, because I’m good at hosting, not crafting

I have a friend who is an amazing crafter. Her self-care comes in the form of making beautiful things. Her house is beautifully decorated and her gallery wall of pictures is evenly spaced and Pinterest-worthy. My gallery wall is a bunch of frames I found at the ARC, hung haphazardly on the way down the stairs. My thought is that we would never have family photos on the wall if I waited for it to be perfect. My friend is gifted at creating beautiful spaces – ones in which people feel welcome, in which the small details are so perfect that no one even notices them.

I have another friend whose house is always messy but who is so generous in her time and space. She invites kids over, gives moms a break, and is always ready to lend a hand. Because her home isn’t perfect, it’s easy to say yes to her generosity because I know I’m not putting extra stress on her when we drop in.

One of the ideas of StrengthsFinder that I love is that we need to surround ourselves with people who compliment our strengths. Rather than working on my weaknesses and doing a bad job, I’m going to find people who love doing what I’m just not great at. Recognizing the strengths in others allows me to contribute my best rather than my mediocre.

It’s not that I’ll never have to do something I’m not good at or that I’ll never need to stretch myself beyond these top five strengths. It just means that, if it makes sense to ask someone else to help me, I should.

Isn’t that what community is all about? Being comfortable asking for help? If we were all good at everything or if we were so focused on trying to get better at things we aren’t good at, we wouldn’t have the time or energy to offer others our gifts. It’s hard to believe that my friends would want what I’m good at, but it’s true. When I take the time to cultivate my strengths, I’m in a place to offer my best to those around me.

It takes a certain level of vulnerability to be confident in our own strengths – to recognize that we are really good at certain things. It also takes a certain trust in asking for help. The older I get, the more I realize I need the help of others. Things turn out better when I let others help me. And, that’s how deep community is created.

When I allow my friends to care for me and to use their strengths to help, we all grow and benefit.

Do you ask others to help? How do you celebrate the strengths in your friends?

livin

This post is Day 29 of the Write 31 Day Challenge. I’m spending the month of October writing about the StrengthsFinder test. You can find the entire series over at Live Your Strengths page.

Cultivating What Comes Naturally

Bea is known for her daredevil bike stunts in our cul-de-sac. She recently took off her training wheels and a whole new world has opened. She rides fast, jumps the curbs, and is constantly off-roading. I think an appropriate stocking stuffer will be a nice patch kit.

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Riding to the park

My dad comes over to help her repair her thorny tires and she’s right next to him, finding the puncture, patching it up, learning how to care for her bike. One day, when a wheel was off, Bea spun the back tire and said, If I just lift up, I probably would only need one wheel anyway….

Our neighbor’s nanny loves her fearless spirit and when he heard this statement, he laughed in an Of course Bea’s figuring out how to pop wheelies sort of way.

As my dad cleaned up after the repair, he talked with the nanny about his love of bikes and fixing them – he remembers his first bike, when he was just a bit older than Bea. How his dream is to have space to just clean up and tinker with a variety of bikes.

A few days later, we were watching the kids ride and Jake mentioned this conversation with my dad. We were talking about Bea’s skill and how it wasn’t the average four-year-old biking level. He wondered if it was partly just who Bea is but also partly my dad’s love of biking. Would she be as enthusiastic, as fearless, if a love of bikes wasn’t modeled?

StrengthsFinder talks about this whole nature vs nurture idea, or as they label it: talents and skills. In their language,

Talents are naturally recurring patterns of thought, feeling, or behavior that can be productively applied. Talents, knowledge, and skills — along with the time spent (i.e., investment) practicing, developing your skills, and building your knowledge base — combine to create your strengths. strengths.gallup.com

It’s not that we’re just born with these strengths and then, without any investment or time nurturing these skills, we’re just amazing at these particular areas.

Connectedness, Context, Learner may all be innate strengths for me but if I don’t spend the time cultivating these areas – reading books, surrounding myself with people of different views, taking time to know the world around me – these strengths would just stagnate.

If I’m not intentional, I can’t use my strengths as powerfully. Again, they would be part of how I process the world, but perhaps not as powerful as if I’m aware of how to best use them.

I think that’s what I love most about personality tests (and this goes for whichever one you most connect with). When we know ourselves deeper and understand the why behind how we function, I think we are able to make better decision and are able to better interact with those around us.

Just like we had to buy a bicycle for Bea and teach her how to ride it, we need to intentionally use our strengths to grow them. But, in the end, that fearlessness is innate – it just takes someone showing you how to pedal.

What’s your favorite personality test? How do you spend time cultivating your natural strengths?

livin

This post is Day 28 of the Write 31 Day Challenge. I’m spending the month of October writing about the StrengthsFinder test. You can find the entire series over at Live Your Strengths page.

Read Your Strengths: Books that Reflect Context

Whenever I am frustrated by politics or policies or when I feel like the general population’s opinion about something is a bit off, I turn to books. I love finding the answers and delving a bit deeper. Of course, the books I choose reflect my own political leanings and ideas because, unless it’s a heavy scholarly tome, most books written for the masses have some sort of bias.

