Why Focus on Strengths?
You’ve probably heard some of the buzz around strengths-based development as this research-driven movement has gained considerable traction in schools and organisations over the past 20 years.
The Tide is Turning
Millions of people have completed various strengths assessments on their own or as part of a program at work, leaders are increasingly taking a strengths-based approach to team development, and parents are learning to place more emphasis on their kids' strengths.
This trend represents a significant shift from society’s usual focus on fixing what is wrong. Why is so much attention being given to strengths these days?
Benefits of a Strengths Focus
The great news from positive psychology researchers is getting out: a strengths-based development approach correlates with a number of positive individual and organisational outcomes, including…
Getting Started with Strengths
Studies have shown that most people don’t know what their strengths are, so typical strengths-based development interventions focus on helping people discover, understand, and activate unknown or underutilised strengths. You can take it a step beyond this "identify and use" approach by thinking about optimising your strengths use (instead of simply using your strengths more).
Here’s how to get started…
Step 1: Identify Your Unique Strengths
This can be done informally through some reflection...
What have you loved doing since childhood?
What are the personal characteristics you’re most proud of?
What captures and holds your attention?
What are you known for? How do others describe you?
What gives you a boost of energy when you do it?
What do you do well without needing to try very hard?
What do you admire or respect in others. Do you share some of their strengths?
What hobbies do you enjoy, and what strengths do you use when doing them?
What is something you learned to do very quickly and easily?
What do you do just for the love of it, without any external pressure to do it?
What kinds of things always get crossed off your to-do list?
What kinds of activities are you doing when you lose track of time?
What are you most looking forward to doing in the near future? Why?
When do you feel like you're being most like the "real you?"
Does it make you feel a little uncomfortable to praise yourself? Remember that this list is only for you, so don’t hold yourself back - acknowledge and celebrate those strengths!
Another way to identify your strengths is to complete a formal strengths assessment. Stay tuned for more on that in a future post (including our recommendation).
Step 2: Think About How You Use Your Strengths
Looking at your list of strengths, reflect on how they are showing up in your life.
Which strengths are helping you succeed?
Are you overdoing any of your strengths at times? How could you dial them down?
Are there strengths you’d like to utilise more? How could you activate them?
What would you like to modify about your strengths use, and why is this important for you right now?
Step 3: Harness Your Strengths to Achieve Goals
Think about your goals for this year, at work and at home.
Which of your strengths can you draw upon to help you attain these goals?
Which strengths are needed that you don't have? How can you draw upon these strengths in others to help you?
Make a plan for intentionally leveraging strengths to achieve what matters most to you.
Create a visual reminder of your strengths-based plan to achieve your goal, and put it somewhere you will see it often (your desk? to-do list? desktop or phone wallpaper?).
About the Author
Kristin Lowe is a former international school teacher who now works as an organisational psychologist, strengths-based leadership coach, and positive parenting educator.
Kristin’s work centers around applied positive psychology, helping school communities cultivate what is best within themselves and leverage these strengths to help students become confident, capable, and caring people.
You can read more about Kristin’s background and qualifications here.