Determining your strengths isn’t as hard as we make it out to be. Before you get overwhelmed with the prospect of trying to figure out your strengths out on your own, or worse, write yourself off as “strength-less,” consider the following 4 steps:
- Ask others – While probably the most uncomfortable step, this approach is the most important. Why? Because you live with you every day. What you consider just “pedestrian,” others may consider exceptional. So how do we find out? Ask them, and don’t leave any stone unturned. Ask your friends, family, co-workers and anyone else who may have witnessed some of your magic. For a formal approach to this exercise, consider using the Reflected Best Self Exercise from the University of Michigan’s Center for Positive Organizational Scholarship. It’s a whopping $15 so it’s worth the download. Here’s the link.
- Take an inventory – The positive psychology movement (focusing on what’s good and productive vs. what’s bad or broken) is a fairly new movement (since the early 1990’s), but a vastly popular one. There is plenty of excellent literature on the subject. One of the more popular resources is the book “Strength Finder 2.0” and the accompanying “Strength Finder” instrument. Consider investing in either or both to start you down the path of assessing whatcha got and more importantly, putting labels on those seemingly fuzzy intangibles. Here’s the link.
- Dust off those awards – Take a step back in time and reflect on your years growing up. What talents did you seem to possess compared to your peers? Where you particularly creative? A great team player? A fast runner? Etc… By thinking about those things that came easy to you as a youngster, you are rediscovering your raw talents. Raw talents are often easier to spot when we are younger because we are on the same playing field (no pun intended) with our peers – no one has the advantage of additional time to refine their abilities. Reclaiming your talents and then repurposing them to fit today is a step not to be overlooked. I took my propensity for art projects and classroom presentations and now use those same talents in my teaching. You should check out my PowerPoint slides – not too shabby if I do say so myself!
- Try something new – If all else fails, you might just need to sample off of life’s buffet. It’s possible that you simply haven’t found your strengths yet. Start trying some new things. Here’s the key, pick things you have some natural interest in or passion for. If you recall from an earlier post, we defined the formula for strengths as the following:
STRENGTHS = TALENTS + TIME
You are going to need to like what you are doing enough to invest the requisite number of hours to turn that talent into a strength. Choose things that are interesting enough to explore further and continue to invest in.
Follow those 4 steps and I promise you’ll start to see some of your gifts, talents and strengths emerge. If not, well maybe I’m not using my strengths properly. Physician, heal thyself.