Friday, April 6, 2012

Strengths, Part Two - the Freedom to Redefine Failure

In part one I gave some background about the StrengthsFinder assessment and summarized my strengths. Now I want to share how this transformed my life.

Ideation, Futuristic, and Intellection: seeing those three strengths at the top of my list suddenly brought so many things into focus. I now understood why I spent so much of my time thinking (intellection) about possibilities and envisioning what could be (futuristic) and coming up with a million ideas related to all the possibilities (ideation.)

I would see one good idea - for example, a friend using her creativity to open an Etsy store - and it would spark lots of ideas and possibilities. I envisioned what I might sell if I had an Etsy store. I came up with some really good ideas. I executed one of them - I put significant time and effort and a little bit of money into starting one. I had lots of great visions for this particular idea.

But then, like so many of my ideas, it fizzled out.

And I felt like a failure.

And I cried some tears.

And I felt like all my excitement about the idea was now foolishness in the eyes of everyone who had heard me talk so enthusiastically about it.

I felt this way about at least four other major projects that I'd undertaken in the past six years - like a big, fat failure.

Sometimes I would lay in bed at night and think about my failures. (I don't recommend this. It's a lot like looking up your health symptoms on Web MD - it only leads to trouble.) The reality of failure would wash over me and I had the thought that I just wasn't good at follow-through and I never would be. Ever. Period.

I thought this was a major character flaw that would keep me from being successful. If I could only fix this character flaw, then maybe I would have a chance.

And so I would begin anew, finding another idea that was better than the last, determining to have the willpower to follow through this time. This time would be different. It had to be.

But it wouldn't be different.

And there would be tears.

And more late night musings and prayers and questions.

And then one day I discovered the amazing truth that my perceived character flaw was actually my strength.


Oh hallelujah!

I cannot tell you the joy I had when I found out that my strength was having ideas, not carrying them out. Up until that point I had assumed that every good idea that came into my brain was given to me so I could see the idea realized. It was as if each of my ideas was a ball, and with every new ball that came at me I thought it was my job to keep it in the air. Keep juggling, Erin.

I assumed that everyone had ideas, all the time. And I assumed that everyone did a better job of juggling them than I did.

But when I discovered my strengths and I saw that my gift for thinking about ideas and possibilities was not the norm for everyone, I suddenly had the freedom to drop all of those balls. I had the freedom to filter them - to throw some away, and to put some aside for later, and to pass some of them on to other people. I could end the exhausting three-ring circus act of trying to keep them all in the air.

I've learned to redefine success, which in turn has allowed me to redefine failure. I can be okay knowing that I have limited momentum for each of my ideas - I no longer expect to have the momentum to carry them all the way through. Failure to execute no longer constitutes failure for Erin. Success now looks like having lots of ideas and allowing myself time to think and the confidence to share my thoughts and ideas and visions of the future with others.

This changed the paradigm of my life, and in the next two posts I'll talk about what that looks like at work and at home.

I am so thankful that Jesus takes my failures and tears and the broken areas of my life and he makes beautiful things out of them. Here is one of my favorite songs - it's a celebration of what Jesus has done in my life, and also a prayer for the areas that still feel messy and dusty and old and hopeless. "You make me new - you are making me new." Hallelujah!


WES said...

Oooo--"I've learned to redefine success, which in turn has allowed me to redefine failure." Wes likes this. Might the opposite also be true too? I'm trackin' with you, Erin.

Erin K. said...

Oh yes, I think the opposite is definitely true as well!! Funny how a little change in perspective can shift EVERYTHING. Thanks for trackin' along with me. :)