StrengthsQuest: Meeting yourself

Everyone’s got them: five little words from a test that you likely took in Gateway your freshman year. Some of these words are long, like Individualization, and some are quite short — WOO! Some are very concrete, like Command, and some are more abstract, like Connectedness. Some are self-explanatory, like Positivity, and some are a bit mysterious, like Input. But what do they mean? And how do you use them?

StrengthsQuest is an educational leadership program from Gallup Inc. While many personality assessments give tendencies and thought processes, StrengthsQuest focuses on finding and fostering only strengths, ignoring weaknesses completely.

“People who are successful learn to use their strengths in a lot of different areas,” said Rod Reed, University chaplain. “The reality is we all have limitations. By understanding my strengths, I’ve increased my chances for success.”

The research agrees. People who spend time working on their strengths show vast improvement over people who try to make up for their weaknesses, according to several studies cited on

“[StrengthsQuest] says, this is the area where you have the most opportunity for growth,” said Becci Rothfuss, director of the Leaders Scholars Institute.

One of Rothfuss’ strengths is Belief, and she strongly believes in the power of knowing your strengths.

“I don’t believe that this is a magic bullet, but I believe it’s a good tool, and it lines up philosophically with what I believe about how God created us,” she says.

Unlike the Myers-Briggs, there are no opposite traits, and no one strength precludes another. Though WOO, the tendency to favor a large quantity of relationships, and Relator, the tendency to favor a few high quality relationships, seem like opposites, they can coexist. The combination is rare, but not impossible.

Because there are thousands of combinations, there are a lot of different ways particular strengths manifest. Sophomore Neil Haefli finds this fascinating. He has become somewhat of an expert in personality tests, say his friends, and is a big fan of StrengthsQuest.

“It’s helpful for school because you learn how your brain works,” he says. “It’s helpful with friends because you understand how to communicate with them. It’s helpful in the workplace because you understand how to apply yourself better.”

Haefli recommends talking to people with similar strengths.

“You might understand part of that strength, and they might understand another part and see ways it’s applicable to your life in ways that you can’t,” Haefli said. Reed agrees.

“Send it to your parents, your siblings, your best friend, and say, does this sound like me?” Reed says.

Despite the positive research for strengths-based growth, some students still rankle at the idea of being put in a box. Rothfuss says that while there is some danger in stereotyping, the flexible nature of StrengthsQuest naturally defies pigeonholing.

“The strengths all work together,” she says. “For example, a person with Maximizer and Belief is going to act very different from a person with Maximizer and Achiever.”

Haefli likes to think of it in a different way. Rather than putting a person in a box, strengths are boxes that overlap with a person without encompassing them. He also adds that if generalizations don’t appeal, then one can always get more specific.

“Yes, that means more boxes, but soon you’ve gotten so specific that only one person can fill that space,” he says. “I think that’s why it’s helpful to use other personality tests.”

Haefli recommends the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and even the Hogwarts House quiz of Harry Potter fame on

As for him, his research into personality types has helped him work on one of his strengths: Ideation, the fascination with and ability to recognize big ideas.

“Ideation helps me understand Ideation, which makes me like Ideation,” he quipped.

For more information on www.StrengthsQuest, visit