Working to your strengths for more fulfilment
People often come for coaching with me when they feel that things are out of balance, they might be perceiving that life feels a little overwhelming and wish to have more clarity.
It could also be that things are going well but more focus and direction is needed.
It is important for a fulfilled life that you are performing to your optiumum, maximising your potential. I often hear people say that they feel like they are merely surviving. I have a passion for helping others to really thrive which is why I wrote this blog and hope it is helpful to you.
In this article I wanted to focus on how focusing on your strengths can help you to reach your optimum performance in personal and professional life.
As an evidence based coaching practitioner I use coaching psychology approaches to help others uncover their own strategies for a healthier and happier way of life. This includes coaching individuals and teams to help to increase focus, wellbeing, balance, effective decision making, goal achievement and healthier outcomes for optiumum growth.
Let's have a look at how positive psychology comes in to help understand the coaching process. The term 'positive psychology' originates with Maslow, in his 1954 book Motivation and Personality. Martin Seligman chose it as the theme for his term of president of the American Psychological Association in 1998.
Martin Seligman, describes positive psychology as:
“The scientific study of optimal human functioning that aims to discover and promote the factors that allow individuals and communities to thrive.”
This was groundbreaking stuff because the term positive psychology brought with it the idea that we can use psychology in a way to examine how people can become happier and more fulfilled in life by moving from a functioning place to a position of optimal functioning.
One way to do this is to start being more aware of your strengths and work out how to access them.
How many times do you get asked 'what do you do?' What would happen if someone asked you 'what are your key strengths?.
It would be a little strange right? A bit like you are at a job interview.
However if we thought a little more in these terms about ourselves how would this knowledge be helpful?
If you ask someone to write down their strengths and then their weaknesses you will find that the weakness just flow out. It takes time to figure out what your strengths are. Do you know yours? This is the starting point for recognising how we can move forward with more direction and motivation. We often focus on what we 'must fix' in life and what is not working but what if we focus on what is working?
We can think in terms of character strengths. I help coachees with this to raise awareness of key strengths in coaching sessions. You may have heard of or completed a VIA at some point.
The Values in Action (VIA) available online is one example of a tool that can bring up your character strengths:
We can also define strengths in terms of performance strengths.
This is all about how we are getting through tasks we set ourselves, working to our goals, removing barriers getting in the way and drawing on the strengths we identify to achieve our optimum.
In order to 'keep on keeping on' we need to balance our performance with our wellbeing and knowing our strengths can help us to be more resilient and get the balance right.
If, for example, you are aware that you are really awesome at multi tasking that can help you be productive but you also might need to factor in some down time or you can face burn out or you make mistakes. As I write this I was so much in the 'flow' with it, really focused on task that I forgot I was also cooking eggs and nearly set fire to the kitchen! You may be really super at attention to detail - that is one of your strengths - but it can cause difficulties if it means you are not getting through the work. You may need to put strategies in place to help get things done.
In coaching I use a variety of psychological approaches. Cognitive behavioural coaching can help you to identify and remove psychological blocks to your performance and wellbeing. We can identify and access positive thinking patterns and move away from negative rumination.
In a business or management setting I can help managers to get the best out of staff by identifying their strengths and using positive affirmation and communication styles.
Solution focused coaching is useful to aid coachees to recognise and utililise their skills with external resources, such as the environment we are in.
Here are 8 tips to get started in uncovering and building on your strengths:
1) What are you already doing?
Ask yourself what are you already doing to work towards your goal of a happier, healthier life?
Think back to a day when things were feeling like they were in synch, that it felt that there was a good balance to your life and you had the right ingredients to feel fulfilled. What was happening then? What did you already have in place? If you identify these times then you can work out what you are already doing that is working and..DO MORE OF THAT! This then informs future decision making - see tip 2!
2) How do you see yourself now and in the future?
Where do you see yourself now and where you want to be?
In the journey to move where you want to be it may feel like you need a whole load of strengths that you don't have but in actual fact if you look back there are times when you were already using them but could not see the woods for the trees. How can these help you with where you want to be in future?
So identify strengths from your past to inform your choices and decision for the future.
3) Be mindful
Can you think back to a time where there are strengths that you are already drawing on but did not take personal reflective time out to recognise them or pay attention?
As you go through your daily life be more aware of your strengths - acknowledgement is key. If we are rushing through our lives and not being mindfully compassionate to ourselves it is easy to miss these moments. We may be good at praising our children or giving positive feedback to others but are we capturing our own achievements? You can then draw on these when the going gets tough to increase resilience.
4) Use other people's perspectives
What are the strengths that others recognise in you?
What do other people say are your strengths?
What does your best friend say?
What would your coach say? My family would say I am amazing at getting things done but I could increase my ability to remember I have the stove on in the kitchen!!!
Acknowledging postive feedback from others is a skill and to learn about ourselves it is helpful to ask others for their perspective.
5) Be accountable
Write down your strengths and revisit them especially if you can feel any doubt or negative thoughts creeping in so you can challenge them.
As mentioned above these can be more internal such as character strengths like kindness, perserverence, creativity.
They can be strengths that are linked to the external environment like having helpful activities that you have in place each day like a plan to do more nourishing things for you each day, do your fitness regime, organise efficient meetings at work. It can link back to your past and what you used to put in place that used to work.
6) Revisit what you used to like doing
Once you have identfied your strengths have a think about any that link to activities you have forgotten about and left by the wayside. Make a plan to incorporate them more.
This could be realising some of your achievements, such as, playing in the football team, providing a mentor role at work, offering diversity training or being skilled at chess. What has slipped by in your busy life?
7) Link your strengths to your values
Link your strengths to what is important to you. The best way to get motivated to get on and move forward in life is to do what you love and love what you do linked to what is important to you.
Is it the enviroment? Creativity? Family? Personal freedom? Making a difference? Helping others? Whatever you value make it count by linking your strengths to your values then you will feel really motivated moving forward with your goals.
8) Get the balance right
Finally it is worth mentioning that it is harder to work to your strengths if you feel that your enviroment is out of balance.
Have a think about balance in your life. Are your days as free of stress as much as possible and include nourishing activites? Have a think about what you do day to day that is nourishing for you. Do you get out into the fresh air at least 20 mins a day to get your vit D fix? Do you have a space that is yours to spend time in that you find really comfortable and is somewhere you can truly relax in. Are you getting the balance right with your own wellbeing and that of those around you? It is worth having people around you who believe in you and support you and also that you are able to focus on your wellbeing.
Recognising your strengths will help with getting this balance right. It will increase your ability to build meaningful relationships with others, be assertive with yourself and have a strong sense of identity.
In identifying your strengths it also means that you will have more meaning in your days, more direction and more purpose as you will be drawing on them! I enjoy working with a strength based approach with coachees as I see so many positive outcomes from the work so please get in touch if interested in booking a coaching session or a workshop.