. . . instead of focusing on your weaknesses.

That was the title I wanted to use here but it was far too long. My long-winded self sometimes has to reel it in!

Truly though, what if instead of trying to constantly improve the things we are not gifted or skilled at, we focused on maximizing the strengths we do have? I think back to my various school experiences, some as early as grade school, and how I was never skilled or gifted in the math and science departments. But in art, english or creative studies I flourished! While my work in the latter departments was praised and graded appropriately I remember it was the math and science areas that always received the most attention, and not good attention but attention in the form of tutors, failed grades, frustrations, etc. I wonder how school may have been different for me not by ignoring these weaker areas but instead in highlighting the stronger ones.

Two weekends ago I had the pleasure of travelling to Atlanta for a mastermind retreat I was invited to. There were 10 women in attendance, some I had met and worked with before, but most of whom l I had only previously known from glances on social media. And in full disclosure, I originally declined the invitation to attend the gathering. At the time when I was invited I was pretty sick in the first trimester of my pregnancy, hated the thought of missing out on a treasured summer weekend with my boys (when the retreat was scheduled), and most honestly, my business felt like it was in such a state of transition – still is – that heading to a different city to talk about it with mostly strangers felt silly and fruitless. But! Was I ever wrong (and grateful to be!). I have to publicly thank my husband for purchasing my plane ticket to Atlanta and literally pushing me out the door to go because he knew it would be beneficial for both my brain and spirit. And to Lauren Grove for the invite because it means so much.

In less than 48 hours I learned a lot from 10 other women who are much smarter than I am. As I shared on instagram once I arrived back home, I learned many things that I would have simply missed out on had I of just stayed home like I wanted to. So I wanted to copy and paste those lessons here in case they might inspire you too. And I want to share a bit more on the StrengthsFinder test (because who does’t love personality tests?!), my results, and how those inspired a big epiphany so read on for much more below.

LESSON ONE: We are not islands. We are not the sum of what’s shown online. We are not brands or businesses or employees alone. We are so much more. Chances are that very person you envy and question or admire and adore is going through something hard, dark or ugly. Something relatable. That’s inevitable because life happens. Be nice and kind always. Life’s short.

LESSON TWO: Our capacity to give ourselves the permission to change course is vast. Sometimes you can or need to close one door but you’re allowed to simply keep it closed. You don’t need to lock it. One day it very well may become an entry again once you and your circumstances have changed.

LESSON THREE: Our differences unite us. The potential for goodness in society (from a 30,000 foot view) is endless when you consider the ways we can work together, instead of against one another, to use our talents, skills and strengths for good. Get offline for a few days, get lost. You’ll find good stuff there. Promise.

And as promised, below are my top five strengths (themes), listed in the order of most relevant. Did you know there is a 1 in 33 million + chance of someone else in the world having the same themes in the exact order as you? How’s that for a unique world made up of true individuals! I’ve copied out the Empathy theme as described in the StrengthsFinder 2.0 book but as for the rest you’ll need to grab your own copy to learn about the 34 themes.

1. EMPATHY

‘You can sense the emotions of those around you. You can feel what they are feeling as though their feelings are your own. Intuitively, you are able to see the world through their eyes and share their perspective. You do not necessarily feel pity for each person’s predicament – this would be sympathy, not empathy. You do not necessarily condone the choices each person makes, but you do understand. The instinctive ability to understand is powerful. You hear the unvoiced questions. You anticipate the need. Where others grapple for words, you seem to find the right words and right tone. You help people find the right phrases to express their feelings – to themselves as well as to others. You help them give voice to their emotional life. All these are reasons other people are drawn to you.’

2. INPUT

3. DEVELOPER

4. MAXIMIZER

5. ACHIEVER

One reflection I had during my time away is that two years ago when I first took the StrengthsFinder test, one of my top two themes was Achiever. At the time I was a new mama and while completely head over heels with my then-new Lachlan, I was still holding very tightly to my identity in work, productivity, and achievement. So for that theme to now just a couple years later drop down the rankings a few spaces but still be in my top five themes told me a lot about myself. I think this also mirrors well with my 3 and 2 enneagram numbers (3 scored in not great health and 2 in a better headspace). But more so, what I love is that together, Empathy and Achiever blend to create the perfect for-me role as some things massively shift in my personal and professional life.

If you’ve read this post, you’ll know one of my big 2018 goals centers around being the joyful conductor of a life-giving home (which I will say I’ve been doing so wonderfully!). And I have a feeling this goal will continue to be a purpose of mine into 2019 as a mama to two littles under three and someone seemingly in a constant season of change. I think a lot of my past hesitations to fully embrace stewarding a home and the role of primary caregiver for our children has been because it doesn’t feel like or come across as any sort of achievement. There’s no monetary compensation or accolades given to those who manage homes that best serve the families in them, nor is there praise or awards from others (beyond ‘likes’ from anything shared online) for the good and true things within your family nucleus. So much of my life pre-motherhood was driven by measurable success like sports scores, scholarships, grades, internships, a career, running a business, building an audience, etc.

But my epiphany came when the book ends of my top five strengths in this current season, were Empathy and Achiever. I’ve known this for a while now but never put it together so tangibly, being an achiever doesn’t mean you only have to achieve things most associated with the word; like career success, money, awards, perfection, whatever other item might work best here. What if I simply strive to achieve what matters MOST to me? What if I, each and every day because Achievers never stop (ha), try to meet achievements that align best with my Empathy theme? Because my Empathy theme makes sense for the way I am a mother to Lachlan, wife to Andrew, manager of our home, lover of tradition, and connoisseur of celebrating. The two, for ME, make so much sense and can certainly play off of one another to create a role that’s fulfilling and valuable. What a pivotal discovery!

If you’re a personality test aficionado like me then check this out.

And finally, here is the truly wonderful group of ladies (babies and bellies included) that I was lucky enough to hang out with for 48 hours that went by far too fast. Chances are you’ll recognize a good handful of beautiful faces! Thanks to Laura Foote for the capture and for leading a really informative session on the StrengthFinder test which was so truly insightful for me. If you want more from Laura on the StrengthsFinder test contact her directly.

Have you done the StrengthsFinder test and if so, what are your top five themes? Xo