How To Find Your Strengths



“Mastering others is strength. Mastering yourself is true power.” — Lao Tzu

Finding your strengths is one of the best ways to improve your energy and effectiveness.

If you know your unique combination of strengths, and you play to your strengths instead of focus on your weaknesses, you can dramatically amplify your impact.

Don’t Spend Too Much Time in Your Weaknesses

One of the key things that can hold you back is spending too much time on your weaknesses and not enough time on your strengths. 

The better you know your strengths and talents, the better you can pick the right situations or job to leverage your innate abilities.

How do you find your strengths, though? … What are your key strengths? 

What are your talents that come easy for you, but are difficult for others?  Are you fully leveraging your unique combination of strengths?

In Now, Discover Your Strengths, Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton, Ph.D. identify 34 key signature themes of strength, based on years of empirical research.

How To Identify Your Strengths

You can go to the authors’ site at – and take the evaluation.  You need a copy of the book, Now, Discover Your Strengths, for an access code to take the evaluation.

You’ll likely recognize a lot of these strengths in yourself.  The key isn’t to whittle the list down to your absolute strongest talents.  Instead, find the strengths that differentiate you from others and that come easiest for you.

Many of the strengths resonated for me.  I took two passes.  On my first pass, I made the following list:: Achiever; Arranger; Competition; Deliberative; Developer; Fairness; Focus; Empathy; Ideation; Individualization; Intellection; Learner; Maximizer; Self-assurance; Significant. 

On my second, pass, I modified some of my choices and whittled it down to the following five strengths:Achiever; Ideation; Individualization; Maximizer; Self-assurance; Significant

I don’t know that I’ve yet got the precision I need but it’s a start.  I plan to ask others for their feedback and to help me find my blind spots.  I also plan to take the StrengthsFinder evaluation.

34 Themes of Strengths and Talent

Familiarize yourself with the 34 key themes of strength.  If you can identify your top five themes, you can use the information to start cultivating your strengths for personal excellence and stop focusing on weaknesses. 

Here are the 34 signature themes of strength according to Buckingham and Clifton:

  1. Achiever  – A relentless need for achievement.
  2. Activator  – “When can we start?” is a recurring question in your life.
  3. Adaptability – You live in the moment.
  4. Analytical – “Prove it. Show me why what you are claiming is true.”
  5. Arranger – You are a conductor.
  6. Belief – You have certain core values that are enduring.
  7. Command – You take charge.
  8. Communication – You like to explain, to describe, to host, to speak in public, and to write.
  9. Competition – You have a need to outperform your peers.
  10. Connectedness – You know that we are all connected.
  11. Context – You look back to understand the present.
  12. Deliberative – You identify, assess, and reduce risk.
  13. Developer – You see the potential in others.
  14. Discipline – Your world needs to be ordered and planned.
  15. Empathy – You can sense the emotions of those around you.
  16. Fairness – Balance is important to you.
  17. Focus – Your goals are your compass.
  18. Futuristic – “Wouldn’t it be great if …” The future fascinates you.
  19. Harmony – You look for areas of agreement.
  20. Ideation – You are fascinated by ideas.
  21. Inclusiveness – “Stretch the circle wider.” You can to include people and make them feel like part of the group.
  22. Individualization – You’re intrigued by the unique qualities of each person.
  23. Input – You collection information – words, facts, books and quotations.
  24. Intellection – You like to think. You like mental activity.
  25. Learner – You love to learn.
  26. Maximizer – Excellence, not average, is your measure.
  27. Positivity – You are generous with praise, quick with smile, and always on the look out for the positive in the situation.
  28. Relater – You derive a great deal of pleasure and strength from being around your close friends.
  29. Responsibility – You take psychological ownership for anything you commit to, and you feel emotionally bound to follow it through to completion.
  30. Restorative – You love to solve problems.
  31. Self-assurance – You have faith in your strengths.
  32. Significance – You want to be very significant in the eyes of other people.
  33. Strategic – You sort through clutter and find the best route.
  34. Woo – You win others over.

