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Thursday, March 8, 2012

What is Your Gift?

Recently, at work, I was asked to take part in an exercise to determine my "Behavioral Style".  We've got a consultant who is working with our organization and she came to interview me and have me take this test.  I was fascinated.  I guess that says something about my "Behavioral Style" right there!!  I was eager to see what the "test" revealed and yes, somewhat apprehensive...what would this say about me?  Would I like what it said??!

I immediately went back to a moment in time that I learned something about myself that I thought was not good.  I was working for a major NBA franchise and the President of the company held our Christmas party at his home.  It was meant to be a wonderful, warm, engaging affair with a potluck theme brought into this beautiful, stylish, expensive home.  It was something out of a storybook...people milling about, someone sat down at the piano and started to play...others really did gather around and start to sing carols.  It was something to behold!  I am not a singer.  Did you see the period at the end of that sentence?!  I am NOT a singer.  So, I found myself with a bit of fear in my belly...slowly I backed away from the merriment...please don't let anyone see me and scoop through my arm to drag me back in...please don't make me mouth the words because if I sing just one note, that party is going to be over, baby!!  Backing away, I found myself by the buffet...but, I was not hungry anymore, at all, stuffed.  So I meandered my way into the kitchen and weaved my way through the few that had found comfort in quiet conversation.  I looked around and saw the piles and piles of dishes that covered the beautiful granite countertops.  I, without really even thinking anything more but "sheesh, somebody's going to have to clean up this mess...and it shouldn't be the Prez or his wife..." picked up a washcloth, started some water and started to wash the dishes.  I was happy.  Content even, in finding my place and doing something constructive to help the evening go well.  Then the President of the franchise, of the home, came over to me (we share the same home state and were transplants at the time, so I felt a nice bond with him and trusted his judgement) and said, "Sue!  You really are a type A, aren't you?  Stop that, you don't need to do that!"  Seriously, I am laughing right now, because that was the first time I had heard that phrase, "Type A" and I didn't know what it meant!  Did he just give me a compliment or ... well, it didn't feel quite like that...he was telling me to stop.  Ugh.  What do I do?

Well, on the drive home I asked my boyfriend what "type A" meant.  He gave me some vague answer of it meaning "being uptight" and I got irritated, "I am NOT uptight!"  So when we got home, I looked it up.  "Driven, work oriented, competitive, multi-tasker, over-achiever"...okay...I can live with that!  What's wrong with that?!"

For years, my life went on and I kept that in the back of my mind and tried, sometimes really hard, to be "FUN".  Tried to be laid-back...married someone who's name was always mentioned in the same sentence as "laid back"!  I worked hard, still, and things still got to me, but, I tried not to show it...Type A seemed UN-fun, unlikeable, not someone I'D want to hang around with!!  And life went on.

About ten years later, hundreds of miles away from where that singing was drifting into the kitchen while I washed (yes, I kept washing the dishes!), we had a beautiful baby girl, and then another.  I had found myself a niche in being the supporting role to a successful professional and I took my job very seriously, I found strength in doing it right, and I worried at night that I had forgotten something.  This was a constant.  I worried about my family, whether I was doing right by my daughters, whether I was making the right choices for them from breakfast until reading books before bed.  Then,

Diabetes Happened.

I found myself in a sea of unknowns.  I had to learn, and learn quickly.  I had to make decisions.  I had to make sure they were the right decisions.  There were complications.  More decisions, more acting quickly.  In the end, I went before the board of the hospital to express my gratitude for the care her doctor had given but scolded and reprimanded them for not having the most up to date equipment to treat my daughter.  That complication nearly cost her her life and it was inexcusable.  Strength in the details...

As life has presented itself, I've had to manage a household, manage a disease...if you do not manage this disease meticulously, there are consequences.  Add to that the consequences to be paid would be by my daughter, with her health, and I was driven to details, multi-tasking, get the picture.  My picture was, and sometimes still is by those that care to share their opinion, I am not always "FUN".  My kids come just short of calling me a "FUN-SUCKER" which, in our house, is The Worst!  (I think they may say it in their minds, though, I really do...)

So, present day, I sit down to take this, what did I call it?  (scrolling up now) "Behavioral Style" test.  Uh-oh.  The four descriptors are Dominance, Influence, Steadiness and Conscientiousness.  And, after all is said and done, I come out a "C", description:  Motivated to achieve high personal standards".  There's more, but, that's me in a nutshell.  I look at it again, and, again, I think to myself, "okay, I can live with that."  Then we start to go through things and it is clear to me that the "I's" are the FUN ones.  And that story comes up in my mind.  I want to be a fun one.  I SHOULD be a fun one.

As the interview goes on the consultant is amazing...she is describing how not a single one of the D's, I's, S's or C's can really function or survive without the support of the other three.  Each brings their gift to the table (or organization, or life, for that matter) and once we embrace our Gifts, we really can achieve great things.  We can learn to assess and interact with each other based on our strengths.  Realizing the difficulties in style match-ups...someone who is detail oriented and process driven might find the care-free attitude and disorganized desk of an "I" irritating and uncomfortable, but that "I" is getting the job done, just the same!  There is no "right" way, just a "right way" for each of us to embrace.  It is a lesson in acceptance not just of others and their characteristics, but of ourselves and saying, "it's okay, these things are important to me."  Somewhere out there, there is someone who IS saying, "Thank heavens she is focused on the details, we need that!" That consultant shared with me that she is an "I".  She thought it was apparent, but, I wasn't sure until she said it...then I could see it full-on.  She was influential and colorful and engaging, a real joy to talk to.

The exercise gave me a few a-ha moments, especially about that evening long ago and where I have journeyed since then.  Life throws things our way and we innately react to them the best we can.  Diabetes changed our lives.  It has taken me places I never dreamed of going, it has brought me friendships I don't see how I could do without, it has shown me kindness in friends I thought had forgotten me.  LIFE has shown me that surprises are around every corner, and, how we choose to deal with them, how we react to them, that is when our Gifts shine through.  Even if it takes us a while to get there, we all have gifts to share, and those that make us whole within.  What is your gift?  Embrace it and share it.  Others WILL appreciate it.

I always thought I should be an "I" but now, I think I am really on my way to being okay with "me".

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