Friday, October 8, 2010

Superhero Thinking

 by Niki Turner

Our Friday self-help posts are about various ways to improve our lives. When we're looking for "self-help" we're usually in search of ways to plump up our weak spots, whether it's being a messy housekeeper, the daily "what's for dinner?" crisis, or ways to improve our time management skills. For the most part, we seek help because we're painfully aware of our weaknesses.

What if, for a moment - or a day - or a week - or a year, we focused on our strengths and worked to make them even stronger?

That's the idea behind The Strengths Finder 2.0 by Tom Rath. According to Rath, when we are engaged in using and applying our strengths at work, at home, or even in our hobbies, we're happier, more satisfied, and more productive. Yet, whenever we are confronted with an area of weakness, we focus our time and energy toward trying to bring it up to par. But if you're weak in a particular area, bringing that area up to average requires tremendous effort. And we all know average is, well, average.

So what are your strengths?
Eh... um... well.
Yeah. That's a problem for most of us.

Personality tests, words of affirmation from friends and family, and your own innate awareness of your "strength zones" will clue you in. Don't shy away from genuine compliments, honest critiques, or reviews that highlight your strengths. Stop taking judges' comments from contest entries and committing the negative ones to memory. Instead, start paying attention to the good comments, the ones that highlight your strengths.
Xurble via Flickr
Superheroes (we love 'em) don't focus on their weaknesses. Sure, Superman is aware of his Kryptonite allergy, but he doesn't spend all his time figuring out how to overcome it!

It's a different way to think. It's also a godly way to think.
In fact, focusing on our weaknesses might just give our adversary, the devil, access to our lives.
Consider this: What did the serpent in the garden of Eden say to Eve to deceive her?

"You will not surely die," the serpent said to the woman.
"For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." Gen 3:4-5 NIV
The truth was that Adam and Eve were already created in the image and likeness of God. They were already like God in every way that mattered. The deception was that they were lacking something they needed to succeed, to be happy, to have a better life. Instead of trusting God, trusting that His creation was as good and perfect as He had said, Eve considered the serpent's words and chowed down on that forbidden fruit.

Abraham, in contrast, didn't consider his weaknesses.
He did not weaken in faith when he considered the [utter] impotence of his own body, which was as good as dead because he was about a hundred years old, or [when he considered] the barrenness of Sarah's [deadened] womb.
No unbelief or distrust made him waver (doubtingly question) concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong and was empowered by faith as he gave praise and glory to God,

Fully satisfied and assured that God was able and mighty to keep His word and to do what He had promised. Rom 4:19-21 AMP
The apostle Paul wrote that he delighted in weaknesses in 2 Corinthians 12, because he knew God had him covered. Where he was weak, God was strong.

God made you, designed you, knit you together in your mother's womb. You have God-given  gifts and graces that are individual and original, and which are sufficient for your success in whatever you are called to do. Do you believe it?

Here's your assignment: Make a list of your strengths. Anything from being a great speller to always having your checkbook balanced. Include those intangible characteristics like loyalty, honesty, and teamwork. If you're a great listener, that's a strength. Are you a wealth of information? That's a strength. When your brain goes on a blitz, ask trusted friends and family members.

Now take that list and think of all the places where you can put those strengths to greater use in your life, whether for better quality of life or just for personal pleasure. The more time you spend in your strength zone, the happier and more satisfied you'll be. Why? Because God made you that way!

18 comments:

  1. Great post, Nikki. One I'm guilty of for sure. Maybe we think playing to our strengths, or even admitting we have strengths is akin to pride? I'm not sure, but your post gave me lots to chew on today.

    Thanks!

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  2. Great post, Niki, and it ties into my Sunday devo, though I didn't intend for that to be a shameless promo (though you're all welcome to come back and check it out...)

    I think a lot of us find a way to actually focus on a negative thing about ourselves and actually do it in a sense of pride. Why not choose to focus on the gifts we're given and show thanks for them by using them!

    You're absolutely right that people waste too much time worrying about what they can't do.
    It's hard to make lists of our strengths, so much easier to list our weaknesses. I hope everyone makes that mental switch over today.

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  3. Yep, it is the pride thing. It's as if we think acknowledging anything good about ourselves is prideful, but berating ourselves is somehow godly. In so doing, we forget that God is the one who put those strengths in us.

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  4. Great post Nikki, I personally have had to slow down and gain some perspective on what am I really living for? Pride keeps me in this cycle of seeing strengths and thinking that they are mine for my own ways and wants.However, they are given to us by God to further the Kingdom of God.

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  5. Niki, this is exactly what they said at my marketing class at ACFW. Stop worrying about your weaknesses and make the most of your strengths. They also made us really think about what makes us unique, they even used the word fascinating. Through that, I realized a lot of stuff about myself that needed to be on my website and in my book proposals that I was completely overlooking.

