I love the idea of a strength. I especially love the very thought of using my strengths to feel strengthened. And I love Marcus Buckingham and his crew for naming that and championing this evolution in how we view how we work.
Question tho’: Why is it so difficult to see your own strengths if they are after all “your” strengths?
How come you need help identifying which ones are indeed yours and why does it really matter?
Three reasons (permitted with the use of my strengths):
1. Confusion says: “I should know this! Damn it, why don’t I?” Your intense need to know doesn’t allow your knowing to come. The more you want to know the more “hidden in plain sight” the answer is. This will piss you off, so relax. Create space for inner knowing to surface and outer recognition to meet and kiss (passionately in my mind’s eye of course);
2. You are quite simply torn (deeply) between what you are good at (because of what you were told, or educated, or scared into getting good at) versus what you actually enjoy are involuntarily drawn to (without any formalized education, help or scare tactics);
3. You need the words. Words honour our experiences, who we are, how we are. It’s why we read (well, anything really); take personality assessments, check out our horoscopes. If only to see ourselves better and think: “Hey! I’m in here! This is me!” It’s a validation thing.
So I did what I had to do. I took the online Strengths Finder test. Not to scare you, but rather to reassure, it’s timed. And the questions vanish before your very eyes if they’re not answered within that time. There is however just enough time for your gut to respond to something and for you to click on that answer. There is no wrong answer. That’s the freeing part. It’s a lesson in detachment.
And make no mistake. Your gut is good. It is NOT random. It’s the part of you that won’t fool you. That cannot be fooled.
I dare say that I had “a moment” when my five top themes appeared. I printed the report with the accompanying action plans for my strengths. And I cried.
Pathetic? No. I wasn’t feeling particularly judgmental of myself that day.
More like relief.
On the page there in black and white where the things that my conscious mind could not dare to believe were true. Almost all of them were the very things about my being that I had been taught that were bad about me. That were not useful. That were annoyances. That I, up until that moment, believed were my flaws (that I was just having a really hard time banishing). Up until that particular moment, I had believed that in order to be accepted into a segment of the human collective, they (these flaws that were suddenly strengths in my own same two eyes!), would have to go in order for me to stay.
Dramatic? Nah, we don’t celebrate enough in life.
To say that I was overjoyed is putting it mildly.
I was ecstatic!
And I wanted to take ownership of this naturally occurring treasure already there within me.
Strengths are a cause for celebration. They must show up on your resume.
How many people are looking (desperately I might add) for direction, fulfillment, meaning, a sense of purpose especially in their career? People yearn to be alive for reasons bigger than a daily routine. And your naturally occurring well-spring of strengths is your treasure chest, your pot of gold, your pièce de résistance – if you care for them as the gifts that they are.
You are the real deal. A very unique gift indeed to and for the world if you allow. Martha Graham had some wise words to say about that gift indeed:
It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open.
Encounters of strengths that got owned (as told to yours truly):
Story One :: Parker had failed a grade as a child. Why? Because he was trying to help the new kid in town learn how to say words in the local accent to help him fit in. His teacher overheard him one day and said: “There’s only room in this classroom for one teacher and it’s me.” This was “back in the day.”
His childhood teacher hadn’t realized that they both shared the strength of teaching. In that moment she regarded his behaviour as inappropriate given the context, treated him as “bad” and punished him for using his strength. At some point he became aware that teaching gave him a lot of joy and created a way for him to make something he naturally enjoys part of how he makes a living.
Story Two :: Sheila works for the family business. Her favourite part of the job is engaging with the elderly patrons that visit. She loves them and they love her. Her strength was in connecting. All of course while other customers are waiting impatiently for service. Her manager often pulls her aside to tell her “hustle it”. She does. For about a minute. Then inevitably returns to the use of her strength. To her colleagues she appears resistant. This used to annoy her even though she could see their point.
After working with Sheila to articulate her strengths, her insight was that there were lots of places that needed her exactly how she was and she knew it. In the meantime her plan wasn’t to take “hustle it” personally because that job indeed needed someone whose strength is just that. She didn’t really want to stay there anyway.
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