Do You Have A Problem With Me?
At Atlanta Public Schools, Superintendent Maria Carstarphen asked every employee to take the Gallup Personality Test. My primary characteristic is “Restorative.” In other words, I really like to solve problems.
As I reflect on the way I live my life, I realize that I have a tendency to turn everything into a problem that must be solved. From relationships to cleaning the house to writing. Transforming everything into a problem has been a source of strength, as well as a huge liability.
The strength is that, because I am driven to solve problems, I have learned to do many things that I did not naturally have the talent to do. I can write songs and books today because I saw the creation of quality work in those mediums as a problem to be solved. I was able to spend twenty years working on various solutions, and the result was a body of work I can share.
The liability is equally daunting. First of all, not everything is a problem, and turning certain things into problems can damage those things. Relationships should not be seen as problems, and by treating them that way I have had my fair share of poor interactions with other people.
Recognizing this aspect of my personality has empowered me, both to act on my strengths, and to steer away from my liabilities. While I may feel the draw to problemize relationships, if I see myself doing it I have the option to stop. Furthermore, other of my personality quirks makes a lot more sense now.
I am a productive procrastinator. I often work on things like this blog when I should be cooking dinner. Why would I do that?
Quite simply, I realized that when I am faced with a problem I can’t readily solve, it stresses me out. Rather than dealing with the stress, I will gravitate towards an easier problem. Writing this blog was an easier problem to solve.
Interestingly enough, the desire to solve an easier problem is so strong that it actually translates into nervous habits like picking, grinding my teeth, and other such things. Once I realized that I do these things whenever I am contemplating a problem I can’t readily solve, it occurred to me that the nervous habit was me solving the easiest readily available problem: something is irritating me, so I’ll pick at it.
I hope you find this interesting (and not too graphic!) Everyone has strengths of various kinds and it’s immensely helpful to look them in the eye, not just to take advantage of them, but to see how we use them to hide from our weaknesses. In this way, recognizing our strengths becomes a means for self-understanding and growth.
Have you ever taken one of these tests? What are your areas of strength? Do they ever become a liability?