Everyone has strengths and the potential to develop them to be the best they can be.
Research shows that knowing and growing our strengths helps us feel energised and engaged. We learn faster, perform better and strive to do our best every day. We feel happier when we get to use our strengths in life or work, particularly when other people recognise and appreciate what we do well.
Our strengths are natural and authentic resources that represent what is good in each of us. They shape our character and our identity, influenced by nature, nurture, life experience and the urge to fulfil our potential; a fundamental part of who we are and grow to be as people. We feel intrinsically motivated to act on our strengths and get an energetic buzz that adds to our confidence and competence. We learn, persist and become more fulfilled over time.
In other words, our strengths allow us to be, and to become, our best self.
Strengths are at the heart of positive psychology, and have been a rich source of study for the last decade or so. A strengths approach represents a paradigm shift for many workplaces and people. Instead of focusing on problems or what is wrong—a deficit model—focusing on strengths builds on what works well and can work even better.
While a clear language of strengths may be lacking in modern times, many of us know to “play to our strengths”.
We don’t always know what our strengths are, so here are three ways to start realising them.
1. Spot strengths in every day conversations.
You can learn to spot strengths in yourself and others by observing certain signs. When you do this over time, patterns emerge.
Consider questions such as: What do you remember doing as a child that you still do now – most likely much better? What activities give you an energetic buzz when you are doing them? What activities do you do simply for the love of doing them? Listen to the words you use. When you’re saying “I love to…” or “It’s just great when…,” chances are that it’s a strength to which you’re referring.
2. Find strengths partners and role models.
Who do you know, work with or look up to that has certain strengths you would like to develop? What can you learn from them? How do they grow and develop those strengths?
Look for complementary strengths partners too—people who have certain strengths you don’t have. They can often be helpful partners who can compensate for your weaknesses or take over certain tasks and roles you don’t find energising.
3. Have strengths conversations.
Find out about other people’s strengths or perhaps learn more about your own by getting feedback. When people know their own strengths and the strengths of others, whether their teammates, friends or family, they are better able to leverage them together for mutual support and growth.
You can also take a formal strengths assessment. I recommend R2 Strengths Profiler, a really versatile tool based on the latest research, or the VIA Inventory, which identifies your strengths of character. We teach both tools in our Diploma of Positive Psychology and Wellbeing, along with practical strategies to get the most from your strengths and help others do the same.
The wonderful thing is that once you know your strengths you can learn to use them in new and better ways to become stronger and happier.
The article was first published on Happy + Well blog.