Saturday, August 15, 2009

StrengthsQuest Saturday: Go With the Flow

If it has been a few Saturdays since you've last checked in, click here to get a handle on what we are doing.

If you have been tuning in then you know we are in the middle of a five-week series, based on the book Strengths Finder 2.0 by, Tom Rath.  Book Club participants used the code found in the back of their book to take an on-line survey and determine their top five themes.  Still haven't gotten your book or taken the survey?  It's not too late.  Including this weekend, there are three weekends left to jump in on our conversation. 

The first week we disclosed our top five themes and shared whether we thought the descriptions were accurate.  The second week we explored those same themes, as they influence dynamics with family and friends.  I came to terms with why a contractor was measuring my backyard for a pool installation and many of you reflected on how your strengths impacted the way you parented, transitioned into a new community, or explained interactions with friends.

New Saturday, new topic.

Work.  Whether you work full time or part time; in an office or out of your house; as an independent contractor; a professional volunteer; or a stay-at-home mom, I expect today will be enlightening.  Today we consider how our top five themes influence the work we do.

My top five themes are: Strategic, Focus, Input, Ideation, and Achiever.  I've had eight jobs in seven states over the past 22 years and regardless of title or job description, it is only a matter of time before I begin building or creating something.  I imagine my instinct to build is somehow related to my propensity for developing strategies, combined with ideation, and the satisfaction that comes along with achievement.

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (say that ten times fast) wrote a book titled, Flow.  "Flow," he explains is one of the most enjoyable and valuable experiences we can have.  It can be defined as activity that is demanding and rewarding and is often characterized by someone being so engaged they lose track of time and forget about all other commitments.

So, here's the question, embedded deep in the heart of my Texas post...

What activity do you engage in that puts you in a state of "flow?"  How do your top five themes help explain why you find it so enjoyable?  And finally, is the activity you described part of your daily work routine (however you define work)?  If not, what kind of job would allow you to be in a more constant state of flow?

Jess, Melissa, and Marcy... I'll cross my fingers and hope you can jump in this weekend!

Signing off until tomorrow...


Robin said...


Writing can put me in a state of flow very easily. I love that feeling of being able to just write. Sometimes the words are spinning in my mind faster than I can get them out of my fingertips - and I type pretty quickly. :-)

Reading would also be something that allows me to flow, not quite as well but it's a big part of my job as I learn and study constantly. The medical literature updates frequently.

Input suggests that I like to store knowledge to give to people to use to break down into more manageable and easily explained chunks. I do relish the thought of taking a complex idea and being able to make it more user friendly to allow everyone the ability to understand what they need to know to make informed decisions about their health care, particularly as it relates to reproductive health.

Individualization is used when I try to remember that everyone learns differently or brings a different set of life experiences to their learning. This means that I need to say the same thing (the point) multiple ways so that more people can utilize it.

Strategic: This doesn't come into play in my writing or reading as much as my prewriting. I love to mull over ideas, problems and solutions. I want to talk them out. This frequently annoys people who think I'm being obstinate. Even when I try to give my off the cuff decision, my mind usually can't drop the subject and I keep coming back to it.

Significance: (This one mostly annoys me, I have a hard time relating to it. It reads like I'm full of myself, which I really don't believe. So I'll pick the nice parts. :-) ) I take my job seriously and want to know a lot. This knowledge helps me do my work to the best of my ability.

Activator: "You are impatient." This is true in flow too. I get mad when the words don't come quickly enough. It happens, the frustration, easily. Deadlines increase this feeling of frustration. (Right now I'm 10 days away from finishing my latest book and I feel very behind.)

Reading and writing are apart of my daily routine. I'm trying to stretch my wings and enjoy a bit more creative writing. This will hopefully help me cure some of my workaholic tendencies. I've recently taken a fondness for the haiku. It's creative, but quick and simple, with rules, but ones that force your creative hand and yet allow a lot of space to do what you want...

Heather said...


I could spend hours upon hours talking to people, hearing their stories, working through their problems. I think this definitely spins off of my communication and includer (and my adaptability in knowing I'll get my other work done if I spend hours talking to someone).
I've often said my "ideal" job would be doing something where I could just talk to people all day long and that the rest of my work be checking things off a to do list. (I'm under the firm belief that my #6 and #7 are Achiever and Maximizer).
I actually have a job that brings me as close to this "ideal" situation as anything I can imagine. Aside from the typical reports that everyone gets stuck doing in just about any professional job I meet with students for 3/4 of my day and talk through WHY they made the decisions they did. I help them process those decisions and let them know the consequences. The other 1/4 of my day is spent plugging them into the system. Processing their paperwork, processing incoming paperwork, etc...

