How many of us have looked at our strengths or listened to positive feedback about the things we do well and thought… ‘Yeah, but’…?
I’ve noticed three ways people show they don’t really value their strengths.
- Like Groucho Marx not wanting to be a member of any club that would have him, many of us discount our strengths. We are effectively saying “If I do this thing easily and enjoyably, it can’t be that important/good/ useful/valuable”. Really??!!
- We pay lip service to our strengths and focus on managing our weaknesses. Something like… “Yes, I know I’m good with people, but by (invoke relevant prophets and deities) I will become an orderly person with a planful, organised life – even if it kills me!” It might be a long, slow, unhappy demise.
- We continue to shoehorn ourselves into roles where we don’t use our strengths or berate ourselves for not excelling at or enjoying the tasks that use our weaknesses [yes, I’ve just been filing].
So, my request is simply to appreciate your strengths and take them seriously. They are your gifts to share with the world. They are the short cut you’ve been handed to work out how you might live a fulfilling life. Our strengths go deep – they are often values we hold as well as ways we like to interact with the world, behave or think. Channel Groucho – you don’t have to take yourself seriously, just your strengths.
If this sounds like something that might benefit you, you are welcome to read on…
Sit and think about your strengths – however that looks for you.
Allow yourself to think that these are your gifts to share – both in your work and personal life – and consider how you might do that. Notice how you feel when you imagine using your strengths more everyday.
Ask yourself the following questions:
Strengths at Work
- How and where am I currently using my strengths? How does it feel when you use your strengths? Are these the moments that feel most enjoyable or worthwhile at work? Or have you noticed that you are only using your strengths to interact with people outside work? If so, how could you from bring your strengths to work?
- How can I use my strengths more in my current role? A growing number of organisations are allocating team tasks based on strengths of team members. Managers using this approach say that in addition to improving productivity it has also increased staff morale, job satisfaction and willingness to share out the ‘unwanted or unpleasant’ tasks.
- If I can’t use my strengths in this role, is it the right one for me? If your role doesn’t use any of your strengths, is there flexibility for you to develop or change the role? If not, then it might be time to find out if you can move to a different role within the organisation or to consider leaving. Before you do that, spend time clarifying what strengths you want to use and where and how you might do that. I have seen people’s well-being transformed by finding a new job that uses and values their strengths.
Strengths at Home
- How can I use my strengths more in my personal life? Some of us use our strengths at work and forget they are still available at home. How can you use your strengths in your interactions with family and friends? My strength of Adventure has been getting rusty in the last few years and I am planning on reviving it in family adventures over the Summer.
- How can I use my strengths in hobbies and recreation? If you are not currently able to use your strengths in the workplace, how can you make sure you get to use them at home? It could be planning and organising, creating social occasions, creating or making stuff, learning a language, travel, gardening or cooking. The sky’s the limit here. Our hobbies really should be a place where we get to put our strengths to use to enhance our well-being.
- How can I use my strengths to help other people? It’s helpful to ask both, Who would you like to help? And How would you like to help? What’s the point in doing something you hate – suffering for a cause – when you could be sharing your strengths and enjoying the work you are doing. I pack vegetables for a coop providing low cost fruit and vegetables – and anyone there can tell you that counting bags is not my strength. However, getting to know and enjoy the people I work with is. I have come to know and appreciate a great bunch of people over the past year to the point where this volunteering feels like a social occasion each week.
It’s important to allow ourselves to imagine and dream. So one last question, What might my life look like if I was really using and living out my strengths? Let this question sit for a while and imagine…What might I be doing? Where might I be? How might I be contributing to the world?
Here’s to a strengths-fuelled December!