Many of you know how I love knowledge. Learning new skills and improving my understanding is almost like a drug for me. I thirst after it. So, when I had an opportunity to take an online class to enhance my business acumen I jumped. One of the exercises in the first module focused on discovering your strengths.
The compelling thing about this exercise is it helped me understand what I do well, where I can improve, and what I need to let go. It was interesting to learn the connection between our strengths and our motivation to work hard at something. Recognizing what we do well allows us to apply those abilities to almost every aspect of our life.
Why Discover Your Strengths?
I believe Heavenly Father has blessed us with talents and abilities unique to who we are. We can be the most effective in our lives when we use those strengths to improve our lives and those around us. When we not only search to discover but develop these strengths we are one step closer to living the kind of life He intends. Think of these abilities as tools specifically for you.
What if you received an enormous gift for your birthday. Carefully wrapped in beautiful paper and topped with a gigantic bow, you sit every day and admire the exquisite details. You feel curious about what’s inside, but neglect to open it because you worry about how you might use it.
Seems a little ridiculous doesn’t it? When we neglect to discover our strengths we are doing the same thing. Understanding our qualities, talents, and strengths allows us to feel more confidence, purpose, and intention in our lives. But where do we begin?
Where to Start
While there are numerous tools to help you determine your strengths, try starting with these questions. Be as honest, clear, and as objective as possible.
1 | What are my top 3 qualities or strengths? The first step is to ask for feedback. To make it easy send an email to 20 of your closest friends and family members. Tell them you’re working on a project and need their help in identifying your 3 top qualities or strengths (bcc everyone to make it one easy email). Hearing from those who know us and have our best interest at heart, tend to help us take action more quickly.
This was one of the exercises in my class, and it had a powerful effect on me. You’ll quickly start receiving responses. Start a list from the feedback you receive. I found a lot of qualities were repeated. Take the three most common answers and use them as your guide.
2 | What do you do every day? Most people tend to spend time on the things they like to do more than the things they don’t like. It’s often the struggle between the two that causes problems, not the activities. If you find yourself easily making time to read to your kids but avoid making dinner, this behavior could be telling you something. People gravitate toward things they’re naturally good at doing.
3 | What do other people think you do? The people around you likely have an opinion about what you are good at and what you’re not good at. Usually, they have an idea in their minds about what they think you do all day long. Ask them. If you have a best friend or sister, it can help you truly identify what others think of you and think you do well. Sometimes what people believe is a little different from your own opinion. It doesn’t mean you are wrong, but if it happens, you should try to objectively identify why there is a difference in perception.
4 | What do other people say about you? What people think you do and what they say about you are two different things. For example, they may think you’re cleaning all day long but still think you’re a terrible housekeeper. So just because they see you as doing something particular with your time doesn’t mean they think you’re good. So you need to question people about it and tell them it’s okay to tell the truth because this is about your personal development.
5 | What do you like to talk about? Usually, most people find themselves talking about things they are drawn to love. Occasionally, you might find yourself focusing on negativity and dwell on things you dislike, hate, or are failing at. Those things are important to note, too. But if something makes you feel especially good, then you’re likely good at it and like it. It’s an important thing to note.
6 | What is one mistake you keep repeating? Albert Einstein is known to have defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over but expecting different results. Are you caught in the insanity trap? For me, it was making bread. For years I tried to get my dough to rise into a nice fluffy loaf. Every time I created a hard rock. I had advice from friends, watched YouTube videos, tried different recipes all to no avail. I’ve accepted I can’t make bread and it’s okay.
Sometimes we tell ourselves if we just try harder or push through it will somehow become a strength. The truth is we don’t have to be good at everything. Listen to your heart. If it is something you love you will learn to do it well, but obligation does not mean it will be a strength.
Remember no matter how hard we try, a square peg just doesn’t fit in a round hole. If we are trying to do something and it doesn’t fit, stopping doesn’t equate to giving up. It means we need to give something else a try. There is no use in beating yourself up because you don’t fit the mold. Instead, embrace your unique talents. You’ll find it’s much less of a headache to excel at what you enjoy.
Take notes while going through these 6 questions, write it down so you can analyze and recognize your strengths.
How to Use Them
Knowing your strengths helps you focus on where you have room for personal development. Once you’ve determined what you do well and are happiest doing, it becomes easier to see how those things fit into your life. Here are some ideas for incorporating your strengths
- Say No — If it’s possible, start saying no to tasks that don’t emphasize and take advantage of your strengths. You honestly don’t need an excuse to say no, but if you’re uncomfortable, just say you have to check with your calendar or your spouse first. Then say no later.
- Cross Skills — Are you super organized at work, but your home life is a little chaotic due to lack of organization? Why not share some of your organizational work skills with your home life to help you find more joy at home?
- Keep Learning — If you have a weakness interfering with one of your strengths, identify steps you can take for improvement. Don’t stress about it, but take one step each day to learn something you need to know. For example, if you need to learn about a topic, find books and read at least 30 minutes each day. By the end of the year, you’ll have become an expert in at least one subject.
- Don’t Like Something? Stop. — You really don’t need an excuse, but if you dislike doing something, don’t do it. Granted there are things we have to do — but when it comes to the electives there should be no guilt in stopping. Start with the things you can easily stop doing right now. Don’t be irresponsible if it involves other people. Identify things you want to give up but can’t right now, then create a plan of action to be able to give it up or delegate it to someone else.
- Strengths First — Make it your goal to spend more quality time doing things you enjoy and do well. Spending time developing your talents will help your personal growth. The adage — practice makes perfect — remains true and being able to practice what you enjoy only helps the process.
- Avoid Negative People — If anyone in your life has a negative effect on your confidence, you need to consider taking a step back from that relationship. Spend time with people who lift you up, make you feel good, and make you know you can do it. Whatever “it” is.
- Leave Your Comfort Zone — Focusing on your strengths doesn’t mean you avoid leaving your comfort zone. For example, if you enjoy cooking, make it a goal to try a new recipe to push your culinary skills each week. You may not know or understand some of the techniques but google can be the best personal assistant in helping you find answers. To experience growth we have to push the discomfort of the uncomfortable.
How much more enjoyable would life be if you could let go of trying to improve your weaknesses and instead focus on developing your strengths? Get started by first analyzing what you know you’re good at, what other people say you’re good at and what you love doing. This will help you determine how to move forward. Start with identifying your strengths, and then start to identify which of your strengths you want to develop to get to where you want to be in life.