StrengthsFinder 2.0 by Tom Rath
While a book like StrengthsFinder 2.0 won't be the one thing to set you on your true path in life, I found it to be a transformational point in my development. I first read StrengthsFinder 2.0 while working in ministry in Charlotte, North Carolina. The book was an assigned to staff members of the church, so it wasn't something I deliberately selected for myself -- but it made a huge impact on my life. In the book, author Tom Rath seeks to convince people to work from their strengths. As inspiring as the movie Rudy was, the author argues, the title character could have used all of that determination and energy on something he was more naturally inclined to do.
That concept struck me as heresy at first. I mean, I practically chanted "Rudy! Rudy!" with the Notre Dame fans during the movie.
Still, StrengthsFinder 2.0 turned out to be the right book at the right time in my life.
I was feeling a bit out of sorts at my profession. The problem was, I didn't know what what I really wanted to be doing. I had studied and trained to get to the job I had, but it wasn't turning out the way I expected. I was constantly exhausted and burned out. No matter how hard I tried, I longed for the end of each work week. I wanted out.
StrengthsFinder 2.0 includes a test to help reveal the strengths of the reader. These talents are classified by themes rather than by specific skill sets. A few examples include "Deliberative," "Includer," and "Maximizer."
The point isn't to tell someone that he or she should be a plumber or a programmer. Rather, the themes show readers their modes of thinking and behaving. By aligning work and efforts with these themes, a person will be working within their strengths.
Rath defines strengths with the following formula:
Talent x Investment = Strength
This formula uses the follow definitions:
Talent: a natural way of thinking, feeling, or behaving
Investment: time spent practicing, developing your skills, and building your knowledge base
Strength: the ability to consistently provide near-perfect performance
This concept was like a breath of fresh air for me. For too long, I'd simply been trying to overcome my weaknesses by powering through -- hence the exhaustion. I felt that I tried hard enough, I could simply ignore my weaknesses.
By paying close attention to my Strengths, I saw that I would be more likely to have success in another career field entirely. Looking back, I think it is possible that I could have found a way to better align my strengths within ministry if I had chosen, but I was ready for something new at that point in life.
That shift made a world of difference.
To give you a better feel for what the test results look like, you receive a list of your top 5 strengths along with a description of those strengths and recommendations on how to use them.
My top trait is Ideation. Here is a brief excerpt of the explanation:
You are fascinated by ideas. What is an idea? An idea is a concept, the best explanation of the most events. You are delighted when you discover beneath the complex surface an elegantly simple concept to explain why things are the way they are. An idea is a connection. Yours is the kind of mind that is always looking for connections, and so you are intrigued when seemingly disparate phenomena can be linked by an obscure connection.
The book goes on to recommend Ideas for Action so that I can make the most of my Ideation tendencies.
With each trait, you get the full description and a list of action items, so the overall picture can seem a bit overwhelming at first. If there's 10 or so action items for each trait, you're looking at 50 ideas that you're supposed to implement. When you read through these ideas, however, you'll find that you're already implementing some of these tactics already. Before you knew the name and details of your top 5 traits, you naturally gravitated toward them.
The main difference to me is that after I learned about my top traits, I felt I had permission to prioritize my efforts around them. One action idea in particular stood out under the Learner strength:
As far as possible, shift your career toward a field with constantly changing technologies or regulations. You will be energized by the challenge of keeping up.
I eventually found my way from ministry to a career in web design and development -- and later to online marketing. These shifts continued to push me in terms of keeping up with the latest in technological advancements, and I've found the work all the more rewarding as a result.
After reading Mindset by Carol Dweck, I'm careful not to look at strengths tests as conclusive tests of how people will behave for the rest of their lives, but the information we learned as a team has been incredibly helpful.
I heartily recommend that you take a StrengthsFinder 2.0 test for yourself to see if it can help.