This is my first ever shutdown week with Amgen, and I’ve got to admit that it’s pretty sweet. Essentially, it’s a forced week long vacation in the middle of the year, and when I get back next week, I won’t have a billion emails to trudge through. However, this week really snuck up on me—I was bad about making plans ahead so just ended up buying some last minute plane tickets to NYC for Independence Day weekend.
I’ve used this extra time to primarily work on myself literally—in a self-portrait and more figuratively though the Strengthsfinder 2.0 book and online test. I am typically a bit skeptical of stuff like this because of the Forer/Barnum effect (vaguely worded predictions so anybody can read anything from it… think: horoscopes & fortune tellers), but I figured it might be an interesting exercise to complete and think about.
The Gallup Organization originally created the test to identify a person’s top “talent themes” from a list of 34 possibilities, after interviewing 1.7 million professionals. After you take the test, you are presented with a list of your top five themes, or personality traits, along with insights and recommendations to help you develop them into strengths. The strengths finder book is pretty much useless on its own—it’s simply a reference guide that contains basic information about all 34 results. The format of the test is very straightforward—you are presented with two statements and you have to pick which one you identify more with on a 5-position scale. You have twenty seconds to make a choice, theoretically forcing you to pick with your gut, resulting in more accurate results. I finished the entire thing in about 20 minutes, but am a bit skeptical.
Anyway, apparently these are my top 5 strengths (my thoughts about them in italics:
1. Achiever – has constant drive to accomplish tasks and constantly needs new challenges.
• I’m not convinced being an achiever is my dominant character trait. The way that it is described in the book makes it seem as if these types of people neurotically NEED to be busy beavers all the time. While I definitely enjoy accomplishing tasks and like to have multiple projects to work on at all at once, I definitely know how to take time off to just relax and accomplish nothing. However, anybody who knows me knows that they did get this point right: “may well need less sleep and get up earlier than others”.
2. Learner – must constantly be challenged and learning new things to feel successful.
• I definitely agree with the learner trait. I am naturally very curious and enjoy just absorbing random information from everywhere. For me, learning is growing!
3. Strategic – sees patterns and clear directions in noisy/complex situations and is able to form solutions.
• I generally agree with this assessment because it is basically entirely flattering, unlike some of the other traits. I may be tooting my own horn here, but I feel I am usually able to look at situations with many factors and come up with action plans that make sense.
4. Competition – has a need to be the best, needs measurement and comparison to feel successful.
• I definitely don’t feel this has been very true for me since middle school. Sure I am a competitive person, but I don’t feel like I NEED to win ALL the time. That’s just foolish. It is also pretty juvenile to constantly need to compare oneself to others—I don’t think I do that at all. I feel their description of competition, like achiever, really portrays this talent theme in a very negative light.
5. Includer – one who instinctively works to include everyone
• I see a lot of myself in this. During my senior year of high school and on afterwards, I have had very disparate groups of friends. I am constantly planning random activities and I can’t help but want to invite everybody.
To be honest, I’m not sure I benefitted a whole lot from this test and the results. I agree with some of it (it’s almost impossible not to) but I don’t think I have learned anything new or surprising about myself. However, I have completed a lot of meta thinking, meditation, and soul searching in the past year, so your results may vary. I was disappointed with the fact that they simply give you a ranked list. There’s so much more data which if released would make the analysis much more interesting. For example, simply seeing the percentage match for each of the top 5 traits would yield additional insight. A high match with all 5 traits implies something vastly different from having a 90% match in the top 2 traits and 30% matches to round out the top 5. Additionally, the descriptions they provide are written as extreme examples, so having a finer breakdown by match percentage would help.
I think the assessment actually captured what I probably looked like in middle school. I definitely was a lot more intense in trying to check off a lot of achievements and tried to win at absolutely everything I did. However, I realized letting these “strengths” grow unchecked could turn into toxic weaknesses. As a result, I have actively worked to change my mindset, and I think I’ve had pretty good success.
TL;DR – All things considered, I’m not sure I gained a whole lot of insight from this exercise. I feel that the tool captured what I was probably like during middle school, but the problem with things like this is that everything is so vaguely worded that everybody can see some truth in anything that was spit out. I would give it a 6.5/10, because I can understand how some people may consider this helpful, if they had not thought about this kind of stuff before. Also, between the book and online resources, they actually provide a lot of interesting ideas of how to one may develop their desired traits.