“The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places.”
– Ernest Hemingway
Strengths move you forward
You’ve started making your move. You’ve decided to stop being stuck where you are and to start creating the life you’ve always wanted. Maybe you’ve started working towards finding your purpose, or maybe you aren’t quite there yet, but either way, you probably find yourself in a situation that almost all of us fall into – overwhelmed by the enormity of all the things you don’t know how to do.
Don’t worry, it’s normal
Us humans have an amazing ability to find fault within ourselves easily. We are the first to point out that change will be difficult. We don’t have time, we don’t know how to build websites, we don’t know the right people, or we aren’t strong enough to get the changes we want. Perhaps you get stuck in the need trap, saying things like ‘I need to figure out X, and I need to become Y, and I need to just do it. Does either of these scenarios seem familiar to you? Don’t worry, this is totally normal.
Why it’s important to reflect on the other side of the coin.
The downside of finding all of those faults in ourselves is that it doesn’t help us get where we want to go. It might show us some of the gaps we should work on, but it doesn’t help us create a way to work on them. That’s where our strengths come in. When we identify and truly live into our strengths it’s like suddenly getting a roadmap through the dark and fearful forest of change instead of wandering blindly in circles. It also gives us an internal anchor that helps us get through the times when we don’t know if we are on the right path or not.
3 easy ways to identify your strengths
1. Look at what you think you do well in your life
Take a pad of paper and pen and write down ALL of the things that you think you are good at. Examples might be good at parenting, good at connecting with others, good at making art, good at cooking, good at leading teams, good at lifting weights or yoga, etc. This list should include everything that you are good at, even if it isn’t related to your goals for change.
Then, for each item on your list, write down why you think you are good at that thing. If you are good at parenting is it because you have patience? If you are good at leading teams, what is it about you that makes you good at it? Why do you think you are good at yoga when other people struggle?
These are your strengths. Whether it’s patience, good communication, determination, discipline, etc, your strengths are what allow you to be good at the things you do in your life. Now, write down a separate list of all of these strengths. Then brainstorm at least one way (but it could be many) that this strength could be helpful as you move towards the life you want.
2. Use your accountabilibuddy to tell a story
- Ask your accountabilibuddy what they believe three or four of your strengths are.
- Then tell them what your passion is.
- Their job is to tell you the story of your life where you live your passion using those strengths.
- At this point, you build a picture of that life in your head, put yourself in it, and tell them which parts appeal to you and which parts don’t.
- They revise the story and tell it back to you.
- You go through as many rounds as necessary before you get to a story that resonates really well for you (it might be 4 rounds, or it might be 20)
So, for example, let’s say that your accountabilibuddy says that your strengths are your creativity, your ability to connect with others, and your patience. You tell them that your passion is working with kids. Then maybe the story they create goes like this; “You start a business where you teach kids art as an after-school opportunity. This allows you to be creative in the art, connect with the kids while making a big difference with them, and your patience will get you through it.”
You think about it and recognize that you love the idea of teaching kids a skill as an after-school event. BUT you aren’t really into art. You know you love nature though. So your friend comes back with a story about taking kids out on after-school hikes and helping them identify the flora and fauna in their environments while also teaching them an appreciation for mindfulness in the wilderness.
You think about that one, and you like it a lot, but you don’t care about flora and fauna. Maybe you want to teach them how to start fires with sticks and other survival skills. So then your accountabilibuddy tells a story about taking kids on afternoon hikes to teach them survival skills. Your program culminates in a weekend-long adventure where those kids get to practice skills you’ve taught them.
And so on and so forth until you arrive at a story that you are excited about.
3. Write down all of the things that other people say you are good at.
What if you are one of those people who struggles a lot to identify the strength that you possess? What if you don’t have an accountabilibuddy yet? Well, start with any nice things people say about you. You might normally blow these compliments off, but starting today you’ve got a different mission. Starting today, you write them down and act like they are true.
Maybe your coworker tells you that you have good fashion sense, or your boss says that your ability to deliver in a pinch is impressive. Perhaps a friend says that they love having dinner with you because you are so easy to talk to. Whatever the compliments might be, write them down and then write down what strength would be underneath them.
After you’ve got a list of 5-10 things write down, on a scale of 1-7, how much you agree with each one. 1 is not at all, and 7 is total agreement. If it is a 4 or higher, write down all the places that you think this strength shows up in your life. If it is a 3 or less, write down what would make it closer to the truth.
Once you get your list of strengths that are all 4 or higher, write down how those strengths could be useful if you were to live the life that you want.
This is the start
Now that you have identified some of your strengths, which ones surprised you? Which ones did you secretly know were there all along? Which ones excite you as you think about your future?
You are one step closer to the life you want now. The next step is to begin really living into those strengths. How will you use them to create the change you are looking for in your life?