What are your top 3 strengths?
I want to tell you a surprising story about strengths. It’s a story I hope will spark not only your curiosity, but your willingness to dive a little deeper when you answer this question.
Who knows? Like me, your answer might open up completely new opportunities for you.
To explain the surprise element of my story, I need to paint you a picture of my professional life a few years ago.
“Back in the day” (we’re talking about a decade ago, but it feels like a different generation), I was steeped in the world of international tax. I spent my time helping my multinational clients navigate their complex tax issues. I stayed abreast of worldwide tax developments and brainstormed solutions with my foreign partners. I worked with my team to develop detailed plans. I led them through months of focussed implementation work.
Our days were intense. It was like playing a game of chess. We had to plan dozens of sequential steps in advance, then adjust quickly to each new countermove by a tax authority somewhere in the world.
To attract new clients, I needed to be publicly recognized as an authority in my field. I spoke at conferences and on webinars, wrote articles for tax journals and gave interviews to the press.
My work was challenging. I believed I was using all my skills.
This is where the surprising part kicks in.
One day, my firm gave the partners a survey to identify our top 3 “strengths” – things we were good at and we also ENJOYED doing. The idea? If we combined our skills and passions at work, we would be an unstoppable force.
The results started rolling in. Many of them made sense – analytical skills, leadership ability, persuasive ability.
Not mine. Nope. My number one strength? My “ability to see beauty”. Number 2? My “capacity to love”. Number 3? My “capacity to forgive”.
Sorry to be rude, but WTF?
My partners laughed and I wrote the survey off as a waste of time.
But the results haunted me.
Why had this survey yielded meaningful insights for my partners, but produced such bizarre results for me?
I started to notice things. Such as, I’d be taking a taxi to work, and I’d see a rainbow over Lake Ontario. I’d feel happy and energized FOR HOURS. Didn’t everyone feel like this? I spoke to other people about it. Apparently not!
Or I’d notice one of my staff finally stepping up her confidence and showing up at work completely differently. I’d see joy and pride in her eyes, and I’d find myself filled with love for her.
I started to build my awareness as I went through my days. How was I feeling? What sparked joy for me?
I started to notice all the ways beauty, love and forgiveness regularly factored into my life.
I was well aware that these strengths had little to do with my job. Even though I had no intention of switching careers, part of my brain began to wonder how my world might change if decided to use my strengths at work. I didn’t know what that even meant or could mean. But my brain was intrigued.
Maybe the survey had not been useless after all. It opened my mind. Sometimes, that’s the most important thing.
A lot happened between then and now. I’ve written that story elsewhere.
But let me recap what I’m doing now. I’m an artist. I’m a life coach. I own a beautiful workshop and retreat space.
The strengths identified so long ago are now part of my everyday experience. They are what fuel me to create value in the world.
The result? I am in flow and I love what I do.
Let’s come back to you. I can’t offer you the same strengths survey, since I’ve long since forgotten what the survey was called. But what I can suggest is this simple exercise.
Get a small journal. One you can take easily with you everywhere. Whenever you notice yourself feeling strong enjoyment, energized, light, inspired, in flow, creative, present, connected or just truly happy, make a quick note of your precise feeling and what you are doing. Do this for a short period of time – a week, a month, 3 months – however long it takes you to gather the relevant data.
What will happen is this. You will think this thing that you love doing or experiencing has no bearing on anything. But, after a few days, you will start to notice certain feelings and experiences that keep surfacing. In time, you will see clear patterns. And you are guaranteed to discover a few things that surprise you.
After you’ve gathered sufficient data to get a sense of what activities or experiences bring you joy, you’re ready for some creative thinking.
Start a new segment in your journal. Set aside 5 minutes a week to brainstorm answers to this question, “What are 5 ways I could incorporate these activities or experiences into my work or personal life?” When you do this, be sure not to limit yourself with practical considerations. Let your answers flow onto the page without judgment.
After a month or two, take some time to review your answers. Open your mind. Is there anything you can do now? Is there anything you can work towards?
If you go through this process enough times, if you keep your mind open, if you start to make incremental changes, you might very well find yourself in a few months feeling more fulfilled and more in flow.
If you’d like to explore how to create a life you love, I’m taking enrolment for my new 10 week one-on-one Creative Personal Transformation Experience. I’m offering a one time 30% Early Responder Reward to everyone who secures their spot by January 24, 2020. To learn more and find out if you’re a good fit for this program, schedule a free one hour session with me, just click on https://gracedcanvas.com/scheduler-link/ or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.