I have a tendency because I’m a #2 Achiever on CliftonStrengths to just plow ahead constantly doing things and accomplishing things without ever stepping back and sitting with my thoughts and asking if the things I’m doing are what I should be doing.
And, in general, that’s a successful strategy. If you want to reach a destination, it’s a good idea to move in that direction because sitting around on the couch thinking that you’d one day like to go to X place is never going to get you there. Right?
But this week I decided it was time to step back and assess.
Because often in this world we act like we all want the same things and all think the same way and value the same outcomes. And yet, we really don’t.
For example, I know about myself that I will give up a six-figure-a-year job that allows me plenty of time to write if what I’m being asked to do is boring and doesn’t challenge me. Or if it doesn’t further develop my skills.
For most people, that makes me a lunatic. Or at least someone who certainly doesn’t share their values.
And, well, you know, perhaps I am a little off.
So, at least for me, as someone who doesn’t have the same goals as most people I know, it’s an important exercise to sit down and ask who I am and what I want and then brainstorm from there.
Here’s what I’m planning to do this week:
First, I rounded up all the various personality tests I’ve taken over the years. Strengths but also others that I took through work or on my own over time. And I wrote in a journal a summary of the results of each one. One page each.
I asked, what did this test say about me as a person? And then, what are the commonalities across all of these tests? Who am I as evidenced by my responses to a large variety of personality tests over time? Does that fit with who I think I am? (It better, since I was the one providing the answers.)
So that was step 1. Who am I? At least who do I think I am.
Step 2 will be making a few lists. I do this periodically already. Lists of what do I want. What do I value. What do I have to have in life.
(Last time I made this list books and music were at the top of the list above food and shelter, so sometimes the list is not entirely realistic, but it’s useful nonetheless to ask myself that question.)
Usually, this is a bulleted list for me, but this time I’m going to write out the thoughts about each one. The why of it. And the what do I need to have that? What assumptions are hidden underneath that item.
For example, if I list that I value Peace, which I do, what does that mean to me? It means operating in environments that aren’t high conflict. It means that I avoid high drama friendships and relationships. If you’re always upset and angry about life, we’re probably not going to spend a lot of time together. Same with work environments. A boss who shouts at employees? Nope. Not sticking around for that.
Step 3 is going to be looking back over past accomplishments and failures and jobs I liked or disliked. What do I consider my successes? When do I think I failed? Why? How?
For the failures, could I have done something different to make that a success? And would I have done what was required to do that?
For example, I consider not being able to convert my visa to a residency permit in New Zealand a significant failure in my life.
But when that happened, someone actually offered to fake a job for me so I could get a residency permit to live there. I could have “succeeded” if I’d taken that offer, but I declined, because that was against my ethics. And also who wants to spend their life waiting to get caught for something like that.
Still, at the time I also was completely blind to the hundred other ways I could’ve approached that goal. Just because I failed in that one way of getting there didn’t mean there weren’t other options available to me, like calling up a recruiting company and seeing if I could get a legitimate job offer.
So I’ll do a deep dive there. Learn some lessons perhaps.
Step 4 will be strengths and weaknesses. What am I good at? What am I bad at? Where do I thrive? Where do I fail? What environment do I need for success?
And then, once that’s all done, I’ll turn to the writing side of it. (Non-writers could stop there or take that and apply it to their life in general.)
Step 5 will be what kinds of books do I love? Why? What is it about those stories that draws me in? What doesn’t work for me? Why?
I’ll try to put together a personal id list as Jennifer Lynn Barnes mentioned in an excellent RWA presentation in Denver many years ago.
Step 6 will be looking at the story ideas I have and fleshing those out. Seeing why I want to write them. Seeing what I have. Seeing what I could add to them. Asking myself which of those ideas could be expanded to an interesting world and which are just that story.
I’ll take all of that, and, knowing me, I’ll probably go write a book on PowerPoint instead of doing anything else with it. Haha.
But that’s the goal for the week. Step back and assess my life. Ask”Am I on track to where I personally would be happy to be?” and “If not, how do I get there? What’s missing? Where’s the road map that does get me there?” If so, “How do I keep on this track?”
One of my personality traits is that there is no “one path” for me. I’m a “I never get stuck” person. So I doubt I’ll personally come out of this exercise with “the answer” or “the goal”, but it will help me prune the branching possibilities down to paths I actually want to take, which is useful thing to do, I think.