Often, we have trouble seeing both the forest and the trees when it comes to our own strengths. I’m not talking about the obvious ones, like being a whiz at math, or being a great writer, although sometimes we can devalue even these if we were taught to believe that other skills were more important.
Instead, I’m thinking about even less obvious gifts that might not be understood or valued by those around us — for instance, relating well with others, having a gift for connection, putting things together in unique ways, being able to make decisions quickly, being great at gathering information, being sensitive to energy, and many more. Gifts that we don’t always see or apply because we’re trying to fit into someone else’s picture, especially at work.
If we learned to value some strengths more than others, we might be tempted to discount, or even disown some of our greatest abilities and the unique ways they can work together to create brilliance. And so, instead of nurturing our gifts, we try really hard to “fix” our “weaknesses” or create the way we’re supposed to. Which can be incredibly frustrating. Or, on the flip side, we try hard to do the exact opposite of what we’re supposed to do, but that can create unintended consequences, too.
The first steps towards using your strengths more effectively are first, having a sense of humor about the entire thing so you don’t get stuck in frustration and “might have beens,” and next, being willing to step outside your comfort zone.
Think, Feel, and Act in the Same Direction
Many years ago, I connected with a wonderful group of people in Petaluma, CA, who were part of the worldwide humanist movement. One of the core beliefs in humanism is that to create change, one must think, feel, and act all in the same direction. The thought being, and rightly so, that if you are thinking one thing, feeling something else, and doing something completely different, then what you want to create will get derailed. I’ve done this more times than I can count, and it just never works.
For instance, if you really want to write a book, but you don’t think you can do it, and you don’t give yourself enough time at the keyboard to even get started properly (or you assume the first draft has to be perfect), your book might stay stuck in bits and pieces on your hard drive. Harmony between your thoughts, feelings and actions — in this case, intending to write a book, feeling excited about writing it, and sitting down to write regularly and learning different techniques from other writers– will get you there. It only makes sense, doesn’t it?
Think, feel, and act applies in the field of your strengths, too. Recognizing, valuing, and focusing on your strengths will take you much farther toward your goals than being pulled in different directions, i.e, focusing on your weaknesses or thinking of all the reasons why it won’t work. I noticed this today, when a friend of mine gently pushed me to focus more time on my music, and my first thought was a) not having enough time and b) music would never be a full-time career!
But whether your strength(s) are or are not a “career” doesn’t matter, because a strength isn’t just something you do well. It actually gives you energy and joy, and helps you feel more centered and aligned. Using your strengths is a wellness strategy.
Finding Your Strengths
A strength is often a gift you enjoy or are drawn to, even if you might be a little scared of it at the same time. Here are some questions that might help you uncover some of your strengths. Note that you might need to journal a bit to come up with the actual strength — the questions are just intended to get you thinking.
1) As a kid, what did you like to do most? Think beyond the usual toys here — real world things, too, like building paper airplanes, singing in the shower, planting flowers, building sandcastles, drawing or creating art, and so on.
2) Who did you most admire and why? What gifts did he or she have?
3) What did you have the most fun with at school?
4) What did you get in the most trouble for?
5) What do you love to do now, but never have time for or are a little afraid of actually trying?
6) What would you like to do or see before the end of this lifetime?
7) What gift or ability of yours do you think is the least important?
Take some time with this, and notice what you come up with. Remember, as a spirit, you have everything you need within you. You co-created a unique, perfect body for what you chose to learn and experience this time around, with the gifts and abilities you need here and now.
Apply your brightest gifts to something you’re really passionate about, and you have a recipe for momentum. Spirit, mind, and body are all on the same page and moving in the same direction. And if you find you’re missing a piece of the puzzle, look around you. Chances are you know someone, or will meet someone, who excels at providing that missing piece!
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