Are you using your strengths or do you focus on your weaknesses?
What are your strengths and do you use them with intention? Which subjects did you and your parents give most attention to when you were in school? The subjects in which you excelled or the ones in which you were weakest?
At every parent-teacher meeting in high school, my parents had a chat with the Mathematics teacher. Maths was arguably my worst subject in school, despite being a good student overall. I loved languages and history, but I truly have no talent for geometry. The subjects I enjoyed and excelled at took less of my time, as they were easier for me. So most of my attention got focused on something I wasn’t particularly good at.
Instead of Focusing on Fixing…
When we think of personal development, we often do the same thing: we focus on our weaknesses rather than at what we are already good at. Fixing what is “wrong” with us, telling ourselves off for not having a better discipline, taking decisions, or looking on the bright side of life. We play the “if only I…, then I would (be more successful, happy etc)” game.
…Focus on Excellence
It is not that often that we think of what our strengths are. Even worse, sometimes we take them for granted. Or we do not even appreciate them: Yes I know I am good at X, BUT… (I wish I was better at/ I’m still not able to etc). Sometimes, we are told from a young age we are TOO something, like sensitive, competitive, quiet. It may lead us to start doubting ourselves or trying to hide that side of us.
When I got to know the Strengths Finder Assessment many years ago, I realized that you can also focus on your strengths to excel at something. Instead of telling myself I was in my head too much, I realized that my capacity for solution focused thinking (my top 5 strengths are Learner, Input, Restorative, Intellection, Deliberative) is also my personal key to making a difference.
As I now am a strengths coach, I also have the great pleasure of connecting clients with their greatest qualities. But I keep noticing something odd.
When clients take the extended Strengths finder assessment of 34 Strengths, they immediately tend to gaze at the bottom of the list. However, the bottom doesn’t tell us much really. In fact, it is often in our top 5 rather than at the bottom, that we find an explanation for our struggles. When a talent is not developed fully, it can become a pitfall rather than strength.
For example, if I’m not careful I can overthink and fall prey to flogging a dead horse, or I get stuck in the same thought loops. However, being aware of that and devising strategies to deal with it help me make the most of my strengths.
5 Tips for Finding Your Strengths
How to start finding your strengths? Here’s some exercises:
1. Find flow
Think of a time when you were in flow, you totally forgot time. What were you doing? Where were you, what did you love about it? What were the subjects that you loved in school, the tasks you enjoy most at work? The answers to these questions will provide clues to your strengths.
2. Ask someone else.
You don’t always realize what you are good at yourself. What do others find you good at? Ask your parents, siblings or friends. What do you often receive compliments for?
3. Finish the following sentences
When you finish the following sentences, your answers will reveal more about your qualities.
- I love…
- I hate…
- I believe people are…
4. Take a Strengths Finder Assessment online
You can take a Strengths Finder assessment online, which will give you insight in your top 5 Strengths or in your full profile of 34. There’s a good offer now, for just 20 dollar for the top 5 and 50 dollar for your full 34 strengths report. Don’t forget to read your report carefully, as it is packed with actionable tips.
5. Book one or more sessions with a Strengths Coach
Take the Strengths Finder beyond being yet another internet test by working with a Strengths Coach. Strengths Coaches can help you name, claim and aim your strengths. This will create a deeper understanding in your strengths. More importantly, this conversation will support you in finding ways to use your best personality traits more deliberately to create the life you want.