Many people believe in using self-help books, seminars, workshops and support groups of all kinds to improve their lives and alleviate personal problems, and with good reason. Interest in self-help spans all generations. According to studies, about 75 percent of people who improve their psychological state do so by themselves.
In an attempt to change for the better, people are buying more tools for personal growth today than ever before, and yacht stews are no exception. Self-help offers new ideas and new solutions for emotional difficulties, whether for individuals or groups.
The living and working conditions of the yachting profession often cause emotional difficulties in crew members who are faced with discord and stress on a regular basis. One difficult challenge encountered in this profession concerns creating well-managed, conflict-free living and working situations.
Leadership and management training offer one promising solution, but there are many more. I attended a workshop this summer presented by Michael Gaffley of Nova Southeastern University that I found to be a great help to me.
It offered advice, guidance, and solutions to some personal matters I have been wrestling with for a while, and which impact how I behave and how I react in life.
Dr. Gaffley’s workshop included several unique methods, but he used one classic technique — a personality test — to help participants see themselves in a new light. A personality test is a questionnaire or other standardized instrument designed to reveal aspects of an individual’s character or psychological makeup.
There are many different types of personality tests, and the most common type is the self-report inventory or objective personality test. We either love these tests, or we dread them. I love them.
The appeal lies in the desire to learn new things about myself, to see what we have in common with others, what sets us apart, and to figure out what influences our behavior. In the words of Deepak Chopra, “Who am I?” really means “How do I see myself?”
A personality test can illuminate characteristics or traits that we might not be aware of and provide us with clues to help sort them out. Ultimately these tests can be used for self-reflection and understanding.
In order for self-help to work, you need to know a few things about yourself:
* Where have I come from?
* Who am I today?
* Where am I heading?
* What do I want my future to look like?
These are not theoretical or idealistic questions. One of the most important things we will ever learn in our lives is how to set and meet goals. Goals are the target we aim for to decide how to navigate our lives. Our goals will change and flow as our lives unfold, but to achieve them, we have to align our actions with our inner value system. It is the basis of who we are, and our values impact our personality. Once we reach maturity, innate values do not change all that much, but we have to correct our course from time to time.
Personality tests are great for self-reflection and self-awareness. For example, if am working with a stew who is shy and nervous about being in front of guests, they may be an introverted personality type. I can be more understanding once I realize that performing guest services will be a stressful energy drain for her.
Instead, I can direct my energy to help her learn some tricks to consciously relax before going out to serve guests. Being a singer and an actor myself, I suffered from stage fright sometimes, but I learned through yoga some breathing techniques that calm me down.
As a fellow team-mate, by making this realization, I can help others cope and create happiness by supporting different personality styles.
And then there is the ever-present clash of personalities. It is difficult enough to deal with conflict in a traditional job setting, where workers are able to get away from recurring stressful situations. The yachting profession is unique in that we don’t get to go home and chill out at the end of the day, or even after a long hard week of work. In the yachting workplace, problems in one department bleed over into the rest of the environment quickly and impact the performance and happiness of the rest of the crew.
This provides a unique opportunity to use personality tests to help crew get along. They identify traits that predict how crew might react within a close-knit team that has specific characteristics and personality types. By understanding the values that make up the personalities of our co-workers, personality tests can be a great tool to bring people together and create a more functional and cohesive atmosphere.
Learning new things about each other is fun, but the best part of personality testing is the interpretation of results. This type of self-help doesn’t work because you found a wise, all-knowing teacher or a quick-fix for a tough problem. This works because it wakes you up, either a little or a lot.
Having an objective outsider professionally analyze your results will help you understand and defuse the issues that create tense situations onboard.
The best way to wake up is to discover who you are, where you’re going and what the future could be. Present reality is the foundation, but the future is a vision open to all possibilities.
I truly think that service is the highest calling there is, and we have been given the opportunity to serve in a very particular luxury arena. Living onboard a yacht with crew and guests we don’t know that well can be difficult, but it provides plenty of opportunity for growth and a change in consciousness.
Personality tests offer a tool to provide not only new direction, but new goals. Just think of the possibilities if we can become happy and whole. Perhaps we will wake up and discover we have within us the tools to change our world.
Alene Keenan has been a megayacht stew for more than 20 years. She teaches at MPT in Ft. Lauderdale and offers interior crew training through her company, Yacht Stew Solutions (www.yachtstewsolutions.com). Download her book, The Yacht Service Bible: The Service Manual for Every Yacht, on her site or amazon.com. Comments on this column are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.