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!

Top 3 Reasons Why You Need a Creative Side Gig

Top 3 Reasons Why You Need a Creative Side Gig

Side gigs have always intrigued me. They represent another side of you, a side which may not be immediately apparent to others. An opportunity to break away from the person you are for 40+ hours each week.

Don’t get me wrong. My 9 to 5 is great (most of the time anyway!) but it does not completely fulfill my desire to contribute. Sometimes we have a tendency to be so completely wrapped up into our identity at work that we forget we are actually so much more. I believe that everyone has been given a creative gift of some sort and whether that is painting, crafting, or singing, there are opportunities everywhere to turn your creativity into a side gig. Although there are arguably dozens of reasons why you need to pursue a creative side gig, this post outlines my top 3.

1. Creative side hustles make you a more well-rounded person. Sure. You may be great at accounting, being a nurse, or writing contracts. But what about that tiny voice inside reminding you that you used to be really great at ____ (you fill in the blank here with whatever creative activity applies to you)? Remember the feeling you got when you pursued that activity? And how about the extra skills which came along with it? Wouldn’t it be great to hone in those skills again? Along with creativity comes a host of important aptitudes such as ingenuity, problem-solving, and perseverance which may actually benefit you during your work day.

Despite my current day job as a nurse practitioner, my first course of study was actually a liberal arts degree in music. People often give me funny looks when I tell them my background because it seems worlds apart from where I am today however I have always valued the lessons taken from my first degree. Music taught me to never give up on something you think about every day because it adds purpose and value to your life.

Through the course of this degree, I also learned that you get out of life what you put into it. If you work dilligently and with focus, you will see positive results. Lastly, when gauging progress, you can only make comparisons to yourself. Everyone has been given completely different skills sets but only you can sift through to figure out how to optimize your individual gifts. Comparison to others is useless and only serves to discourage you from your individual progress. These are incredibly valuable lessons which are beneficial regardless of the path I ultimately chose.

2. Doing something completely different pushes you outside your comfort zone and inspires growth. When was the last time you said “goodbye” to your comfort zone? Was it last week when you took a cooking class? Last summer when you signed up to run your first half marathon? Or maybe it was ten years ago when you took a yoga class?

You will never make progress or grow as a person by continuing to do the same old thing day in and day out. Growth requires challenge of some sort. You have to be vulnerable, put yourself out there, and possibly even experience failure to become a new and better version of yourself. Even if you didn’t feel exhilerated or even moderately intrigued by the activity, at least you tried it and perhaps realized that it actually wasn’t your jam. Congratulations … You are now that much closer to finding your actual creative outlet!

3. Who doesn’t love extra income? There are opportunities everywhere to collect a paycheck for everything from knitting cute baby outfits to being the bassist in a band and playing local bars every Friday night. Maybe you’re an amazing violinist and also excel at teaching others. Check into offering violin lessons to others who want to learn. People out there are looking for your specific type of creativity and are willing to shell out for it. Don’t keep them in suspense any longer!

I hope this post has gotten you thinking about the possibilities out there. Maybe you already have a creative pursuit in mind or maybe you still have no idea what that would even entail. Either way, take a few moments to clarify what your next action step toward pursuing creativity would involve. Granted, my time is valuable as it is divided among being a wife, mom of three, and working full-time, however freelancing as a pianist and organist makes it so much more fulfilling and meaningful. It’s truly the icing on top of the cake!

Do you have a creative side gig? If so, I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!

4 Steps to Ditching the Comparison Mindset

4 Steps to Ditching the Comparison Mindset

“A flower does not think of competing with the flower next to it. It just blooms.” -Zen Shin

This post may contain affiliate links, which means we may receive a commission, at no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link. Please see our full disclosure for further information.

It was Friday night. My hubby and I were doing our typical but very sophisticated Friday night thing. I was attired in the very latest of fall fashions with hair and make-up perfectly done while my husband was similarly decked out. Minus the hair and make-up, of course. We were headed to one of our favorite top-notch hang-outs downtown for wine and live music but had just enough time to stop and snap a pic commemorating yet another highly successful date night.

