The Taser's Edge

VIA Strengths Finder

I love personality inventories, and I hate corporatespeak (especially when it comes anywhere near my church, which makes me possessively defensive and say things like “my church”).  What am I to do when people I really love and respect start talking about Strengths Finder?

Strengths Finder is a massive personality inventory based on Gallup research on 10 million workers.  It’s specifically focused on finding the strengths of people in an organization and then building on those strengths.  You no longer ask people to be what they’re not, and you don’t worry about your own individual weaknesses (because you are always in a group, anyway).

So I thought that it would be a waste of time, but I began snooping around online anyway, very much because I think a couple more personality inventories could help guide me through this fog that I’m trying to get through vocationally.  I came across an excellent site run by University of Pennsylvania, with a ton of  inventories based in positive psychology.  The site protects your privacy, gives you a decent analysis, uses people’s tests for ongoing research studies, and it’s free.

But is it worth anything?  Well, I just did the VIA Survey of Character Strengths, which mirrors Strength Finders (actually, I don’t know which research came first), saying, “Your top five [strengths] are the ones to pay attention to and find ways to use more often.”  (Its Wikipedia page is fascinating.)

Mine are an on-the-money description of what drives me, what I’m passionate about, what I value, and what I’m good at.  Hmm, “what drives me, what I’m passionate about, what I value, and what I’m good at” sounds suspiciously synonymous with “my vocation.”  The astounding accuracy reminds me of the first time I read Myers-Briggs descriptions of my personality.

According to the VIA, my top five strengths are Forgiveness and mercy; Love of learning; Creativity, ingenuity, and originality; Curiosity and interest in the world; and Spirituality, sense of purpose, and faith.

1. Forgiveness and mercy–“Your guiding principle is mercy and not revenge.”  Maybe that’s why I’m a chaplain.

2. Love of learning–“You love learning new things, whether in a class or on your own…anywhere and everywhere there is an opportunity to learn.”  Maybe that’s why I find myself thinking about applying to doctoral programs for next year (and, returning to Strength 1, thinking up projects which almost exclusively have to do with forgiveness and mercy).

3. Creativity, Ingenuity, and Originality–“Thinking of new ways to do things is a crucial part of who you are.  You are never content with doing something the conventional way if a better way is possible.”  I might edit this but removing “if a better way is possible.”  Interestingly, this is definitely connected to number two and definitely subordinated (along with number two) to number one.

4. Curiosity and interest in the world–“You are curious about everything.”  To me, this is the twin of the love of learning.  It too is in service to forgiveness and mercy.

5. Spirituality, sense of purpose, and faith–“You have strong and coherent beliefs…Your beliefs shape your actions and are a source of comfort to you.”  When I tried to figure out how this ranked among my top strengths, I concluded that it kind of undergirds and supports others, which makes it both subordinate and wholly important.

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