S is for strengths (our internal gifts)
Updated: Mar 10, 2022
"What makes you different or weird, that's your strength." Meryl Streep
Whatever our circumstances today, each and every one of us can still be grateful for the gifts that we have received that make us unique; i.e. our strengths.
Strengths are our unique set of core abilities. They are where the root of our talent lies and encompass our natural tendencies.
“Look well into thyself; there is a source of strength which will always spring up if thou wilt always look.” Marcus Aurelius
Each one of us has strengths. Inner strengths are mostly independent of skills, which are things we learn. Skills can come and go throughout our lifetime, but strengths are relatively constant (though they can be further developed and refined) and align more with our personality traits and overall character.
By taking the time to identify our own core strengths (and weaknesses) and better understand them, it helps to provide us with a background for us to move forward to get the best out of life and create the future that we want. When we find something naturally easy or are good at it, we can have a tendency to take things for granted and we often don’t even recognise it as a strength rather we consider it as just something we do, or have done for a long time.
How do we identify our personal strengths?
“You have power over your mind - not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.” Marcus Aurelius
The first step is to make the time to develop self-awareness and to evaluate where you think your strengths lie. You could then ask one or two close friends or family members, who will have a different ‘outsider’ perspective to identify what they see as your main strengths and then take time to compare notes and to reflect/discuss if necessary to see where the truth lies between the two assessments
“When we identify and take pride in our strengths, we can open our eyes more clearly to the realities of our current situation and empower ourselves to act and enact change,” Alexis Conason (clinical psychologist).
The more you understand what you’re naturally good at, the better equipped you are for life. Another way to identify your strengths is to take a ‘strengths finder’ test. These are designed to help users identify their own strengths by eliminating the potential for personal biases that could have an impact on how we (or even our friends) evaluate our own strengths.
There are lots of paid and free strengths tests available online; out of interest I looked at two different free ones.
The first I looked at was developed for Red Bull and is called Wingfinder. This free 30 minute ‘test’ assesses your strengths in four key areas: creativity (including curiosity), thinking (intelligence and fluid IQ), drive (ambition and motivation) and connections (interpersonal and self-management skills) and you can download a free summary or ‘Unique Strengths Passport’ afterwards. (The test is subdivided into 4 very different style sections.)
In the early 2000s Scientists discovered that there was a common language of 24 character strengths that make up what’s best about our personality. Everyone possesses all 24 character strengths but in different degrees, so each person has a truly unique character strengths profile. Psychologists Martin Seligman and Christopher Peterson divided each character strength under six categories of general human virtue, which are universal across cultures and nations. Here is the list of categories and strengths:
Justice -Fairness, Leadership, Teamwork
Temperance - Forgiveness, Humility, Prudence, Self-Regulation
The second test I completed was The Values in Action Inventory (VIA) test. If you take this 15 minute test you will get a free ‘Character Strengths Profile’ showing your unique ‘rank order listing’ of the 24 character strengths, subdivided into ‘signature strengths’, ‘middle strengths’ and your ‘lesser strengths’ (You can download and print the PDF version for free) If you want to explore this further then there are other suggested courses, studies, analyses, exercises etc that you purchase. (This test is a series of question and you rank their relevance to you).
As well as your core strengths, we have a second gift; ‘enablers’ that highlight our abilities and increase our potential. These enablers stem from opportunities, obstacles, the resources we have (external and internal) and our own personal circumstances. Some enablers can come through privilege others through adversity. As our character and experiences are unique, the parts of life that make us one of a kind are a combination of our strengths and events that are unique to our life.
“Play to your strengths.”
Research has proven that the best way for people to develop is to identify the ways in which they most naturally think, feel and behave and build on it (i.e. focus on the synaptic connections that are already strong in our brain), rather than identifying weaknesses and gaps and working to plug them. This approach is the cornerstone to personal development in Positive Psychology and is called Strengths-Based Personal development or SBD for short. It is basically concerned with the process of identifying and valuing talents (identification), developing them into applicable strengths through knowledge (integration) and then putting these strengths into practice by taking action (behaviour change) in so doing, you feel more motivated and satisfied as you focus on what you do best.
“People don’t change that much. Don’t waste time trying to put in what was left out. Try to draw out what was left in. That is hard enough” Marcus Buckingham
People often find themselves in very different circumstances than those that they anticipated. As humans we have a natural negative bias, but rather than focus on the negative, why not use today to reflect gratefully on the gifts that you do have externally and internally?
Some questions to think about/or discuss below:
What are your strengths?
Did they come through privilege or adversity?
Do you ‘play to your strengths’?
What strengths could you share with others?
"With the new day comes new strength and new thoughts." Eleanor Roosevelt
If you want to explore this subject further, here are a few links to get you started:
This is a good link with links to two further free tests and more research: https://positivepsychology.com/what-are-your-strengths/