Just kidding. We were actually lounging on the couch, he attired in athletic shorts and I in my favorite pajamas which unfortunately happen to have a gigantic hole in the crotch. Some type of sports ball was playing in the background and he turned to show me a Facebook pic. A married couple we know was doing exactly what I described in the first paragraph and the thoughts started rolling through my mind.

“They always look so happy. I bet they never bicker about household chores or the kids. And they are always dressed like they walked out of a fashion magazine shoot. We’ll never be as happy or as successful as they are.”

Social media is a double-edged sword. One side facilitates communication with friends and family. But the other side displays everyone else’s highlights and greatest accomplishments for all to see. And I am as excited as the next person to see professional family photos, job promotions, and brand new baby photos but sometimes my mind goes to a dark place of comparison.

Suddenly everything that I’m doing (or not doing) somehow seems inferior and everybody else is having all the fun. Everyone else is prettier or more successful or has their lives way more put together than I do. Surely no one else forgets school picture day. No one else can possibly forget parent teacher conferences or to send a snack for the kindergarten class. Those pictures of one isolated moment don’t only reflect perfection in that moment but also in all areas of life.

Inevitably this line of thinking then brings me to comparison and ultimately, scarcity. As if there are only limited amounts of beauty, organization, or love in the world and I am definitely missing out because my Facebook feed doesn’t highlight lovely photoshopped versions of myself and my family doing artsy, sophisticated hobbies. There cannot possibly be enough love or beauty to go around for everyone and especially not for someone who has no idea how to capture a decent selfie.

Have you ever caught yourself in this same trap of negativity? It starts innocently enough with five minutes of scrolling here and then ten there. Suddenly, you realize an hour has gone by and you’re feeling anxious and depressed with no idea why.

In my own life, I’ve reached the conclusion that comparison sucks the joy right out of living. Not only that but thoughts that resources such as success or admiration or even hard work are limited and only bestowed upon a very select few people are closely tied with thoughts of comparison. The entire package is a devastating blow to positive progress in your life if you’re not aware of the insidious nature of these thoughts or how they’re tied together.

Comparison leads directly into scarcity because the very nature of competition implies multiple people going after the same thing. Only one person goes home with the trophy. We are all driven by competition to various degrees and therefore it is a natural progression of our minds to see other people’s success and almost subconsciously reach the conclusion that we will never attain that level of success because that person already went home with that trophy. There isn’t room on the Olympic podium of life for more than one person to have success in a particular aspect of life.

But the truth lies in the fact that there is no finite amount of success, love, beauty, or talent in the world. These qualities are out there in such abundant amounts that they can never be used up. Furthermore, one person’s beauty in no way diminishes your own beauty. We have all been given a specific set of interests, talents, and abilities to share with the world. The only fair and valid competition is that which exists between the person we are right now and the person we either used to be or the person we are evolving into.

Just as there are infinite amounts of the incredible qualities which make life worth living, so too is the truth that you are on a completely different journey than anyone else. No one on this earth has had the exact same life experiences, setbacks, influences, or education that you have. No one else in the world is faced with the same questions and decisions about which path to choose. You are unique and beautiful and deserve to free yourself from the self-defeating mindsets of comparison and scarcity.

Challenge yourself to grow in the areas which are important to you and minimize comparison and scarcity by taking action on the 4 steps listed below:

  • Spend time reflecting upon where you have been, where you are now, and where you want to go
  • Set goals which are measureable and have clear action steps
  • Periodically check your progress toward those goals
  • Celebrate your successes and learn from your mistakes

Having a clear sense of your own goals, priorities, and successes makes celebrating the accomplishments of others easier because you have outlined a road map for your own life. You know where you’re going and how far you’ve come. You embrace celebrating your own achievements as well as the knowledge which comes from missteps. It’s incredibly easy to be sucked down the rabbit hole of comparison and suddenly lose focus of all your own progress but you have something to share with the world and although it may be vastly different than what others are doing, it has value. Don’t let your progress be stalled by competition and scarcity.

