You’ll know when you're coming from your strength because you feel invigorated, productive and enterprising. When you come from your own strengths, life is easier.
The evidence points to your ability to learn far more quickly when you come from strength; you gain greater satisfaction; you perform more easily; and you experience a desire or a yearning to perform the activity more frequently, as you feel you just have to do it.
Strength Matters – Actually We Have Many Strengths
I’ll focus on two main bodies of research in the strengths discipline: the first in the personal development space and the second in the organization development and leadership space. In fact, they overlap and co-mingle. Both offer an excellent online survey that you can take to identify your own strengths.
First step is to discover your innate strengths (also called talents) and then you go out, use them and put them to work. This is the key to optimizing your well-being, your flourishing, and a happy life; and by happy life, the emphasis is on the engagement and meaning aspects of happiness. This kind of happiness is when you are in alignment with your purpose and are contributing in ways that bring you deep joy and satisfaction.
At work, a good indicator that you're using your strengths is when you are fully engaged in an activity, and, while it may be challenging, you feel at one with it and you lose track of time. In that case, you're experiencing the flow state, that Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's famous book, Flow, the Psychology of Optimal Experience, introduced to the world. On the contrary, when your energy is depleted and you're either bored (because the task is too easy) or stressed (because it's too hard and not aligned with your natural strengths), you are not in that flow state. It robs you of productivity and vitality.
But first, let me define “strengths” in the context of human and organization development with a brief overview.
Character Strengths – Virtues in Action
I’ll start with character strengths developed by the late Chris Peterson of the University of Michigan and Martin Seligman, at University of Pennsylvania, deemed the father of positivity psychology, and others.
With knowledge of your character strengths, it is possible to express and develop character and be poised to better direct talents and abilities into meaningful and engaging behaviors that improve your own life and the lives of others.
This research identified a framework of 24 character strengths that are classified into 5 broad areas of strengths, namely,
- social and community
Your top five strengths in any one of these broad areas are your innate character strengths and when you work with them and bring them into all aspects of your life, you have much greater capability to live a life that engages you fully and is meaningful. Seligman talks about the Good Life as
Using your strengths to obtain abundant gratification in the main realms of your life
You can become aware of own strengths by paying attention to the activities that absorb you, that make time fly by and you feel they are totally occupying you in a good way, that may also be challenging, yet you just want to be doing it.
For me designing courses and facilitating and writing and speaking bring out the best in me. I get into that flow state and I am totally engaged. It’s not to say it’s not challenging, because challenge and stretching yourself is good.
Signature Strengths – StrengthsFinder
Around the same time in 2001, the late Don Clifton, former Chairman of Gallup who was deemed “the father of Strengths-Based Psychology and the grandfather of Positive Psychology” shared his research of near 30 years.
He had been studying excellence in two million people, finally identifying themes that reflect natural talents, naming them signature strengths. He recommends that for success and fulfillment we
“Capitalize on strengths, whatever they may be, and manage around weaknesses, whatever they may be.”
Clifton defines strengths as
“Consistent near perfect performance in an activity . . . the ability is a strength only if you can fathom yourself doing it repeatedly, happily, and successfully.”
Clifton’s findings reveal that your top five signature strengths are themes of talent and therefore are your highest potential for development, because that’s where you will find the greatest satisfaction and do what comes most naturally.
“By focusing on your top five themes, you will actually become stronger, more robust, more open to new discoveries and, importantly, more appreciative of people who possess themes very different from your own.”
Take the Surveys
I invite you to go online and take one or both of these strength surveys (listed below) to help you learn about your best attributes and where you can leverage your potential to create the changes that will lead to a more satisfying and meaningful life.
The VIA Survey
VIA stands for Virtues In Action at the website viame.org
The VIA survey is free to take. I highly recommend it. You receive a report describing your 24 character strengths with more detail about your top 5. You can also purchase a range of more detailed reports. This website is full of excellent explanations and resources. It's a fabulous resource.
The StrengthsFinder Survey, at the website gallupstrengthscenter.com. There is a cost to take this survey , and there are a number of reports you can invest in to learn more about your signature strengths.
Personal Growth and Development Opportunities
Both surveys will help you identify your strengths, and appreciate the strength matters in a whole new, supportive way. You will come away with valuable insights and personal growth and development opportunities. Inspired by your new found strengths, some of which you will have intuited and some may come as a surprise, you’ll become more consciously aware of your best self what energizes you so you perform with greater ease.
At the same time, you will now have greater understanding why you find yourself struggling at times and feel depleted. When you are not in your strengths, it takes more effort, more energy and you find it harder to be in that positive state of engagement.
How You Can Be More Energized than Depleted
You’ll start to understand which environments stimulate you or bore you; which behaviors calm you or excite you. Over time, this adds up to a life that is efficient, effective, healthy, productive, and satisfying.