When was the last time you sat down and took inventory of your good qualities and characteristics, your strengths? Do you know what they are?
When we don’t know and appreciate those good things about ourselves and, more importantly, use them in our lives, we are leaving untapped those parts of ourselves that can bring us the biggest rewards. Knowing our strengths and operating from those can help us be more successful both personally and professionally. It really is true that what we focus on grows, and that is just as true for our finer qualities and abilities as it is for our life circumstances. The more we get to know those qualities and appreciate them in ourselves, the more we can make them actionable, put them to work for us to reach our goals and dreams.
In recent years, there has been an increasing trend towards study of those qualities and abilities that enable individuals to live well, to thrive. Research shows that people who identify and incorporate these qualities and strengths do better in every major area of their lives. When people discover what it is that they are naturally good at and begin to use these abilities in their lives, they are using their strengths. And when they use those strengths that come to them naturally, it becomes easier for them to do well. People who are doing well are happier, healthier, more productive, and thus better able to contribute to the world around them. They are more successful in their relationships with family, friends, and community. They are more resourceful and creative and do better at work. In short, they have a more positive impact on themselves and those whose lives they touch.
So how do you begin to uncover what’s right about you so that you can effectively use those strengths to create a life with meaning? Here are some ideas:
- Set aside some time to reflect on and list those good things. Sounds simple enough, but have you ever really taken the time to do this? Think about those qualities of mind or spirit you bring to your family, friends, and colleagues. Are you someone who values taking time for others and expressing that in meaningful ways? Are you diligent and persistent in what you set out to accomplish? Do you put a premium on learning, on interest in the world around you? Do you excel in groups, as a member of a team? Are you fair-minded, do you try to give everyone a chance? What about your attitudes? Are you known as a hopeful, optimistic person? Do you try to see the best in others and in situations? These are just a few examples to get you going. There are a multitude of things you may be gifted at that you aren’t even aware of. Creativity, for example, is not just limited to the arts. You may be creative in what you bring to the mix on a rainy afternoon with your children, or in brainstorming solutions to a difficult problem at work.
- Ask a trusted friend or family member. Those around us are often much better at seeing us realistically than we ourselves are. Ask someone who knows you well to share those positive things about you that they recognize. You might be surprised at what you hear.
- Keep a running list of what you uncover and keep it somewhere you can see it on a regular basis. Use this as a reminder to put them to work for you in your daily life and pay attention to the results. For example, if you have a love of learning, you can apply it to a tricky situation at work or use it to seek out new travel experiences. Your natural ability is going to shine in these situations.
Here’s a Coach’s action step: Ask three to five people who know you well to tell you three qualities or strengths you have. Do this for a week and keep a list of the responses. Are there certain characteristics that keep coming up? Do they feel like “you?” How do you notice them play out in your everyday life? The more you bring your strengths into play in your day to day, the stronger they will become and the more you can harness them to work for you.
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