I used to feel really uncomfortable answering the question “what are your strengths?” It feels so much more natural to focus on what we *aren’t* good at, or what we need to improve.
But recognising and taking ownership of our strengths helps us to build our sense of internal resource and resilience – and offers us the self-belief to allow us to approach the challenges of life with more awareness, insight and wholeness.
Building on our natural strengths is an inherently more feminine approach to life, work and leadership – as opposed to the traditional masculine approach of focusing on avoiding weaknesses and failures – which automatically puts our nervous systems into a stress response.
Why is knowing your strengths helpful?
I invite coaching clients to reflect on their strengths as part of our work together – regardless of what they are working on – whether that’s finding more balance and space for wellbeing in their work, making a big career transition or starting a new project or business.
Instead of focusing on what we need to change, fix and improve, which automatically activates a stress response within us, a strength-based approach allows us to recognise ourselves as whole, so we feel calmer and more regulated.
When we know what our strengths are, we can lean into these and use them to our advantage. And conversely, when we recognise where our strengths *don’t* lie – we can ask for help and find support in these areas – so we can focus our time and energy on our strengths.
When I’m supporting clients through a change or transition simply having an awareness of their strengths can let it become clear why they have previously struggled in a particular career or work situation and offers a sense of perspective and understanding. This awareness can then guide them towards a new direction that is far more aligned with their vision and their strengths.
And if you are looking at how to avoid burnout and find more well-being and balance in your life, being aware of your strengths can make it easier to create new routines and build boundaries that work uniquely for you.
And there’s plenty of evidence to support a strengths-based approach in helping people to increase their motivation for change – this is supported by science – it’s not just a feel-good idea.
What’s true about our strengths?
- They come easily to us – we don’t generally have to force them or use too much effort
- A strengths-based approach allows us to welcome ourselves as a whole rather than a list of weaknesses needing to be fixed.
- We can grow and develop our strengths over time – they aren’t fixed or finite
- Investing in your strengths usually offers more value than developing your weaknesses (although it is entirely possible to develop weaknesses)
- Knowing our strengths allows us to embrace our unique contribution and step into life or work that is aligned with our purpose.
How do our strengths link to our purpose?
Our strengths are often linked to our purpose, vision and dreams for our future. It’s unusual that I meet someone whose purpose and vision for their lives don’t inherently involve them utilising their strengths in some way. The nature of our purpose is usually aligned with what we find inherently easy
How do you find your strengths?
Reflecting on what you find easy can be a good way of identifying your strengths – maybe think back over what you’ve spent your time doing at home and at work over the past couple of weeks and consider what came naturally and easefully to you.
– What roles/tasks do you enjoy?
– What do other people come to you for?
– What are you known for?
If you are struggling with this, you could ask 3 trusted friends or colleagues to tell you what they perceive your strengths as.
Or, you could use an online strengths questionnaire. The Gallup/Clifton Strengths Assessment is a commonly used resource, although there is a cost for this. The VIA Survey of Character Strengths is free and takes around 15 minutes.
I’ve previously done the Clifton Strengths Assessment as part of some leadership training. This gives a pretty detailed breakdown of your top 5 strengths, and I’ve found it a pretty accurate reflection – the results were similar to my own recognition of my strengths and also feedback from other people.
I was a bit apathetic at the time I did the assessment because I perceived my strengths (Empathy, Developer, Intellection, Harmony and Responsibility) to be on the “softer” side, and didn’t include any of the more dynamic and exciting sounding attributes like “Achiever”, “Activator”, “Maximiser, “Strategic”. This was at a time in my career when I felt as though I had to be different to how I was (less empathetic and more strategic) in order to keep up and do my job well.
Traditional career guidance told me to focus on developing my weaknesses but this left me faltering and feeling exhausted – as if I was swimming against the tide.
But instead, I’ve come to appreciate the benefits of a strengths-based approach. I can see that along with my values, my strengths form the cornerstone of the different aspects of my career. I’m proud to have put in the energy to develop them further, as I embrace a compassionate, feminine, embodied approach to how I show up in my work (more on the feminine approach and what this means another time)
Recognising my skills means that it’s easier for me to ask for help when I’m faced with something which is not my forte, knowing that I’m better off using my energy and time on something I do well. I know which teams and environments I will thrive in and the ones where I won’t, and I can recognise the projects that will suit me and the ones that won’t. Now, when I’m faced with a new work opportunity, one of the questions I ask myself is “how is this aligned with my strengths?” to help me decide if it is something that is a wholehearted “yes” or if it is something that might not be the best use of my skills and energy.
That’s not to say that we shouldn’t ever do something that isn’t fully utilising all our exact strengths and lets us avoid all our weaknesses – those scenarios are generally few and far between.
But, having the awareness of where our attributes lie can help guide our decisions and choices – and helps us show up with more self-belief, insight and wholeness – and ultimately guide us on our path forward.
If you are curious about how coaching with me can help you identify your strengths and use them to your advantage to support you to avoid burnout and create a life and career that works for you, then you can book a free coaching call here – I’d love to chat things through with you so you can get clear about your next steps!