Two weeks ago, I promised that I would focus my next article on recognizing and owning your strengths during this time of COVID-19 quarantine. I have two things I want you to consider for this. Before I present those items,
“We do not learn from our experience…
We learn from reflecting on experience.”
I challenge you to reflect on two things and discover some things about yourself. I encourage you write down your discoveries and let more occur to you.
First: Consider your happiest day working. What made it wonderful? What were you doing? What made it fulfilling, fun, empowering, successful by your standards?
Let me share a couple of stories from my work history to illustrate.
Roughly 20 years ago, I worked at a credit union in the mortgage department. I was hired as an associate mortgage loan processor, however, I was “addicted” to database development and administration and thrived on effective software use.
As a result, I carved out a new job for myself: database administrator and mortgage department “office software guru.” I constantly found ways to make the work more efficient for all the people directly working on the various stages of mortgage loans. I created word processing templates. I improved the third-party database. I researched software. I taught people how to use both new and existing software more efficiently.
Roughly two years ago, I was hired as a business outreach coordinator for a nonprofit organization in Yakima, Washington. My role was to talk to hiring managers at businesses in multiple counties and help them on their recruiting, training costs, and employee retention by connecting them with our clients who were looking for work. I focused on how employers defined their ideal employees. I then spoke with the career counselors about their clients and looked for matches. If we didn’t have any matches, I guided employers to resources to help them save time and money.
These jobs sound highly different from each other. I LOVED both jobs. Why? What did I enjoy about such disparate work? My ideal day.
My ideal day is a day in which I learn something, teach someone something, and help someone. Now you see how both jobs fit into my ideal.
What STRENGTHS can I see in myself by reflecting on these two different positions?
This is where the fun begins. This is where the reflection comes in for you.
I LOVE to learn. I love to encourage. I love to help people do things better than they did before. I love to help people achieve. I love to empower people to be their best selves. In both of these positions, I was able to use all of those passions in a way that developed them and made them true strengths that I can use in multiples areas of my life.
Second: Consider your happiest day of leisure. What made it wonderful? Was it the preparation you put toward creating the perfect day of leisure? Was it the spontaneity of creating the perfect day of leisure? Was it the activities in which you engaged? Was it the people you were around? Was it your surroundings?
Here’s another personal example from my life.
One of my favorite days of leisure is actually a weekend instead of a single day. For our second wedding anniversary (many years ago), my husband and I went to a bed and breakfast with no internet, no television, no radio in the rooms. The goal of the bed and breakfast was to help people unwind in the beautiful mountainous surroundings of Park City, Utah.
The location was idyllic. My husband and I took time outside reading, talking, and just observing. We drove into historic, touristy downtown and walked around the shops. We had a WONDERFUL time completely unplugging from the world at a time that entire world was beginning to plug in everywhere.
Another favorite “day” of leisure was another weekend several months ago. My husband and I “ran away” to Spokane, Washington for the weekend leaving our three teenagers home to fend for themselves and take care of each other and the animals.
Again, we did only what we wanted to do. We had both structured and unstructured time.
We enjoyed each other’s company. We enjoyed exploring Spokane. My husband had been there for a few weeks on military orders and he wanted to show me everything he had discovered during his time there. He loves sharing new places with me and I enjoy experiencing his excitement of sharing what he has discovered.
Upon reading these two stories, you might think the reason these are some of my favorite memories because they were “lazy” times with my husband. Although that is part of the truth, “lazy” is not my strength. “Relaxing” is not my strength. PLANNING so that things run smoothly without me is my strength. I loved these moments not only because of the time with my husband, but because they were planned and organized to the point that I could go without worrying about what I was leaving “undone” or needing to “come home to.” I was able to relax because I was planned and prepared.
My husband is different. He loves spontaneity.
When we were newlyweds and had no children, he LOVED to have us “pick up and go” somewhere for a night or a weekend. His spontaneity flustered and stressed me. (In the over 20 years we have been married, we have both learned some of each other’s skills and work together on these things more easily.)
He once arranged with my manager to pick me up early from work on a Friday and sweep me away for the weekend. It was romantic. It was, to my eyes, spontaneous. I couldn’t handle it initially. I forced him to take me home FIRST so I could be sure I had what I needed to “run away.” His strength is fun in the moment. My strength is fun with a plan. We now have worked on our teamwork to meet both of our needs.
These are how I challenge you to reflect. Consider what you have loved about your favorite days working and WHY. Consider what you have loved about your favorite days “playing” and why. Sometimes, there will be overlap between work and fun. That’s GREAT. Consider what traits you show, what talents you have, where you have put effort into improving in both of these situation types. Therein you will find strengths you may not have recognized. You also will see new ways to build teams based on your strengths and others’ strengths.