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Blog #9: Finding Your Best Match

Updated: 6 days ago



Nothing can be more confusing or frustrating than making choices. Just like the picture above, part of being a successful adult, either with or without disabilities, is finding two new doors and then figuring out which one to go through. Will the left door open to your dream job or just be more of the same? Will the right door show you new friendships or a way to meet your significant other? Which one brings the most potential with the least problems? It's these choices--whether big or small--that change the fabric of your life. And they all ultimately depend on making decisions about what is the best for you. Or, making your best match. This is such an important skill that I've devoted a whole podcast to it + this blog is crammed with lots and lots of great resources. So open one door and let's see what happens.......



Definition

A definition for "finding your best match" can initially be hard to find, but here's one to get you started: "someone [or something] well suited to someone else" (Farley, 2022). But, what does "well suited" mean? Think of someone or something that fits you like a glove; something that makes you happy and gives you just what you need. In other words, you can be compatible with this person or have a strong affinity with this place or thing.

There are lots of examples to this important, but usually overlooked, aspect of adulthood. For instance, are you compatible with your significant other? Do you have a strong connection or affinity to a certain place? Do you have rapport or feel a strong, unspoken accord with special friends? Are you comfortable in a college setting with like-minded individuals? Does this hobby just make you feel happy when you're doing it?


Do you swear by a particular diet to lose 10 pounds before Christmas? Other examples include: pets, roommates, hobbies, churches, vacations, etc. Of special importance is how well you are matched to your career or current job. In fact, it is this area that often drives other aspects of your adult life.



As you can see from the examples above, finding your best match quickly becomes an incredibly personal experience for everyone--what fits you or makes you happy may not be the same thing for me. For instance, I love living close to the beach, but you may hate sand or the ocean. I have a friend who cherishes her three cats, but I'm a "dog" person myself. You may dearly love your current boyfriend, but the rest of the family can't stand him. You may want a job where you are surrounded by people and activity; someone else may crave privacy and quiet in the workplace. All of these ideas involve choices, goals, and dreams. The tips and tricks below will help you explore this aspect of your life further.


Benefits of Finding Your Best Match: Making Choices


Adult life is full of choices. Sometimes they are simple as what to eat for lunch. Sometimes they are fun, like picking out where you can go on vacation or which new tattoo you should get. Sometimes they are as complicated as when to get a divorce, how to pay for school for your children, or where to move when you are laid off. As these examples illustrate, making adult choices is a very personalized process that can be stressful and filled with emotion.

Moreover, there is another truism about choices in adulthood; we often have little, clear guidance when making choices that will affect our lives, and those we love, for years to come. This is ironic, as the reverse is usually true in public school settings where teachers or administrators run IEP meetings and parents make decisions in parent-teacher conferences. In addition, everyday decisions and choices are also often closely monitored for children and adolescents by families and guardians. But no matter who we are or where we live, every adult will find themselves at a crossroads. Choices must be made about work, school, finances, children, and relationships. What guidance is available? What are the ramifications of which way we choose to go? For all adults, sometimes we make choices in an effective way—and sometimes we don’t.

Nevertheless, whatever we do and however we do it, positive choices drive adult success in many different ways. One of the most powerful and beneficial ways to make various life choices is by finding out what is our best match, either at work, at school, at home, or in the community. The suggestions below can provide a roadmap for adults with learning disabilities when they reach that crossroad—and move successfully forward into the next phases of their lives.


Scenarios



One major clue to making choices for your best match are figuring out your personal expectations. In fact, the key to finding out what works the best for you lies honestly in answering this crucial question: What are your expectations here? Once you find those answers the rest will often fall into place when you need to make the right choice for yourself. Adulthood will always be full of crossroads, some minor and some major. Learning how to pick which road you take will truly lead you to finding the best match for you at any time in your life. For more examples, check out the scenarios below. How could these apply to your life?

Scenario A:

You are continually feeling short of money at the end of the month and sometimes can’t meet your bills. You’re looking for legal ways to make more money. Two options that you are considering are getting another part-time job even though you already have two jobs or playing the state lottery. Are either of these options realistic? Why or why not?


Scenario B:

You have seen all of the episodes of a popular TV series that portrays people being Crime Scene Investigators. You have decided that’s exactly what you want to do for a living, but you have no patience, hate the sight of blood, and barely passed math and science classes in high school. To get this job, you decide to go back to college to finish your Bachelor’s degree and then apply for the local Police Academy. Is this option realistic? Why or why not?


