Discover Your True Strengths

Just in case you’re thinking, “Oh good, I can skip this page, because I already know what my strengths are,” here’s something to consider:

What if your “strengths” aren’t really about what you’re good at?

And what if discovering your true strengths means that you can be consistently happier, more resilient, more energized, more creative, more balanced, and more vibrantly physically healthy? What if it means that you can enjoy your job more, be more productive, and still have energy left at the end of the work day?

In recent years, there’s been a growing interest in what’s being called strengths-based living. It started in psychology, when people began to question the value of constantly focusing on what’s wrong (symptoms, illnesses, conditions, etc.), and then trying to resolve problems by “doing the opposite in hopes of getting the opposite result.”

In other words, studying depression to learn how people can be happier just hasn’t worked! Neither has studying unhappy couples in order to figure out how to have a happy relationship, studying disease to figure out how to be healthier, or studying poverty to find out how to become wealthy.

Instead, the question became, “What if we studied happy people, happy couples, healthy people, and successful people and businesses to see what they have in common and how they got to be happy, healthy, successful, and prosperous?” Positive psychology was born, and what the research has consistently found is that these happy, healthy, successful people live and work according to their true strengths. And here’s the definition they used of “strengths”:

Strengths are what energize you, what leave you feeling strong.

They’re not just what you’re good at, because you can be great at something, but if it drains you, it’s not truly a strength.

For example, I’m pretty good at math – I was even placed in an advanced math program in junior high and high school – but I don’t enjoy it in the least, and never have. I can write a pretty good e-mail, but I’d be ecstatically happy if I never had to write another e-mail in my life. (I enjoy reading them, though, so don’t let that stop you from e-mailing me!) I can cook passably well, but the thought of doing so leaves me pretty much immobilized with dread. So those aren’t strengths.

A true strength must meet these conditions:

– When thinking about the task, you are excited; you look forward to doing it.

– When doing the task, you tend to lose track of time; time flies.

– Once the task is completed, you feel genuinely satisfied and energized; you feel great!

So you may be thinking, “Yeah, that’s wonderful, but we can’t always just do the things that energize us, because there are a lot of boring, energy-sucking tasks that still need to be done.” Which leads me to the next set of “what if” questions:

– What if it were not just possible, but extremely do-able, to re-focus your life around your strengths – those things that energize you – to use those strengths and that energy to manage around what’s boring and draining, and still get things done?

– What if you had an easy way to identify your greatest strengths, and some truly excellent guidance about how to put those strengths to work in your daily life?

– What if, as a result of that information and guidance, along with increased, health, happiness, and prosperity, everything in your life just flowed more easily, and you consistently felt more balanced, aligned, energized, and clear?

Well, the news is good. All of those things are possible, do-able, and clearly outlined by some wonderful folks who are happy to help you do just that.

First of all, you can go to Authentic and take their free strengths assessment. You read the questions, click on the answer for each one that’s most true for you, and get instant results at the end that you can print out. How easy is that? Yes, there are a lot of questions, but it’s not a “test” of your knowledge, just a chance to explore more deeply who you are and what energizes and strengthens you the most.

Second, I would recommend reading, Now, Discover Your Strengths, by Marcus Buckingham, who I must say is my personal hero in the land of strengths-based living. His books are fun to read, hugely helpful and practical, and enlightening. If you buy this book, there’s a code inside the book jacket that allows you to get on another website, and take their version of a strengths assessment. I highly recommend doing this even if you’ve already taken the other one. There are 34 strengths measured in this one, and they’re different from, but still aligned with, the other assessment.

Third, to apply what you’ve discovered about yourself and your strengths, I’d recommend Marcus Buckingham’s next book, Go Put Your Strengths to Work. This is the “how-to” guide to living your strengths in your daily life. This book focuses on living your strengths at work, but it can easily be adapted to your personal life too. If you’re not sure how to do that, that’s where I come in! I’d be happy to work with you to help you integrate this information into your life at either level, personal or professional – or both.

If you’d rather watch a video than read a book, Marcus Buckingham facilitated an extensive workshop with Oprah Winfrey and 30 women who were unhappy in their jobs, and you can watch the whole thing for free on Oprah's website . You can sit in on the class, download the worksheets and handouts, and start putting your strengths to work immediately. Thank you, Oprah!

You can stop there, but if you’re intrigued by the whole concept of strengths-based living, especially in your work life, I’d recommend one more book, Marcus Buckingham’s The One Thing You Need to Know. The subtitle is, ...About Great Managing, Great Leading, and Sustained Individual Success. I absolutely love this book – and I don’t ever plan to be a manager in any level of business. Marcus Buckingham just spells it out, gives great examples, and makes incredible sense!

As a side note, he includes a small digression into the land of relationships to clarify what extensive research has shown about the “one thing you need to know” for a happy marriage. I thought the book was worth reading just for that. :)

One final thought. If you’re interested in the Law of Attraction, I think this strengths-based concept is a perfect fit. Living from your strengths, based on what energizes you, is definitely “downstream,” and living by constantly working and struggling to improve your weaknesses is “upstream.” And if everything you want is downstream, isn’t it worth it to discover some easy, fun, energizing ways to get there and feel wonderful doing it?

I think it is.

How Can Coaching Help Me With This?

If you'd like to identify your own unique set of strengths, and learn exactly how to put them to work so you can be more energized, healthy, creative, resilient, and joyful in your day-to-day life, I'd be happy to walk you through the process and give you specific support and guidance as you create a more downstream, strengths-based life for yourself.

Go to the next page, "Basic Life Skills & Tools"

Return to the main coaching page, "About Life Coaching"

You can click on any book cover below to see more information about that specific book, or click the "Susan's Books" tab on the left side of the page to see overviews of all the available books on one page. Enjoy!