Sunday, January 13, 2013

Know Thyself

I hope your new year is going well.  In this post, I want to share a few things about some of my life research the past couple years, in particular related to thoughts on world views and diet, and then connect the dots a little bit on where I’m coming from.  I hope it provides a little bit of grounding to where I’m coming from, especially as this blog in general is a bit of a self-discovery experiment in some ways with my writing, and sharing perspectives which I think/feel have been helpful to me and may be to others.

So for about the past year I’ve been in a significant state of self-reflection, it’s not just mid-life seriously kicking in… I’ve always been pretty introspective, done some journaling off and on (not as much as I should), and I highly recommend journaling to everyone as an important activity.  I’ve recently picked it back up as part of this blogging effort/process, in trying to find the important themes which have colored and are coloring my life.  So some of the past year’s efforts have been a sort of culmination to reading and research over the years on different themes. 

First, I’ve been re-evaluating my work, as I’ve been kind of in a funk with the work that I do in the IT, information technolgy industry.  I’ve been working in this area for about the past 18 years… a long time.  It’s been good, stable work (knock on wood)… but all I can say is that, honestly, it’s never been truly, deeply fulfilling.  It is far different from the roots of my undergraduate education which were in the liberal arts, primarily religious studies, philosophy and literature.  So, honestly, the reason I got into IT in the first place was because my original plans, more along the lines of ministry and social work at the time, turned out to not be the path for me… and practically I had to retrain to get work.  I tried looking at social work and legal work and did both classes, part-time jobs and internships in these areas, but these also didn’t fully seem to work out right.  In any case, with the emerging areas of technology in the 90’s, and some advice from friends getting their education in related fields, I changed my course essentially on a dime, jumped into a graduate program with both feet, and ended up making a career out of it.  

 Fast forward 18 years… now after a heavy, 16-month stretch of project work and associated stress, I noticed some of the classic symptoms of burnout appearing.  So for better or worse, here I am, at a point where I know that I need to rediscover my passion for work, which hopefully is more in line with my real personality.  So I’ve been looking at a number of different avenues, one of them trying to rediscover what and where my strengths and talents are, and potentially how I can potentially re-direct my career.

OK, so enough background for one post, I’d like to spend the rest giving some perspective on what I’ve been finding recently and connect the dots some on some topics that I hope to write on creatively, and that may set the tone for some of this year’s efforts.  I think I’ve mentioned previously the excellent site, Zen Habits, which is written by Leo Babauta.  He’s a really talented person / blogger.   He had a really nice post last month which touched me, on finding / re-finding work that is based on your passions:

In the post is a really inspirational TED talk by Scott Dinsmore.  In watching the video, Scott mentions the book StrengthsFinder 2.0, so yesterday I picked it up, read the initial chapter and took the online assessment test.  In a nutshell, the book 
points out that we are far better off if the work we do is in alignment with our key strengths, aka talents, rather than spending too much of our time (wasting energy) trying to improve ourselves and build on our weaknesses.  I’m down with that concept.  Know thyself they say, and leverage that.  Always easier said than done, even after all these years.  So after reviewing the results of the test, it is clear that I’m not using my main strengths/talents as much as I should in my work, which by far occupies the vast majority of my productive hours each day.  

So from the assessment test, I found I have the following 5 Key Strengths:  Input, Learner, Intellection, Harmony, Empathy.  Interesting, but actually not any surprises here... yet still enlightening and revealing reminders for what are truly strengths to be best developed and leveraged.  Well, not sure yet how but I plan to actively use the new knowledge, but I'll be actively reading the book, and we’ll see how it affects me as consultant and project manager in information technology… through plenty of reflection, there is likely to be significant changes on the horizon as the main components of my job are not set up to allow me to leverage these talents in the best ways.

In any case, so far I can highly recommend the book, and also these two of Leo’s Zen Habits posts on this topic:

So, in closing, my hope is that we all will come to truly know ourselves better, our strengths, our key values, and find the courage to live in accordance with them.

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