Scenario C:

You have always had the dream to just “run away from everything and really be free”. Your fantasy is to drive by yourself from Philadelphia to Seattle. You are a single parent with a 4-year old child and you both live with your mother. You have a minimum wage job and an on-again/off-again relationship with a boyfriend. You’re tempted to just call in sick one day at work and hit the road. Is this a realistic option? Why or why not?


Scenario D:

Your friends want to go to Europe and have asked you to go backpacking with them. They’re not sure how much it will cost or where exactly they will go, but they are willing to contribute $1,000 each to fund their trip. When you press them for details, they explain that: “We’re just going to stay in hostels, meet lots of cool folks and go where the fun is….” You only have about a $1,000 in your savings, but will be off from school during the summer. Is this a realistic option? Why or why not?


Scenario E:

Your boyfriend is passionate about scuba diving and has talked you into diving with him on multiple occasions. While you think it’s fun, you have lots of other things you’d rather do. However, if you want to spend time with him, you have to dive every weekend. He has also talked you into taking classes and buying equipment for almost $3,000. Since you don’t have the cash, you have put everything on your credit cards. You want to move your relationship to a more permanent one, but would like to do other things than dive. Is this a realistic option? Why or why not?


How is Finding Your Best Match Connected to LD and Dyslexia?



I'm going to make a personal confession in this section--I've wanted to explore the connections between LD and making choices for a long time. But, I'm hesitant to do that because both topics--learning disabilities and finding your best match--are equally complex ones to tackle. In addition, although I list some studies and professional literature in the References, there is LITTLE if anything written or researched about this area. (I find this truly ironic, as people with LD make choices all of the time, but how their disability impacts this critical process seems to be a mystery!)

Having said that, here's a few random ideas to get you started thinking about this area with me:

a) Concomitant Issues: Individuals with learning disabilities and dyslexia often have the capacity and ability to make successful decisions; whether big ones like career choices or small ones like where to go for a summer vacation. However, there do seem to be issues that can confound or complicate this process when you have a neurologically-based disability like LD or dyslexia. Some psycho-social examples of these factors are: high levels of stress, anxiety or frustration; social isolation; and/or a persistent lack of self-confidence. Related cognitive-based hurdles can be: short attention span, poor planning or executive functioning skills, memory issues, organizational problems, and/or difficulty interpreting social cues. While the relationship between these issues and the decision-making process are unknown at this time, common sense would tell you that there might be some type of connection here. For instance, if you're buying a new car, you need to organize all of the information about each potential vehicle and make an informed choice, based on all of those facts. Or, finding a college major often involves masses of information, opinions, and experiences to help you decide how to move forward in college. Each situation demands choices--and the ability to make them.

b) Reasoning Skills: For some--not all--individuals with LD or dyslexia, problems with cognitive reasoning and executive function skills go hand-in-hand with their disability. For example, Schiebener, Wegmann, Gathmann, Laier, Pawlikowski, and Brand (2014) have a fascinating study where they assert that strong executive functioning skills lead to better decision-making skills, especially during stressful situations. So how can this apply to the "real-world" lives of people with LD or dyslexia? If you think about your own life, you can easily remember important decisions that kept you up nights while you were trying to figure out what to do (e.g., going into drug treatment, having your first child, moving to a new state, ending a marriage, buying or selling property, picking a college, etc.). Would it be easier or harder for you to find your best match if you had problems with inhibitory control, working memory, and mental flexibility? In turn, strong executive functioning skills can facilitate successful goal setting, inhibit distractions, and give us the ability to make a Plan B in case Plan A doesn't work out (Center on the Developing Child, Harvard University, 2022). These basic reasoning skills are the under-pinnings of effective decision-making. Or, lack of them can be obstacles that further confuse the process.

c) Dependence/Independence: Many children with LD grow into adults with LD who have rarely made decisions for themselves. In fact, there are literally book-shelves full of literature about self-determination for people with disabilities that describe this phenomena further and stress the importance of personal goal-setting and decision making (ADD CITATIONS!!). The trick here is figuring out for yourself--not your parents, not your teachers, not your family or friends, and not your significant other--what is important to you and what you can compromise on. This balancing act is crucial to adult success and something that you may work on throughout your life. For instance, what if you live in Minneapolis and want to go to a college in Miami? Your mom says, "Absolutely not! You're not ready to move across the country yet." Or, maybe you've always wanted a Rottweiler puppy, but your roommate is allergic to dogs. What do you do? Maybe, you really want to go visit a college friend from Australia but are burdened with heavy student loans. Should you try to pay for the trip yourself or ask your parents for financial help? All of these scenarios involve finding out for yourself how independent you truly are as an adult.