People who have the strength of Context also tend to lean toward biography. I’d love to have more time to read biographies, and even set a goal of reading one per year. I like the idea of reading a book about someone written by someone else. Memoir is insightful but biography really helps me understand certain people in history.

These are books that have helped me recently. They may or may not reflect my own views. Some I picked because I wanted to know more about a different point of view.

Reagan: The Life by H.W. Brands
Nostalgia for Ronald Reagan began about an hour after his death. He seems to have become the battle cry for better times and the good old days. Reagan was already president when I was born so I have no memory of his time in office. This 800 page book delves deeply into Reagan’s presidency and foreign policy. I wish more had been said about his domestic policies, but by the end, I felt I had a better understanding to the man behind the myth.

The Second Amendment: A Biography by Michael Waldman
The older I get the more anti-gun I am. But a lot of people feel vehemently opposed to my views. I wanted to know how we shifted from needing guns for hunting and protection to collecting them, needing assault rifles, and living in an age where it’s easier to own a gun than a car. This book focused on the shift in language and meaning when the National Rifle Association moved from being a hunting club to being one of the most powerful lobbies in Washington, DC.

We the Living by Ayn Rand
This is my one fiction book on this list. Ayn Rand is a polarizing figure – people love or loathe her. I’ve also read Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead so am familiar with her better known pieces. What I most liked about We the Living is its autobiographical nature. Based on Rand’s own experience in the Soviet Union, it gives a glimpse into how her beliefs became so extreme.

Call the Midwife by Jennifer Worth
I fell in love with the BBC series based on this memoir but the books are incredible. Jennifer Worth’s experience as a midwife in postwar London is powerful – things we take for granted in today’s modern medical world were new and scary just sixty years ago. The book in this three part series that most impacted me was Shadows of the Workhouse, about the poor, the mentally ill, and single mothers. It’s hard to believe we treated people in such an abominable way just a short time ago, and is a reminder that we need to be vigilant against repeating these errors.

A History of the World in Six Glasses by Tom Standage
I love “history” books like this – ones where a fun theme is picked and we learn little snippets about our world. This one takes us through the history of modern culture following popular drinks – beer, wine, spirits, coffee, tea, and Coke. It’s a book that has stood out as fun, easy, and taught me a lot about how we view certain beverages as a society and why they’re of greater importance than simply party drinks.

What about you? What are your favorite history books or biographies? Where do you turn when you want to learn about a new perspective?

livin

This post is Day 27 of the Write 31 Day Challenge. I’m spending the month of October writing about the StrengthsFinder test. You can find the entire series over at Live Your Strengths page.

Planning for Spontaneity

When we’re visiting family, it’s a week of cousins, and hard playing, and schedules that aren’t followed. We do really fun things and a lot of car naps and later bedtimes. Usually, sometime in our visit, we need a quiet day. One to rest and just chill. It keeps the girls going strong for all the fun, but they do reach a limit.

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At the beach during naptime

Because of our at-home structure, these weeks seem a bit chaotic. But because of our at-home structure, I’m also surprised at how adaptable the girls are to a whirlwind schedule. They adjust and go with the flow and I know that, even though we may have a few more meltdowns than usual, a week of short naps and later bedtimes is worth the beautiful memories being made with family we don’t see often enough.

According to StrengthsFinder, people who have the strength of Context make better decisions because of their daily structure. They organize their lives in such a way that, when a decision needs to be made, it’s not too difficult a process.

Even though our daily life is quiet and structured, it reminds me a bit of this strength of Context. When we can live within a routine and structure, we do. It makes those moments when we need to be flexible and free possible.

Frank and I are both pretty thoughtful and methodical when it comes to family decisions. We have spreadsheets (when I say we, I of course mean Frank) and goals. We talk a lot about our budget and how we’ll wisely spend our money. Because of all this planning and sorting, we are able to make spontaneous decisions with our time and resources, as well. Because unexpected things occasionally arise and because we’re in good communication about expected events, we’re able to make quick decisions when we need to.

Sometimes I feel boring, being so rigid. I envy people who seem to live life on the fly, not thinking too much about both big and small decisions. They seem so free! And, certainly, when they are living within their own strengths, that works incredibly well.

What I’m learning is that, because my strengths include thoughtful planning, I can be free because of the planning. I am more relaxed and have more fun when the rest of my life is structured. When my foundation is solid, I am more confident to be flexible.

When I first read about Context, I felt like such a dud. I wanted something happier, prettier, more fun. As I learn to embrace my strengths, I’m seeing that happiness and fun are attainable, but the details look different. And that’s the beauty, isn’t it? That we all experience the fun and crazy of life, but we all structure it in different ways.

How do you best experience fun and spontaneity – when you have a plan for the rest of your days or because that’s how you best function?

livin

This post is Day 26 of the Write 31 Day Challenge. I’m spending the month of October writing about the StrengthsFinder test. You can find the entire series over at Live Your Strengths page.