In my professional field there is an increased focus on strengths and the impact of a positive mindset, which I love. However a focus on strengths does not mean being blinkered to our weaknesses, but instead recognising how our strengths are key to enabling growth and wellbeing. If we can harness our strengths we feel empowered to connect, achieve, develop and improve (i .e. address those weaknesses and challenges). We can authentically connect to the best part of ourselves.
We have mentioned strengths before in these blogs, but identifying what they are is not always straightforward. There are questionnaires you can take, such as the VIA Survey, and these are great at helping us start to identify and articulate strengths. There is a danger with questionnaires though – of expecting “answers” or of comparing results with others, rather than a focus on your individual reality.
So would a more helpful approach be to pose the question “What are my strengths?”. Perhaps. And you will, I am sure, be able to state some that are front and centre to you such as kindness, or resilience, or creativity, but there will be many others you simply don’t think about or even realise you have in you. And then what do you do with that list?
A more interesting approach, and perhaps one that builds on those first two, is to explore your own individual strengths story. Start by responding to this:
Tell me about a time when you were at your best.
When we are being at our best, it means we are drawing on our strengths to positive affect. This story is the start of your personal strengths narrative. Once you have captured that story, you can pull out what strengths you were using and how they contributed to that positive experience.
If you are doing this exercise on your own, why not write down your story and simply go through with a highlighter to note where strengths are apparent. Alternatively, tell it to a friend or colleague and ask them to relay back to you the strengths they were hearing – the added advantage being that they might spot elements of the experience you had not noticed.
The next step is to do something with this awareness. A great question to ask yourself now is:
How can I bring those strengths into my work/life/relationship [delete as appropriate!] in a positive way?
Where you go after that is up to you. But starting to build a picture of your strengths is empowering and energising.
There are other ways to prompt your thinking on strengths, such as the At My Best free reflection tool I suspect I have referred to before. Many colleagues will recognise this approach is akin to the discovery phase of appreciative enquiry techniques, so further reading there may be of interest.
Juliet Flynn, Organisational and People Development