Tips and Tricks to Find Your Best Match

Finding your best match is a multi-faceted topic that you will continue to explore throughout your life. That's because as you grow and change your needs and dreams continue to evolve. For instance, maybe you've been lucky enough to find your soul mate, but need to find a job or career where you can earn enough to live the life you want. Maybe, you've lived in the same area or city all of your life. Now, you're financially comfortable enough and know yourself well enough to finally move someplace else. Maybe, you're having a mid-life crisis and looking for new interests or friends. All of these things involve finding your best match. Try a few of these tips and tricks to see how they can enrich and enlarge your life.



Tip #1: Figuring Out Exactly Who You AreO's Four Step Guide to Discovering Who You're Meant to Be

Here's a set of fun, free activities to start you thinking about specific ways to find out what is the best match for your life (The Oprah Magazine, 2011). Start by checking out the website below:


 

As you can see, the activities are organized into 6 categories:

  • Find your passion

  • Take Stock of Your Strengths

  • Tap Your Motivation

  • Reality Check Your Goals

  • Forging Ahead

  • Go!

The cool thing about these activities is that you can go at your own pace--and do one set of activities at a time or skip and choose a few that point to new areas in your life. For instance, maybe you already know your passion is dance, but you've always had problems with motivation and procrastination. Maybe you love to daydream and have an active imagination, but you just don't know how to make some of your goals a reality. Take your time and really think about what works for YOU--not your friends, parents, family, or peers--while you discover your best match in terms of: motivation, goal setting, self-fulfillment, personal satisfaction, and so forth. These insights can give you a whole new lens to view your life as an adult with learning disabilities or dyslexia.

Note: You can easily do any of these activities by yourself, but they are way more fun and interesting if you do them with a partner or in a small group. For example, you may think that you know your sister or best friend really well, but when you each fill out a Passion Hexagon, you'll be surprised at the new awareness that you've gained about this person. Plus, there's the bonus of discussing and getting new ideas about how to make your own life better.


Tip #2: How does $$$ play into your life?


Trick #3: You have just won the lottery and will receive $1 million per year for the next 20 years. First, ask yourself these questions: What would you do with the money? Why? How would that change your life and those you love? What does that tell you about yourself? How can you translate those insights into your real life today?

Second, now comes the part where you really need to be honest with yourself--look at the answers to the questions above and think about how important finances are in each response. For instance, maybe your answer to question two (e.g., "How would that change your life and those you love?") is to buy a big house in a new neighborhood or a different area (i.e., the mountains, the beach, a fancy urban party place, a fishing camp, a different country, etc.). But, would that really make your family happier? Would the move solve any of your current problems? Would it make you happier or just bring more issues and complexity? The answers to all of these questions can give you insights into what is the BEST match for you--and what can be addressed with something else besides money. For example, maybe buying a big house or relocating isn't the best option for you or your children--but periodically renting a cool condo from Airbnb is. What about going online to websites like: https://www.homeexchange.com ? There you can find other people who are willing to swap houses with you--sometimes for free!

The point is: you may have a great match for the quality of your life right in front of you, but you've never thought about it......





Tip#3: What's the Best Job Match for You?

Everybody has to work at least sometime in their lives. But how many of us look forward to going to work everyday because we really enjoy our jobs? If you're one of those people, congratulations! If you're not, now's the time to find out what suits you the best and will give you the most satisfaction. However, before you pick an occupation or change jobs, it’s critical to know exactly what that job entails. A simple, fun way to investigate your best match in the workplace is to play a game with a set of Job Cards. Once you make your cards, you can do lots of different games (e.g., Jeopardy, Concentration, Go Fish, etc.) with the cards or just use them for your own enjoyment. You ca do this by yourself, with a partner, or in a small group.

