In a previous article on self-awareness I wrote that the most successful leaders are extremely self aware and have a good understanding of their strengths and weaknesses. In this article I want to dig deeper on how to discover your strengths and how this strength focused mindset will take your brain to another level, literally.
How to focus on your strengthsTo excel in life is a matter of doubling down on your strengths. Click To Tweet
I love to play some basketball and I have loved the Chicago Bulls since I was a kid. My parents bought me a Chicago Bulls cap (don’t ask me why) during a holiday when I was 10 years old and I have been following the bulls ever since. Being a Bulls fan means I’m an absolute Jordan fan, but one of the guys that also had an interesting journey was Dennis Rodman. Someone who was was named one of the worst free throw shooters and offensive players in the game, but eventually grew into the best defensive player in the NBA ever and entering in the Basketball Hall of Fame.
It shows that once you know where your strengths are and you’re laser focused on this, you can reach epic performance. I understand not everybody needs to play at NBA level all their life, but fundamentally there is so much goodness coming forth out of knowing and leveraging your strengths. If you’re already aware of your strengths, that’s awesome. If you’re still on the journey, the below questions can help you find your strengths:
1. What makes your heart beat faster?
I’m not talking about climbing 10.000 stairs or jumping out of an airplane. I’m referring to the moment you engage in an activity you are truly good at, your excitement shows instantly. When someone uses its’ core strength and is in a “flow” it physically shows. You’re excited, your heart beats faster and you feel confidence all through your body. Ask your partner, a close friend or mentor when you appear most animated or try to observe yourself for a day. When do you feel most engaged and energised?
Action: Make a list of at least 3 things that make you excited.
2. Don’t be limited to a job title.
A company should be a playing ground for people to develop. Especially in big companies a title is almost a chain on your leg that restricts you to your island. A better approach is to go beyond a title and see where people really flourish. Don’t be afraid to test around and see where your people are finding joy so they can really excel in what they are doing. Research performed by Gallup researchers Rigoni and Asplund shows that when employees can develop their strengths at work they significantly become more productive and engaged. So look beyond job titles and really look at the strengths of people and let them flourish wherever that may be. Assign roles based on strengths rather than on job titles.Everybody is a genius. But If you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole… Click To Tweet
Action: What is your current title and describe what scope of your job would really fit your passions and strength? If you’re happy with your current job title and scope, that’s great. In that case see in what specific field you can develop further within your current roles and responsibilities.
3. What do you do different than other people?
In a situation where you are truly using your strengths, you will stand out from a crowd because you are in the zone. Your approach will be unique and authentic. To get more grip on your strengths, you want to identify those moments and define how your approach is different from the rest. For example, if you’re really a people person and love negotiating deals. Think about the last deal you did. What was the deciding factor that made the deal succeed? This can be what you do differently.
Action: From the strengths you listed, can you describe specific aspects that make it “you”? For example, in the above example the strength mentioned is negotiating deals. It could be that the way you communicate makes business partners feel very comfortable and at ease, which as a result make it easy for you to close deals.
4. Describe your strengths in detail.
After answering questions 1 until 3, you should at least have a list of 3 strengths that are your jam. Try to describe your strength in a detailed manner and avoid generic terms like passionate or dedicated. Dr. Kashdan, Professor of Psychology and Senior Scientist at the Center for the Advancement of Well-Being at George Mason University, says “by coming up with an exciting word to describe your strengths, you avoid all the typical connotations. Once you can put a word to your strengths, it becomes much more embedded in your everyday life”.
Action: Describe your strength in detail. For example go from a generic strength like a “passionate public speaker” to a more detailed description like a “storyteller that is able to explain difficult topics in a very easy to understand way”.
Why focus on strengths?
You should focus on strengths because strengths are things that engage you and amplify your talents. You don’t need to be encouraged to focus on items that use your strengths. The most important reason to focus on your strengths is because it gives you a focus point to develop. Instead of staying in the comfort zone, which is an easy trap, we should seek out coaching and practice to level-up our game to iconic status. Martin Seligman, the man behind Positive Psychology, says that for a person to be truly happy and live a meaningful life, that person must recognise their personal strengths and use these strengths for the greater good.
How a Strength focused mindset elevates your Brain
Research clearly shows that people experience faster growth and development when they nurture their strengths instead of correcting their shortcomings. As a Harvard Business Review shows, once people focused on their strengths, they felt more satisfied with their lives and believed in new possibilities. All in all, they became happier. Do you know that feeling when you’re in a flow? The feeling you get when every shot you make hits the net or the moment you feel extremely productive and move mountains. This feeling is good for your brain and involves dopamine. Dopamine in the brain provides feelings of pure happiness. It motivates us to continue doing what we’re doing. In addition, dopamine makes the brain be alert and able to react faster to new information.Focusing on your strengths elevates your brain, opens your mind and releases stress. Click To Tweet
Where we direct our focus affects our brains. Focusing on our weakness makes our brains believe that we are not good enough. Whatever we think of most becomes stronger and more powerful in our brains. This means that the more we focus on our weaknesses, the more our brains will make us believe we are our weakness. Focusing on our strengths on the other hand opens our minds. If we think about our strengths, our brains let us believe that we are strong. We can use more areas of our brains, and our minds open up to new options. Our brains are also more open to learning new skills and knowledge.
I hope that this article will motivate you to dig deeper into your strengths and leverage what you can bring to the table of life. My wish to you is that you go from good to great and from top class to world class.