Many of us can come up with a laundry list of our personal weaknesses in mere moments. We might be disorganized, prone to procrastination, or hate public speaking. It does serve us to know our weaknesses so we can work with them and grow as individuals – however it’s arguably more important to know our strengths so we can channel them to maximize our potential. For some this might get a bit uncomfortable. Acknowledging and owning our strengths can feel like bragging, but keep reading to unlock potential you didn’t know existed.
The tendency to minimize strengths and why it’s hurting your potential:
As a society we have a tendency to hide or minimize our strengths to fit into social norms and expectations. Have you ever found yourself agreeing with a group even though you might feel an inkling of opposition? Or joining in on an activity even if you know it’s not something you excel at or enjoy? How about downplaying a strength or ability to make yourself seem more relatable or likable? How many hours do you think you have spent minimizing your strengths and catering to those of other people? As Ian Wallace said, “why are you trying so hard to fit in when you were born to stand out?”
Now imagine you have the confidence to move through life without wasting time or energy altering your personality to meet the expectations of other people. What would you do with this extra energy, this extra potential? You would not only have more time on your hands – but your strengths would continue to grow and evolve as you utilize them on a daily basis to solve challenges and problems that arise in an authentic way.
Three ways to identify your personal strengths:
Below you will find three ways to identify your strengths. If you start to sweat when asked to identify your top five strengths – don’t worry! This is actually very normal. Forbes Magazine identifies a strength as “something in which others would consider you exceptional”. Some may find being viewed as “exceptional” uncomfortable due to the additional personal attention this suggests. Don’t judge this feeling if you find yourself experiencing it. Recognize it exists and keep an eye out for it popping up as you explore the techniques below:
Option 1: Online Assessment: An online assessment can be a great resource for discovering more about your personal strengths. There are a lot of amature assessments out there, but for $19.99 you can do the tried and true Gallup Book Strength Finder 2.0 Test. This is the most popular strength finding assessment in the coaching community and positive psychology world and it’s been used by almost 17 million people worldwide! If you prefer not to pay no worries – read on for some great free options!
Option 2: Self Reflection: Do your own assessment by considering two or three times in your life when you experienced the largest personal success. Reflect on these wins and identify the three to five strengths that allowed you attain each success. If you need inspiration, this list of “signature strengths” is from the Gallup Assessment:
Achiever, Activator, Adaptability, Analytical, Arranger, Belief, Command, Communication, Competition, Connectedness, Consistency, Context, Deliberative, Developer, Discipline, Empathy, Focus, Futuristic, Harmony, Ideation, Includer, Individualization, Input, Intellection, Learner, Maximizer, Positivity, Relator, Self-Assurance, Significance, Strategic, Responsibility, Restorative.
Option 3: Market Research: Call on friends, family and colleagues for assistance. This can be the most eye opening of the three options, as it provides an external view of where your strengths lie. Email five to seven people who know you well. These could be friends, family members, and colleagues (ideally look for a mix of all three groups!). Ask each individual to identify your top five strengths, as well as to highlight which of these strengths they feel you undervalue the most. You might be surprised at what you find here!
How to maximize your newly uncovered strengths:
Take a moment to envision your life if all of your strengths were fully realized. Who would you become? What does this person experience? Do they feel contented and fulfilled? Know that this person is you – and this vision is within your reach.
Once you have an idea of where your strengths can take you, think of creative ways to exercise these new muscles. If you are actually a great public speaker – own this and get better! Join a public speaking group or debate club to refine your skills, and meet like minded people who will challenge you in the best ways. If you are an amazing organizer, see if you can take things to the next level with those close to you. Is there a friend or family member who could benefit from your organizational skills and give you honest feedback? Would they have a skill or ability they would be willing to trade you for your time?
A few things to remember about strengths:
You may have strengths that come so naturally to you that you aren’t even aware they are there. Think about a time in your life where things were going particularly well. What were you doing in that situation? Which areas of your life felt especially full? Was there a behaviour or thought process you could associate with that result? Often there is an underlying strength at play here.
Interestingly, having more strengths does not make you more exceptional. Joseph Folkman, a contributing writer for Forbes, found that in a study of 65,000 leaders (conducted through Zenger Folkman), those who possessed three standout strengths were rated at the 80th percentile on the scale of overall leadership effectiveness. So focus your attention of three to five key strengths for the time being and really develop those areas. If you wish to change your focus down the road that is absolutely acceptable – but trying to develop too many strengths at the same time is a sure road to burnout.
Owning your strengths is both enlightening and empowering. Taking the time to invest in yourself through this discovery sets a strong foundation for your future action and potential. I hope you found this exercise useful – and I would love to hear what actions you plan to take to exercise your new strengths! Send me an email or comment below.