Only by celebrating your achievements and maintaining a mindset of abundance can you truly ward off the trail of negativity which can be precipitated by mindless scrolling. Start being mindful of how you feel when spending time on social media and take steps to alter these behaviors if you find it puts you in a negative space. As the saying goes, “Ain’t no one got time for that.”

If you find yourself struggling with the flip side of comparison, which is fear of what others think of you, check out my previous post about freeing yourself from the opinions of others. It can be a tough mindset to change but absolutely crucial for a happier and more joyful life. And if this post hit home for you and you’re ready to take an even deeper dive into mindset, click the image below for more information on one of my favorite inspirational books by down to earth, tell it how it is Rachel Hollis.

Never forget that you have value in simply who you are as a person regardless of your profession, accomplishments, or talents. You are amazing!

I’d love to hear about the impact this post had on your mindset! Leave a comment below with new revelations or ways you plan to implement this into your daily life.

Living with Intention: The Busy Mom Version

Living with Intention: The Busy Mom Version

This post may contain affiliate links, which means we may receive a commission, at no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link. Please see our full disclosure for further information.

Have you ever been initially intrigued with an idea only to find out that it actually didn’t fit into your life as advertised? One example from my own life is the Bacon Express. I dislike cooking bacon and therefore never make it but my husband is obsessed with it. To clarify … he is obsessed with the eating part, not the cooking part.

This past summer we were walking through a store when my husband spotted the Bacon Express, a device which advertised the cooking of bacon as mere child’s play. Since it was on clearance, we took the plunge and brought it home. We used the Bacon Express a couple of times before we became disenchanted with this product advertised to make our lives easier.

Our first issue was how long it took to cook an entire package of bacon. The device was so small that you could only fit about 5 pieces on at a time, a highly inefficient feature when trying to cook for a family of 5. Our second issue related to its cleaning. One had to practically dissemble the entire device to clean it, which wasn’t necessarily the issue. The challenge arose when I realized that I clearly lacked the engineering degree required to re-assemble this thing. Highly disappointing.

A similar experience occurred when I became interested in living with intention. The idea is that you essentially take a long, hard look at your life, figure out your values, and re-align your activities based upon those values. Intentional living captivated me because it facilitates an alternative goal setting method and I’m a sucker for anything and everything related to goals. Once I became aware of the concept, I set out to uncover how I might incorporate living with intention into my own life.

Although some of the advice I found was helpful, some of it was clearly not adapted for a busy working mom of three kiddos. Ideally, I would love all the time in the world to sit and brainstorm about my values and how to adapt my activities to reflect said values. But let’s be real. I work 40+ hours a week and have primary responsibility of the housework. Quiet reflection time is almost non-existent in my world.

Becoming a mom comes with a whole package of things no one really wants to do but nonetheless, must be done anyway. Who really wants months of sleepless nights, loads upon loads of more dirty laundry than a small army could ever produce, or hours of whining and crying from a small being with so many of your own best and worst traits? No one wants that.

And yet, we endure these unpleasantries because any negatives are vastly outweighed by the gift of caring for and raising our babies. It’s true that we sacrifice so much but they also give abuntantly in return. This is the struggle in balancing all that comes with motherhood with pursuing your own goals and this is the spirit in which I present my advice to other busy moms looking to live with intention.

I know you also have goals. Whether they are personal, relational, or professional, goals inspire growth and come in all shapes and sizes. Spend actual quality time with your kids. Plan weekly date nights with your husband. Drink water. Read a book instead of watching Netflix. Get more sleep at night. Take up a new hobby. Try a cycling class. Cook dinner instead of eating out. Any one of these activities has the potential to improve your life but if you’re anything like me, the days fly by and keeping up with everything you’re already doing feels impossible. How can you possibly add one more goal, no matter how small, to your already packed schedule?

