Identify Your Strengths to Improve Your Impact

Identify Your Strengths to Improve Your Impact

Wisconsin roads in the winter are a nightmare. Snow-covered ice means finding yourself spinning your wheels without going anywhere. Life can be exactly the same way. There are so many directions to take but which will make the greatest impact? Clarifying your direction starts with the ability to identify your strengths.

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“If you spend your life trying to be good at everything, you will never be great at anything.” – Tom Rath, author of Strengths Finder 2.0

Gain Clarity to Identify Your Strengths

The act of gaining clarity on ourselves is tough. This can be especially true when trying to identify your strengths. Maybe you feel constant conflict within yourself. You have a vague sense of your natural strengths but also feel misaligned. It’s almost as if lacking clear definition causes unspoken imbalances elsewhere in your life. You wonder why you feel like a square peg in a round hole.

It may seem counterintuitive but you simply can’t solely rely upon yourself to provide feedback. You need outside input to provide a more clear picture of yourself.

Ideally, this feedback comes from a trusted source; someone who has your best interests at heart. Someone who is insightful and motivating. The type of person who has a thorough understanding of the various types of strengths and their applications. Although you may be lucky enough to have such a person in your life, many people do not.

If you are one of the lucky ones, cherish this relationship. Chances are, you have both seen benefits from insight provided by the other. Use the StrengthsFinder 2.0 as a tool to help each other identify your strengths. Motivate each other to actually apply the information in your lives.

Building Upon Strength vs. Overcoming Weakness

Growing up in America, I have always been conditioned to believe that anyone is capable of accomplishing anything. All you need to do is put in the work and you will see the reward. There are countless movies and books highlighting the heroine whose only desire is to accomplish that one huge goal.

The heroine is the underdog who no one expects to win and must overcome almost insurmountable odds to accomplish her goal. In many cases, the heroine spends her time overcoming some type of weakness. The significant disadvantage interferes with her ability to earn the degree, win the match, or land that leading role.

But what if all this effort toward overcoming a weakness is a waste of energy? Wouldn’t it make more sense to start with an area of strength rather than attempting to overcome weakness?

Let’s Look at a Case Study

Take Elle Woods from the movie Legally Blonde. Throughout the movie, Elle’s passion for all things fashion and lifestyle is evident and she initially enrolls in a fashion merchandising program.

Unfortunately, her boyfriend dumps her and heads off to study law at Harvard.

Determined to win him back, she puts in an incredible amount of time, effort, and energy to earn a spot in the same Harvard program.

She flips her life upside down to pursue the ultimate goal of winning her boyfriend back. Elle does this while pursuing a degree polar opposite to the one she had initially enrolled in.

Elle successfully graduates from the program and realizes that her ex-boyfriend was actually a selfish jerk the whole time. Despite the ending, I have always been left wondering whether she truly was happy in her decision to become a lawyer.

I know what you’re thinking. The movie is typically known as a light-hearted comedy. Is there really a bigger message to take away from it? But hang with me for just a minute.

Although a degree in law is a distinguished and often lucrative career, is there a tiny part inside of her which wonders whether she made the best choice? Would she have been happier pursuing a degree more in line with her strengths and interests? Or whether she could have attained even greater heights?

Fashion was the crossroads of talent and passion for Elle. She put forth incredible effort to overcome her weaknesses in the pursuit of law. Just imagine how a career in fashion, an area of strength, could have blossomed! Imagine the impact you could have if you clearly identify your strengths!

Put a Name to the Strength

Prior to discovering the Strengths Finder 2.0, I had never taken the time to name my own strengths. I chased after various pursuits with only a vague sense of my strengths.

Chasing after anything and everything means you say “yes.” All the time. Lacking clear direction significantly contributes to anxiety and fear of missing out. After all, what if I say “no” to that one thing which could be the game changer? The result is feeling pulled in a million different directions without significant impact.

Have you ever stopped to think about what it takes to be truly great at something? Not just mediocre or moderately acceptable but absolutely outstanding in one particular area? Think Olympic athlete. Your favorite author. Rob Thomas (we can agree to disagree if he’s not your fav …).

The most talented people in the world are generally only known for one thing. It’s not typical for someone to be known as both an enthralling musician AND a captivating author.

Greatness requires hours upon hours of intense focus and a desire for growth. Depending upon the goal, tough decisions, sacrifices, and saying “no” to anything not in line with the ultimate goal are also required. As is correct identification of one’s initial talents and skills.

Using StrengthsFinder 2.0 to Identify Your Strengths

The need to correctly identify your strengths to improve your impact is clear. You may, however, be wondering how the StrengthsFinder 2.0 can help. This book contains a link for an online quiz which reveals your individualized strengths. Following the quiz, refer back to the book for insight on how to incorporate your strengths to increase your impact.

My personal experience with StrengthsFinder 2.0 began with a podcast. I was immediately intrigued and knew this had the potential to improve my impact and provide clarity to my direction.

After taking the assessment, I was shocked! The results put words to what I had always vaguely known about myself. I would compare the feeling to the satisfaction of finding a missing piece of a puzzle. You know it’s there. It’s distinctive shape fools you into thinking it will be an easy one to find. Hiding amidst the jungle of other pieces it just continues eluding you. You have almost convinced yourself that it’s missing; gone forever. Suddenly, you spot the piece and with satisfaction, tap it into place.

Take this opportunity to put another piece of your own puzzle into place.

