5 reasons why you urgently need to know your strengths

If you use your strengths daily you are 6x more likely to be engaged on the job and 30% less likely to suffer from stress and anxiety, according to research by Gallup. Moreover, to make a strong and lasting impact, you need to understand and play to your strengths.

Playing to your strengths is an idea to which we often pay lip service, but in reality we so often focus on fixing our weaknesses.

Almost 80% of parents (in the USA) think that a student’s lowest grades deserve the most time and attention: you are much more likely to receive remedial attention on your low grades than mentoring in those areas where you have the most potential for greatness. At work, whilst management theorists now accept the premise that the best managers focus on harnessing team strengths, most performance feedback systems still focus on requiring employees to address their less-strong competencies.

Whilst shoring up our weaknesses has value, doubling-down on your strengths is surely the best way to make your greatest contribution to the world. Successful leaders consistently say the same thing:

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I’m no genius but I’m smart in spots and I stay around those spots.

Tom Watson 
Founder of IBM

You may have read this amusing little tale entitled “The Animal School” which explains why we might really be better to build on our strengths and not worry about securing mediocre performance in all areas

The animals got together in the forest one day and decided to start a school. There was a rabbit, a bird, a squirrel, a fish and an eel, and they formed a Board of Education.

The rabbit insisted that running be in the curriculum. The bird insisted that flying be in the curriculum. The fish insisted that swimming be in the curriculum, and the squirrel insisted that perpendicular tree climbing be in the curriculum. They put all of these things together and wrote a Curriculum Guide. Then they insisted that all of the animals take all of the subjects.

Although the rabbit was getting an A in running perpendicular tree climbing was a real problem for him; he kept falling over backwards. Pretty soon he got to be sort of brain damaged, and he couldn’t run any more. He found that instead of making an A in running, he was making a C and, of course, he always made an F in perpendicular tree climbing. The bird was really beautiful at flying, but when it came to burrowing in the ground, he couldn’t do so well. He kept breaking his beak and wings. Pretty soon he was making a C in flying as well as an F in burrowing, and he had a hellava time with perpendicular tree climbing.

The moral of the story is that the animal who was valedictorian of the class was a mentally retarded eel who did everything in a halfway fashion. But the educators were all happy because everybody was taking all of the subjects, and it was called a broad-based education.

Do what you do best and try to find others who can fill in by doing the things you are not good at. For instance, I am terrible at details—accounting especially, so I hire accountants to help me. This frees me up to focus on the things I do excel at and I can run a more efficient operation.

John Paul DeJoria 
Billionaire co-founder of the Patrón Spirits Company & JPM Systems)

You need to deeply find your strengths, understand them and apply your strengths. It is critical in so many ways, and essential if you want to live a life of significant impact. Here are some reasons why:

  1. It gives you confidence. When we are aware of our strengths we grow in confidence, which in turn allows us to take more measured risks, step out, and grow our impact. Without a clear awareness of our strengths we tend to focus on our weak spots (remember a school where the focus was so often on the subjects we were struggling with?). But our strengths allow us to set our aim high, think big and take bold and confident action.
  2. It expands your options. Often we are aware of one or two strengths, but as we build a more complete and detailed picture we start to see more possibilities, more options, more avenues for impact than we previously considered. As the picture becomes more detailed, new potential combinations of strengths become apparent. This allows us to imagine new ways to serve the causes and commitments we are passionate about.
  3. It helps you find your maximum contribution. Our calling is found at the intersection of our greatest contribution and our greatest cause. A thorough understanding of our strengths allows us to find those niches where we can thrive at our highest contribution level.
  4. It helps you get clear on your unique mix. You have a unique combination of strengths. Unique. As you become more aware of your full strength picture, you will gain more clarity about the unique contribution you can make, which will increase your motivation, your value, your remuneration, your influence and your impact.​
  5. It saves you time and frustration.  Michael Hyatt recounts how he convinced his wife to hire a housekeeper.  His wife felt she should do the housework, but her 'area of maximum contribution' lay elsewhere.  By delegating the housework, Hyatt's wife freed up time, reduced her frustration, and could focus on the areas she was really able to excel in.

Your strengths are your edge—where you have a natural advantage over everyone else—and your multiplier—where you can exert the most productive leverage

Marcus Buckingham 
Author, "Now Find Your Strengths"
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