Where is your energy coming from?
The activities that fire you up and put you in a state of flow.
Because having energy-charging activities in your life is paramount for your overall wellbeing and achievement.
Strengths – Where Is Your Energy Coming From?
When it comes to strengths, we often use the term interchangeably with skills. However, as you will see throughout this program, strengths are not the things you excel at; your skills, also known as your performance, are composed of the things you are good at. Your strengths are different.
Strengths are those things that strengthen you. They are activities or situations that fill you up with energy when you are in the midst of them. Although at the end of it you might be tired physically, mentally, and emotionally, you do not feel drained. Instead, you feel energized, as though you have been injected with a magical serum of infinite power.
Have you ever seen an athlete compete in the sport they love? Have you ever seen a child build a master Lego project? What about a leader who gives an inspiring speech to masses of people gathered there to listen? It’s that kind of feeling of absolute joy that fills you up when you do something that is one of your strengths.
When you are performing these activities, you suddenly find yourself in flow, which is a state of total mental focus. You don’t shut the world out consciously; instead, the outside world disappears by itself because your mind, body, and soul have fully merged into that activity, and as you perform it you become stronger.
Also note that, just as your strengths are not your expertise, they are not your passions, either. There is however a deep connection between all three, as we will discuss further.
Uncovering Your Strengths
To understand your strengths, you need to understand the difference between the act of doing something and the feelings that come through doing it. If you do something and it causes you to feel energized and imbued with power and a burning desire to keep going, that is a strength for you.
If, on the other hand, you feel drained, anxious, and restless, that might be a weakness. For instance, I know for a fact that speaking in front of large groups of people is not a strength for me. I’d do anything to avoid it. I get physical cues and a general feeling of being very uncomfortable. Even after working hard on developing the skill of public speaking, just gaining that skill doesn’t change the fact that it’s still a weakness for me. Now I know how to do it, but I still hate it.
Others out there love public speaking. When they do it and deliver a powerful message, they leave the stage feeling high with energy. What we want in this exercise is to help you identify those strengthening points for you. To do this, you must take a mental journey into your past and gather some stories that will help you reveal those strengths.
But first, let’s look at the most common classification of strengths, as yours will also fall within one or more of these categories:
- Wisdom & Knowledge
- Social Intelligence
- Appreciation of Beauty
I know that as you read these, they seem more like values. In fact, the top six layers are known as virtues. Christopher Peterson, a professor of psychology, described them in his book, Character Strengths and Virtues. However, don’t regard them in the sense of a value, but look at them in the way that they make you feel when you are to perform an activity within their context.
For example, a person with creativity as their strength will feel joy and energy when doing creative work, regardless of whether the work is good, whether it makes them money, or whether anyone else finds it to be any good. Just the sheer act of doing creative work makes this person stronger and more confident. The longer a person stays in that state, the more it becomes a natural state.
When you look at creativity as a value, it means it’s vital for you to be in an environment where creativity is encouraged. It means that you want to have the freedom to be creative, and that doing creative work is the right thing. Note the difference between performing a creative activity and enjoying the way it makes you feel.
As another example, take a person with forgiveness as a strength. They will feel a sense of inner peace when forgiving others. They seem to grow as human beings at that moment. On the other hand, a person at the opposite end will cringe when forced to forgive, and their forgiveness won’t be genuine. They will continue to hold the grudge, which, in turn, will continue to drain their energy.
As you can see, there is a natural connection between your values and your strengths, but please don’t look at it as a one-to-one direct line.
What Are Your Strengths?
Now, for a more practical approach. Look at the list above, and for every one of those items, you need to ask these questions:
- Have I ever been in situations where that concept was present?
- How did I feel in those situations?
- Do I feel drawn toward similar situations?
- If I picture myself in those situations, can I simulate the feeling?
- Are there any items on this list that I always avoid?
- Is my life set up so that I continuously face some of these, but strive to stay away from others?
The last question is perfect, because it helps you to set your mind into the space of that activity and relive the way it makes you feel.
This exercise is a self-driven exploration of your strengths, and it requires you to be self-aware. If you are having difficulties with that, which is normal—most people do—note that several tests can help you identify your strengths more objectively. In the Other Resources section down below, I have provided you with links to two popular tests designed to reveal your strengths through a series of questions. That is an optional step you may take to fine-tune your list, or if you are struggling to do it on your own.
You don’t have to use these tests; I’m providing them as an optional resource. Again, there is no person better suited to identify your strengths than you yourself. But, just as with values and beliefs, you must have the proper awareness and the ability for introspection in order to point them out honestly and truthfully.
The Finding Your Strengths Exercise
First, download the PDF worksheet by clicking the link below. Then, start by circling the words you consider to be a strength for you. Take each of them and ask the six questions above. Only document the top five that are your most definite strengths. Once you have completed the list, record how each strength has manifested for you throughout your life.
Think of stories of when you felt it in your gut: these are stories that make you think of how you want to go back and re-experience that feeling, that power. You want to figure out a way to lean into it and do it again, and again, and again. And you would do that, not because of fame or any other external gratification, but because of how it makes you feel inside; the way it touches your heart and gives you a boost of joy and energy.
Here are a few other ways you might look at the concepts above to see if you can identify them as your strengths:
- You look up to other people who seem to do this well.
- You seldom procrastinate while doing this; instead, you jump into it right away and wholeheartedly.
- You seem to be effective at it without having studied it too much.
- It seems very natural, and you get lost in it.
One thing that you must keep in mind is that, much like skills, which we discuss in the next section, strengths can get stronger or weaker over time. That’s because there are two elements to your strength: the inner talent and the time you spend nurturing it.
You can think of it as:
Investment (time practicing the skill related to the talent)
So, for example, if you feel great when you make jokes and people enjoy them, to get to the mastery level, you must continue to study the writing of jokes and practice delivering them. As you develop your skill through investing your time, your strength manifests more and more. You are now harvesting your strength and putting it to use, and the cycle repeats.
Last but not least, your strengths are the perfect weapons for overcoming your weaknesses. You can use your strengths to learn how to work around your weaknesses, which is what you will address in the next section.
As soon as you complete this step, head on to the next one, Discover Your Weaknesses.
Other Resources On Strengths
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