Key Takeaways

Here are my key takeaways:

  • Identify your signature strengths.  Don’t just know what you’re good at.  Identify what you are great at.  This difference makes all the difference in the world.
  • Be your best. The key here is to be your personal best.  This is why modeling somebody else’s success may not come easy for you.  You may not have the same strengths.
  • Cultivate your strengths.  The key is to focus on your strengths and not your weaknesses.  Reducing your weaknesses is not the path to greatness.  Improving your key strengths is your personal path to excellence.
  • Use the sum of your talents.  It’s not about having a single strength, it’s about using the synergy of your strengths.
  • Find a fit for your strengths. Leveraging your strengths turns your work into passion.   What’s work for somebody else is your play if you find the right way to leverage your unique talents.
  • Amplify your results with your network. Once you know your key strengths, you can find the people that complement you in strengths that you lack.

Additional Resources

The Marcus Buckingham Company

Marcus Buckingham (Wikipedia)

You Might Also Like

3 Fears that Hold You Back – Fear of Weaknesses, Fear of Failure, and Fear of Who You Are

3 Myths About Strengths and Weaknesses

4 Signs of a Strength – Success, Instinct, Growth, and Needs

6 Steps for Putting Your Strengths to Work

Give Your Best Where You Have Your Best to Give

How To Bust a Myth with 3 Questions

How To Leverage Your Hidden Strengths

How to Play to Your Strengths and Add Value to the Team

Spend 75 Percent on Your Strengths

The Language of Strengths–Learn How To Identify and Label Your Own Strengths

The Strengths Movement – Shift from Weaknesses to Strengths

Why Should You Focus on Your Strengths?


  1. So what ended up being your strength results? I guessed only 2 out of 5 of my strength themes correctly, and I am very self itrospective.

    Ideation, Adaptability, Futuristic, Significance, Connectedness

  2. I haven’t taken the test. I think the following tend to resonate:

    Achiever, Learner, Maximizer, Significance, Self-Assurance

    Periodically, I revisit to see whether these give me more insight or help me adjust may approach.

  3. Thanks for listing these, helpful as I am updating my CV at the moment. The following resonate for me: Activator, Empathy, Harmony, Intellection, Learner. It was quite difficult to cut the list down to five at first, would be interesting to do the test and compare with results.

  4. Hey Melissa

    Great to hear.

    One thing I don’t think I’ve nailed yet is how to differentiate between extreme competence from training and years of conditioning versus natural talent that’s baked in. What I also need to figure out is — at that point – does it matter? (and how will I know — which I suspect is based on whether I get energy and feel passionate or whether I get drained, even though I do a good job)

  5. @ fossiladon

    It’s all relative. Everybody has strengths and weaknesses. Don’t compare yourself to others, compare yourself to you.

  6. Now that it is nearly 2 years later, how well has this worked for you? I took the 2.0 version of this earlier this week and got the following results:

    Learner, Achiever, Responsibility, Intellection and Strategic

    While I’m still working through some of what this means in some ways, as I wouldn’t of thought the learner would be my top one yet at times there is that moment where it seems to click that, “Yeah, I do like picking up new things.” Sometimes it seems like some of these can be combined, so being a responsible achiever may make me a useful team player to get things done.

  7. @ JB

    Interestingly, I’ve found them to overlap with “values.” I think this lens helps a lot at work, especially when you have to figure out what type of work to avoid, or what type of work to pursuit.

    Martin Seligman has a map of 24 character strengths. I plan to rationalize these two strengths maps at some point. Ultimately, I want to boil down to the underlying principles and patterns.

    I would also like to take a crack at mapping these to job skills.

  8. Is been one month since i discovered my strenghts which are;INTELLECTION,DISCIPLINE,LEARNER,RESTORATIVE,AND FUTURISTIC.And so far ithink 3 are correct and still working around 2,i even have a homework about all my strenghts and hopefully i will come-up with a good solution

  9. @ Johanna

    That’s a sweet set of strengths that should serve you well. The beauty is that it’s those strengths that will serve you no matter what skills or experience you go for.

