While in graduate school, I was fortunate to be part of a leadership program focused greatly on leadership and self-development. It was right up my alley: we did a lot of self-exploration, found ways to become better and stronger, and inevitably applied it to work and life. I have no doubt my experience within the program planted seeds for what I do today – helping others improve their lives and live the best life they can.
During the program, we read many self-improvement books. One book, in particular, I constantly find myself revisiting: Now, Discover Your Strengths. In the book, authors Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton argue that building one’s strengths is a more effective approach to living life to the fullest, as compared to focusing on strengthening one’s weaknesses.
In a world where we are constantly told to work on our weaknesses, this may feel counter-intuitive, but strengthening your strengths will lead to greater fulfillment than strengthening your weaknesses. Here’s why:
- It Downplays our Talents: Focusing on our weaknesses doesn’t allow us to fully maximize our potential. This can have a significant impact on our ability to be successful. The more time we spend trying to improve upon our weaknesses, the less time we spend on making our strengths even stronger, or doing what we are good at and shining at what comes naturally.
- We Lose Motivation and Gain a Negative Perspective: Buckingham and Clifton’s research shows that individuals who do not capitalize on their strengths at work tend to dread going to work, and have more negative interactions and feelings about their company. Think about it: the more you do that makes you feel good, the happier you’ll be and the more you’ll want to continue doing what you do.
- We Are Less Productive and Do Lower Quality Work: Those who don’t focus on what they’re naturally good at are less inclined to have creative moments, are less productive and treat customers poorly. Those who do work from a place of strength, however, are much more productive, are more engaged and feel they have an excellent quality of life.
Although most of Buckingham’s and Clifton’s research applies to work and career, these same principles can be applied to life as a whole. The more we tap into our talents and strengths, the more we will feel fulfilled and find happiness and success, in all areas of life. Capitalizing on your strengths will not only build self-confidence, but will also keep you motivated for the longer term.
In Now, Discover Your Strengths, you can take a test to find out your 5 biggest strengths. When I look at the work I do here, all five of my strengths are being utilized. And, I’d argue 99% of the time, I feel very fulfilled by the work I do. Even when passion wanes, the fact that I’m playing to my strengths keeps me motivated.
If you suffer from a lack of motivation, or feel negatively about the work you do or about life in general, take a moment to discover your strengths. Once you do, start finding ways to play to them, to incorporate them into your work, and into everyday life. You’ll begin to feel like a whole new person.
Now it’s your turn. In the comments below, tell us whether you play and build your strengths or are you more prone to strengthen your weaknesses. How does that make you feel? Are you fulfilled by it? And, have you taken the Strengths Finder test? If so, how accurate do you think it is, and do you think playing to them fulfill you?
My good friend, Terri Trespicio, just gave a wonderful TedX talk about passion (stay tuned, I’ll be sharing it soon). Next time, we’ll talk about passion and its influence on your happiness and fulfillment…
Thanks so much for reading!