Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Strengths Explorer: Competing

If your mentee or a student that you know has the strength of Competing in their top 3 – they might describe themselves like this:
You see many things in life as a game, and you feel great joy when you win. You truly hate to lose because you are always striving for first place. Every day you compete. Winning first place is your goal in any contest that you feel is worth your time. If there is no one to compete against, you compete against yourself to do more or accomplish a goal faster or better. You can be competing against someone else even when that person doesn’t know it. Because you hate to lose, you might get angry, upset, or even cry. It does not matter if others think the contest is important. If you are doing it, you want to be number one. Others look to you for the motivation to win.

As a mom, I am quite familiar with this strength as my son Shaun was born with it.  When he took Strengths Explorer as a 5th grader, Competing was his top strength and when he took StrengthsQuest as a freshman in high school, Competition is his number one strength.  I believe we first recognized this strength in Shaun as a toddler when he wanted to win games of “Duck Duck Goose” at daycare.  Often our evening dinnertime conversation included the best part of his day which was, consistently, “Winning”.

That continues to be the best part of Shaun’s day – when he has the opportunity to compete, and even better, when he wins.  I have watched this strength develop over the years through his self -awareness in different sports, activities, even academics.  I’ve also been fortunate to witness many mentors and positive adults in his life honoring and encouraging that strength’s development.

When Shaun broke his wrist during his last year of youth football league, he was devastated; inconsolable really.  I was struggling to find ways to cheer him up or give him something to look forward to – his joy was in that football game, he was honored to be a team captain, and plain angry that an accident had taken the season from him.

We were lucky.  Shaun had incredible coaches who not only recognized and understood how hard this was on him, but they honored his competing strength by asking him to be an assistant coach.  He could help call plays from the sidelines, shout encouragement to his teammates, and be involved right there at each game.  Shaun did not miss a practice, even with his hand in a cast – he worked out with the team and was proud of their season. 

We encouraged other competitions at home – could he make his bed faster than his sister, even with a cast on his arm?  Could he get a better grade on a spelling test than he did the previous week?   Competing doesn’t always mean competing with others, it also is a competition with yourself.  We saw that part of Shaun shine – his grades went up, and he loved daily games with his sister, and beating his mom at scrabble on a regular basis.

Sometimes Competing gets a bad rap, assuming it’s a “WIN OR NOTHING!” attitude or a desire to take others down to have the win, or win at all costs.  It’s a driving motivator for my son, and many other students who lead with this strength.  It’s been a growth mindset tool, because students with competition understand that losses do happen.  It helps us all be better than we were yesterday, and learn the importance of being a team player.  


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