SIGN – The 4 Signs of a Strength
"It doesn’t matter who you are, where you come from. The ability to triumph begins with you. Always." — Oprah Winfrey
What are your best abilities? Not just what are you good at, but what are your core strengths that run deep. These are the activities where your passion, your talent, and your ability collide. The more you do, the stronger you get, the more jazzed you feel, and the more you grow. Do you know your own strengths? Many people don’t. They’re too busy trying to fix their weaknesses.
SIGN” is an acronym to help you organize and remember the key indicators of a true strength: S is for Success, I is for Instinct, G is for Growth, and N is for Needs.
In Go Put Your Strengths to Work: 6 Powerful Steps to Achieve Outstanding Performance, Marcus Buckingham writes about the four signs of a strength.
Key Take Aways
Here are my key take aways:
- SIGN. SIGN is an acronym for success, instinct, growth, and needs.
- Strong. Strengths are activities that make you feel strong.
- S – Success. Strengths are where you feel successful.
- I – Instinct. Strengths are activities that you are naturally drawn to.
- G – Growth. Strengths are where you learn the most, come up with the most new ideas, and have the best insights.
- N – Needs. Strengths are where you feel the need to spend more time.
- Do you know your own strengths?
- Do you spend more time growing your strengths or fixing your weaknesses?
- How can you find ways to spend more time in your strengths each day?
S is for Success
Strengths are where you feel successful:
“If I were to ask you to describe your strengths, you would more than likely begin with those things at which you feel successful, and, frankly, this is a sensible place to start. For an activity to be labeled a strength, you must obviously have some ability in it, and your success, measured or otherwise, is the best indicator of ability. To be sure, you may not be the most accurate judge of what you’re good at – you will probably assess yourself too harshly or too generously depending on how fragile your ego is. Nonetheless, how effective you feel at an activity – your self-efficacy, in psychological parlance – is a solid first indicator of a strength.”
I is for Instinct
Strengths are where you feel yourself drawn to the activity.
“Your strengths have an I-can’t-help-but quality to them. You can’t quite articulate why, but you find yourself drawn to certain activities repeatedly. Even though you may be just a little scared to do them, just a little nervous –“Maybe I’m not good enough, maybe I’ll fail” – you nonetheless feel a pull toward them.”
G is for Growth
Strengths are where you grow the most.
“By now you know that the biological underpinnings of your strengths are the presence of thick branches of synaptic connections. You also know that because of natures habit of piggy-backing on existing infrastructure, you will grow the most new synaptic connections in those areas where you already have the most existing ones. Here you will learn the most, come up with the most new ideas, and have the best insights.”
N is for Needs
Strengths are where you feel a need.
“The final sign of a strength, the N of SIGN, stands for needs. Whereas the Instinct sign refers to how you feel before you do the activity, and the Growth sign is to your feelings during the activity, the Needs sign points to how you feel right after you’ve done it.”
Some Activities Feel an Innate Need of Yours
Strengths fill an innate need of yours.
“Some activities just seem to fill an innate need of yours. When you’re done with them, you may feel physically tired, to the point where you are not yet ready to saddle up and tackle them all over again. But you don’t feel psychologically drained. Instead you feel fulfilled, powerful, restored, the exact opposite of drained. It’s a satisfying feeling, sure but it’s also much more than mere satisfaction. It feels authentic, correct.”
You Seek Out Situations Where You Can Do It
Buckingham writes that strengths are where move towards versus away from the activity:
“That all-is-right-with-the-world feeling is addictive. Your need to feel it again and again is, to return to the I of SIGN, to volunteer for the activity, and to seek out situations where you can do it. You want this feeling again, and you’ll put yourself through a lot to get it.”
Your Strengths are Those Activities That Make You Feel Strong
Strengths are the activities that make you feel strong:
“Putting these four signs together, the simplest and most useful definition of a strength is this: Your strengths are those activities that make you feel strong. (The flip side is also true: “An activity that makes you feel weak” is the best definition of a weakness. ) This definition captures the insight that you how you feel while you are doing an activity determines how good you get at the activity. In the language of SIGN, you need to be acutely aware of your Is (Instinct), your Gs (Growth), and your N’s (Needs), because they drive your Ss (Success). More simply, your appetites drive your ability.”
Your Appetites Fuel Your Practice and Your Practice Fuels Your Performance
Your appetite drives your abilities.
“You are drawn in by some activities and repelled by others, and those you are drawn to, you practice more, so you get better, and so you practice more, and so your performance improves still further. Up and up this spirals, with your appetites fueling your practice and your practice driving your performance. Using SIGN language again, the I draws you in, the G keeps you focused, and the N makes you feel great, which in turn fuels the I, which draws you back in. Onward and upward it goes, with your appetites driving your abilities.”
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