If you’re not yet convinced about the need to identify your strengths, consider this. Think back to when you first learned to write. Most of us are naturally drawn to write with either the left or right hand. If you spent your time in line with your natural tendency, your attention could then shift to learning how to write letters. Eventually you can focus on the improvement of your handwriting. If, however, you spent your time fighting your natural instinct to be left-handed and attempted to switch to the right, all your time and energy would be spent forcing your hand to accept the role thrust upon it. It would take much more time and effort to get to the point of improving your handwriting.

It’s Time to Take Action

Unless you have taken time to shed light upon your strengths and weaknesses, you will have a vague sense of where you are naturally drawn. But in my experience, vague is completely useless. Vague gets us nowhere.

Be the heroine of your own life. Start with your strengths. Stop trying to overcome weakness. Think about how much farther ahead you will be simply by starting with areas in which you already excel. Stop being the square peg in the round hole.

Take this opportunity to learn more about who you are and what makes you amazing! Check out this post for inspiration on making decisions and this post for my best advice on how to stop caring what everyone else thinks. I truly hope that you find the StrengthsFinder 2.0 as life-changing as I did and would love to hear all about it in the comments below!

How To Find More Time in Your Day

How To Find More Time in Your Day

Do you ever wish there was an extra hour in the day? Think about all the amazing stuff you could accomplish in that extra time! What if I told you that the extra hour is real and that it’s actually possible to find even more time in your day?

I know what you’re thinking. Your gigantic daily “to-do” list is running through your head, reminding you that school pictures are today, your kindergartener is on the hook for snacks, and you have a dentist appointment at 4. I get it and I’m right there with you. Life is hectic! But if we don’t take the time to be intentional and do the things which bring the spark into our lives, what’s even the point?

Finding more time is a topic I have obsessed over basically since I first became a mom eight years ago but this preoccupation has intensified over the past three years, courtesy of the graduate nursing program I recently completed. Graduate school coursework on top of maintaining my role as a wife, being a mom to three littles, working, and trying to keep some shred of self-care was no small feat.

Despite the insanity, I learned to make each and every second of my day count. Sometimes finding more time is simply a matter of carefully evaluating whether time is effectively being used. A great place to begin is with time spent in the car. We do a fair amount of driving on the weekends and since my husband generally drives anyway, I began bringing my reading assignments with wherever we went. I was amazed at how much material I was able to cover this way.

And for those times when I was the driver? Podcasts and audible books nicely maximized my study time during those solo drives. I tried listening with my kids in the car but they loudly objected to hearing about the cardiac system and effective managment of heart failure. I can’t say that I really blame them.

Taking a closer look at my daily schedule also revealed chunks of time which were not being used effectively. I was shocked to realize just how much time was spent surfing social media once I began paying attention to how my time was being used. Opening the rabbit hole of Facebook or Pinterest only resulted in possibly hours of truly unproductive time which was no help when it came to finishing papers or preparing for exams so my time was better served staying off social media altogether.

I also began finding ways to make necessary household tasks both faster and easier. At times, a mindset shift was all that was needed. If I approached the task with an expectation that it would only take 2 minutes to do, it was much easier to actually accomplish it within that time frame than if I told myself it would take forever. There are so many times when I talk myself out of doing something because I tell myself that it will take FOREVER but if I approach it from the angle that it will ONLY take 5 minutes, it’s much easier to dive right in.

Shifting your mindset is incredibly helpful when you know there’s a task which needs to get done but you are procrastinating doing said task. I use this trick of telling myself that I only need to work for 15 minutes on the task but will put forth all my focus and energy into it for a brief period of time. Once 15 minutes goes by, I am always surprised at how much progress I have actually made. This trick sometimes works in sucking me into the task and on many occasions, I have finished the task in that one session. Shorter tasks can obviously be accomplished in less than 15 minutes but sometimes bigger projects are also completed sooner than expected with this technique.

And speaking of saving time … I recently tried the WalMart grocery pick-up app and it truly is a life saver! That store is such a time and energy suck for me so I truly appreciate the ability to simply choose my groceries on the app and they are ready to be picked up when it’s convenient for me. My only regret is that I didn’t try it sooner. It is an incredibly exhilerating feeling to know that I never have to step foot inside the store again!

An obvious place to find more time in one’s day is by getting up earlier. This one was a struggle for me when I started graduate school because I also had a 3 month old preemie who only slept about 3 hours at a stretch. He had a three week NICU stay and we never perfected breastfeeding so I was frantically trying to keep up an intense pumping schedule on top of everything else. Sleep was incredibly precious and elusive in those days!

Needless to say, getting up earlier than I absolutely had to was not an option at that time in my life. I definitely would not recommend trying to find more time by impacting your sleep cycle if you have an infant. You need sleep to survive. It’s one of those basic necessities. Get all the sleep you can and find other ways to prioritize your time if you are at that stage in your life.

Once my youngest started sleeping and I stopped pumping, I realized that I had a treasure trove of time in the hour before my kids awoke in the morning. I generally used this time to hit the gym because it actually gave me more energy for the day and I found that I slept better at night. Listening to motivational and inspirational podcasts during this time changed my mindset from negativity to one of positivity and personal accomplishment. I suddenly felt as if I had even more time to accomplish my personal goals and self-care tasks.

Regardless of the stage of motherhood you are in, I hope you found these suggestions helpful. Even despite these tactics and mindset shifts, I still have days where the hours tick by so quickly that it’s unbelievable and at the end of the day, I’m not even sure what I accomplished. Life is messy, chaotic, and hectic and on those days all you can do is be thankful for the time you’re given and do the best that you can do with what you have. I’m always looking for ways to be more mindful of my time and would love to hear your thoughts on how you manage the insanity that is life so please feel free to leave a comment below!