Everyone has a range of abilities, but the things that we do just because we are good at them, or because other people value them, may not be the things that make us happy. These strengths are simply a means to an end. True fulfillment comes from building our lives on our core strengths, the ones we most enjoy using.
But how do we start to identify these specific abilities among all the tasks we complete every day? One good way is to ask yourself a series of open-ended questions, such as:
- What do I love doing?
- When am I happiest and most in-the-moment?
- What makes me unique, in each area of life?
- Try finishing these sentences: “I am really good at…”, “I find it easy to…”, “Faced with a challenge, the way I approach it is…”, “The talents that I use are…”
It may also be illuminating to ask your friends, family and colleagues where they believe your strengths lie.
Core strengths generally fall into the three key areas of play, personal and work. But of these, the personal area is fundamental. It might include optimism, generosity, energy, empathy, or honesty. These comprise the background of every activity you undertake.
The work area does not simply include paid employment, but all purposeful activity. Strengths in this area may include organization and planning, time management, leadership or problem-solving. In the play area, your strengths may include sporting talents, creative abilities, competitiveness, or social factors such as being a great host and putting people at their ease, or allowing others to open up and share their problems.
Look for common themes across the areas of your life.
Successful people exploit their strengths and avoid putting pressure on their weaknesses. But how best to bring your core strengths to the forefront of your life?
- When possible, say no to tasks that do not play to your strengths. Your weaknesses are somebody else’s talents.
- Take a step to bring one of your personal strengths to work or play. For example, your family life may benefit from some of the cheerfulness you show at work.
- Keep taking small steps until there are fewer discrepancies.
- Let go of activities you don’t enjoy. Anything which you approach with a feeling of dread, after a long period of procrastination, is not playing to your core strengths, so delegate when you can.
- Aim to spend the majority of your time on core strengths.
- Cultivate relationships with those who support you, show curiosity, and make you feel fired up.
Your talents are unique — nothing can take them away. But they will fade with time if they are ignored. The more you choose to honor and develop your special gifts, the more you enhance every aspect of your own life as well as the lives of the people around you.
Note: Original content by Jane Collingwood via this link but has been condensed and edited for this blog post. Image Credit: JBD / Iceland 2013.