By August 10, 2010 Read More →

Day 10 – Feel Strong All Week Long

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“Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.” — Hilary Cooper

Your Outcome: Get ready.  YOUR world’s about to rock.  You’re about to become a powerful force of one.  We all have strengths and weaknesses.  It’s time to shift from spending more time in your weaknesses to spending more time in your strengths.  By spending more time in your strengths, and less time in your weaknesses, it’s like a combination of simultaneously uncorking your abilities and drinking from the fountain of youth. Finding your vital few set of strengths and spending more time in them is the single most direct way to crank up your energy and your passion, enjoy what you do, and create unique value to your world.

Welcome to day 10 of 30 Days of Getting Results.  In day 9, we learned how to focus and prioritize using MUST, SHOULD, and COULD.  Today we learn how to refocus the time and energy we already spend away from the activities that make us weak … to the activities that make us strong.  It’s time to unleash our possibilities.  For some of you, this post will sing directly to your heart, as if it’s exactly what you need, right here, right now. Your going to change your world in your most powerful way ,,., you’re going to change how you spend your time and you’ll have a new lens for unleashing your best.

If there is one thing to remember as you read this, it’s this … Give your best where you have your best to give.

Get on Your Strengths Path
What if there was one thing you could focus on that would help you get exponential results in all areas of  your life?  Well there is.  It’s getting on your strengths path.  When you are spending more time in the activities that make you strong, you automatically do great work, you renew and rebuild your mind, body, emotions, and spirit, and you dramatically accelerate your learning and growth.  Fighting to get on your strengths path is one of the highest ROI (Return on Investment) battles you will ever win.  It pays you back daily.

If there are so many benefits to being on your strengths path, and spending more time in your strengths, then why doesn’t everybody just do it?  Because it requires self-awareness and you have to own it. Nobody comes along and puts you on your strengths path.  YOU have to own it.  YOU have to continuously find ways to spend more time in your strengths.  Only you know truly what makes you strong and what makes you weak.  You have to decide you want to spend more time in your strengths and you have to be deliberate about spending less time in your strengths.

You’re the architect of your life. Build a firm foundation. Design how you spend your time effectively. Spend your time on your strengths.  Limit your time on your weaknesses.  If you get knocked down, get up again.    Stay the path.  Focus on finding your strengths and finding ways to leverage them.  Expect a learning curve, but know that this is the high ROI path.

Whenever you get rundown or feel overwhelmed and drained, there is a great chance that you are not spending enough time in your strengths and you’re not on your strengths path.

Grow More in Your Strengths
To look at it with another lens, many people mistake the path of weaknesses as the growth or opportunity path.  What they don’t realize is not only are they robbing from their energy, their best contribution, and their sense of fulfillment, but they are taking away from their greatest source of growth.  You’ll grow faster in your strengths.  In today’s world, you have to outpace your problems and give your best where you have your best to give, to succeed in any situation, flow amazing value to yourself and others, and find a sustainable way for getting results in everything you do.  If you spend the bulk of your time in your weaknesses, then you are stacking the deck against you, and even if you improve your weaknesses, you will never achieve the powerful force of growing your strengths.

What are Your Strengths
To keep this very simple, here are the keys:

  • Your strengths are your natural talents.  Your strengths are what your natural patterns for how your thinking, feeling, and behavior.
  • Your strengths are NOT what you are simply good at.  Unfortunately, many of us are good at things that make us weak or drain us, so we spend more time in those.  So yes, we are good at them, but no they are not strengths that give us energy or that we exponentially improve at.  True strengths are your natural talent for thinking, feeling, and behavior, applied to a context..
  • Your strengths are what you find easy to do.  The things that other people struggle with that you find very easy to do are your natural strengths.
  • Your strengths give you energy.  You can spend time in your strengths all day and actually have more energy at the end of the day than when you started.  Your strengths catalyze you.  They make you strong.
  • Your strengths are where you get better faster.  Your strengths are a place where you can accelerate.  You grow faster in your natural strengths than in any effort that works against your strengths.

