How to unearth your strengths and find career and life fulfillment

How to unearth your strengths and find career and life fulfillment

If someone asked you, “What are your strengths?” would you really know how to answer?

Most people answer this question by listing their skills.  Or pointing to buzzword phrases like, “I’m a strategic thinker” or “I’m a strong communicator” or “I’m good with people.”

None of these are strengths.

What is a strength?

A strength is an activity where you are strong and is defined primarily by your natural talent + knowledge + skill.    A skill is something you can learn.  A strength is a natural talent you are born with.

Strengths are more often than not defined by a certain subject but more about how do thing such as:

  • How you interact with people
  • How you take action
  • How you organize and understand information
  • How you influence others

And here is something I really did not understand until just recently.  Just because you are good at something doesn’t mean it’s a strength.

For years I didn’t know my real strengths.  I followed my career almost without any plan or design.  I felt into positions based on opportunities that allow me to put my degree and skills to work.

But over time I lost interest in what I was doing even though it was meaningful and important work. I was no longer energized.

What is a strength?

That is when I bumped into this whole business of strengths.  When you are using a strength, you feel strong.  You feel energized. You lose track of time.  In short, you are engaged.  And after you’ve finished using your strength, you have more energy than before.

Why does any of this matter?  When you exercise and invest in your superpower strength, you will find more success in your career and more pleasure in life.  Strengths make us feel strong.

And more importantly strengths is how we can grow our careers.

Taking the time to learn your strengths

But most of us don’t know our strengths.  Why is that?  It’s simple.  We  don’t take the time to figure it out.  And if you don’t really know your strengths (and I promise you most don’t) you are navigating your career and life with a major blindspot.

So how can you figure out your strengths.  Take some time to answer these four questions thinking about specific activities.

  1. When do I feel strong? 

This question has the word “feel” in for a reason.  You want to think about those instances when you aren’t just bringing your knowledge and skill but it’s instinctive to you.  You want to feel strong.  You might even feel that activity is effortless.  In fact, it is so effortless that you hardly notice it.

When thinking about those activities where you feel strong pick those those activities where you feel: energized or where you tend to lose time.

  1. What do others see as my greatest strength?

Here is one thing we know about strengths:  You do them so naturally and so instinctively that you hardly notice it. This is why asking other people is such a great idea.  Others see your strengths  and superpowers in a way that you cannot.

Now, I understand that asking other people about your strengths might feel intimidating.  But know this:  you will get some great feedback.   It is worth the effort.

Send a simple email to 3-4 people who know and like you and ask them to share their perspective of your strengths both inside and outside your job.  Friends, family, and trusted colleagues are good places to start.

  1. How do I define success?

Some of your strengths are found in answering this question about you define success.  Why do this?  Success is defined is many different ways.   For some, success is in finding a solution to a difficult problem.  Or in communicating something effectively to a certain audience.  Or in analyzing information to find a pattern.

Your strengths are defined partly by what you see as a successful outcome.

For example:

  • Do you feel successful when you help people?  If so, in what way?
  • Do you feel success when you find the best way or method to do something?
  • Or when you produce something of high quality?
  • Do you feel success when something is your own creation?
  • Do you feel success when   something is well organized?  Or when it is beautiful?
  1. What do your instincts say is your best strength?

Finally, ask yourself!  I’m saving this last for a reason.  After you have spent a little time thinking about your strengths, you will be more in tune with what makes you tick.

For me, finding my superpower strength was a long and windy road.  If someone had asked me a few years ago, what my signature strength was, I would have rattled off a list of skills.

Now, I pay attention to activities that bring me energy.

I encourage you to take this journey starting with answer these questions.  Good luck!

I am a trained Gallup Strengthfinder coach and often recommend my clients take the Clifton Strengthfinder 2.0 as a way to help them work through many of the questions above.  To take the test, go here.

Additional reading: Go Put Your Strengths To Work by Marcus Buckingham

If you want to take a free test to discover some of your strengths, go to the University of Pennsylvania, VIA Survey of Character Strengths.

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