[OK, I admit that I started this post in the end of 2014, providing myself a template to easily answer the question below. And then…I landed back in Wisconsin (from North Carolina and Portland) and the day-to-day changed and this question sat patiently in the back seat. Temporarily at first. Gently tugging at my sleeve for attention at intervals. Perching atop the ‘to do’ list. Then the priority shifted, the prompt toppled off the ‘to-do’ list and knew to sit quietly in the back-back of the car. (Did anyone else have a rear-facing seat in your station wagon, the back-back?) Being back at the farm, with the chores and the incessant sweeping of dog fur, along with the big work event, and all of the thinking and figuring* – I can’t say it was overwhelming, but it was a period of contemplation. And it still is a peaceful C O N T E M P L A T I O N.
So, I am not a quitter (more to come on that**), and I always intended to finish the Quest…before moving on to the next Quest…and whatever comes after that. So, here goes the end. It may be slapdash, under-thought, poorly crafted, full of spelling errors, or long and rambling – who knows. But it will be, and finishing is what counts most at this point. So, back to it. The prompt from Sally Hogsead…]
What is your most valuable personality trait – and how can you bring it forward in your best work in 2015?
This is hard to answer, mostly because it involves saying nice things about myself. Or at least showing my hand about how I see myself. It’s hard for me to speak highly of myself, in public, because then you are on the record…and it’s so easy for every other person out there to pick that apart so easily. (Really? She really thinks she’s a good listener? Well, she should try listening to this…) OK, so I get that this is the Negative Nancy sitting on my shoulder trying to bring me down – but sometimes it is downright scary to say good things about yourself, in public. (Did you know that I squirrel away compliments for a rainy day? One golden word of praise or professional commendation really does make a big, sunny impact. Of course, one, tiny criticism shatters me like the atomic bomb.)
So, taking the hard road and really saying what I really like about myself, my most valuable trait. That’s scary! It’s especially scary since every positive has its downside too. Especially if you can be, um, a little unbalanced like me sometimes. Energy is great! Too much energy and people look at you like you’re nuts (I’m also OK being perceived as nuts).
I just ended a particularly strong and uplifting professional week, so I’m likely to score myself a little higher than usual in some categories. So here goes… It’s a combination of: energy, passion, listening, confidence with myself and determination (aka, non-quitting-stubborness**). Determined. Energetic. Generator of big ideas (sometimes, most of the time, too many). Eternally optimistic. Positive. Smiling. I like all of these thing about myself, in fact, I love them. I think of this as the recipe for my delicious best self. Yay, let’s celebrate me! (I say that because we should always celebrate our best selves and the best parts in each other. Because what else are we to aspire to if we don’t know what the feel-good, best-self is?)
So, before my brain can stumble into how I can bring this best trait forward this year…I have a confession. My brain doesn’t look at that list of awesome characteristics and stop there with a pat on the back. Instead, my brain gets all a-ha moment stuck on the glaring fact that these best traits are only a trigger hair away from my worst traits.
For example, “eternally optimistic. positive. smiling.” is just a few smiles and nods away from being too nice, and we all know how that one goes. Energy, high energy, leads to spells of incredible productivity and focus, which is awesome. But…without certain balances of, say, a good night’s sleep or remembering to eat meals, life can get a little out of whack and imbalanced. Hardly sustainable in the long run. Generator of big ideas (not to mention over-committer to many an interesting sounding project) is just a short skip, hop and jump from scattered, unfocused and wholly-disorganized. That just leaves me feeling unsuccessful at a handful of things that I should be excited about…not to mention the feeling of a lingering to-do list that keeps me perpetually a bit on edge. And the anxiety, it’s a double-edged sword. It keeps me sharp, motivated, moving, one-step-ahead. It can also be pins-and-needles gut wrenching, gnawing, mind-warping and distractingly, pessimistically persistent.
So maybe, the trick for this year is not about bringing these good traits forward, but cultivating them in a way that maximizes their potential, and mine.
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Let’s change directions for a bit. I feel like there is a super-real-life application here. I do have some strengths that I want to incorporate into my creative-business-person self, but I don’t really know how – yet. So, how do all these positive traits manifest?
Here’s an example from my job-life. I was in charge of planning a large conference which we hosted on Thursday. I was working with the best ever planning committee, and we executed a near-perfect, one-day event. I love existing behind the scenes, dealing with details, crunching numbers, putting the framework in place, creating a seamless event or resource or experience. But, I find the actual event exhausting: all the schmoozing and small talk and smiling and being on all the time. Exhausting! I prefer to stick myself in a hidden place or work the registration table with one specific task ahead of me.
