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Playing To Your Strengths (Once You Figure Out What They Are)

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Are you playing to your strengths? Do you even know what your strengths are?
Perhaps you’ve a vague idea but you’d struggle to name more than one or two, or give concrete examples of when and where you use them.

 

Career-wise, it makes sense to know your strengths. Wouldn’t you want to highlight your strengths in a resume or CV, in your LinkedIn profile or at an interview?

Wouldn’t it be useful to know your strengths when choosing your work projects or your role in a work project? You might even use this knowledge to inform what the best approach for you as an individual is to tackle a project, task or challenge.

Did you know, though, that spending the time finding out about your signature strengths – clearly identifying them and developing them – can lead to greater well-being, including happiness and life satisfaction?

Sounds like it’s worth finding out more. Here’s how you can identify your strengths (without spending too much time or any money!) and begin to apply them to your daily life and work.

 

Dr Martin Seligman, the founder of positive psychology, sees character strengths – and using them – as fundamental to our health and wellbeing.

 

Positive Psychology

Put simply, strengths are what you do well. You might call them your superpowers!

You may have heard of positive psychology; if psychology is the science of behaviour, then positive psychology is the science of behaviour that helps us to flourish.

Dr Martin Seligman, the founder of positive psychology, sees character strengths – and using them – as fundamental to our health and wellbeing.

Based upon extensive research, Christopher Peterson and Martin Seligman identified 24 character strengths which can be divided into six virtues:

  • wisdom and knowledge (e.g. the strengths of curiosity and interest); 
  • courage (e.g. integrity, honesty, authenticity);
  • love (e.g. social, personal and emotional intelligence);
  • justice (e.g. equity, fairness and leadership);
  • temperance (e.g. self-control, self-regulation);
  • transcendence (e.g. awe, wonder, appreciation of beauty and excellence).

Everyone has a unique profile of character strengths, with some more prominent than others.

 

The VIA Institute on Character will help you understand your strength better and give suggestions for how to apply it on a daily basis.

 

Discover YOUR strengths

It’s so easy to discover your strengths! You can take the free, scientific VIA (Values in Action) Survey. The survey takes approximately 10-15 minutes and after series of simple questions you will be issued with a report telling you your unique character strengths profile. 

The strengths that top the list are those that come most naturally to you, what the VIA Institute on Character describe as “most representative of the ‘real you’”.

Let’s take love of learning as an example. If this is you, you’re likely to enjoy learning for learning’s sake. “Love of learning is a strength that teachers would like to see in their students, parents want to encourage in their children, therapists support in their clients, and employers try to foster in their employees.” Good to know, right?

 

When are you enjoying what you’re doing so much, you lose track of time?

 

The VIA Institute on Character explain what the science says about your strength (in this case, you’re likely to read a lot and do well at school and you may well be an introvert!).

They give you questions to help you understand your strength better, examples of your strength in action and suggestions for how to apply your strength on a daily basis.

There are other tools which will help you identify and develop your strengths, including the Clifton Strengths assessment (formerly the Clifton Strengths Finder) and the Strengths Profile. Neither of these options is free but they may be worth investing in depending on your needs.

 

What tasks do you find so easy, you nearly can’t understand why other people struggle with them?

 

Beyond taking a survey

Surveys and other assessments are not the only way to explore your strengths.

One of the most effective techniques I recommend to my career change clients is to keep notes, either in a notebook or an app like Evernote which syncs across multiple devices. How is this helpful in identifying your strengths? Be mindful of occasions at work and in your personal life when you can answer the following questions:

  • When are you enjoying what you’re doing so much, you lose track of time?
  • What do you have a reputation for doing well?
  • What are you good at but don’t enjoy doing?
  • What tasks do you find so easy, you nearly can’t understand why other people struggle with them?
  • What do people always come to you for help with?

Take notes so that you don’t forget what you’ve observed and schedule some time in your calendar to reflect on what you’ve written. What are the common themes? What might you call these strengths that you’ve identified?

If you’re feeling brave, you could go a step further and ask friends, family and work colleagues what they think your strengths are. What questions you ask are up to you but I’d suggest keeping it simple.

As before, make note of anything that keeps coming up and if you’ve taken the VIA Survey, where do the two exercises overlap? Again, what are the common themes?

 

Consider your top five strengths when it comes to choosing a career or job, but also in your personal life

 

Playing to your strengths

Once you have identified your strengths, take the time to explore how you could develop them.

Positive psychologists Drs Ilona Boniwell and Aneta D. Tunariu suggest taking a strengths-based approach to life, including career. They suggest considering your top five strengths when it comes to choosing a career or job, but also in your personal life.

Coming back to our example of love of learning, you could certainly factor this in when considering a career change. However, why wait? Be on the look-out for opportunities in your existing role. Spend an hour browsing the bookshelves of your favourite bookshop. Or take one of the many night courses that are available in your area.

Take action

What are your top strengths? How could you use them more in work or at home? Let us know how you get on identifying and using your strengths in the Comments below.

 

More great advice from Nicola:

Career Burnout: How do I recognise the signs?

When was the last time you took a day off work to recharge?

How to make a career change (when you’re already crazy busy)

 

About the Author

Nicola Porter

Nicola Porter, PhD, is a mid-career coach for smart, capable professionals who are struggling to take stock of their career and figure out their next step.

Nicola combines everything she knows and loves about psychology with highly effective coaching tools and techniques to help you create a better quality of working life so that you can enjoy more success, confidence and satisfaction in your work – in a totally doable way.

Having masterminded her own mid-career change to create a more satisfying and flexible working life, Nicola is keen to share what works to help you do the same.

Meet Nicola and take your first step towards creating a more meaningful, enjoyable career at www.coachd.ie.

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