Books to Help You Find Your Strengths

In many areas of life, from marriage and parenting to serving others to exercising other vocations, I find it immensely helpful to find different ways to understand myself and others around me.  At different times in my life I’ve spent a lot of time and effort trying to work against the personality and giftings that God gave me in order to try to be just like someone else who is differently called and equipped.  That really doesn’t make sense, and it’s a recipe for burnout and disaster and not really glorifying to God.

Recently I read a book called Do What You Are that walks you through different personality types (the Myers-Briggs types) and helps you understand how your particular type functions and what sorts of work and service you might be most useful and happy doing.  As I read I noted the information about my own type, ENTJ, as well as Josh’s type, ISTJ and we had a great conversation about it.  I thought it was interesting to find ideas for how I could avoid situations that cause me stress and keep me from being productive, and also interesting to note that in many cases the things that drive me bananas are situations where people like Josh totally thrive.  It was helpful for me to see that there is nothing wrong with me for preferring certain types of work over others, and also to see that certain types of work and service are not better or worse, just suited to different types of people.  Another helpful aspect of the book is how the authors discuss ways to strengthen areas where you are weak and how to use the personality type idea to grow into a more well-rounded person, rather than pigeon-holing yourself with it.  If you enjoy delving into personality type and are interested to see how that applies to work and serving others, I’d recommend Do What You Are.

My father-in-law has often recommended that we read What Color Is Your Parachute? but I only recently picked it up.  Now I understand why he likes it so much.  The book is billed as a practical handbook for job-hunters, and it is that, but it’s also a great framework for figuring out how your God-given gifts and passions can translate into specific or targeted callings.  The author is a minister and does not pull punches about how he feels about mission, calling, and vocation but he maintains a respectful and practical tone that makes the book widely applicable.  I found the sections on developing your vision and goals and honing your callings most helpful.  For example, the author suggests listing your various roles in life (woman, wife, mother, Christian, writer, reader, committee member…etc etc) and then thinking about what it is you like about that role, and then finding the common denominators in that list.  I found it really interesting to list out what I actually like and dislike about various roles, and then to see recurring themes between them.  I also thought it was helpful to rank my different skills and abilities and preferences.

I loved the author’s conclusion that every person is called to glorify God and enjoy Him, and to make the world more reflective of God and His truth, but that the way we follow those callings is based on the unique gifts and heart God gave us.  There is so much freedom in knowing that we do not all have to serve God the same way.  We do not all have to parent the same way, or educate our kids the same way, or earn money the same way.  Even if you are not job hunting and you feel like you have a pretty good idea what you’re doing in life, I think the exercises in What Color Is Your Parachute? would be helpful and illuminating.

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