Know your strengths and discover your potential
All to often in life we are encouraged to work on our weaknesses and close gaps. What if we looked at our natural abilities instead and focused on turning our talents into strengths?
When we focus on our strengths in life we can lead more satisfying and fulfilled lives.
This is the second part of a three-part series designed to educate and inspire you to know yourself. This post is all about strengths. Understanding strengths, why they are useful to focus on, learning how we can discover our strengths and knowing what to do once we can identify our strengths.
Other parts of this series will cover learning about and applying our values and styles. When we are in tune with what lights us up, what are naturally good at and what is most important to us we can make better decisions on how we live our lives.
What are Strengths?
Strengths are a combination of our natural talents, knowledge and skills, applied over time.
A strength isn’t simply a talent alone. If we do not nurture and practice our talent, then we cannot realise our true strength. For example, we may have a natural aptitude and skill for writing, but if we don’t practice writing we can never master our craft.
Likewise, a strength is not a skill practiced over time. We need the combination of raw talent and the investment of our time in harnessing this talent to turn it into a strength. For example, I run every week. But I am not a good runner. I do not have the athletic frame or natural speed and ease of movement that elite runners possess. While I practice running each week, it is never going to be one of my strengths.
This blend of talent, knowledge, skill and practice is what creates a strength.
Why is a Strengths Mindset Important?
So often in life we focus on closing our gaps. We also receive feedback about areas requiring improvement. This is particularly the case in many workplaces, where performance reviews focus the development plan on areas that need most improvement.
While it is a good thing to improve in areas, the problem occurs when this is our only focus.
If you think of the most successful people in any field, do you think their success is attributable to them focusing on addressing weaknesses, or building upon their strengths?
Of course, it is the latter.
This is the wonderful potential and opportunity that arises from having a strengths mindset. When we focus on our strengths and apply them regularly in our life, we can reach greater levels of achievement and personal fulfillment.
Understanding our strengths can help us to:
- Channel our energy into activities that bring us most satisfaction
- Achieve our goals
- Improve our relationships with others
- Improve the way we work
- Gain perspectives in challenging situations
The challenge then is knowing our strengths so we can spend our time working with our strengths and building on them.
Discovering Your Strengths
There are many ways you can approach discovering your strengths.
You could do some reflection and write a list of things you naturally tend to excel at.
Or you could ask for feedback from family, friends or colleagues about what they recognise as your key strengths.
My preferred approach is to take an assessment that will identify your strengths. There are many free online assessments such as this one. However, my favourite and recommended strengths assessment is the CliftonStrengths assessment.
The reason I prefer the CliftonStrengths assessment is that it is based on many years of research into strengths. It covers your strengths as a whole person – not just who you are at work. It also provides the ability to learn about other people’s strengths. This enables you to improve how you go about life and how you can connect and partner with others to achieve greater outcomes.
You complete an in-depth online assessment, answering a series of statements that best describe you. A report is then generated which provides you with a list of your top 5 strengths. The information you receive includes an explanation of what your top 5 strengths mean. You also receive a description of how others who share your strengths experience it in their life and suggestions on how to take your strengths forward and develop it even further.
If you are interested in my experience with this assessment tool, check out my post Making Sense of My Strengths.
Turning Our Talents into Strengths
Once you know your strengths you can harness and apply them in your personal life, career and relationships.
The first step is to understand what your strengths mean to you.
The knowledge of your strengths is not enough to transform your life. We need to act. But before we take action it is worthwhile considering the impact of our strengths on our life to date and how we may want to use this information going forward.
Reflective questions that may assist include:
- What stands out to me about my strengths?
- Which of my strengths do I most want to show to the world?
- How will this knowledge of my strengths help me in my life / career / relationships?
- What has most surprised me about my strengths?
Unless we are willing to act, we cannot realise the true benefit of this increased knowledge about ourselves.
Action inspires confidence, it builds our skills, it helps us in turning our talents into strengths.
Deciding to act – put a plan in place – then do it!
You could think about what actions you will take over the next month, write them down, then commit to doing them. Then, take time after the month to reflect on how you have performed as a result of this increased focus on your strengths. Observe the difference in your feelings of accomplishment and ease you have experienced by working in accordance with your strengths.
Another way to realise the full benefit of understanding your strengths is to share your strengths with others.
However, it is not just about telling others what you are good at. The idea here is to also understand what others strengths are, and work out how you can work better together as a result.
When we know ourselves, we can live life confidently.
Focusing on our strengths, rather than our weaknesses can bring us greater satisfaction in life. We may also find that what we pursue becomes simpler, as we have a natural ability that we can apply. We can also realise greater dreams for our future and work towards living to our full potential.
Do you know your strengths? What are they? Let me know in the comments below, I would love to know.