How To Discover And Develop Your Strengths
As the year draws to an end, I would like to share some ideas to help us sharpen our focus in the coming year so we can lead our lives, our families, and our teams more effectively. Let’s start with our strengths—what makes us amazing! There are three areas we must master when it comes to our strengths.
First, discover your strengths.
Do you know what they are? If someone asked you to list them, could you without much effort? If not, let me share a few thoughts with you.
It has been proposed that the key to success is living in your strengths. When great composers devote themselves to writing music, Beethovens are created. When great evangelists preach, Billy Grahams are created. When great basketball players take the court, Michael Jordans are created.
In the 1990’s I was visiting my sister at law school in Birmingham, Alabama. She told me Michael Jordan was playing, so we went to watch him. We sat only a few feet from him. Amazing. I could not believe it. Not basketball. Baseball. Most of us remember when Michael decided to take baseball by storm just like he did basketball. What happened?
Not much. He was not in his area of strength.
It is the same for us. When we operate in the areas in which we excel, amazing things happen. But first, we have to find out what we are amazing at. This is a quest that should be pursued continuously, refined over and over again, year after year, until we are crystal-clear about our strengths.
The book StrengthsFinder 2.0 can be of help here. I highly recommend it if you have not taken the test that comes with it.
Let me give you specifics on how to come up with your list of strengths:
- While your strengths can be 50 different things, I encourage you to refine it to the less than 5. This will allow you to pick your very best skills so you can focus on them. These could be areas in which other people say you are strong, perhaps what you feel you contribute most to your team, or they could be exactly what a StrengthsFinder test reveals. After reviewing and contemplating such data, make sure they are what you think they should be. After all, you know yourself better than anyone else.
- I model the design of my strengths list after John Maxwell’s. These are his (he has shared these on many occasions in his talks and books):
While I have refined my list over the years, here are three words which I think best define my strengths as I see them now.
(Thinking and creating could be considered one strength because creating is a form of thinking, so I have considered joining them into one.)
Second, develop your strengths.
I think we should work on both. Let me explain. While developing our strengths can take us into the stratosphere (think of the young Michael Jordan honing his basketball game), improving at least some of our weaknesses can prevent colossal failures. Recently several star athletes have landed themselves in jail or been censured because they cannot control their anger and ended up assaulting someone on or off the field. Their weaknesses sabotaged the success their strengths created.
While addressing these weaknesses can be critical, I urge you to concentrate your focus on developing your strengths. We usually don’t. When we get good at something, we naturally tend to stop trying to get better at it. We start thinking that it’s time to work on our weaknesses.
Third, guide your life toward your strengths.
Knowing and growing our strengths is not enough. That will get you nowhere. You must guide your life in such a way that you are living in your strengths.
This may take years or even decades. Don’t get frustrated if you cannot be in your area of strength now. Just be strategic. Don’t give up. Think how you can get there in small increments over a period of time. Pray about it.
In these final weeks of 2013, start this process if you have not already. Ask yourself what you think you are amazing at – yes, you are amazing at something! And give time to thinking how you can develop further in that area in the coming year, and how to start gently and slowly moving your life there.
Allow me to share with you an example from my personal life. As I mentioned earlier, for me I love to think. I think I am good at it (pardon the pun). I like to think about problems and challenges. I like to dream and create mental images of what is possible. In my life so far, this thinking ability has helped me and the organizations I lead in a palpable way. It’s my small contribution.
So over the last year, I’ve dedicated “thinking time” a few times a week. In the last few weeks, I have redoubled my efforts to create this time by spending 30 minutes daily to think – me, alone, with a pen and a stack of blank papers and my thoughts – and the phone turned off. I think about problems, challenges, dreams – you name it.
If these ideas connected with you, please consider taking the following challenge with me:
In 2014, I will aim to move my life closer into the areas of my strengths so I can be more effective in accomplishing God’s purpose for my life.
I look forward to hearing from you on what you think your strengths are and how you plan to grow and live in them.
For Further Reading:
Improving Our Strengths or Weaknesses