Last fall semester I took a single college class called Career Exploration for Creative Minds and it completely changed my mindset about myself and my future. Beforehand, I wasn’t sure what career truly called my name or if I even had the potential to pursue one. I was coming out of a dark time in my life and I was feeling so many insecurities.
While I learned SO MUCH that semester, today I want to talk about how I learned my purpose for life; specifically through understanding my natural strengths and how knowing them raised my self-confidence and discovered what I wanted to do with my life
My professor had the entire class take StrengthsQuest, a very comprehensive online test, which in the end, out of 34 official strengths, would tell you your top five strengths with paragraphs of information about how these natural abilities helped you see the world. I’m going to go over my five now and share about each one so you can follow my final career conclusion!
“People strong in the Empathy theme can sense the feelings of other people by imagining themselves in others’ lives or others’ situations.”
My biggest strength is empathy. The crazy thing is, while I knew I was a very empathetic person…I’d never considered it a strength before.
Empathy is different than sympathy: feeling sympathy is feeling sorry or pity. Feeling empathy is understanding someone else’s perspective, from their shoes, from their eyes. It means being open to hear someone else’s voice. It doesn’t mean I always agree with them or condone their actions, but I do understand. I can sense their unvoiced concerns; often I can help them put their feelings into words when they previously couldn’t find the right way to express themselves. Empathy is helping people feel valued because they feel heard and understood.
Being empathetic makes me want to help others understand themselves better. I want to help people feel like they can take on their life’s difficulties. I have a way of making utter strangers feel safe enough to talk about their lives to me. I’ve met multiple, talkative people on bus routes who I could just tell: they just need someone to smile at them and be interested in them without any judgment. They just want to be heard. So that’s what I did, and I was always left feeling better afterward.
I knew I was empathetic. But it hit me hard when it came out of as the FIRST result in my test. It is a strength. That blew my mind when I realized that. It means I understand when others might not. I can really help by listening and encouraging when others might lecture and not really hear what a person is trying to say. It strengthens me because it brings me joy to help others feel valued.
“People strong in the Adaptability theme prefer to “go with the flow.” They tend to be “now” people who take things as they come and discover the future one day at a time.”
I’m a very in-the-moment person but I didn’t use to have a word for this. I knew my adaptability is how I survived my parents’ divorce, by quickly being able to adapt to the major life changes that happened. However, I also understood that this strength, living in the moment, means I find joy in so many small things that a lot of people miss because they’re so busy looking at the future. I just live naturally in the present. I can also communicate and adjust to other people easily because I can adapt to the needs in the room. Being adaptable means that I naturally understand that life is ever changing; I might not like change sometimes, but I can respond to it without falling to pieces, generally.
It was very comforting to learn this is an actual strength of mine. I’ve lived with “planners” and “futuristic” people forever, and despite their good intentions, I’ve often felt completely misunderstood by them for being myself; for living and reacting as life happens IN THE NOW. It’s who I am. Both sides have their positives of course, but learning this about myself has made me more confident in how I was made to be.
“People strong in the Maximizer theme focus on strengths as a way to stimulate personal and group excellence. They seek to transform something strong into something superb.”
Ok, I didn’t understand this one right away. But when I did, I felt like I suddenly understood another side of myself that I didn’t even realize was there before. Ultimately, it means I’m very good at pinpointing the good in anything (people, projects, etc) and then drawing out that good to make it great. Once I understood what this was, I saw this pattern all over my life. It’s my third biggest strength. Ultimately, it is often how I view others too.
Being a Maximizer means I can accept other people just as they are and work with them in that place. I can find what’s special about them that’s different from anyone else. I like to help people feel inspired about those things that make them special. It often helps me find the good in projects too, or how to make decent situations become great situations with a little tweaking. It’s a unique strength, maximizing what’s already good. When I recognized this within myself, on top of Empathy and Adaptability, it really began to show me what I wanted to do with my life.
“People strong in the Ideation theme are fascinated by ideas.They are able to find connections between seemingly disparate phenomena.”
Oh yes, I knew this about myself, but I’d always seen it as a flaw rather than strength. I love ideas; just sometimes I’m much better at coming up with them then I am with carrying them out. But I’m trying to learn to accept this about myself and that if I work with the right people, others can benefit from my ideas and help me execute them.
