Wednesday, September 05, 2001

Niche Picking

Labels. They're just one word or a phrase we use to categorize ourselves. And they can have a huge impact on the way we interact with others and approach challenges.

We start acquiring our labels at birth. Some we choose to take on ourselves but many more are given to us. I, for instance, was called an independent child. In some ways, that label has served me well, but not always. It was many years later and through working with my coach that I discovered I was not independent, but I had a strong need to be unrestricted. A big difference in my opinion but easy to see how others would label me in childhood as independent. I am not independent. I do want and need people around me and in my life. I am a coach, you know! I do, however, not want to be restricted in any way by the important people in my life. Until I got that, my relationships were a bit of a struggle. I was using the old acquired term of independent to describe myself and it was no wonder that the important people in my life were confused when I requested help. And no wonder I was frustrated when those same people didn't come to my aid when it was so obvious to me that I needed them. “Oh, you're so independent, we knew you'd be all right.” Worse yet, because I believed I was independent, I rarely asked for help when I truly needed it. Independent was my brand, my trademark, my tagline, my niche.

Later, assessments most often labeled me an introvert. I was once told that I would not be a good educator (a degree I was pursuing at the time) because of this tendency. I continued to pursue the degree (probably because of my yet undiscovered need to be unrestricted—tell me I can’t do something and that's the very thing I want to do) and went on to be an excellent teacher.

I've taken the Myers-Briggs, the DISC, a coaching style assessment and endless others. I learned through the assessment in Elaine Aron’s book, The Highly Sensitive Person, that I'm an HSP. Now if you love taking assessments and/or you use assessments in your practice, bear with me. I still enjoy taking a good assessment myself. And most of the assessments support each other with remarkable consistency.

“So what's the problem, Deb?” you're probably saying. For me, it's that when you're done answering sometimes a hundred questions, the outcome is boiled down to just a few powerful words, your labels. But the power of assessments really lies in their inquiry, not in the results. Assessments, like a good coach, ask the great questions. But the labeling that comes after taking the assessment can impose limits on your development. Far better to answer the questions and then be intuitively honest with yourself about yourself.

“Once you label me, you negate me.” ~Kierkegaard

“The obscure we always see sooner or later; the obvious always seems to take a little longer.” ~Edward R. Murrow

“Sometimes it's a little better to travel than to arrive.” ~Robert Persig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance)

“Life consists not in holding good cards but in playing those you hold well.” ~Josh Billings

“One of the hardest things in life is having words in your heart that you just can't utter.” ~James Earl Jones

“Human beings, for all their pretensions, have a remarkable propensity for lending themselves to classification somewhere within neatly labeled categories. Even the outrageous exceptions may be classified as outrageous exceptions!” ~W. J. Reichmann

“Opportunities are seldom labeled.” ~John H. Shield

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