Know Thy Strengths
“It’s not a question of becoming, it’s a question of uncovering what you already are, of letting yourself be yourself. Of letting everything that is not yourself fall away”Zen Buddhist belief
Each of us has a unique portfolio of innate strengths.
These are the things we look forward to, that we feel most ‘ourselves’ doing, that we’re energised by and lose a sense of time in, and that we sometimes find so natural we don’t even recognise them as talents.
Unfortunately, because of an innate negativity bias, our radars are set to notice our weaknesses, often leaving our strengths under-engaged and under-developed.
This bias is embedded everywhere in our culture. For instance, consider why it is that an appraisal at work quite often focuses on what areas we need to improve. Why doesn’t it identify what we do well and explore ways to apply and boost these aptitudes?
You might be thinking, but that makes sense – we need to get better for progress to be made. The problem, though, is that fixing weaknesses is an endless uphill battle. You’re always on the back foot, and the best you can usually hope for is mediocre outcomes.
Enhancing people’s strengths, however, is the path of least resistance to excellence – not just for the individual, but for the organisations and societies we operate in.
Bear in mind that something you struggle with or find a drudgery is someone else’s favourite activity.
When we each operate in alignment with our strengths, everything still gets done but to a higher standard and with less stress and far more enjoyment!
Words have a powerful impact on the way we feel and think. When we label something, we pay it attention which brings it into the foreground of our lives. That’s why we need to identify our strengths. As psychologist Dr Alex Linley says:
“Without the capacity to describe them, it is easy for our strengths to fall between the cracks of our existence, becoming lost and forgotten rather than identified, nurtured, celebrated, and fully realised”.
Consider how you feel when you read these words:
BAD – SORROW – ASSAULT – LOSS – DEATH – PAIN – WEAKNESS
How about when you read the following?
GOOD – JOY – LOVE – GAIN – LIFE – PLEASURE – STRENGTH
Words have an enormous effect on the way we feel, which in turn impacts on our thoughts, beliefs and actions. Despite what your parents and teachers may have told you about playground teasing, words do matter.
Strengths, Flow and Happiness
“Choose a job you love, and you’ll never have to work a day in your life” – Confucius.
When we are using our highest capabilities, we often enter a state of ‘flow’. Flow is the experience of being so fully engaged in what we are doing that we don’t notice the world around us or time passing. We are ‘in the zone’.
The experience of flow is strongly linked to wellbeing and life-satisfaction. For the sake of our health and happiness, we need to be using our strengths regularly and experiencing flow.
Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2013) Flow: The Psychology of Happiness. Ebury Publishing: London.
Linley, A. (2008) Average to A+: Realising strengths in yourself and others. CAPP Press: Coventry.
Seligman, P. (2011) Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Wellbeing. Free Press: New York.