(By Mike Michalowicz)
“Consider the possibility that you have potential strengths you’ve never even tapped. The goal here is to rule out as much as possible the things that don’t suit you from the whole list of things that might suit you. Make a list of things you think you might be good at—cooking, running, writing, coaching—and try them all out. In most cases it won’t take long for you to rule an activity out, to decide that rock climbing isn’t for you, for example. The important part is that embarking on deliberate exploration sets you up to surprise yourself with some strengths and talents you didn’t even know you had.“
It can be frustrating to feel like you’re just going through the motions. You accomplish your goals, but you want more out of your work and your company. If you find that you’re craving both greater success and greater satisfaction, you need to take a look at what you’re doing each day and learn to work with your strengths.
First, let’s identify what a strength is. A strength is something you’re naturally good at, something that comes relatively easily to you, but not to everyone. Strengths are things you enjoy that give you energy. A strength is also an activity that makes time pass quickly. Weaknesses are the opposite: They’re activities that are difficult, unpleasant, draining and tedious. Identifying your strengths is the first step on the path toward making you both more productive and more fulfilled. Here’s how to do it.
1. Look at your history. Strengths can be developed, or neglected, but they’re for life. Look back on your life—childhood, school and work—and think about the things that you’ve always enjoyed. Examine the interests you had as a child and as a student, always with an eye for how those interests could be relevant to your current business.
2. Ask outsiders. Use your friends and colleagues for insight into your strengths. You can elicit useful information from long-time associates as well as newer acquaintances. You’re looking for specifics here, and you’ll probably need to ask some probing questions. You want information about what differentiates you from everyone else—specific things that you do better than everyone else.
3. Start exploring. Consider the possibility that you have potential strengths you’ve never even tapped. The goal here is to rule out as much as possible the things that don’t suit you from the whole list of things that might suit you. Make a list of things you think you might be good at—cooking, running, writing, coaching—and try them all out. In most cases it won’t take long for you to rule an activity out, to decide that rock climbing isn’t for you, for example. The important part is that embarking on deliberate exploration sets you up to surprise yourself with some strengths and talents you didn’t even know you had.
4. Observe. The idea here is to make the subconscious conscious. Pay attention to your routine, the things you do each day without thinking about them, and identify the things that make you happy. Look for the moments that make you feel good and figure out why. When you’re feeling centered and efficient, what sorts of activities are you engaged in?
5. Go cold turkey. This one sounds crazy, I know, but it can be the key to helping you separate out the activities you do by habit from the activities you do because you truly love them. If you think that writing may be one of your strengths, stop writing. I don’t mean for a day or even for a week. Stop for longer than a vacation would last and see how it makes you feel. Do you crave writing? Are you unhappy without that outlet? If you’ve stopped an activity long enough that it’s no longer simply a habit, but something you have to do, then you can be certain you’ve identified a strength.
6. Exploit and grow. The final step comes after you’ve identified your strengths. Once you know what you’re really good at, then the goal must be to find a way to capitalize on that skill. If you’re good at seeing solutions to complex problems, for example, then you’ll be able to begin to identify folks who are willing to hire you to solve their problems. It’s important to note that we tend to spend a lot of time focusing on our weaknesses and trying to improve the things that we’re not so good at. Frequently, though, that energy is misplaced, as there’s much more to be gained by exploiting and growing our strengths than there is to gain from improving on our weaknesses. Put your energy in the right place!
Once you’ve identified what you’re really suited to do—what allows you to shine—you’re far more likely to be satisfied and successful in your business. It’s important to remember that we all have weaknesses, and there’s no shame in admitting that you’re not the very best in every facet of your business. Sometimes the best option is to do what you’re best at and delegate or hire out for the tasks that don’t suit your strengths. The key, though, is to begin with examining your natural talents, the ways in which you work best and making a commitment to work within your strengths.
Follow these 6 steps to uncovering your hidden strengths, so you can increase your productivity and fulfillment in business.
“Opinion pieces of this sort published on RISE Networks are those of the original authors and do not in anyway represent the thoughts, beliefs and ideas of RISE Networks.”