Being strong in Ideation means that I’m a creatively minded person who can solve problems, be original, bring fresh ideas to the table; all things which I didn’t realize can often be valued in certain work settings. It means I enjoy discussions with rich vocabularies or complex thoughts. It means I’m a little quirky, but in the right places, it is something sometimes desperately needed. I love coming up with ideas, thinking about ideas, getting the ball rolling in an abstract way; those “what ifs.” I can see and connect things others can’t.
I love embracing that I love ideas, connecting things, creating things, exploring my own smarts. I love owning that part of myself now.
Last but not least: this final strength specifically changed how I saw myself:
“People strong in the Positivity theme have an enthusiasm that is contagious. They are upbeat and can get others excited about what they are gong to do.”
While I’ve seen my positivity and enthusiasm as something that has helped me survive the last several dark years, I’d NEVER. NEVER. NEVER actually considered it to be a strength. Isn’t that sad? I felt SO VALIDATED when I read about how my positivity is one of my greatest strengths in life. A part of myself that seemed taken for granted was suddenly acknowledged as something special; as something I overflow with naturally.
To be positive is to be enthusiastic about life. It means I find so much joy and goodness in life. It means when people ask me to share my views on things I get very excited to share my enthusiasm. It means I like to make situations more fun. I like to share that I love life: even when life REALLY SUCKS, I know there are still things to enjoy and be happy about. I like bringing that perspective to others who might be too weighed down to be excited about life.
I remember when I saw my test results for the first time. I received the list of 34 strengths with their definitions along with my top five. When I saw that Positivity was amongst those top five, I felt so…. understood. Suddenly, being positive wasn’t just something I happened to be. It happened to be SOMETHING I WAS GOOD AT. That blew me away.
Especially after having gone through such DARK times the past five years: Loosing communities, losing good friendships; my parents’ ugly separation, having to cut my own dad out of my life for being so narcissistic and controlling; feeling frightened, scarred and vulnerable; feeling betrayed by the Church; realizing I lacked a proper education and attending school for a year for my GED to fix it….And yet, I can say through ALL OF THAT I have honestly never stopped enjoying life. Sometimes it was really really hard but somehow, I still found joy in the little things. I was still able to be positive for my mother and sister and brother. I was still able to smile and laugh with my best friend. I was still able to feel and bring joy to others. It was just what I did.
But it took a test for me to realize that that was actually something very special; it wasn’t just a way to survive the dark times. Being positive when others might not be is a God-given strength. Learning that helped me feel so validated.
These strengths–being positive, full of ideas, strengthening what’s already good, being adaptable, and being empathetic–have been my weapons without me even realizing it. But now they will continue to be my weapons, sharpened, for the rest of my life.
So, from knowing my strengths, I realized what I want to be.
I want to be life coach. To be a life coach is to be someone’s cheerleader. It is adapting to the different people who come to you, helping them feel understood, helping them identify their own strengths with a unique perspective, equipping them with ideas to improve themselves, and then positively encouraging them on in their journey through life. Being a life coach is being available to help people find their purpose and then encouraging and celebrating with them as they accomplish their dreams and goals for themselves. That is what I want to do with the rest of my life.
It will be a long journey to be a real life coach; I want to get a degree in Communication, become a licensed counselor, and gain life experience that I can then bring to the job of being many different individuals’ life coach. It will take a lot of living, personal development of myself, while strengthening my natural communication and humanitarian skills. It means that right now, I can keep being the friend who encourages and is excited for you. It means I keep growing and educating myself while learning what makes people tick. It means I must become a stable person myself so that I can turn around and be a stable person for others.
That is my life’s calling, and I KNOW IT deep down in my heartt. But I only realized it when i discovered what my biggest strengths are and how they made me see the world around me. But having that understanding, that idea of a path to follow, having that confidence in who I am, is now the best feeling in the world. That was the best thing I learned during that fall semester.
My final thought for you is this: LEARN WHO YOU ARE. Recognize your weaknesses but FOCUS on your strengths: learn about them, water them, grow confident in your skin and how you tick. These strengths were given to you for a purpose. So when you know who you are and what you’re strongest at, you’ll find you know your life’s purpose too. ❤