"You don't know your own strength"
So this post isn’t actually about “knowing your own strength” and being stronger than you think you are (although you probably are); it’s actually about knowing your own Strengths and the part they play in your journey of Knowing Yourself (the first pillar in the Four Pillars of Belonging to Yourself).
I’ve talked a bit in my last few posts about the Four Pillars and this week, before we dig into Your Strengths, I want to explore this idea of Knowing Yourself a bit further. If you’re anything like me the notion of “Knowing Yourself” is a bit allied to the idea that you would need to jack in your job, and either (a) spend 6 months learning silent meditation in an Ashram in India or (b) the same 6 months up a mountain with Buddhist monks eating a lot of rice and chanting every day.
Now, don’t get me wrong, both of these options sound like bliss to me, but knowing yourself isn’t some sort of hippy-dippy notion, it’s critical for all of us to be able to programme our life sat nav to head in the right direction. Think of it like this: If you don’t know what type of trip you enjoy going on, the kind of people you like to travel with, or what you love to do when you get there - how on earth do you ever book a trip at all?
In the context of the Four Pillars, KNOW Yourself is the first pillar for good reason. The more information or “data points” you can gather about yourself, the better you are able to CARE for Yourself, Take RESPONSIBILITY for Yourself and BE Yourself. Sounds obvious really doesn’t it?
WHERE DO YOUR STRENGTHS COME IN?
Your strengths are a fundamental part of that life sat nav I mentioned above. There are a ton of theories and concepts around strengths and a quick Google would give you most of them; I like to think about Strengths like this:
Those things that you are BLOODY BRILLIANT at, that you LOVE doing and (ideally) add VALUE to yours and others’ lives. That sounds like a strength right?
Years ago I discovered of Gay Hendricks’s book A Big Leap and I am a big fan. I won’t go into huge detail here (you do have to read about Upper Limits in the book though), but I want to share his concept about the four zones which I think really do apply here when it comes to your strengths. He believes that we operate out of Four Zones and only when we do work and live in a way that honours our Zone of Genius, will we be fulfilled. His zones look a little like this:
DO YOU KNOW YOUR STRENGTHS?
I’m sure if you were to think about this for a few minutes you would probably be able to come up with one or two, but that’s about all that most of us can do. There are a number of ways that you can discover your strengths and I have detailed a way you could go about this below, but I want to also draw your attention to some online tools and book resources that can help you with this.
Now, Discover Your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham and Donald O Clifton. This is a useful starting point in terms of reading up on discovering your own strengths and those of the people that you manage.
The CliftonStrengths Test by Gallup (yep that Gallup and the same Clifton). This is a paid for online test that will enable you to find your 34 CliftonStrengths themes and leverage them in your life and work. It’s quite comprehensive and I’d recommend working with someone to support you to action plan this into your life (as I would with any of these discovery processes we are talking about under KNOW Yourself).
The VIA Institute Character Strengths Test. This is a free online test that tips into character strengths a little more than functional strengths but is very worthwhile and highlights your top 24 strengths with some explanation of each.
Anecdotally my top five VIA character strengths are: Honesty, Fairness, Humour, Kindness, Bravery.
Pen & Paper - Let’s go Old School
Try the following method to uncover your strengths:
Choose your sources and seek feedback: Identify 5-10 people who know you well from different walks of life, and ask them to write a short story about a time when you were at your best.
Spot patterns: Once the feedback arrives, look for the common themes that appear in multiple stories. Make a list of the themes, the key examples that support each them, and what they suggest about your strengths.
Create your self-portrait. Using this information, write out a brief profile of who you are when you’re at your best.
Put your strengths into action. Create an action plan for how and when you’ll utilise your strengths.
Whatever way you decide to go about discovering your strengths it is an exercise well worth doing.
Have you signed up for my FREE three-week course YOUR values | YOUR life yet? Your Core Personal Values are one of the bricks in the first pillar of Four Pillars of Belonging to Yourself "KNOW Yourself"; when we live, love and work in a way that honours our values, we feel safe and fulfilled. Are you living, loving and leading aligned to your Core Personal Values? Click on the image to find out more.