1) Take a careful look at what you’re already doing right now. If you are currently raising little ones, making sudden, sweeping changes to your lifestyle is most likely not feasible. But you can find tiny pockets of time here and there to spark larger change. Is there anything on your daily schedule which isn’t serving you? Although you may not be thrilled with your job right now, what small steps can you take to make an alternate one a reality? Or maybe you find yourself with more screen time than you care to admit. Do you feel energized and engaged after spending all that time interacting on social media? Or could you find a more productive use for your time?

Some parts of your daily routine may not necessarily be your first choice in how your time is spent but are important to the stage of life you are in. This is one of the ones I struggle with because I have all these goals and a constant feeling that there is never enough time in the day. Meanwhile, my time is sucked up by housework, driving kids to and from various activities, and grocery shopping. Hardly inspirational.

But then I remind myself that this is a season of life. Seasons don’t last forever and although they are very necessary aspects of raising kids, there are always ways to free up time here and there. Remember … you’re looking for tiny pockets of time and not hours upon hours. Grocery pick-up apps are everywhere now and are a complete timesaver! There are cleaning services out there which will come and clean your house while you’re at work. Consider carpooling with other trusted parents to and from sports and other activities.

2) Plan ahead and budget your free time carefully. You may only get a few minutes of quiet time here and there but plan this out in advance so you know exactly what you should be doing with that time. In my own life, I have found that a paper planner is the best way to stay on track with my goals. I searched high and low to find the planner that I currently have and absolutely love it because it provides space for monthly goal planning including the ability to highlight my top priority for that month. Each day of the week has space to write a daily goal as well and I use this to come up with daily motivational messages for myself.

Intention always precedes accomplishment. Think about it. When was the last time you accidentally cleaned the bathroom? Or ran 3 miles? What about that time you just kinda sorta earned a degree. Or how about the time you unintentionally ended up at the movies with your hubby on a Saturday afternoon? Ok, maybe that one could actually be unintentional but the desire to strengthen your relationship through quality time together is most definitely intentional. Accomplishing a goal, no matter how small, must always start with the intention to do so and putting it down in black and white makes prioritization much easier. Click the picture below to check out the planner which smoothly incorporates intention into your already crazy schedule!

3) Seek accountability in becoming more intentional about your goal. About a year ago, I decided that I wanted to become better about learning new piano repertoire. My practice habits in the past were terrible and I had never been great about consistent practice. It was always hours of sporadic practice here and there which never amounted to true progress.

I knew that if I wanted to improve, I would need accountability so I began searching for ways to make myself accountable. It was then that I stumbled upon an app which logged your practice time and counted up consecutive days of practice for you. This app changed my practice habits and I became obsessed with daily practice because I loved seeing the consecutive day count go up. Even if I only had 5 minutes a day, it didn’t matter because it still counted.

Find accountability for yourself in accomplishing your goal. Accountability will keep you honest and will inspire you to take action even on those long days when the work never seems to end and everybody wants more from you than you have to give. It may be a tracking app, a friend, or your spouse but find whatever makes the most sense for what motivates you and get moving on putting this into place

I get it. Change, even if it’s the best possible change, is hard. But what about that nagging voice inside reminding you of your goal to run the half marathon this fall? Or the one reminding you about how accomplished you feel after making a homemade meal for your family? What about that stack of personal development books you ordered last fall but never got around to reading? And the memories of those date nights in your pre-kid days? Wouldn’t it be amazing to bring that magic back again?

Living with intention is a powerful technique to hone into what matters to you and then going after it with everything you have inside. Without intention, a goal is simply a wish. A pipe dream which will never come to fruition. It is a road map for previously uncharted territory. When you lack intention, you are dragged in a million different directions and are unsure whether any of them are what you actually want. I sincerely hope that these 3 actionable tips for incorporating intention into your daily living are helpful and inspire you to chase after your goals even as you chase after your babies!