Article by Maurice Giboons
You Are the Expert
If you want to decide what to do next in your life--and for most of us, that happens many times--the best place to begin is with self-assessment. Find your strengths and build on them.
Many companies offer to test you and tell you what kind of person you are and what you are suited for, and that may be useful, but only as one piece of information for your self-assessment. Over time it is your total understanding of yourself that is the basis for good decisions.
“Alright then, let’s see how to do this self-assessment?” Okay. First, in the methods of self-assessment that follow, you will know how to do everything; in fact, you are the world expert on this subject. Which is, of course, you.
You Have Vast Personal Resources
Listen to anyone who can be helpful, but when it comes to you, always be the final voice, the voice of authority. Let’s begin this by finding out everything we can about you. At first you may think that you don’t have much to say, but once you get started you will see that the only problem, if there is a problem at all, will be when to stop.
You want this self-assessment to be a useful guide to all of the decisions you make about what you are going to do next in your life. For that reason, determine to be authentic, but also look at your life with high self-regard.
There isn’t much point in doing this work if you’re not going to be as honest, direct, and as authentic as you can. If you aren’t, your answers won’t be of any use to you. This is for you and if you want, for your eyes only, so make it the best you can for you. I also encourage you to begin this with high self-regard. Find the best in yourself. Recognize it, record it, and celebrate it. If you find your strengths and build on them successfully, you will discover your genius. You can’t see that from a position of low self-esteem; begin with a position of high self-regard. You are okay and you are loaded with potential.
What Are Strengths and Strength Tracks?
When Mithra was young, her father travelled a lot. She began to write him stories to take with him or to read when he got home. Later she used the family recorder to make little programs that included stories, jokes, chatter, and songs. In high school she wrote stories for the newspaper and joined the drama club. While she was a student in architecture--like her father--she helped to start, write, and publish a humor magazine.
When she realized that she wasn’t going to be an architect, she remembered this track of related strengths and turned to writing. Eventually she was writing and producing comedy on TV. She found many strengths to build on, but that track of related actions stood out among them.
In the self-assessment ahead I will ask you to identify your strengths in three areas and then to find tracks of related items anywhere in the three lists.
Warming Up for the Inventory
The strength-path begins with an inventory of all the advantages that you have at your disposal. Even if you think you don’t have much to work with, doing the inventory will soon make it clear to you that you have a lot more resources than you thought. It will also suggest ways that you can begin to make your strength track stronger right now. You can even make that a life goal--to create a framework of solid strength tracks.
Before you begin the inventory, I invite you to get ready--to warm-up. Begin by thinking about the periods of your life--your childhood, youth, teen-age years, adulthood, middle age, and so on. What were you like in each of these periods? What happened? How did you feel? What were you doing? Record these ideas in your journal.
When that’s done, you are ready to begin the inventory. You are warmed up. Just one more thing. My best experiences with the personal inventory have been with two people each taking turns asking the other the questions, and then writing down the answers given. Find a partner, if you care to, and help each other make full lists of responses to each question with support, urging, and questioning prison.
These are just three of the questions, but they make up a powerful part of the inventory; answer fully in your journal or with a companion. Twenty, or more, items in response to each question is not unusual.
1. What are your curiosities, interests, and dreams (now and at any time in your life)?
2. What experiences have you had; what have you done in your lifetime?
3. What do you know about? What can you do? (Note: This is from your whole life, not just school, work, or hobbies)? What resources and talents do you have, or suspect that you have?
The first question in this self-assessment asks about anything that caught and held your attention. It may be something you did or something you liked to find out about. Narrow it down. “Sports” is a beginning, but “Swimming,” “soccer,’ you“climbing,” or “dogsledding” are very different and are more revealing and helpful. At any time in your life, what did you dream of doing? What do you dream of doing now, however old you are?
The second question asks about anything that you have done, both things you chose to do, and things that you had to do. They might include jobs you’ve had, schooling or training you’ve taken, places you’ve been, things that have happened, personal accomplishments, and especially anything that might indicate a strength to build on.
The third question is about your personal resources. What capacities do you bring to any task? What do you know a lot about? Birds? Flowers? Physics? Politics? Children? What can you do: Computer programming? Personal finances? Counseling? Truck driving? Healing? What talents do you have or suspect that you have? A talent for languages? Group-work? Numbers? Fine manual work? Machinery? Fashion design? Growing things? Get them all down.
Amazing, Isn’t It
By the time you get this far in your self-assessment you should be amazed at the resources you have to work with. It’s easy to forget how rich your resources for success really are. But now you have them listed and you can see them. And you haven’t finished yet. When you find the connections among the items--both within each category and between them--you will see ways to join your resources for maximum effect. Examine your lists and find any connections, associations, or relationships that you can among the items that you have listed as answers to the three questions. Here is an example from severely reduced lists:
Under “Experiences” you can see a within-category track between “Peer counselor” and “Team captain.” And then, looking at the whole table, you can see the cross-category track from “Helping others” to the two in “Experiences,” to “I’m social” under “Talents.” That is a strong guide to focus on an interpersonal activity. The full lists would guide this person even further to a particular kind of interpersonal work. Here’s another example from a different kind of person. Remember that each of the columns in the example will really have twenty or more items in each of them. There are at least three possible strength-tracks here. What do you see?
Now look at your lists. Start by finding one solid track. Look for subtle connections like “Team captain,” in the first example, which could also be in a leadership track or a sports track but is clearly interpersonal as well.
You will find many tracks. Which one should you follow? Nothing or no one can make that choice for you. Some tracks may pick up many items, some of the items may be very strong indicators, so such features can help you, but in the end you have to choose and then find out more by taking action.
Then nothing is final except the penitentiary, the French Foreign legion, and Grad School. You can always start again, but with a lot more knowledge, experience and savvy. That’s how the life-game is played.
Look over your strength tracks. See the wealth of opportunity you have? Use these tracks to guide your choices of the goals you pursue and watch how confident it makes you feel, and watch the successes follow.