So, at the end of my day there isn't a huge amount of stuff on my "to do" list and I've been meeting with people most of the day...FLOW!

The other time I'm in FLOW is when I'm teaching a colorguard. I think it requires all 5 of my strengths and definitely plays into the COMPETITION strength more than anything else. I haven't taught in a while but Bal was getting on me the other day saying I need to see if there are any jobs locally as we both really enjoy it.

Claudia said...

Robin.. funny that you don't connect with Significance as a theme. I think Significance helps explain why you are such a motivated and disciplined writer.

Writing books - something I unfortunately know nothing about - seems like the ultimate manifestation of this theme. You get to share your thoughts and insights with people all over.

The other quality I think is associated with Significanceis the desire to have work that is more a way of life than it is like a job. The way you weave writing into your daily routine make it appear more like a way of life.

Robin said...


Thanks for that perspective. I guess it's just how it's written up in my report. It talks a lot about people wanting to be important or significant. I guess there is a huge learning curve. Or it could be because I'm using the Cliff Notes version. :-) I'll have to get to the longer version.

Chaotic said...


I lose track of time when doing art activities ... and I connect to others thru paper arts, I relate by deliberately encouraging deeper relationships, the arranger ability exercise effective flexibility helps me go with whatever I am doing in art instead of following a set plan so new things arrive in my art... I use the startegic part when I sort through the clutter and find the best route to whatever art project I am working on, and th e input part of collecting makes sure odd things show up in my art :-)

Claudia said...

Chaotic... Is there a part of the job for which you are paid when you find yourself in flow?

I know you are good at your job, so how do you employ your themes to be excellent at your work?

Robin said...

Heather: Didn't know you did color guard.

Peggy said...

At times like this when these questions are posed here at HLA, I feel as though I have multiple personalities. How can our strengths help us engage in a state of 'flow'...

As you many of you know, I immensely enjoy making creative greeting cards, but I'm not one dimensional, if it were 'in', I enjoyed basket weaving, sewing, knitting, floral arranging, photogoraphy, painting, calligraphy, baking part of my greatest strength..INPUT.. I really show signs of wanting to 'acquire new knowledge or skills in a particular area of interest'. As my dad used to say about him and my mother... now me... Jack of all trades, master of none.

Although I try to be quite frugal and take shortcuts when I can, my RESPONSIBILITY strength is apparent when asked to complete a job(normally a personalized gift request) I am "Highly motivated to the project through to its conclusion, I give my word on it."

I agree that I use DISCIPLINE to "anticipate what needs to be done" I don't agree that my 'creative work space is clean an orderly'... but other areas in my life are 'immaculate, orderly, and presentable.'

ADAPTABLITY- "production lines bore you" it's very hard for me to create the EXACT same thing multiple times... variety is the spice of life... I would rather have 100 ideas to bounce off of, than one predictable plan... if only my daily life were so bouncy!

And finally, COMMUNICATION, as you can see I feel completely "loquacious" about my multiple personalities. And as a side note for Cheryl.... my "tales generally amuse and entertain listeners"

I am currently unemployed, a SAHM to my 14 & 16 yo....My last few jobs have not fufilled my 'strengths' listed here, and I have been greatly disappointed knowing that I could offer more, but have yet to find that perfect fit... (if) it is out there.

Jessie Freeman said...

I had to do the strength finder as a team building exercise through my work. I will have to dig up my strengths and get back to you on today's topic as well as read up on older posts!
Robin - Heather has a World Championship for color guard through Drum Crops International (DCI). She won in 2001 in what DCI calls Individual and Ensemble (I&E). In addition to that she also taught at a school where I think she won 2 state titles. She will have to give you the details!

Kat said...

I "flow" most when I am creating things. That is really useful now that I am a stay at home mom.
Connectedness- I feel more connected to my environment and the people around me when I see that I have been a part of creating that environment. Doing home decor projects, organizing an area, or making a special meal all help me feel connected.

Individualization- I really do this one every day. Max and I make crafts frequently which helps me focus on him while teaching him something that I love to do. I feel like we connect on a different level when I can focus on just him.

Input- I like to collect items, thoughts, and ideas before I start on any project. Some of my best creations have started out with some item that I liked but didn't know what to do with. Over time the project changed depending on what things I collected and I usually end up with something that I am proud of.

