Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Strengths (!!!), where do they come from? (Part 2)

I am privileged to have been borne in a joint family and had more than two parents to take our care. Whereas, Papa instilled into us discipline and made that our habit, uncles pampered us and took care of other creature comforts.

Ma has a complaint that I remember too little from my childhood, and that is not wrong. But I remember enough to relate my strengths to the gift I received from them.
We had a humble beginning. Papa was hardly in secondary school when my Grandfather passed away. Being away from their home town in Saurashtra, in the interior of Maharashtra, schooling was in Marathi. Papa mastered not only Marathi but also Sanskrit. He was a gold medalist in school in Sanskrit and was an ace orator when it came to English.

I am mentioning about languages only to bring to fore the contrast in studies. He must have scored well, since having cleared Matriculation exam, he got into Science stream and eventually into medicine. Only an avid “Learner” can demonstrate such mastery.
That was just the beginning. He had to drop out of medicine, since he got a job in the state police. Job was more important since he had to support families.

Learning did not stop there. He mastered law and was acclaimed as an ace investigator, having proficiency in handling medico- legal cases. He was drafted to investigate complex cases being an officer in CID. Promotions in police must have had some linkages to qualification. He felt the need and cleared his graduation with Hindi as special subject, when he was around 40 years of age.

I see clear genetic linkage. My last formal education ended when I was about to take charge of Computer Systems, at an age of 52 years and took last MOOC course in Social Psychology this year.

And now the other source of “Learner” as a talent theme.

My Ma did not complete her schooling before she got married. But that meant nothing. When we were taking extra exams in Hindi, while in middle school, she competed with me and cleared 4 such exams up to “Kovid”.  I was in engineering college, when she decided to appear for her SSC Exam and was stubborn enough to insist she will have mathematics as a subject. This cost her one trial, but next year, at her age of about 40 years, she did clear SSCE. I have her mark-sheet as souvenir .  Which better sources can I present than these two for my talent theme?

My parents and uncles were compulsive readers. I remember they had membership of one of the best libraries in Ahmedabad way back in early 1960s. I developed habit of reading by observing these elders. All of them can rattle names of books and stories therein written by Kanaiyalal, Gunvantrai, Ramanlal etc. My mother completed her reading of “Parth Ne Kaho Chadhave Ban”, all 5 parts, umpteenth number of time, very recently in her 90th year.

And learning comes so naturally to her. One reason she has very sharp memory at this age is, she is a subscriber of magazines of crosswords and other puzzles. She completes 5 every month.

She is a creative person, always in lookout of artistically knitted or woven apparel. She is expert at handling pins, needles, crochets and can create designs of her own. She has only to look at the specimen or a picture of the same and she can create one better than the original. Here are some samples.

Her latest triumph is using a Tablet. She has explored the web and created another master piece. Here are the evidences.

Talent is innate, we are born with it. And I am a “Learner”.

More about strengths later. Comments are welcome.

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Strengths (!!!) where do they come from?

I am blessed.

I have dear ones around me, who push me to do things which are good for me. And normally such “pushes” take place in the morning, after some of physical chores are done. 

And today the “furmaish” was to think about my strengths and their origin. (The paraphrasing is totally mine.)

I come from traditional school of thought, when it relates to development. And that means I believe one must work to overcome one’s weaknesses to achieve superior performance. The current line, of course is the opposite. And I do not have any quarrels with these psychologists as well.

The current school feels, “Success lies in your ability to discover your strengths and to organize your life so that these strengths can be applied. If we manage our weaknesses, instead of focusing on them (notice the verbs), we will be able to build our strengths.”

Strength is grounded in positive psychology perspective – focusing on what is positive and normal behavior, rather than focusing on deficiencies or what is abnormal behavior. 

Strengths are produced when talents are refined with knowledge and skill. To develop strength in any activity requires certain natural talents.

We can build strength by identifying our dominant talents and refining them with knowledge and skills. There are three ingredients of strengths:
  • Talent – innate, we are born with it, a naturally recurring patter of thoughts, feelings or behaviors (we see talent all the time – e.g. India Idol, India Has got Talent)
  • Knowledge – book learning and practice – we can understand it and talk about it
  • Skills – learning and practice – we can develop it

What do strengths feel like? 

