I recently took the Strengthsfinder test. (I’m planning a little reinvention…. watch this space!)
I don’t know if you’ve heard of Strengthsfinder but if you’re at all interested in discovering why you are the way you are and why you do the things you do, I highly recommend it.
There is something comforting about seeing all your quirks and foibles so accurately drawn (how do they do that?).
It is even more of a delight to see the details of your ‘you-ness’ highlighted as strengths.
I’m a huge fan of the Strengthsfinder philosophy, ie working with your natural inclinations, rather than trying to force yourself into a mould that’s not an easy or happy fit.
(Which could explain why I am not, and will never be, a Domestic Goddess…)
Anyway, as part of the process, you receive a personalised report.
Maybe it’s an ego thing, or maybe it’s a quest for self-discovery, but I do love anything personalised, just for me.
There is so much that is mass produced and meant for a generic audience, that to have something tailor-made, with your name and personality stamped all over it, is quite special.
This report is a joy, it is basically a songsheet of your praises – why you are so wonderful and unique and what you do so well that only you can do that way.
I welled-up with happy tears of recognition as I read the explanations for my behaviour and preferences, as well as my angst.
For example, one ‘strength’ is that I yearn to learn. I thrive on new challenges and discoveries.
So, any untaxing or repetitive activities will drain the life-force out of me.
Do you think this could possibly explain my ‘issues’ with housework….?
However, understanding why I’m not naturally domestic is all well and good, but that may be of little help if I’m responsible for the care and maintenance of my own home and family (which I am).
Although I’m hopeful that one day, I will have so successfully played to my strengths that I am compensated with a small army of domestic helpers, in the meantime the dust/dishes/dirty socks are a-gathering (as is their wont…).
Well, happily, the fabulous folk at Strengthsfinder also include in their report; Ideas For Action.
So I have it on good authority that I really ought to try very hard to schedule a) time to learn and b) time to think.
Oh, the happy sigh of relief when I read those words!
So, I needn’t feel guilty about sneaking off to curl up with my latest book?
Or feel like a weirdo because I sometimes like to hide from everybody and just think about stuff?
It’s such a pleasure that a professional personality-analyst has instructed me to do these (joyful) things for the good of my health, sanity, wellbeing and achievement – even for the greater good of family, community and the world at large.
Happiness is… being told that not only is it OK to be the way you are, but also that you might be quite useful/successful/appreciated in doing so.
But how does this marry up with the disappointing reality that my housework schedule won’t go away?
Well, along with the above suggestions, my report told me to consider when and where I do my best thinking and learning.
So being the dutiful student, I did this.
And after some careful thought, I came to a surprisingly helpful realisation.
I have my best ideas and insights when a) walking, b) in the bath/shower and c)…… whilst quietly performing the myriad mindless tasks around the house!
It’s true, many of my greatest ideas have arisen from the fertile trance-like state that domestic work can induce. (Want proof? This blog post was dreamed up during a rare vacuuming spree.)
So, this sheds a whole new light on my housework schedule.
No longer should I view housework as a waste of precious time, keeping me from what I really want to do.
Instead, I can use housework time to meet my need for my all-important, quiet pondering.
I can even use it to satisfy my learning appetite – for example, I can download an audiobook on the study-du-jour and feed my mind as I feed my family.
Seen in this light, housework is a calming, therapeutic tool to enhance my wellbeing (and I never thought I would write those words…).
Of course, I fought this realisation at first – but I have to admit it is true.
On the rare occasions in the past, when I’ve given myself an entire day to read or study, I’ve found that I can only input so much before I have to go and do something else, something mindless and automatic so I can process the information.
Housework fits the bill here.
After reading a particularly thought-provoking chapter or article, I may unconsciously drift toward the laundry or washing up and I have to admit – it helps!
Not only that, it gets my housework done! (This is a double bonus as a clean and tidy house is, for me, far more conducive to clear-thinking than chaos and grime.)
I have also noticed that when I turn to domestic chores in a bid to untangle a head full of ideas, my mind is so busy doing that that I have less brain space left to devote to how much I loathe housework.
In fact, if (like me) you are prone to doing the housework while constantly begrudging the fact that you are doing the housework (or as the fabulous Danielle LaPorte puts it, seething with resentment), you could be far happier and healthier if you took your mental focus off the task in hand (assuming you’re not operating anything dangerous) and turned your mind toward more interesting musings.
You don’t need to be interested in study or learning to employ this tactic.
Maybe you could ponder your next holiday or career move.
Perhaps you have a relationship issue that needs resolving – a little meditative mopping could provide just the clarity you need.
Or if you do want to broaden your horizons, why not learn a new language on audiobook?
When you consider how many hours you log in your domestic work, that’s quite a chunk of time in which to mentally pursue whatever your strengths naturally draw you toward.
It may be true that, for the sake of our health, our families and our quality of life, housework is a necessary evil.
But instead of fighting or resenting the amount of time we need to devote to it, maybe we could turn it to our advantage?
Our bodies may be required to go through the domestic motions, but our minds enjoy much more freedom.
One of the few advantages of mundane chores is that you can do them on autopilot, leaving your mind free to go wherever you’d like to take it.
Let me know where you get to!
PS If you would like more info on Strengthsfinder, click here. However, to do the test and receive your own Personlised Report of Your Wonderfulness, you need to buy a copy of the Strengthsfinder book.
~ Agatha Christie
UPDATE: Since I wrote this blog post I have gone on to explore the connection between housework and creativity more deeply. (Amazing what ideas come to you when you’re dng the washing up!
If creative expression is important to you, you can read more about that connection in these blog posts:
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