It’s been told again and again: “Work on your strengths.” You know this very well. But maybe the problem is that you don’t know what your “real” strengths are. You may not be a polymath, but you know you are good at many things. It would be good if there were a simple recipe to identify your strengths.
I promise you that by the time you finish reading the next few paragraphs you will have a framework to do just that.
First, let us see why it’s difficult to identity your “real” strengths. In my opinion, the reason is simply that your real strengths become indistinguishable from who you are BEING. They are just there; you don’t need to exert a lot of effort to bring them out. You don’t think you are putting in a lot of effort when you are operating from your place of strengths. Your real strengths go to your background and they soon become part of “who you are." In other words, they disappear into your being.
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The wisdom therefore is becoming aware of this phenomenon (of strengths disappearing into your being), because once you know it you can put together a solution to “uncover” those strengths and bring them to the forefront.
Let me give you three ideas to do just that:
1. Know when you are in flow.
Mihaly Csikzentmihalyi popularized the concept of Flow in his groundbreaking book of the same name. Very simply, you are in flow when you lose track of time doing productive work that’s close to your heart. Journaling at the end of the day is a great way to discover when you were in flow. As you start jotting down things that were the highlights of the day, you can also recollect how long you were engaged in those activities. You will notice that, in general, “time flies” when you are in flow. And the connection? You can rarely be in flow when you are engaged in activities that are not based on your strengths. So being in flow should give you some clue about your strengths.
2. Notice what you notice and discover what you didn’t notice.
It is easy to notice things that you are paying attention. But it’s also equally easy to miss those things you are not paying attention to. Discovering what you are not paying attention to will require some extra work. To get you to start thinking, here is one idea: Next time you attend a seminar or a talk, take a friend (who also likes the topic of the talk) with you. Only one condition: both of you should take notes from the session. At the end of the session, compare notes. It is guaranteed that you both could not have taken down the exact same points. You will immediately start getting clues about what you notice and what you don’t notice. Now, how does it help with identifying your strengths? Sometimes you stop noticing things that are in your background thinking—things that are “totally obvious” to you. If those were the things that you glossed over, this is the time to become “re-aware” of them.
3. The simple secret: Notice requests made from people that matter.
This is probably THE thing that can make it extremely easy to identify your strengths. Remember that your core strengths become invisible to you. However, almost every day you demonstrate those strengths to people around you through your actions. Others can notice what you are really good at. When they come to you for help, they usually come to you and ask for help in your area of strengths. For instance, if you are a good negotiator, they might come to you with a situation where your negotiating skills might be of help. If you can write well, they might come to you with a situation where they need help in writing. Start noticing these requests and you will start becoming more aware of your strengths.
Operating from an area of your strengths is fun and rewarding. Good luck with identifying your strengths.