But somehow, I always end up facilitating, speaking, emcee-ing, standing at the front of the room. Any you know what? Turns out I am kick-ass when you get me behind a microphone and in front of a large group of people. [Yeah, I just called myself kick-ass – deal with it.] I have this alter-ego personality that I can turn on, and she just channels every ounce of genuine-ness, energy, smile-cakes and people-connecting that she can muster…and she gets rave reviews. It’s a weird, almost out-of-body experience. I am being the least like myself, yet the most myself at the same time. Like someone gave her a few shots and unhinged all of those introvert tendencies for a brief stint. I feel like I am faking it, but I really am being no one other than my truest self, (bolstered by a a captive audience stuck with me!). My late night musing guesses it’s a combination of three things: reading the audience as I talk, not actually caring if I make mistakes (we’re all human) and not being afraid to be myself. [For the record, that’s the highest volume of nice things I have ever said about myself publicly. I am super uncomfortable with this, but I’ll let it stick here, and I am guessing I won’t die because of it.]
So, how do I harness that skill, quality, characteristic (what do we call this?) to do something other than facilitate meetings about school food and policy and local food systems?
Yes, I love those topics, and I intentionally set myself up with a career that matched my passions and interests…but it would be so much more fun to be able to talk about something else, something more personal. Something more in the realm of what we are all searching for on our Quest.
– – –
Our Quest pack was introduced to Sally Hogshead and her How to Fascinate system. Not gonna lie, I love a good personality quiz. There is nothing more flattering than a quiz. A quiz could tell you that you are the biggest piece of poop on this planet, but will deliver the results in such a flattering way that you are so excited to be the biggest piece of poop in the galaxy. Flattered, no matter what. I was skeptical, but curious.
So it turns out that my classification is “The Subtle Touch”. Yea, I know that means nothing! In this matrix my predominate advantage is mystique (listening and not revealing too much about myself) and my secondary is passion (no definition needed). In the How to Fascinate matrix this distills down to:
“The Subtle Touch. Tactful. Self-Sufficient. Mindful. Unexpected. Profound. You prefer an understated excellence to outright flashiness. You’re able to connect with others easily but sometimes you prefer to remain reserved. When others need guidance, they come to you for your profound ability to read between the lines.”
So, the first thing is…could this be any more complimentary? There is nothing better than a survey that sweeps you off your feet and tells you all the things you want to hear about yourself. So, therefore, I take it as a grain of salt. But let’s just say, all that positive stuff…that is what I strive to be. I am reserved. Seriously. And, I pride myself on being a good listener. I love listening to people. When you listen to someone, really listen, you are doing the single most important thing on this planet: allowing someone to feel heard and validated. (Which, as far as I am concerned, is the most valuable thing we can do for each other while on this planet.) But, you also learn a lot, A LOT, when you actually listen to other people. When you really listen, there are no secrets, you get all the puzzle pieces, you can understand. Even better, when you ask questions, and then listen, there is so much to learn, glean, understand – it’s the best ever. I could spend hours talking about why I feel this way, but I will spare you. In the mean time, one last thought. OK, actually two.
1. My fascination analysis states my dormant advantage as “POWER”. It’s called dormant because it’s the least likely to impress or influence others. Let’s just say that this is 100% true. When I act from a place of power, I stumble all over myself. Not only do I set myself up for a pretty big fall (or fail), but I also feel genuinely out of touch with the best parts of myself. This is something to explore further.
2. (and I promise to end here before you poke your eyes out with your pencil. If you’ve even made it this far.) Each set of personality characteristics also comes with its own set of downsides. So, I give Sally points for trying to make us our best selves by handing over some powerful medicine for self improvement. In my case, my Double Trouble (sort of like the dark side, the bad side of your best side) is…(drumroll, please)…
“The Deadbolt: Unemotional. Introverted. Concentrated. Mystique tends to be secretive. You rarely share information about yourself, but too much secrecy can negatively impact your trustworthiness. People may wonder whether you have something to hide. Avoid becoming too introverted and unemotional that you completely shut others out. This can make it hard for others to work with you.”
Um, yea. That’s sort of a family gene, no? Anyone who knows me really well understands that this is my downside. Maybe figuring out how to merge that outward, honest, microphone-happy self with my shy, quiet and keep-it-under-wraps self is the work for the year ahead. A different kind of honestly.
Maybe just openness. Maybe it’s just about working toward balance. Prioritize passions, be realistic in what I can accomplish, share more than feels comfortable and just be here now (and maybe relax every one in a while).
Curtsy. Exit stage left.
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*More on this to come too. In tackling, researching, and pondering the bonus prompt from Scott Dinsmore, I was pause-struck by his blurb-article about what to do amidst a major life change. I won’t spoil it here, but suffice it to say, there is a lot of contemplation, but other than the fully-lived-day-to-day, that’s all the action that is going on. Peace to that! More to come.
**No, really, the whole not quitting thing is a big deal. It’s a dangerous mix of stubbornness and toughness that has almost killed me twice (no, really), and led me to numerous episodes of unnecessary struggle, unhealthy habits and bad matterns. This is on the ponder list.