When you do it, you feel effective. Before you do it, you actively look forward to it. While you are doing it, you feel inquisitive and focused. After you’ve done it, you feel fulfilled and authentic.

Gallup’s (I am sure all of us have heard the name and hence not being introduced) psychologists, researched the “best of the best” and identified more than 420 themes of talent in studying more than 2 million individuals. They then conducted focus group discussions with people who were the best at what they did and found 34 strengths which were the most prevalent in the “best of the best”. Their "StrengthsFinder 2.0" is a psychometric profiling tool which is used for identifying one’s strengths and arranging them in an order of mostly used themes.

And psychologists in our group after a long struggle, persuaded me to take this test some time back. I feel what any such test does is, it asks “you how do you feel?” and when you respond “good”, tells you “you are feeling good”. 

I am hundred percent in favor of these lines of assessment, since these tests make you think and provide you with lot to introspect and improve.

They not only provided me with a report but also coached me in using these areas of my talent and strengths. Now, whether I am using them or not, only these coaches can say. They described my strengths as under:
  1. Learner: has a great desire to learn and wants to continuously improve. In particular, the process of learning, rather than the outcome, excites.
  2. Achiever: has a great deal of stamina and works hard, takes great satisfaction from being busy and productive.
  3. Harmony: looks for consensus, doesn’t enjoy conflict; rather, seeks areas of agreement. (and my coach had a hard time convincing me that this is my area of strength for obvious reasons and you all would agree with me)
  4. Input: has a craving to know more. Often likes to collect and archive all kinds of information.
  5. Responsibility: takes psychological ownership of what he says and does, committed to stable values such as honesty and loyalty.

Now this is not my claim, I have just reproduced what Gallup’s report says. If any one disagrees, I have no issues with them.

Natural and logical extension of this analysis was to look for sources of these talents themes and strengths. The answer is in the definition of talent itself. I am borne with these and hence have got it from Papa and Ma and can not take credit for acquisition. I tried to relate.

I will identify the sources of my strengths in the next part, till then comments are welcome as usual.

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Locus of Control

It has been a long time I wrote about what is going on within, my obsession for passing time. Some of you may even call it an OCD.
Today morning I was asking my wife, who by now is used to this OCD, how much responsible am I for the status of some of the close ones. Obvious question was how does this question arose?
My rationale was in the psychological concept of “Locus of Control”. I believe, and now as I read through some articles, I am not abnormal, that “I am responsible for what happens to me and to my near and dear ones”. Psychologists would describe this as Internal Locus of Control.
As the environment around us changes, we can either attribute success and failure to things we have control over, or to forces outside our influence. Which orientation one chooses has a bearing on one’s long-term success.
This orientation is known as our "Locus of Control". Its study dates back to the 1960s, with Julian Rotter's investigation into how people's behaviors and attitudes affected the outcomes of their lives. This produces a continuum with external control at one end and internal control at the other.
Now there is nothing wrong in perceiving one way or the other, like it is true for all concepts related to behavior and psychology. There are certain advantages which individuals with Internal Locus of Control derive, most of the time. Some of them being drive for achievement, working hard to develop competencies being inquisitive, and trying  to figure out why things turned out the way they did.
There are associated disadvantages. Such people are viewed as arrogant, over powering, some one who is better left alone. Such people may also find them selves as being respected more than loved.
And I wondered is this true for me also?? Do I not behave in a manner one with Internal Locus of Control behaves? Do I not get the treatment one with Internal Locus of Control receives?
And as for the conclusion "I am not abnormal", the end-note to an article on the subject reads "As people grow older they tend towards a more internal locus of control. This comes from the increased ability to influence things going on in their lives and the realization that much of what happens to them is a result of what they do."
The dilemma is how do I overcome the disadvantages associated with being one with Internal Locus of Control? And that is where I need help from those for whom I believe I am responsible.

Comments as usual are welcome. Critique althemore.