What Inspires You?

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The other day a friend gave me a book called Finding a Job You Can Love, because I’ve been technically unemployed for going on two years now. I say technically because I do some contract work here and there, but it would be nice to find work I can do without all the misery of my last position.

Published in 1982 by Ralph Mattson and Arthur Miller, the book has a very traditional Christian approach, which I’ve had to ignore because, quite frankly, I’m not traditionally Christian. I did like, however, a distinction that it makes in the section on determining what job one is best suited to. Rather than the standard interests, skills, aptitudes inventory, this book talks about a “System for Identifying Motivated Abilities” (SIMA). The down-and-dirty definition of your motivated abilities is essentially “what would you do even without being paid?” This perspective gives it a decidedly right-brain standpoint, and one which, for someone so artsy as myself, works much better. Having been through some Category V vocational disasters in my life, I’m hoping to discover better information to help me in my job search.

So how this works is that you note down throughout life periods—childhood, teenage, young adult and so on—achievements that you’re then going to examine for common themes. You don’t have to have received an award or payment necessarily—just things that stand out as significant things you did, though it can’t be simply an experience such as taking a trip to Europe. So I made my list starting out with a very cool exhibit I made in third grade in which I used a Barbie to illustrate a Peruvian woman using a loom. I can still see the bright colors of the yarn I used in the fabricated loom I constructed and the outfit and mantilla I made for her and the clay pots I made for the setting. I don’t remember anything my teacher might have said or a grade given. I do remember how invested I was in fashioning this display.

On and on through my list, there’s a clear theme of over-and-above artistic projects—even in jobs with no artistic component whatsoever. Mattson and Miller claim the motivated abilities to be fairly changeless and indicative of a God-given gift. They also confirm that you’ll inject that motivated ability into any setting you’re in whether it’s appropriate or not. That one really resonates with me because over the years I’ve applied art to homemaking and gardening, in addition to my various “jobs,” but even using my children as a “canvas” at times (especially Halloween). A co-worker once made the comment that I seemed to dress in costumes; I’d have been ticked except she was absolutely right.

The authors had a tough time describing their own theory of motivation, exactly because of the emotional content it contains. Our right brain doesn’t “do” words so much. It just DOES. Motivated abilities can range from mine, which is working with form and color, to themes having to do with persuading, acquiring (!), fulfilling needs, leading, coaching, visualizing, investigating, operating, implementing. It is this aspect of our psyches which is more important than skills or even aptitudes. It FEELS. Your right brain’s been trying to tell you all this time but it’s so hard to get it across without words that the left brain can understand.

There’s also the aspect of it being a compulsion. You’ll see your world through your motivation-colored glasses. I know I do that. I go anywhere and I’ll hear “How can I make that?” in my head. When I go to the beach, I rarely swim or even get more than a toe in the water, but you’ll find me getting a sun-burned back building elaborate snoozing sea creatures or walled cities. You can’t NOT do whatever it is that motivates you.

So now that I know what motivates me, I signed up for a cake decorating class starting tomorrow. While not something that I would have ever thought of (because thinking is so often literal and left-brained)—especially in terms of a career choice—who knows? When I think of how many career interest inventories and skills and abilities assessments I’ve taken along the way, it’s just pretty annoying that never once was I shown to ask my OTHER brain about it, too.

Here’s the book link on Amazon.

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