Happiness Project May Resolutions: Nurture the Noggin

Developed by psychologist Donald Clifton, the StrengthsFinder themes framework helps individuals recognize what they naturally excel at. The (in loose KP language) philosophy of Cifton’s work on strengths is that instead of acting on societal messages that suggest the road to success requires we improve our weaknesses, we can all benefit greatly by doing the opposite: Honing our strengths. 

I can buy into this. I get very preoccupied with making sure I’m safe and secure- and financial security is a big part of that- so I thought about changing my college major to engineering at least 20 times. Per semester. Each time, after spinning the “why/why not” story wheels in my head, I’d end with the same conclusion: It would be a waste to torture myself trying to succeed at something that doesn’t come naturally to me when there will always be people who are inherently pulled towards that work. Following Clifton’s strengths model, we shouldn’t misuse our energy catching up to people in areas where their baseline starts way higher than ours – we should figure out which areas our own baselines start super high in, and invest in those. 

As an absolute personality psychology junkie, as soon as I found out my job offered StrengthsFinder assessments, I jumped on the opportunity to take it. I learned that my top 5 strengths are Futuristic, Discipline, Learner, Focus & Strategic. 

This stuff fascinates me, so I’m sure I’ll write about each more in-depth eventually, but right now I want to talk about Learner. 

On the Learner Strength, from the StrengthsFinder website:

The process, more than the content or the result, is especially exciting for you. You are energized by the steady and deliberate journey from ignorance to competence. The thrill of the first few facts, the early efforts to recite or practice what you have learned, the growing confidence of a skill mastered — this is the process that entices you.

Well, yes. That explains why I miss college so much. And I do mean actual college. The CLASS and HOMEWORK and TEST TAKING part of it.

Over the past few years, I’ve pushed and pushed myself to be more productive, to be more involved, to get more done. And that’s not a bad thing – there is a lot I want to accomplish in this life! But, reading about my Learner strength made me realize I’ve begun to block out the things that were feeding it, treating them like a “waste of time.” Spending hours reading about the things that fascinate me just for fun (well, and spending time reading, PERIOD), taking the time to learn about blogging and other interests I’d like to pursue as hobbies, expressing myself via writing – these are all things I’ve continuously pushed to the side, telling myself they’re not important compared to everything else on my endless lists. “I can indulge in these luxuries once “X” is accomplished,” says my brain! (Spoiler alert: There will always be another “X”) (Another spoiler alert: The mindset I just described leads to burnout, which then leads to a lot of guilt about feeling burnt out. Don’t be me.)

Back to the Happiness Project. I think we can all relate to the pleasure, pride & joy we feel when spending time doing things we know we rock at. This May, I am making learning a priority. This means forcing some space into my days to read, write, research & reflect without the shame of feeling like I should be doing more important things.

Here are my resolutions (I took a leap back from the 18 I attempted in April):

  • Read every day

  • Journal every day

  • Meditate every day

  • Post on Snow & Finn’s Instagram everyday. This may seem superfluous at first glance… but it is a creative outlet for me AND as a marketing professional, I’m interested in learning about growing a following for an Instagram profile. This is the sort of little thing that makes me happy but I don’t make time for.

  • Follow my happiness commandment of “Wherever you are, be all there.” This is also why I’m meditating this month – you cannot learn from what’s happening around you if you’re not present and checked-in.

  • Publish 2 blog posts weekly

  • Allow myself two hours weekly to research and collect notes on whatever I want! For no reason at all! Other than that I enjoy it!

  • Chose a professional certification or course & begin working on it

  • Make a plan to continue learning about coding & web development (one of the last classes I took my senior year & was shocked to learn that I enjoyed it)

  • Research, learn about & develop a plan for my next career move

It’s funny how hard it can become to make time for the things that make us happy as we grow older. And not for naught – our responsibility to the people we want to support, to the organizations we’re paid to work for, are important. But, I’m re-learning and re-learning that our best selves only show up at home and at work when we’re also taking care of the souls trapped inside of these weird skeleton skin suits.

Has anyone taken StrengthsFinder? What are your top 5? How do your strengths appear in your day-to-day?

Happiness Project-ers: Has anyone else done a month of learning? I think this may be similar to the hobby-themed month that many do. Let me know your thoughts. :-)