I celebrated Easter at Unity of Tucson, a spiritual home I discovered during my Lenten stay. As I walked into church that morning, I was feeling so grateful to arrive and experience what Rev. Jonathan and the church leaders had created.
I didn’t know what was in store, I was simply there to be a part – or not – as I was called. There is a freedom in that for me.
Process and Production
For many years I was a part of the leadership at Unity Spiritual Center Albuquerque. My last year, when I served as the church administrator, I knew every little detail of every single thing that was to happen on any given Sunday. Church was not so much spiritually uplifting as it was a production; I was working, after all.
I held a similar role as the Student and Career Services Director at Southwestern College. I was skilled at data analysis and telling the story in the data. I could see the systems that weren’t working and could work with others to create new ones that did work. People chuckled and said I was like “Google” because I held so many details of the students’ experiences.
It’s true. I am good at knowing exactly where things are and how to create processes that work. I love beauty and order – it’s part of being a Virgo rising, I’m sure! These skills were also valued and rewarded when I was a child. Since I had the capacity, I leaned into it for much of my early life – even enrolling in college to become a systems analyst and learning to program in multiple languages.
But in midlife, it’s exhausting being the linchpin. When I spend too much time holding all the details and creating elegant systems and processes, it brings me to my knees. Every time.
Lately, I have come to understand this experience through a new lens.
This month, I’m finishing up my training to be a Certified Sparketype Advisor.
The Sparketype is a free, online assessment that helps you “discover your unique imprint for work that makes you come alive.” The companion book, Sparked*, goes deeper into the model and each of the 10 Sparketypes, including where they fall on a spectrum from process to service-oriented.
In the Sparketype model, the Essentialist, whose motto is “I create order from chaos,” is my Anti-Sparketype – the one I may be incredibly good at but drains me. My first impulse is to dive into transformation headfirst (organizational or personal). Learn how everything works, identify what needs to change, and create new and improved systems.
This is particularly challenging as a recovering codependent/people-pleaser. Essentialists are like gold – there aren’t many of them and they are highly valued within organizations. Since I like to be liked (more on that later), the more Essentialist work I do, the more people like me (and the results of my work).
They ask me to do more, and I agree (or I volunteer for more) because I want to be liked and I’m called to transformations of all kinds.
When I engage in this vicious cycle, I become exhausted and resentful. If I stay in it for too long, ignoring my own physical and emotional needs, it’s followed by a health crisis; sometimes a health crisis that is so intense that it takes me out of the workforce for a period of time.
A Different Approach
Putting these skills at the center of my work life clearly doesn’t work for me! So, I’ve been exploring how to use them in a different way – by leaning into my Primary and Shadow Sparketypes of Advisor/Sage first.
Makes sense, right? Why would I put my Anti-type first except out of habit?
With mottos of “I guide to grow” and “I awaken insight,” the Advisor/Sage combination is about relationship and service. The Essentialist (and that Virgo rising) is about the process of creating beauty and order. Don’t get me wrong, I love me some beauty and order, but an intimate, engaged relationship trumps them every time.
Recently, I’ve been asking myself:
- “What emerges when I apply the skills I’ve honed as an Essentialist to people and relationships instead of processes and systems?”
- “What happens when I simply show up, participate, and see what emerges like I did at church this morning?”
- “What if I help people create order from chaos in their inner and outer worlds – to put themselves at the center of their lives?”
Well, um, that’s coaching and facilitating.
Now that I’m doing it full time, I’m Sparked!
p.s. My new offering – a Sparked Conversation – is available for booking. Never heard of the Sparketype, take the free assessment here and discover your unique imprint for work that makes you come alive. I am completing the process to become a Certified Sparketype Advisor in June 2022 and it will be integrated into The Whole Shebang 2.0 coaching subscription for those who want to go deep.
*There are links on this site that can be defined as “affiliate links”. This means that I may receive a small commission (at no cost to you) if you subscribe or purchase something through the links provided that are signaled with *. Emilah Dawn DeToro is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for website owners to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com, audible.com, and any other websites that may be affiliated with Amazon Service LLC Associates Program.