  10. After reading through the list, I found many qualities that reminded me of myself and appealed to me. I find I can’t whittle these down to five myself. A test would be valuable for that purpose. I feel comfortable with the fact that I found about 14 strengths in myself that I can look towards and develop.

    I did find about 4 in which I was borderline though. I found these the most interesting, and they each taught me something about myself. These were Command, Ideation, Learner, and Significance.

    Command, because from experience, I know I feel more comfortable following than leading, despite the fact that I am quick to take charge when a problem presents itself.

    Ideation, because I am a realist, and quick to turn down ideas that wouldn’t work.

    Learner, because I know I am just as happy to apply knowledge as to assimilate it (so I fall exactly on the border of Learner and Achiever, perhaps.)

    Significance, because although I can visualize myself as a crowd pleaser/politician type, in practice that has been difficult for me to achieve.

    So this makes me aware of the fact that you don’t present the traditional or alternative strengths, such as “Loyalty”, “Realism”, and “Modesty”. I wonder if these are all considered negative strengths in today’s business world?

  11. @ James — If it’s tough to whittle down, see if people you trust can add another perspective. This helped me get some more precision. In fact, it helped me see my blind spots. Another lens is to think in terms of, what are your favorite 3? Then at least you can prioritize those. The beauty is that the value of strengths really depends on the situation and context.

  12. Knowing your strengths and using them to your advantage will get you farther in a shorter period of time. Write your goals around the strengths you already possess.

    The key is to continually grow and work on your weaknesses but do not focus on them. Don’t ever stop improving and making yourself better.

    I am a relator,arranger, responsibility, context, and activator.

  13. @ Shanna — It’s the difference between spiraling up and spiraling down. There are some things that I could spend time on, but I won’t get the exponential effect. But if I spend my time in my strengths, I quickly amplify what’s possible.

  14. […] trouble remembering your strengths?  Here’s an excellent article on finding your strengths from Sources of […]

  15. Took the Clifton Strength’s finder test about a year ago. I am restorative, achiever, deliberative, responsibility and focus. Looking to start a new career (recently laid off) and would like to find something that applies these traits most as they are very accurate. Any suggestions on where to find that info?

  16. @ Lynn — It’s a great move to focus on your strengths. It’s your endless supply of energy and it’s your competitive advantage in today’s world.

    The challenge as you’re finding is mapping the strengths to jobs that leverage your strengths. Here’s what I found to be the most effective:
    1. Write down the day to day things you’ve done in various jobs throughout your life that you could do all day long.
    2. Write down the day to day things you’ve done in various jobs throughout your life that quickly drained you and sucked your life force out.
    3. With this personalized language of strengths and weaknesses, evaluate job descriptions against this set and look for patterns.

    I think the best book that would help you really get clarity on potential jobs that apply your traits is “Go Put Your Strengths to Work”, by Marcus Buckingham.

    One of the keys to remember in all this is that it’s rare to find the perfect fit for your strengths. Instead, you have to shape your job to spend more time in your strengths as you grow yourself and grow the job.

  17. My top 5 strengths are Ideation, Intellection, Futuristic, Significance and Learner. I have always been a Science and knowledge lover. As a kid I was always fascinated by Space and was ahead of time in terms of reading complex books. But then I got trapped in the rat-race and I feel I wasted almost 10 years of my life in Engineering. Now I feel it’s too late, isn’t it? Also I am not good in Mathematics required for the space field. Could you suggest a few keywords for my career? I don’t like working under someone. Please help!

  18. @ Ally — I bet you learned a lot in engineering that you can use to your advantage.

    I recommend reading The E-Myth, by Michael Gerber. It gives you a good framework for thinking through whether you want to work for yourself.

    I also recommend reading Go Put Your Strengths to Work by Marcus Buckingham. You can quickly apply your strengths, and do more of what you were born to do, a day at a time.

