“A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.” — Christopher Reeve
Your personal strengths are your natural patterns for thinking, feeling, and doing. These are the activities you can do all day long. You get energy from doing these activities rather than get drained. Things that drain you are your personal weaknesses.
I’m spelling out these specific distinctions of strengths and weaknesses because many people just think of them as things you are good at or things you are bad at. It’s actually more effective to look in terms of things that come natural to you, and things that go against your grain. If you focus on your personal strengths in terms of your natural thinking, feeling, and doing patterns, then you can amplify your results and you energize everything you do.
Your personal power, unique capabilities, and inspired action comes from spending more time in your strengths, and less time in your weaknesses.
Why a Language for Personal Strengths
One of the challenges to knowing your personal strengths is knowing what to call your strengths. Lucky for us, we can leverage some existing vocabularies for personal strengths. Having a vocabulary helps you both understand the key concepts and it gives you a lens for looking at your personal strengths.
You can build your vocabulary of character strengths, by drawing from multiple bodies of work within the strengths arena. Here are a few character strength vocabularies to draw from …
24 Signature Strengths (Martin Seligman)
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
- 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
- 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
34 Key Strengths (Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton)
Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton, Ph.D. identified 34 key signature themes of strength. I have a brief description of each strength in my post, Finding Your Strengths. Here are the 34 signature themes:
How To Use the Language of Strengths
One way to use the labels for strengths is to take the tests and find out what they say about you. I do like the fact that they frame and name 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.
An Example of Using Strengths
At Microsoft, there are a lot of demands on my time and competition is fierce. I’ve learned to keep my energy strong while making things happen. The best ways I’ve found to do that are follow my growth and follow my passion. Another way, that’s very important, is to play to my strengths. Spending time in my strengths is the key to hitting the high notes and getting exponential results. It keeps me strong, my energy high, and produces more impactful results in less amount of time.
Whenever I find myself drained, all I need to do is take a look at where I’ve been spending my time. Sure enough, it’s always from spending too much time in my weaknesses and not enough time in my strengths. That’s the interesting lesson too … I can spend more time in my weaknesses, as long as I’m spending enough time in my strengths.
By strengths, I’m not talking about the skills I’ve learned. I’m talking about my natural strengths – the ones that I can count on no matter what. I didn’t find my strengths over night and it’s a continuous process of gaining clarity and precision.
The key here is knowing the language. When you know what to look for, it’s easier to find your own strengths, label them, and use them to your advantage.
Photo by Mell P.