Focusing on your Strengths: A Path to Getting Unstuck
Build upon your strengths and the weaknesses will eventually take care of themselves. – Author Unknown
What is holding you back? What is making you unhappy? What is keeping you from getting unstuck?
A book I just read, “Strengths Finder 2.0,” may provide some answers. Author Tom Rath observes:
“Far too many people spend a lifetime headed in the wrong direction. They go not only from the cradle to the cubicle, but then to the casket, without uncovering their greatest talents and potential.”
And why is that?
Because we are conditioned -- from a very early age -- to devote more time to our shortcomings than to our strengths. And it stems from the maxim “You can be anything you want to be, if you just try hard enough.”
Popular culture LOVES rooting for the underdog, with “books, movies and folklore filled with stories of the underdog who beats one-in-a-million odds. And this leads us to celebrate those who triumph over their lack of natural ability even more than we recognize those who CAPITALIZE ON THEIR INNATE TALENTS.”
The author cites an example from his childhood where he practiced shooting hoops three to four hours a day for years trying to become a great basketball player. Although he had NBA dreams, no matter how hard he worked, it didn’t happen for him. “After giving 100% of my effort for more than five years, I couldn’t even make the junior varsity team.” Why? His innate ability wasn’t basketball.
His suggestion? Focus on your strengths instead. “People who do have the opportunity to focus on their strengths every day are six times as likely to be engaged in their jobs and more than three times as likely to report having an excellent quality of life in general.”
Rath presents an interesting concept. Personally, I believe that if you can find a personal strength that you are passionate about, you’ve found the golden ticket.
I found the golden ticket early in my public relations career. I don’t possess the natural ability or the stomach to pitch stories to the media. HOWEVER, I knew I could write well. So after a few years in my own public relations business, I moved away from pitching and focused on my strength: writing. As a result, my business brought me nothing but joy. The same holds true for my teaching career: my strengths are in communication and the ability to impart knowledge in a stimulating, interesting way, so I devoted my time to becoming an excellent professor. And as a result, my years in the classroom brought me nothing but joy.
So I encourage you to take the time to do some self-examination. Rath says, “In many cases, simply being aware of your areas of lesser talent can help you avoid major roadblocks.” If you are unhappy in your passion pursuit, maybe it is because you are not focusing on your strengths.
And how do you figure out your strengths? The e-version of this book comes with a great assessment tool – and helps you create a strength-based action plan based on the strengths you discover. It may uncover things you don’t yet know about yourself.
Whether or not you pursue this thought-provoking approach to finding your passion, think about ways to discover and focus on YOUR strengths.
It just may be YOUR golden ticket!
Dr. Lori Baker-Schena is the founder and chief executive officer of Baker Schena Communications, a firm dedicated to “Unleashing Your Potential Through the Power of Words.” We offer motivational speaking, leadership consulting and medical writing services. Find us at www.loribakerschena.com