Give Your Best Where You Have Your Best to Give
You’re an individual with a unique set of strengths, weaknesses.  I think the key is to find a purpose that lights up the following statement:

Give your best where you have your best to give.

When you find that, it’s your unique contribution to the world, and when you spend time in your strengths it’s your growth, renewal and passion in action.  Of course, the trick is to find something where you can be the best in the world at, and the trick there is … it’s YOUR world, since it’s all relative.

Here are some key points:

  • Light things up your way.  I’m a fan of be more of yourself with skill and give your best where you have your best to give. It’s all about bringing yourself to the picture and lighting things up the best way you can.
  • Amplify your results.  It lines up nicely with what I’ve learned to be true … drive by your why, live your values, and play to your strengths … and give your best where you have your best to give.
  • Renew yourself and lift others up.  I think it’s important that you give your best where you have your best to give, otherwise, you can drain yourself.   I think renewal and downtime and taking care of your own basics builds a firm foundation for lifting others up.
  • Focus on the vital few activities where you can really give your best.  Focus on strengths over weaknesses.  You’ll get more results by improving your strengths than improving your weaknesses.
  • Spend less time in your weaknesses.  Limit the time you spend in your weaknesses.  Find ways to off load more of your weaknesses so you can spend more time in your strengths.
  • Fight to spend more time in your strengths.  Don’t let the changes around you, cause you to lose sight of the activities that make you strong. Don’t let yourself get caught up in activities that weaken you.
  • Get back on your horse.  Sometimes we get knocked off our horse. We may not have realized how beautiful the ride was or how well we were riding. We were caught up in the ride and it was great. But something changes. The ride no longer feels right and we no longer feel strong.

Find Your Sweet Spot
The secret of amplifying your impact and getting exponential results is finding the “sweet spot” which is the overlap of your talent, your passion, and value.

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Value is in the eye of the beholder.  You can flow value for yourself or for others or for your company.  The key thing here is that you find the strengths that give you juice and that flow value.

Finding Your Strengths
There are many ways to find your strengths.  The key is to find the activities that you look forward to, give you energy, and lift you up.  Another key is to get specific.  For example, maybe you can write songs all day.    Maybe you can write content all day.  Maybe you love to interact with customers.  Maybe you like to brainstorm.  Maybe you like to solve big hairy challenges.  For me, I like to make sense of meaningful problems where I can turn it into a form factor that’s easy to share and scale expertise.

I find that having a language to think about your strengths can help you better.

34 Key Strengths
Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton, Ph.D. identified 34 key signature themes of strength.  There is a brief description of each strength in the appendix of The Clifton’s Strengths Finder 2.0 Technical Report: Development and Validation.  Here are the 34 signature themes:

  • Achiever
  • Activator
  • Adaptability
  • Analytical
  • Arranger
  • Belief
  • Command
  • Communication
  • Competition
  • Connectedness
  • Context
  • Deliberative
  • Developer
  • Discipline
  • Empathy
  • Fairness
  • Focus
  • Futuristic
  • Harmony
  • Ideation
  • Inclusiveness
  • Individualization
  • Input
  • Intellection
  • Learner
  • Maximizer
  • Positivity
  • Relater
  • Responsibility
  • Restorative
  • Self-assurance
  • Significance
  • Strategic
  • Woo

24 Signature Strengths
Martin Seligman named a set of 24 Signature Strengths.  You can find out more about Martin Seligman’s work at the Authentic Happiness Center.  Here are Seligman’s 24 Signature Strengths:

  • Appreciation of Beauty and Excellence
  • Bravery and Valor
  • Capacity to Love and Be Loved
  • Caution, Prudence, and Discretion
  • Citizenship, Teamwork, and Loyalty
  • Creativity, Ingenuity, and Originality
  • Curiosity and Interest in the World
  • Fairness, Equity, and Justice
  • Forgiveness and Mercy
  • Gratitude
  • Honesty, Authenticity, and Genuineness
  • Hope, Optimism, and Future-mindedness
  • Humor and playfulness
  • Industry, Diligence, and Perseverance
  • Judgment, Critical Thinking, and Open-Mindedness
  • Kindness and Generosity
  • Leadership
  • Love of Learning
  • Modesty and Humility
  • Perspective  and Wisdom
  • Self-Control and Self-Regulation
  • Social Intelligence
  • Spirituality, Sense of Purpose, and Faith
  • Zest, Enthusiasm, and Energy

How To Use These Strength Vocabularies
One way to use these is to take their tests and find out what they say about you.  I do like the fact that they have framed and named the strengths which makes it easy to explore, test, and evaluate.  Personally, I’ve found more value by simply exploring the labels and using them as lenses.  I’ve been rationalizing them against the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) as well as my own frames for strengths, looking for underlying patterns and practices.

At the end of the day, the most important thing for me has been finding where I get energy from, and finding what takes it away.   This leads me to a personalized strengths frame that I can use as a lens for investing in my portfolio of strengths … and this is the key to exponential results.

3 Steps to Designing a Strong Week
There are many ways to spend more time in your strengths, but here is the most effective way that I mentor individuals, teams, and leaders:

Steps Checks
Step 1 – Map Out Your Weaknesses.
  • Can you identify the top 3 activities that make you the weakest?
  • Can you identify the types of work that make you weak?
  • Can you identify who drains you and who catalyzes you? What’s the pattern?
Step 2 – Map out Your Strengths.
  • Can you identify the top 3 activities that make you strong?
  • Can you identify the types of work that make you strong?
  • Can you identify the patterns of people that catalyze you?
Step 3 – Design a Strong Week.
  • Have you eliminated as many of the activities that make you weak as you can?
  • Have you found a way to add a few activities that make you stronger?
  • Have you consolidated your weaknesses as best as you can?

Usually what happens is you find out that you have a scatter chart all over the week of spending time in your weaknesses and spending time in your strengths.  The key is to consolidate your weaknesses so that you can either spend less time in them, get them off your plate, or pair up with other people, or find a way to enjoy them.  The other key is to add more activities that give you strength to each and every day.  This is the secret of renewal and boundless energy for making things happen in your life.

Example of Mapping Out Your Weaknesses
Here is an example of a map of activities that are weaknesses throughout the week:

- Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday
7:00 - - - - -
8:00 - - - - -
9:00 W - W - -
10:00 W - - - W
11:00 - W - - -
12:00 - W - W -
1:00 W - - - W
2:00 - - - - -
3:00 W - W - W
4:00 - W W - -
5:00 - - - - -
6:00 - - - - -
7:00 - - - - -
8:00 - - - - -
9:00 - - - - -
10:00 - - - - -

Simply use a “W” to indicate that that time is spent in a “Weakness.”

Example of Mapping Out Your Strengths
Here is an example of activities that are strengths throughout the week:

- Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday
7:00 - - - - -
8:00 - - - - -
9:00 - S - S S
10:00 - S - - -
11:00 - - - - -
12:00 S - S - -
1:00 - - - - -
2:00 - - - - S
3:00 - - - - -
4:00 - - - - -
5:00 - - - - -
6:00 - - - - -
7:00 - - - - -
8:00 - - - - -
9:00 - - - - -
10:00 - - - - -

Simply use an “S” to indicate “Strength”.

Example of a Strong Week
Here is an example of a strong week by design:

- Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday
7:00 - - - - -
8:00 - - - - -
9:00 W W W W W
10:00 S S S S S
11:00 - - - - -
12:00 - S - S -
1:00 S - - - -
2:00 - - S - -
3:00 - S - S -
4:00 S - S - S
5:00 - - - - -
6:00 - - - - -
7:00 - - - - -
8:00 - - - - -
9:00 - - - - -
10:00 - - - - -

Simply use an “S” to indicate activities that make you strong or catalyzes you, and a “W” to indicate activities that make you weak or drains you.