The first step is to make your own Job Cards. Get a stack of blank index cards and look for about 15-20 jobs that would fall into 5 or 6 different job categories (e.g., medical, computers, service, etc.). For lists of jobs, go to https://www.careerprofiles.info/top-100-careers.html or google Lists of Jobs. Make sure that you include some obscure or unusual jobs like: Funeral Services Manager, Circus Transportation Manager, Food Scientist Acupuncturist, Nurse Midwife, Bounty Hunter, Ethical Hacker, CIA Agent, or Waterslide Tester. (For more interesting jobs, google the term Unusual Jobs or try to this website https://www.indeed.com/career-advice/finding-a-job/odd-jobs-that-pay-well)

On one side of each card, write the job name. On the other side of the card,

list a few characteristics of a job (e.g., salary, pre-requisite skills, setting, uniform, etc.). For example, on one side of the card write "emergency room nurse". On the other side, you could write that this person: sets bones, makes blood transfusions, provides wound care, administers medication, and interacts with families. Or, you could add that their salary is about $2,500 per week with almost $13,000 per year in overtime.

Now, the fun begins! You can do lots of different things with your cards, like sorting all job descriptions by categories. You can make two more sets of duplicate cards and leave one side blank. Mix them up. Then, put them in random rows and play Concentration. (After you match the cards by job name, you can re-shuffle and match the cards by characteristics.) Another variation is to take the blank side of one set of duplicate cards and put a dollar value on it ($5, $20, $50, $100). Then shuffle and use this set to be sorted by Jeopardy categories. (You can use your original categories or make new Jeopardy categories, like: Jobs that use computers, Jobs that pay a lot, Jobs involve risks, etc.) Follow the same rules that you would normally use to play Jeopardy and see who has the most correct answers and makes the most money.

If you play with a partner or with a group, you can also create a trophy for whomever gets the most jobs correct. As you play, think about what appeals to you about each job. You should also think about what you don't like about each job. Keep a running list of the jobs that you can see yourself doing. When you have at least 8-10 jobs on your list, prioritize the top 4 and explore them further.



Tip #4: Taking a Risk


A critical component to Finding your Best Match is risk-taking. This involves moving out of your comfort zone and your regular routines as you reflect on what you want to keep and what new ideas or behaviors you want to consider in your life. For instance, some folks spend their whole lives avoiding as much risk as possible. While this may be temporally comfortable, think of all of the great times and new successes they may be missing out on. Moreover, how can you truly achieve any of your dreams if you are always in a safe place talking to the same people and doing the same thing? So, grab onto those dreams and try a few of these new Tricks below.

Here's a few gentle ways to help you out of your rut. Try one every two weeks or once a month to see what new insights you find out about yourself:

  • Go out of your way to meet one new person. To get started, make a list of 3-5 new places you've never been or have been curious about. For instance, take a class in pottery or line-dancing, join a new Facebook group (check out this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ssH6rv0q-0k), or sign up for a free class online or at your local community college. Meeting someone new doesn't necessarily mean finding your new best friend--it just means getting out there and exploring your world. So, if the pottery class doesn't work, volunteer at your local animal shelter. The trick is to shake yourself loose and try something new.

  • Make a written resolution to change one new thing in your daily environment. For instance, you can plant new flowers in your garden/window box; leave the curtains open or shut in your windows; paint a room or a piece of furniture a different color; use scented candles in different places; make your lunch instead of eating out every day; carpool instead of driving to work every day by yourself; and so forth. Again, the key is to look at your life in new ways and practice risk-taking. *Note: You may have already done this, as many folks had to make changes--either large or small--during Covid. It's amazing how differently you see your world when you can't leave it for 24 a day during lock-down or quarantine.

  • Document three rituals that you do every day in either a small notebook, your smartphone or iPad. Examples could be: making your breakfast or coffee the same way every morning; parking daily in the same parking space or taking the same route to school; always wearing jeans every place you go; only socializing with the same friends; answering your child or roommate in the same way no matter what the question is; playing the same video game; or shopping at the same places online. Observe yourself for two or three days and journal about the experience. You can also google: Making Positive Changes in Your Life for inspiration. Another way to enhance this activity is to tell a friend, family member, or someone that you trust about your experiments making few changes in your life. Or, you can even go one step further and find yourself a Change Buddy (i.e., someone who thinks what you are doing is cool and wants to try it themselves). Make a resolution with your Buddy to pick one ritual and change that behavior for a few days. Keep in touch with your Buddy about your progress and talk about making another changes if you wish.

Resources



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