Responsibility- I truly feel a responsibility to create things. I have gone through seasons of my life when I have just gotten by. Those are not the happiest times when I think back. I am a more balanced person when I am being creative, which makes me a better mom and homemaker.

Deliberative- I try to be deliberative when I tackle a creation. Whether it is just dinner for the evening or cleaning out a disaster of a room, I try to hit it head on. I frequently will let other tasks slide when I am focused on something. This isn't always a good thing, but it certainly gets the job done.

Cheryl said...

Adaptability, Empathy, Positivity, Consistency, Developer...

I've been pondering today about flow as it relates to work and well, there's not really a lot of flow at work. I love my job and the people I work for and with. I know that I am very lucky to have a job there. So, even though my flow isn't there I still use my strengths. I've adapted to not being the "Go to" person but Consistently show my abilities in a Positive way that is slowly changing peoples perspectives of my abilities so that I'm receiving more responsibilities and learning areas of other peoples jobs. I have developed systems that make my job even easier it that's at all possible. All I have to say is thank goodness for Highlowaha the past two years because my interaction with you all has made my slow days bearable. :)

heather said...

Jessie you are too sweet singing my successes but what you didn't say is that you and I won the I&E world championship together =).

But yes Robin I did colorguard for years and years...I marched 6 years of high school colorguard, 4 years of drum and bugle corps colorguard, taught 3 years of drum corps and 3 years of winterguard.

My husband and I met while touring with a drum corps and I've always said if I could make a true living while teaching guard I would jump at the opportunity. It is truly something that provides ultimate flow for me.

Robin said...

Jessie and Heather - how cool is that! I'd love to see some photos...

Heather said...

Now Robin you need to give us the scoop...what do you know about colorguard? Did you march?

heather said...

oh and Robin I have some photos in my facebook...take a gander.

cassie p said...

i may be a little behind...two days that is. its been a crazy weekend, but a fun one.

cheryl- i got a new car back in april- a toyota corolla S, and i LOVE it. its silver, and it looks the best in the sport version of the corollas (i think). it is a cute girly car, and gets good gas mileage. i would recommend it.

and if its not too late, i vote for the fish measuring cup; though i think it might have won without my vote anyways!

Katie K said...

Hello folks, I'm checking in very quickly before I start making some cookies for my staff for tomorrow. Tomorrow is our last day of RA training, and I'm making them trophy cookies to congratulate them.

In the past few years, I have tried to take on positions at work and for internships that were a challenge to me. Last year, I supervised 9 students in my first supervisory experience and took on an internship in Career Services and then Orientation (both of which I had never worked in before). This year, I'm working in a much smaller hall, but have taken on a learning community of international students. My "flow" at work is having a bit of a challenge because of my top theme of learner. I like to be challenged to learn and grow because I like acquiring new skills. I also feel like I flow in roles when I am given some independence with which to work because of my individualization theme and the responsibility of making sure my work is kept up to my own accord. I also enjoy helping students which plays into my empathy and helping them to find their individualization as well.

I'm off to those cookies...

Jess said...

Again, I am still in Freshman orientation land, but I weigh in at the final hour. I think it is great to see how each of you is thinking about your strengths in relations to flow.

My question to each of you how do your strengths and state of flow interact with those with whom you work? Have you thought about your strengths in relation to those with whom you spend your workday? Are their ways in which your strengths inhibit your flow or vice versa? How can you utilize your strengths to better your work environment and create positive energy?

Just a few questions to close the day. Have a great week.

Jess said...

Okay, I am really tired. I just reread my post and there are many typos...I apologize. One question should read...are there ways your strengths inhibit their flow and vice versa? :)

Claudia said...

Oh, good question, Jess. How can you use your strengths to create a more positive work place AND/OR might your strengths inhibit someone else's flow?


I find I employ my strategic theme the same way at home, and on this blog, as I do at work. I lock in on an upcoming reason to celebrate and then work backwards strategizing how to create a sense of fun. Sometimes it might be a small gift I decide to give a fellow employee, but other times it might be planning a holiday event of some sort.

Also, I like ideas so I find I frequently am the idea generator among my colleagues. I should use this as an opportunity to say that for some people this inhibits or challenges their flow. For some, new ideas disrupt the the understood and natural order of things.

As we close out this week's look at our strengths as related to the work we do (or aspire to do), I hope each of you has had a new insight or maybe just affirmed something you already knew.

Tune in next week as we employ our strengths in yet another way.

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