Cornerstone Concepts
Here are some cornerstone concepts to help you really adopt a strengths-based approach to your life:

  • Everybody has strengths and weaknesses.
  • Strengths are not simply what you’re good at.
  • Strengths are what you naturally think, feel, or do.
  • Spend more time in your strengths.  Schedule it.  If you schedule it, it happens.  If you don’t, it won’t.
  • Own it.  Only you can do this.  Only you know what your strengths are.
  • Do less of what makes you weak.
  • Energy can come from your mind, body, emotions, or spirit.
  • By spending less time in your weaknesses and more time in your strengths, you renew, rebuild, and rejuvenate your mind, body, emotions, and spirit … it’s your multiplier.
  • You have to own getting on your strengths path.
  • Find the specific things you want to spend more time doing each day – the things that make you  STRONG.
  • Find the jobs, tasks, and activities that are directly related to your strengths.
  • Find creative ways to change how you do what you already do to gradually integrate more of your strengths.  Your little wins will add up.

Your Assignment

  1. Find your strengths and write them down in ways that sing to your heart and put precision on what truly makes you strong.  Your done when your list feels like a short-list of your super skills.
  2. Map out your strengths and weaknesses.
  3. Find creative ways to eliminate, consolidate, or reduce the activities that make you weak, and find a way to spend at least one more hour per week in something that makes you strong.  Trade-up spending time in your weaknesses in favor of spending more time in your strengths.

My Related Posts

Photo by basheertome.

15 Comments on "Day 10 – Feel Strong All Week Long"

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  1. Sandra Lee says:

    This is an awesome post. There’s a lot to absorb although in essence it is simply about finding and embracing your strengths. This point jumped out:

    “Your strengths are NOT what you are simply good at”

    I’ve found this to be so true in my life! As well as the point that what energizes you is a strength and what depletes you is a weakness.

    Thank you again so very much.

  2. JD says:

    @ Sandra — You are absolutely on the right page. Here’s the surprise … as I started to read your words, my mind started jumping ahead wanting to tell you that strengths are not what you are simply good at … and yet you had already written the words, like a perfect echo of my thought. You honed right in on the key insight.

    You’re right, this is a lot to absorb. I ended up adding a lot of details to it because there are some folks that truly need this right now, and they need as much edge as they can get. This is the ultimate edge. It’s like this …

    Imagine in your minds-eye that for 40 hours of the week, you spend 75% of that time in your weaknesses (even things that you might be very good at, but are not your natural patterns of thinking, feeling, or doing … they are not your strengths.) Now flip that same image around, and now imagine that you spend 75% of that time in things that make you strong.

    That’s you unleashed :)

  3. Bert Heymans says:

    This is a great series of posts JD, very very inspirational, thanks!

    In the “Cornerstone Concepts” part of the post there’s a broken sentence “By spending less time in your weaknesses and more time in your strengths, you”. Just a heads-up :)

  4. JD says:

    @ Bert — Good catch — fixed. Thank you!

  5. I must say there are so many things you have mentioned here.. and its sure if any one can just try to adopt at least 50% in their life. it can bring awesome result for them.

  6. JD says:

    @ Shailesh — Absolutely. The beauty is it’s not all-or-nothing, and even just adopting some of the strategies start to make a difference, a day at a time, or even a moment at a time.

  7. alik levin says:

    >>>Strengths are what you naturally think, feel, or do.

    very helpful for me at this time – i am in the midst of crucial decision and i want to make it right. This one helps me to do so

  8. JD says:

    @ Alik — Whenever you can find a role that leverages your natural patterns, you found a good fit. The next best thing is to reshape the job you’ve got into something that fits you better.

