Have you ever spent an entire day at work doing something where you really felt awesome? All day long you were busy doing things that made you feel powerful and energized. That night you went to bed physically tired yet thinking, “I would love to wake up and do that all over again!” You have just experienced a day using your strengths. How would you like everyday to be like that? The key to finding a career or business that you will be happy and wildly successful in is to be clear on what your strengths are.
All of us have strengths that make up who we are. Unfortunately, most of us do not know our strengths. We tend to overlook them because activities which use our strengths come so easily to us. Often we think that “everyone can do this.” We can list off our weaknesses (at least in private) without a pause but when asked about strengths we say things like, “I am good with people or I am good at organization.” What does that mean? Are you good with people one-on-one or are you best in groups? Do you like to organize projects, file cabinets or people?
What is a strength? A strength is an activity that gives you energy instead of draining it. You may be physically tired after a day of using your strengths but you will be thinking things like, “When can I do that again?” Many times people confuse their strengths with skills. A skill is something you are good at but may not be an activity that energizes you. In fact a skill can be a drain. I am quite skilled at keeping large numbers of children from killing each other at recess but it is an activity which drains me. Of coarse a skill may be a strength as well. It all depends how you FEEL when you are doing it.
Let’s take the first step to find out what your strengths are! One of the best ways to do this is to categorize each activity you do during the day. Tasks are either energy draining, neutral, or energizing. Take out a piece of paper and divide it into three sections. Put Energizing Activities in one section, Neutral Activities in the next and Draining Activities in the third section. Now, write down your daily activities in the appropriate area. After a day or two of this look at your list and check for patterns. Perhaps you believe you are a “people person.”
How do you like to interact with others?
Do you get more energy from groups?
Do you like to teach people?
Listen to people?
Keep track of your activities until you have clarity on the specifics of your strengths.
OK, now you have a list of your strengths but what do you do with them? The short answer is find ways to use them! Observe your day at work and find ways to maximize the time you are using your strengths. If you love to teach then let your boss know that you are available for that. Put it out there. You never know what will happen! Maximize your strengths outside of work as well. Often by doing this you will open up doors to opportunities to enter a career which will better use your strengths. When you are interviewing for a job let the interviewer know where your strengths lie. Ask questions to find out how much of your job will allow you to operate within your strengths.
Now for the question I hear most often when working with client’s on strengths. “What do I do about my weaknesses?” Well, not much! You could work hard to improve your weaknesses and end up for the most part wasting your time. For example, I want people to like me and because of this I am terrible at confrontation. Over the years I have worked to improve this weakness. I have taken assertiveness training, read books on how to say what you need to say even though it is hard. After all that work I went from being terrible at confrontation to being bad at it. You see no matter how much time and effort I put into working on improving my weaknesses I will still be weak in those areas. In contrast, when I work on my strengths I have extraordinary results. Life is too short to spend much time working on our weaknesses! Instead get creative. Find people who have your weakness as a strength and outsource it. Barter… find someone who needs your strengths and you need theirs. If you must do tasks that drain you save them for the end of the day and clump them together so most of your time is spent on activities which energize you.
Living life in a way that maximizes your strengths is the key to having a passion-filled work and life. It is the way you can make the biggest impact during your time on this planet. In Marcus Buckingham’s book “Now Discover Your Strengths” he lists three questions for you to ask yourself before you take that next job or start a new business.
1.Does “why the company exists” strengthen you?
2.Does “who you are going to be working with” strengthen you?
3.Does “what you are going to be spending most of your time doing” strengthen you? ( The answer to this question is the most important of the three questions.)
Find a way to maximize your strengths and I guarantee you will have more energy, excitement, passion and most of all you will be the genius you were meant to be!
By Leanna Fredrich
“If you would like to find out your strengths and how to maximize them contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.”