I have a co-worker who can meet someone and 10 minutes later know their life’s story. Heck, she even bonded with a woman who rear-ended her in traffic the other day. I admire this skill and strive to cultivate it in my own life, but it certainly doesn’t come naturally. And guess what? That’s OK. If there’s one thing that living with multiple sclerosis has taught me it’s that everyone has distinct strengths, so our victories come in all shapes and sizes.
My teammates and I recently took the Gallup StrengthsFinder 2.0 test to discover the talents, passions, and working styles of everyone in the office. The goal was to help everyone take an honest look at themselves and to function with one another more harmoniously. The test takes about 20 minutes and asks you tons of different questions — some standard, some rather off-the-wall. And, through some mathematical hoodoo I don’t understand, it uses your answers to rank you according to 34 different strengths. I wasn’t shocked to learn my magical, amazing co-worker has connectedness and relator in her top five. Sad to say, I have neither.
My top five are: Learner, Achiever, Input, Positivity, and Developer. You can read the link above if you’d like specifics, but here’s the short version: I like to take in new information and get things accomplished. I’m optimistic by nature, and I see and develop the potential in others. Keeping myself engaged, challenging myself to learn a new skill, and pouring myself into others are all ways I stay mentally healthy. When I get away from doing those things, my overall wellness suffers. Knowing this has helped me be much more intentional about what activities I say yes to, and which ones I turn down.
I’m not one of those folks who think tests like this one or the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator have the power to solve all of the world’s ills, but I have to admit that figuring out how you tick has some real value. Sure, I wish I had woo and self-confidence, but that isn’t who I am. Trying to make myself into something I’m not is a source of stress I’d do well to avoid. And if I don’t capitalize on my strengths and do those things that I am naturally and uniquely gifted to do, I might be missing out on a source of joy and fulfillment. I must, as the kids say these days, “Do me.”
Think of it this way: The treatment plan for a patient with relapsing-remitting MS is very different from one designed for a patient with the primary progressive form of the disease. No two experiences are the same, and no two people face the exact same symptoms or handicaps. Heck, identical treatments don’t even work consistently from patient to patient. We may have the same disease, but our symptoms and challenges likely will look different over the course of our lifetimes — as will our successes.
What comes easily to me might be impossible for you, and something you have a knack for may never click for me. That’s what makes life interesting. Each of us is on a journey, and the road we’re walking is a long one. There are times when we walk with others, but more often than not, our journey is a solitary venture. So, we’d do well to get to know ourselves as best we can.
Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.