  9. Hilary says:

    Hi JD ..what you write here about .. ‘when you spend time in your strengths it’s your growth, renewal and passion in action’ …just makes so much sense – we spend far too much time not doing a lot – achieve as we go.

    And again .. where you say ‘having a language to think about your strengths can help you better ‘– I guess you can add here .. your three point story line .. bringing your strengths together .. perhaps even a mantra – so that they’re at the forefront of oneself all the time ..

    Thanks & Sandra’s comment with your reply .. make a lot of sense .. our strengths are more than what we think are our strengths – others will perceive other aspects .. – the same negatively applies to weaknesses .. something I need to watch: what I think is a strength in myself .. is actually a weakness other see because that strength impacts negatively on them ..

    Thanks – great day 10 … Hilary

  10. Varuni Chaudhary says:

    JD This is real great. Can clearly see the amount of work and effort you have put in. Thanks for sharing it with everyone
    varuni

  11. JD says:

    @ Hilary — Finding the right way to achieve as we go and enjoying the process is a recipe for results that’s unbeaten.

    I really like that — “bring your strengths together” and keep them “at the forefront.” Now that’s a way to write your life forward, three stories at a time.

    @ Varuni — Thank you. I’m trying to really step up to the plate this month, and share with everybody the best ways to get their best results, for the best of their life, for the rest of their life.

    Each day for this month I get a new chance at bat, to go for the home run, or at least get on base. If I strike out, well, then it’s back to the dug out and take what I learned ;)

  12. Wow, I really like this so much!!
    I just made my list from some of these exercises and my biggest takeaway -I didn’t know this was a signature strength, and it is really blossoming for me lately.. “Appreciation of beauty and excellence”
    very neat!!.. and the other areas are so wise and helpful!

    Also, I was so interested in the chart on Find Your Sweet Spot: The secret of amplifying your impact and getting exponential results is finding the “sweet spot” which is the overlap of your talent, your passion, and value.

    thanks for sharing, J.D.!

  13. JD says:

    @ Jenn — Whether it’s a machine, software, nature, you name it … I like to find the beauty and excellence.

  14. yumi says:

    A lady from my toastmasters club told me about “Strengths Finder 2.0″ by Tom Rath last summer. I enjoyed taking the online test and finding out my top 5 strengths soon after that. But I haven’t done anything with what I learned from the book just yet…

    I added “Review the ideas for action from Strengths Finder 2.0 for my top 5 strength” and “Schedule strengths based action plans” in my SHOULD list. I have two wins in this 1) Got the book soon after the lady suggested and 2) Identified top 5 strengths already. I am attempted to ‘upgrade’ these action items from SHOULD to MUST list because these could be my goal for new few months.

    By the way, I went through 1/3 of the past brain dump files… 1/4 of the ideas were reminders, completed items, or recurring thoughts. 1/4 were ideas I could use for meditation. The rest were junks. I stopped when the time was up. I would review other brain dump files over this weekend to see if I find any gems.

    Here is one of my favorite quotes: “What you seek is seeking you” – Rumi. We can be anywhere, do anything, have anything on our mind. So… there is a magic that moves us to a specific place right now, and brings recurring themes of inspirations in our mind. Our strengths is the source of this magic, it seems.

    • JD says:

      You pick great quotes — I like that a lot, and our thoughts really do become lightening rods.

      One of the best tips I can give you on actually applying the strengths is to read, Go Put Your Strengths to Work, by Marcus Buckingham. He helps bridge the gap from knowing your strengths to actually applying them in an effective way.

      Keep in mind, it will be a start of a journey. Learning how to really apply your strengths takes extreme discipline to build the habit. The journey is worth it.

      If you’re seeing patterns in your brain dumps, one technique is to add little headers or section or place-holders (for example, I keep an “Insights” section and an “Actions” section.)

      Related, I actually factor out my best ideas into a single list of big ideas for personal, and big ideas for work.

      There’s extreme power and insight that comes from consolidation.