Thinking Strengths & Personality

As part of my training for becoming a Retirement Life Coach, I was exposed to some interesting theory on how we think and act, which then evolved into the hypothesis that we have innate strengths at each stage of the thinking/acting process.   Here’s a short synopsis of personality functions through the thinking/acting process from the book Discover Your Spiritual Strengths by Dr. Richard P. Johnson.  The theory presented is that at each stage of the thinking/acting process you have an innate strength that when combined together shows up as your unique personality.  I guess that I am still in the Liberation and Self Discovery phase of retirement (Age Wave/Merrill Lynch Retirement survey) as I found this work on the thought process fascinating for my self-discovery!

How we think/act: There are 6 steps of the thinking/acting process that happen so quickly we are often not consciously aware of them.

  • Beliefs – our values, attitudes and beliefs form the foundation of our personality and behavior.
  • Perception – how we “see” the world – from people to events, using our 5 senses and our intuition.
  • Evaluation – the cognitive connection between beliefs/values and perceptions – assessing, analyzing, making sense of the perception.
  • Feeling – the emotions created from the cognitive thought – whether positive or negative.
  • Decision – making a choice based on the information, notably the cognitive thought and emotion created from it.
  • Action – the observable behavior of the choice made.

My self-discovery journey in the early stage of retirement transition has been about understanding my values/beliefs, learning how to be aware of my emotions, making choices, and taking action. The overlap in this thinking/acting hypothesis was mind-blowing, hence my delving into the next aspect, understanding my innate strength at each step of the thinking/acting process.

Another core premise, similar to other work I have read on strengths, is that every strength brings with it a potential downside.   Your strength has both a “shadow” side based on under-using the strength and a “compulsion” side of over-using the strength.  You will lean towards shadow or compulsion sides based on your reaction to stress/fear or how you self-sabotage.    The understanding of your strength with its corresponding shadows and compulsions does not mean the shadows and compulsions ever go away. Rather, it aids in awareness of when you are not in the zone of using your strength optimally.  Being aware of how you self-sabotage is helpful when you are in major transition!

I took the on-line test to identify my strength at each step of the thinking/acting process. I could possibly have read the corresponding shadows/compulsions to identify my strengths as well – they were quite accurate if I was being honest in how I think/act!   It was in looking into the shadows/compulsions that I really saw myself.   It was motivating to see that some of my tendencies of self-sabotage are in fact linked to a strength I am most likely not optimally using.

Lately I’ve been struggling with a bit of inertia… not taking action.   I have a list of things I want to do – linked to my interests and passions – and that list doesn’t seem to be getting any check-off marks.   Inertia is a shadow of Self-discipline, one of my strengths. It’s probably also why the inertia “bugs me”.  So now I can look to my strength of self-discipline to make some decisions. Is this choice something I really want to do or not? Am I being realistic in how to approach the activity? How can I break the activity down into manageable action steps?  How can I be more positive about being a beginner in the new activity?

This year I have been very focused on increasing my happiness – becoming more aware of my emotions, looking for joy in the moment, practicing gratitude.  It was a surprise to me that Gratitude was my strength in Feeling.  It was in the shadow I saw an almost perfect description of my pre-retirement self!

In the next few weeks, I will be looking more deeply into each of my 6 strengths, especially the shadows and compulsions, to see if I am truly using my strengths effectively in this next stage of my life.   This exploration of how I think was a fascinating delve into Self-discovery. While I struggled a bit with the strong spirituality side of the material, the insights into my personality and how I can better use my innate strengths definitely were worth the time to explore this work.

If you want to learn more, especially if you are on your own self-discovery phase of the journey, check out Discover Your Spiritual Strengths by Dr. Richard P. Johnson.


Picture Credit: Pixabay


Who Am I?

One of the important needs that working full-time met for me was providing me with a strong sense of identity, especially since I was a workaholic with no children and no hobbies. Recall the 5 important needs that a full-time career provides: Financial Compensation, Structure & Routine, Accomplishment & Utility, Social Affiliation, and Identity & Status (see previous blog posts). Since I retired, creating a new identity has been an ongoing challenge for me. It is a challenge that a few other new retirees/ soon-to-be retirees have recently talked about as well.

I am not sure why, but I feel a strong need to have a defining term for who I am. I feel like I need this defining term to respond when I am asked: what do you do?

In this retirement transition phase of Liberation and Self-discovery (Age Wave/Merrill Lynch retirement survey), I spent time defining what/who I wanted to become. My life vision has some very clear elements. I want to release my sense of adventure, be more physically active, and create stronger connections with others. In this new stage of life, I’ve committed to focusing on leisure (learning how to live) with part-time work taking up only 25% of my time. Yet, it has been decidedly uncomfortable to break free of my workaholic-based identity and embrace a leisure identity.

I am a Recovering Workaholic. But that as an identity statement is too back-focused and a bit too flippant for the wonderful elements that the 12-step programs do provide.

My self-discovery work identified that I am a Foodie-wannabe, a Latent Adventurer, and a Structure Girl. All very much define me, but would they mean anything to anyone else if I used them to define myself?

I did try Writer, but then was always asked what I’ve published. I’ve redefined it to the reality of I’m a Blogger, and currently un-published writer. Not too inspiring.

I’ve considered various terms like Financially Independent Goof-off, Self-sponsored Joy Seeker, Vision Concierge, and Life-style Manager.  Quite fun, but a bit meaningless.