    The main thing to keep in mind is to drive from the life style you want to lead. Don’t make your life style something down the line. The other key is to blance paths between funding your life style, and getting paid to do what you love. Sometimes the trick is to just reshape the job you have into more of what you want. All jobs are like clay, and the nature of work is always evolving.

  19. Hi, what a great discussion about strengths! It is really hard to find this kind of knownledge here in Brazil.
    Well, my sets of strengths are : Self-Assurance Arranger Activator Achiever Command . I feel fine about them (of course, that is the point!), even though I know that my ability to take charge, to face difficult situations and confront other people may give the wrong idea about me to others.
    I would love to read something or get any advice from you on how to manage my strengths without overpowering people on a daily basis. I feel that sometimes I push too hard even though there is no resistance left. I also have among my ten strengths Woo and Communication which help me a lot.
    Thank you in advance,


  20. @ Maria — Thank you.

    I think there are three key skills that can help
    – balancing with emotional intelligence / empathy
    – balancing task-focus vs. people-focus
    – balancing with situational leadership

    I can recommend three books to help you with those skills:
    – Dealing with People You Can’t Stand, by Dr. Rick Kirschner
    – Emotional Capitalists: The New Leaders by Martyn Newman
    – Leadership and the One Minute Manager, by Ken Blanchard

  21. I like how the title of this Article is “How to find your strengths” but by the end of it I had no clue on how to find my strengths other than get a copy of this book and go to this website. Also if writing things down worked then why isn’t everyone who writes things down living their dreams?

  22. @ Justin — That might be your best move for finding your strengths, and the simplest path depending on your level of self-awareness.

    Another way to start the process for finding your strengths is to ask others that know you well, what they think your strengths are. Another revealing approach is to pay attention to your natural thinking, feeling, and doing patterns throughout each day. You can ask simple questions, such as, each hour, what activities did you feel at your best? You can keep narrowing it down, but even getting in the ballpark helps.

    If you saw what *everyone* wrote down, and what living their dreams means, I bet you’d see patterns. Another approach is you can ask people you know, living their dreams, whether writing things down helped.

  23. Hi

    I have taken the test, and I think i;m best described as Analytic, discipline, empathy, futuristic, learner and significant.

    My passion is in the beauty industry, i am not sure if i like the glamorous part of it or is it my passion, but one thing i know is that when i am watching television programs that are to do with beautifying others i get this excitement that i cannot explain.

    One of my other passion is to help those who are in need, i feel at my utmost when i help others especially those in need.

    What jobs do you think will be best suitable for me, because i am looking at taking up the course in make up artist.

  24. Hi,
    I didn’t read the book. But I took a self assesment of my strenghts using the 34 strengths listed in this page. After 4 passes I got to the final 5 – not pretty sure this is the right one. Anyway I got the following list.

    Belief, Competition, Developer, Maximizer and Significance

    Iam currently in the IT industry. Please suggest what would be best suitable job for me?

  25. @ Abby and Srinivasan —

    One of the best books to help you put your talents into practices is:

    Go Put Your Strengths to Work, by Marcus Buckingham

    That said …

    The keys I’ve found with finding the right job are:
    – Do what YOU can uniquely do (Use what you uniquely do best to your competitive advantage)
    – Find the job you love, or love the job you’re with (Sometimes you can flex, bend or reshape it)
    – Do what you would do for free (Follow your passion)
    – Surround yourself with people that lift you
    – Follow the people that lift you
    – Drive from your life-style
    – Expand your capabilities over climb the ladder
    – Live your values on the job (So know what your values are)
    – Sometimes the best job is the one you have
    – Follow the money (Don’t ignore it, find the purpose + passio + profit combo)

    Always ask the questions: What problem do I get to work on? Who do I get to work with? What impact do I get to have? Do I trust who I work for?

  26. […] Meier wrote a great article about strengths and weaknesses below are great […]

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