Playing To Your Strengths: Finding Your “Zone”
We hear it often…it’s better to play to your strengths rather than trying to fix your weaknesses. While that may seem like a “no-brainer,” especially when it comes to work and career, it’s surprising how many continue to work against their own proverbial grain.
We’ve all heard about the challenges of trying to fit square pegs in round holes. If you’re in a job where you find that you’re regularly receiving feedback that doesn’t validate you or your work…makes you feel like you don’t measure up – where you’re being regularly questioned or cautioned about your performance…or where you feel just plain drained of all energy all the time as one of my clients (I’ll call her “Denise”) did – chances are you’re playing to your weaknesses.
Denise worked for a non-profit in Data Analytics. Her job was very transactional, single-task work managing numbers and metrics. Through the coaching process, Denise realized that, while she was good at numbers crunching, she felt no spark or passion for it. As she put it, she was starting to feel “dead inside.” After helping Denise connect with her strengths through the Clifton StrengthsFinder assessment, Denise realized that she was, indeed, that square peg in the proverbial round hole, and that she needed more contact with people. She discovered that the strengths more aligned with her skills and inclinations centered on relationship building – creating customized, personal experiences that helped others raise their game. With this new awareness of her strengths, Denise was ultimately able to move from Data Analytics to a fundraising role in Development within the same non-profit.
If you find yourself swimming upstream…finding it hard to get up in the morning…dreading the workday…the following 3 steps can help you on the path to discovering your true strengths:
- Get Feedback. Ask those in your circle of trust for 5 things you do well. Of the answers you receive, think about the things you especially love – that energize you! Keep in mind that just because you do something well doesn’t mean it’s a true strength. It’s the energy you feel for the endeavor that’s key.
- Take a “Strengths” assessment. There are a number of instruments that can help you determine your strengths. My favorite assessment tool is the Clifton StrengthsFinder which you can do through a coach, by buying the book(which provides access to the online assessment) or by going directly to the website.
- Try A New Approach. Apply your newfound insights – looking at your work life with fresh eyes. When you focus on your strengths, you tap into your natural talents – what you naturally do well – which leads to greater satisfaction in career and in life!
Research studies have found that when we’re in alignment with our strengths, we experience an expanding energy that gets us excited about our work. Rather than trying to “swim upstream” trying to fix our weaknesses and please others, we’re focusing on what really matters to us – ultimately finding happiness for ourselves which in turn helps those around us. Our work feels engaging and gratifying, and the time tends to fly by. When we play to our strengths, we have a stronger sense of wellbeing, passion and flow – often referred to as being “in the zone.”
I love the Howard Thurman quote that says, “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive!”
Here’s to following your strengths and coming more alive!