On the professional side of things (because I still do work 25% of my time), I am a Retirement Life Coach that uses personal innovation as a platform. I am also a Freelance Product Innovation Strategist. So, when it’s a professional networking connection, I have fallen back to “Innovation Consultant”.   A broad, generally appealing term to which people can relate.  But is it truly reflective of my total identity?   No, it’s my 25% work side only.

I’ve been reading some discussions about the new Gig economy, which has created the hyphened identity. Beyond the well-known actor-waiter identity, there are now lots of people, Millennial and beyond, who have a side-hustle along with the regular “identity” job. Or maybe their side-hustle is closer to their identify definition.  Perhaps a hyphened-identity statement is my answer? A Blogger – Innovation Consultant – Vision Concierge?

Have I solved my identity dilemma? No. My best response to the question of “What do you do?” is “I spent 30+ years working and now I am learning how to live.” So, what’s the name for that?

Picture credit: Pixabay




Looking Back – 1 Year of Blogging

There are many moments in life that cause us to stop and reflect. In looking back, hopefully you can marvel at your accomplishments and not regret your choices. And then, look forward to adjust, reinforce the path, or re-establish habits.

I just passed my one-year anniversary of being a blogger. It’s been an amazing year for me – learning a lot about the blogging world and how to blog. It was a totally new activity for me… I wasn’t even a reader of blogs! But I wanted to write and connect with my writing to others.

My original intent for my blog was stated: “I uncovered a desire to write, a love of research & synthesis, and a realization that I liked to advise/teach others. This all merged into creation of this… my Retirement Transition blog! With this blog, I am hoping to connect with others on similar transition journey from full-time career to what comes next.”

Since I’m still in the retirement transition and in the spirit of MegaCorp habits, I had to do a year review and post the “measurable results”. In the MegaCorp world, it’s all about the numbers!

– Number of posts: 46 I am quite excited about that number, even if my goal was one/week, which should have meant 52. I’ve learned that sometimes the words flow, and other times I just want to sit on the beach and watch the waves. And no, that is not figurative, it is literal! I’ve noticed that when we go to Florida, my blogging goes on hiatus. And since I hope to be spending more time there in the future, I’ll need to address that habit.

– Number of followers: 140. I am beyond excited about that number. I am ecstatic, thrilled, blown away. And humbled. That many folks found enough inspiration in my words to say, yeah, I’ll follow you. Just WOW. And thank you.

This past year, I have “met” some amazing bloggers on line and been inspired by so many of you. I have moved along my personal Retirement Transition journey, and watched many of you – ahead of me and behind me – learn about your own journey as well.

I plan to continue this blog. While I am 2 years into retirement, I am not sure I have fully transitioned. My life has a couple of big things yet to be done to feel like that transition is done. The big one – a downsizing house move is in the plans. And, I am re-thinking some of my career/work domain choices. With two Life Domains in vision refinement, I feel like I am still in transition. Which is OK. I’m learning to enjoy the journey! Thanks for sharing in it.

picture credit: Pixabay

Life Happens

I get so much positive inspiration when reading other’s blogs – the positive attitude when facing an illness; the ability to see the silver lining in the crisis. (You guys know who you are – thank you!) This post is unfortunately not going to be positive inspiration. I discovered that when “life happens”, I reverted to old habits – the selfish ego focus, the negative emotional swirl, and the escapism eating.

Retirement is not always days and weeks filled with happiness and joy.

My husband’s sister died unexpectedly last week. She was only 61. She retired just 4 years ago. She was not sick, did not have cancer, wasn’t overweight, didn’t smoke. In fact, she had a post-retirement identity she loved, multiple passions/hobbies, and a huge set of social support connections from long term friendships to a loving family. She dearly loved her grandkids and spent tons of time with them; she was planning her only daughter’s wedding. She was doing all the things the research/books say to have a long, successful retirement. And then, she died in her sleep on a Wednesday night. She was only 61.

At the visitation and funeral there were so many of her friends and family there – second cousins, childhood friends, old co-workers, new volunteer co-workers. Her visitation spread out over 4 rooms at the funeral home; she filled the church for the funeral mass.

And my egocentric negativity kicked in – If she was doing it all right, what’s my shot at “making it”? I don’t have my post-retirement identity figured out nor do I have a strong social connection network. Who would show up for me? Would I have enough people to even fill the slots at a mass of Christian burial – the readers, Eucharistic ministers, and pallbearers? Will I wake up tomorrow without a husband? Will he wake up tomorrow without a wife? Will I regret not having done things on my bucket list with him if he’s gone tomorrow? Will he know how to manage things if I’m gone? Who will stand by him in his grief?

All that inner mind questioning means I’m not sleeping well, and have no energy for things. So, I’m not moving and short tempered and escaping into food – a 5-pound weight gain in a week. And the negativity spirals – I’m angry and afraid and fat and not very proud of how I so quickly reverted to bad habits.

I know I need to process through the grief.
I know I need to not compare myself to others (and come up short).
I know I need to get back to living everyday, joyfully. We obviously are not promised a tomorrow – today is all we have.
I know I need a kick in the butt (from some of you) and a big hug (from others) – so thanks in advance for that!

Life happened… and it threw me for a huge loop.

Picture Credit: Pixabay