If you’ve been around me for more than 5 minutes, you no doubt have learned of my obsession with personality tests.  Even through many purges of my own library of books, and a commitment over the last few years to buy no books and only use the library, certain “volumes” have remained.  And most of those highlight issues of personality psychology.

One of the most helpful teaching moments for me last week at the Storyline Conference was a section on identifying which kind of thinker I am.  I was a bit beside myself as Donald talked about the book Living the Life You Were Meant to Live by Tom Paterson.  A new obsession resource!

Paterson shares five kinds of thinkers:  grinders, minders, keepers, finders and theorists.  I’ll use Mike Rohde’s artistic notetaking to give you a flavor for this…{I’ll get to the second idea about season of life in a moment}:

Paterson’s approach was an unexpected breath of fresh air for me.  For so long in my life I have strived to fit into an idea of who I should be or what I’m supposed to be.  It was a light bulb moment to realize which end of the spectrum I fall on:  the grinder/minder in case you were wondering.  I remember clearly the moment in high school when being the President of my class or a club or an organization filled me with fear and intrepidation, but being the Vice President or Class Secretary seemed perfect.  The chance to lead and work with and guide others, but not be the strategist living in ambiguity, spotting voids and filling them.  That just equaled stressful.

As Donald fleshed out these 5 types in light of “story”, it all began to make more sense.  As he encouraged, “by defining which kind of thinker you are, you can more easily understand whether you need to join a story or start one.  Grinders should look for an opportunity in which they can contribute their work ethic.  Minders should look for an existing story in which they can contribute their management skills….”  It even began to give a structure or framework to the working relationship Matt and I had at camp.  Matt’s a theorist through and through.  He is filled with ideas, needs a translator or patient assistant to work within teams, he embraces risk and welcomes change, he’s strategic and produces new ideas.  And that is SO not me.

Don then encouraged us to couple these ideas with looking at our season of life..the journey of a professional which normally involves five phases:  consumer, critic, curator, coach and creator.  These stages are fluid, but one tends to find themself in a specific stage predominately.  These 5 stages move from the Homer Simpson-esque Consumer stage, having our needs met by others to the Creator stage—-the Bill Gates, Bono and Warren Buffets of the world.  In this final stage, creators know how to accumulate knowledge and execute a plan and are intensely impactful in their altruistic efforts.

As I seek to work through this “Season of Life” framework, I can see aspects of myself that really display the curator stage, collecting knowledge about relationships, parenting and faith.  But at one point, he asked if there were any 35-40 year olds in the audience who felt like God was pushing them into a coaching stage.  I didn’t even have a moment of hesitation, knowing that God was clearing screaming, “YOU, Christine, YOU!!!  Raise your hand!”  I had a strong sense that my storyline is being pushed into a place of coaching others.  Those others might be 8 months and 4 years old….but in my former professional life, working with 18-25 year olds at camp, this was the place of “flow” for me.  Ever heard of Csíkszentmihályi’s theory of flow?  Gotta love his name, but aside from that, it is one of the theories I learned about in college that has really stuck with me.    According to Wikipedia, “Flow is the mental state of operation in which a person in an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and success in the process of the activity.”

At camp, working with young adults, I felt this “flow”.  While guiding and working with student teachers, I felt it too.  When 9 and 10 year olds got excited over my obsession with California History, that coaching element was on overdrive.

{two of my favorite things—summer staffers circa June, 2008 (love you Rob, Bob and Alan!)–and organized binders…ahh, bliss}

I am hearing a sense of call  into my current niche:  my setting, the “characters” which I interact with and plot which is unfolding in my life.  I am called to keep my eyes wide open to serve and be and live in light of this new challenge.

How is God calling me, nudging, pushing me to be a grinder or a coach or a minder?  And rather than freaking out in fear of the unknowns of this call and path, how might God be asking me to live in the moment that is around me 100%?

If you’ve stuck out this long and laborious post, written more for my reflection than anything else, then you deserve a lollipop or balloon.  Hopefully it’s given you some thoughts to chew on too.  Because seriously, this life we’re all living, though filled with fear, conflict, uncertainty and change is above all, meant to be enjoyed and lived in.

As Don said in A Million Miles,

“God sat over dark nothing and wrote me specifically into the story….

Enjoy your place in my story.

The beauty of it means you matter

and you can create within it even as I have created you.'”

7 thoughts on “Niche

  1. I’m curious about this storyline conference, Christine. I’ve come to feel, in the last few years, that life is all about stories – or that stories are how we make sense of life. How do you think someone who isn’t a Christian would find the conference?

    1. Good question, Sarah. I would check out his latest book, Sarah, which is a great sense of what the conference is about. It is definitely focused towards seeing story through the lens of faith. That said, I think you would get a lot out of the experience either way. So good to hear from you!!!!!

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