“Realising our strengths is the smallest thing we can do to make the most difference” – Alex Linley
One of the most powerful tools that everyone has is natural strengths. Call them gifts, talents or even quirks. We all have them. Yet when it comes down to it, I often meet people who are genuinely confused or shy about owning or developing theirs!
Studies in the field of positive psychology show that strengths help us to experience less stress and greater well-being, plus reach our goals with greater ease. Once you know your strengths, using them on a day-to-day basis is a very effective way to boost your energy and healthy self-confidence. But it doesn’t stop there. Its knowing and being mindful of when, how and how much to use your strengths over the course of your life’s journey that ultimately leads to growth, transformation and to being the best person you can be.
Simply put, knowing your strengths is key to unlocking more of your natural potential.
By strengths I mean a “pre-existing, natural capacity for a particular way of behaving, thinking or feeling that allows you to thrive”. They’re not attributes that you would like to have or admire in someone else. They are what you already are – and are becoming. Although it may come as a surprise, strengths are not static. They evolve as we do. A part of healthy self-growth is about refining and expanding your repertoire of strengths over the course of your life.
Step #1 – Know Your Strengths.
When you’re at your best, what are you doing? Think about what comes easily and naturally to you. What gives you a buzz? What things did you love to do as a child and did effortlessly? For example, were/are you: adventurous, caring, quick-thinking, gregarious, calm, organised, determined, patient, team-oriented, curious, goal-focused, analytical, creative, passionate, intelligent, empathetic, open-minded and/or precise? It’s important that these attributes are expressed in your day-to-day life. Otherwise you’re likely to experience disappointment, frustration or find it difficult to make head-way along your chosen path. Use these attributes as often as you can, according to context and situation, without overplaying them.
For my strengths, out of that list above, my top three would be creative, empathetic and organised. These parts of me get lots of airplay in my day-to-day personal and working life. Which is probably why I love what I do and the life I have (mostly anyway!) Practice: Identify your natural strengths and if you’re not sure, then ask your partner or a trusted friend or sibling for their input. Then go about putting them into practice every day.
Step #2 – Know Your Weaknesses. This step can often be a clincher! But don’t skip it. Everybody has weaknesses or things that challenge them. We can also call these our shadow-traits or blind-spots – they’re the parts of us that we’d prefer not to own or admit to. Knowing about yourself warts-and-all helps you to grow and to become a ‘whole’ person. And it will also make you more likable – and lovable.
What are the things that you find challenging or draining? What do you know about yourself, but find it hard or don’t like? For example, are you: fearful, arrogant, impatient, impulsive, greedy, moody, passive, undisciplined, stubborn, shy, short-sighted, vague, controlling or negative? These are the areas to focus on for your development. Although these aspects will probably feel de-energising, they have their place. Take a deeper level of responsibility for your weaknesses in day-to-day life. Acknowledge when you notice them at play. Have honest conversations about them with your loved ones. Although it was awkward at first, and I’m not sure it will ever be feel completely comfortable, coming to terms with my weaknesses is something I keep working on. I’ve realised that having a level of honesty about myself, to myself, just makes things easier in relationships and a whole lot less painful in the long-run. My weaknesses would be: impatient, moody and controlling.
Practice: Choose one weakness to focus on for a week at a time – and try not to be hard on yourself. Mindfully and gently investigate what’s going on for you inside, in the moment, when it’s playing out. Be curious rather than judgmental. Notice what’s happening in your body, emotions and mind. By becoming more aware of your weaknesses, over time you will develop more self-control and the negative impacts will lessen.
Step #3 – Discover Your Unrealised Strengths.
This aspect of you is something you are good at and enjoy doing, but do it less often. There is a likely untapped potential to developing this aspect of you into a strength.
Explore putting your unrealised strengths more into action. Remain on the lookout for the right situation or opportunity to surface where you can utilise this skill, attribute or behaviour. Try setting a goal or intention to practice on a regular basis. My unrealised strengths from the initial list are: curious and precise. By being precise, rather than generalising, and being curious rather than controlling, I’m noticing that it helps me to delegate responsibilities when I can and allows others to understand me more easily. Just like you, I’m a work in progress! Practice: Try setting a goal or intention to put one unrealised strength into action. For example, like me, if you choose precision, your intention might be ‘When I tend to generalise things in a conversation, I practice being more precise about sharing exactly what I am thinking and feeling.’
Strengths and weaknesses are good approaches to self-development that always have something valuable to teach us. The beauty is, that we never stop growing and evolving, no matter what’s going on in our lives, and tuning-in to the strengthened people we are constantly becoming makes for a very rewarding ride. As the saying goes, we might not be able to stop the waves, but we can teach ourselves how to surf!
If you’d like to uncover and develop your natural strengths, as well as be honest about what challenges you to help improve your relationships, then I’d love you to consider my Life Coaching or Mindful Leadership Coaching.
Here’s to YOU!