Have you ever experienced someone telling you that you’ve done a good job? Or maybe they have even gone so far as to say you were talented or exceptional in a particular thing.
Then your immediate response was something like, “oh thank you, but it really wasn’t anything special.”
I know I’ve certainly responded that way at times.
In addition to maybe some false humility, I responded this way because I was unaware of my strengths.
Many of us are unaware of our strengths and what we do well.
This could be due to a variety of factors, but one factor I’m sure of is the influence of our culture’s focus on improving our weaknesses.
We have been told from a very young age to work on making our weaknesses better.
In elementary school through high school what gets circled or checked off on a test? The incorrect answers.
What happens when a child gets a low grade in one or more subjects? Parents pay for tutoring in that subject.
What do many employers focus on during performance reviews? Opportunities for growth (a.k.a. getting better at weaknesses).
I thought this was just the way it was – a necessary evil. You work on some weak area in order to bring it up to par with the areas where you’re doing well.
You’ll be on your way to a happy, healthy, “well-rounded” life.
Then I read Strengthsfinder 2.0 by Tom Rath.
Through the research done by the Gallup organization, Rath found that people who have the opportunity to focus on their strengths every day are six times more likely to enjoy their jobs and more than three times as likely to report they have an excellent quality of life in general.
That’s amazing, especially in light of our culture’s obsession with improving weaknesses.
Admittedly when I first took the Strengthsfinder 2.0 I really liked it and found it fascinating. However, I read my top five strengths, agreed that I’m generally good in those areas, and didn’t look at them again for a couple of years.
Now, I just recently printed out my top five strengths and taped them to the wall in my office where I will see them every day. When I’m faced with a decision about a career opportunity to pursue I check it against my strengths to make sure I would be honoring those areas.
My top five strengths are:
1. Learner - People who are especially talented in the Learner theme have a great desire to learn and want to continuously improve. In particular, the process of learning, rather than the outcome, excites them.
2. Context - People who are especially talented in the Context theme enjoy thinking about the past. They understand the present by researching its history.
3. Belief - People who are especially talented in the Belief theme have certain core values that are unchanging. Out of these values emerges a defined purpose for their life.
4. Responsibility - People who are especially talented in the Responsibility theme take psychological ownership of what they say they will do. They are committed to stable values such as honesty and loyalty.
5. Consistency - People who are especially talented in the Consistency theme are keenly aware of the need to treat people the same. They try to treat everyone in the world with consistency by setting up clear rules and adhering to them.
What about you? What are you strengths? Are you able to focus on your strengths every day in your work?
You can begin operating in your strengths in your work by taking these three steps:
1. Buy the Strengthsfinder 2.0 book, read it, and take the test.
2. Check your top five strengths against your current job. How do the responsibilities of your job compare to your strengths? Are you utilizing your best talents everyday?
3. Develop an action plan to maximize your strengths in your current job. Or find another opportunity that is more in alignment with your strengths.
The more you know about yourself and what you do well you will be able to make better informed decisions. Which will in turn provide you with more opportunities to be intentional about your life and career.