I was in a meeting this week that started with “introductions.” Everyone was supposed to give an interesting fact about themselves. For some reason I always dread this. Maybe I don’t like to pinpoint just one thing that defines me, and I certainly don’t like to talk about myself. So to keep things moving, I said that I was working on a book about personality and strengths. Surprisingly to me, the whole room was engaged and it turned into a fifteen minute conversation about strengths! During the discussion, I got the question that I get often on this topic, “Do strengths change over time?”
My answer is NO. I believe that the strengths we were born with remain our strengths throughout our lives, and don’t change over time. But, we do learn to better utilize our strengths. We also grow through our life experiences, gain skills, and focus on the things we value and believe in, which may change the way we use our strengths. But our strengths don’t change.
I will give a couple examples. My son is extremely competitive in whatever thing he is pursuing. He had knee surgery last fall, followed by a long recovery period, and it nearly drove him crazy that he couldn’t play sports. As soon as the doctor cleared him to run, he went all out at football practice to beat the other players at sprints. He’d been out for over nine months, and his first practice was in 110-degree weather — against kids who’d been playing in the heat all summer. Well, he won, but he ended up sitting in the ice tub mid-practice because his body was not ready to work so hard after having such a long break. I love his competitive nature, and know that this will not change about him. I’m sure over time, the activities he participates in and what he cares about will change, but his competitive nature will not. This strength will always drive him to be his best.
Ever since I can remember, I have always had ideas non-stop. I can’t just decide that I am going to have less ideas. If I could, I would certainly get more sleep. My ability to make my ideas happen, however, has greatly increased. I have life experience behind me that brings wisdom in the things I am pursuing. I am far better organized than ever before and have more resources available to accomplish my goals and dreams. The volume of ideas I have as an introvert has not changed, but I continue to grow in my strengths.
If you take a personality instrument more than once, it is possible to get different results. It is probably not because you have changed, but could be very likely due to the frame of mind that you were in from one setting to the next. A personality instrument is just a tool to help you understand yourself. They don’t create your strengths, but rather reveal or confirm them for you.
I have learned that by understanding my gifts and strengths I am far happier and more successful than ever before. I have also learned that I need to appreciate the strengths of others and help them be their best, rather than trying to change them into something they are not. I am proud to be an introvert, meaning that I am a deep thinker. Being an introvert will not change, but understanding my introversion can free me to be my best and be strong.