    I also decided to embrace and come out of the closet with the fact that I aspire to be a literary writer. It's part of what makes me special and different. Even if I haven't gotten it all figured out yet. But at least it puts me in the right niche where I have a chance at thriving.

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  6. Louise,
    Sounds like you are on the right track. By examining the motivation behind what you do with your strengths, you allow God to place you where He can use you! But when we run off on our own... Well, we've all been there, done that, and don't want to do it again!

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  7. Dina,
    Really? That's awesome. I love it when I can see God getting the same message to us all in different places, callings, and ministries!

    Marketers NEVER focus on the weaknesses of a product or service, it would be counter-productive, yet in the name of "humility" Christians do it all the time!

    Did they give any tips on how to dig out and put a name on those fascinating characteristics and qualities? I mean, God thinks each of us is fascinating... loves our individuality and creativity just the way we love the unique things about our own children and family and friends. Hmmm. That's something to chew on!

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  8. Niki, basically they put a lot of stress on "big risks, big rewards." I feel like a lot of contests and critiquers push us to the middle of the road, and according to this class, that's a mistake. Jim Rubart's book, Rooms, is hitting best seller lists because its not safe. But, because of that, it took years to find a publisher willing to take the chance.

    They suggested asking other people what is special about you and just really thinking through your life.

    I actually raised my hand and mentioned the "Brand" I had been using for myself, "Lyrical stories that dance with light." They said too long and vague, but they love the dance, focus in on that. Then I was in a meeting with an editor and she said what she really loved about me was my passion. Ding ding ding!!! I changed my "Brand" to "Dance with passion."

    I also realized that I have had 180,ooo views of my worship dance videos on tangle.com. My new book features a dancer. Duh. And I have a Muslim character, but I haven't been seizing chances to get out there and talk about Islam.

    So those are a few of the things I figured out.

    If you're quirky, funny, bold, upbeat, mysterious, wild, clutzy, whatever, embrace it. It makes you unique, and that's how people will remember you. Not by being middle of the road.

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  9. Thanks, Dina. I think that nails it! We're so accustomed to being herded into the middle of the road, we forget that the people we admire and emulate are the ones who've taken their strengths and run with them!

    It's not just in writing, either. Joan Jett was rejected by every music producer she contacted after The Runaways broke up. She finally started her own company.

    Martha Stewart comes to mind... who'da thunk you could make a fortune twice over just by being a ridiculously good housekeeper?

    It's NOT normal North American thinking, that's for certain. We're taught from childhood to hide, or at least downplay, the things that make us "different."

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  10. Hmm. This is a great activity. I'm gonna ask hubby to list my strenghts. Oh, it's not that I couldn't list some myself, but I think what I would consider a strength, he'd say "that's one of your adorable quirks."

    Okay, he'd say that minus "adorable."

    But writing-wise...hmm.

    Dina, I love your new brand. Love, love, love it! It fits you also as a person, not just your writing.

    I've been praying that God would inspire me to finding a brand that summed up my writing. Hubby yesterday was reading an e-mail I wroter and he said "lemme?" I explained that I communicate in e-mail, blogs, and Facebook like I talk in normal life. I don't write like I talk, though.

    Which is the crux of my dilemma.

    Your brand fits you as a writer and as a person.

    My Vermont story is more me than my medieval or my victorian are. Hmm. I'm rambling.

    Great post, Niki!!!

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  11. Oh, thank you, thank you, thank you for this post! I never considered that the deception of A and E was to make them think they were substandard. Wow.

    Starting my list today...

    Did I say thank you?

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  12. Great discussion ladies!

    If we were doing theme weeks this would be a great one!

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  13. Gina,
    I've decided to think of my "brand" like a signature scent. Perfumes are never described in terms of weaknesses, always in terms of strengths. I haven't gotten any further in developing my brand, but at least every time I think of it I don't smell burning hair.
    : )

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  14. Jeannette,
    You are very welcome!
    I could spend weeks in that section of Genesis, because there is such a wealth of information about human nature, the mercy of God, and the devil's modus operandi in there.
    Blessings, and may your list of strengths bring encouragement, joy, revelation, and grace!

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  15. Deb, I can't wait for Sunday's post! It's so cool how we seem to find themes even outside of our themes!
    Love it!

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  16. What a great discussion! Thanks Niki!

    I found that when I let my kids work to their strengths in our home school that eventually their weak areas would improve. My son Joshua was a late reader who informed me early on that he thought "in legos", and he did! He thought in concrete (plastic) blocks, not in abstract letters... I was an early reader but couldn't build a lego thing to save my life!
    Now, to make my list...

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  17. Cheryl,
    That is one of the great benefits of home schooling - having the freedom to let our children follow their strengths, even when we don't "get" it!
    Blessings on your list making!

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  18. And in our weakness, He is strong. It's a good thing too, or we'd be even more pathetic human beings than we already are.

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