Pursue Your Passion

It can be frustrating when others don’t share our passion about something.  When we see an injustice and want to correct it, why doesn’t everyone see it and want to shout from the rooftops with us?

We’ve each got to shout about our own thing.

Recently a friend asked that I donate to a cause.  It’s a cause I follow and care about, but it isn’t my cause.  As she asked I thought about all the good a check of the same size could do for my charity of choice, and I said, “no.”  And I did so completely guilt free.  I know she and people like her are taking care of business over there so that I can focus on what needs to be done in another place.

IMG_0229I’m thrilled that there are people who take care of abandoned and abused animals, who write eloquent letters to encourage our legislators to support equality, or who act to create services for children in our community.  To them and so many more, thank you.  While you’re working on that, I’ll worry about Africa, young mothers, clean water, and a natural food supply.

Oh, I want you to know all about the work that stirs passion in me, but I know you may not change where your money flows, how you spend your volunteer time, or what food you consume.  It’s OK.  It’s my passion, not yours.

Whatever it is that moves your heart to action, go make a difference.  Please.  We can’t all do everything, so we must do the few things that really matter to us personally.  Also remember, when I don’t get fired up about something like you do, it’s not that I don’t care.  It’s just that I’m working to make a difference somewhere else.

Coaching: Anticipation

Whatever you’re anticipating, it can be used to your advantage.  Discard worry and use anticipation of events to your advantage.  Ready to consider this?

Here we go….

What have you been worrying about lately?  What are you anticipating that’s causing your angst?  Identify it.  Name it.  Recognize it and reflect on it.

Now that you know what it is that’s causing worry, what can you do about it?  Is it in your control?  If so, what can you change?  Is it outside of your control?  Recognize this and let it go.  Really.

Finally, what do you have planned in the future that you are positively anticipating?  A gathering with friends?  The holidays?  A vacation?  Finding a new job?  Buying something special just for you?  Whatever it is, take time each day to anticipate what’s coming your way.  Nothing in the works?  Plan something.  Soon.

Anticipation can work in our favor or it can work against us.  It’s up to us to make the choice of where we want to spend our time and energy.  Anticipate good things!

Positive Anticipation

Just as anticipation of demanding events can make us more tense, anticipation of something wonderful happening in the future can make us feel joyful right now.  Particularly during stressful times, anticipating a fun and exciting event can lift our spirits.

This is exactly why it’s so important to have positive plans in our future.  As we traverse through stressful times, if all we can see are more demands and, at best, a few mundane happenings, our anticipation will be primarily negative.  It must be balanced out.  Yet too often we leave planning for fun in the hands of others.

Personally, I’ve learned that during stressful times I have a tendency to quit planning for fun – or for much of anything, for that matter.  It’s at these times I know I need to push through my anxiety and make some happy plans. When worry has a hold on you, this is the best time to create something good to anticipate.  It can be something small such as lunch with a friend.  Or something much larger, like a vacation.  Either way, when we have something fun to anticipate, it makes us hopeful in the present.

Anticipation of positive events brings hope and hope is a perfect emotion to balance out our worries.

Count Your Blessings

A week focused on being grateful must include the “Three Blessings” exercise.  I’ve mentioned it before and here I go again because doing this will change your perspective. Gratitude and thanks have been frequent topics on this site and regular readers know how strongly exercising gratitude contributes to our overall well-being.

In Martin Seligman’s most recent book Flourish, he builds on the Positive Psychology movement with concrete, research-based activities each of us can do to not simply be happy, but to flourish.

Because we spend so much time focusing on the negative (we do, you aren’t alone on this one), taking time to focus on positive events in our lives helps to add balance.  Ready to improve your well-being?  Here’s what Seligman suggests:

Every night for the next week, set aside ten minutes before you go to sleep.  Write down three things that went well today and why they went well.  You may use a journal or your computer to write about the events, but it is important that you have a physical record of what you wrote.  The three things need not be earthshaking in importance (“My husband picked up my favorite ice cream for dessert on the way home from work today”), but they can be important (“My sister just gave birth to a healthy baby boy”).

Next to each positive event, answer the question “Why did this happen?”  For example, if you wrote that your husband picked up some ice cream, write “because my husband is really thoughtful sometimes” or “because I remembered to call him from work and remind him to stop by the grocery store.” Or if you wrote, “My sister just gave birth to a healthy baby boy,” you might pick as the cause “God was looking out for her” or “She did everything right during her pregnancy.”

Writing about why the positive events in your life happened may seem awkward at first, but please stick with it for one week.  It will get easier.  The odds are that you will be less depressed, happier, and addicted to this exercise six months from now.

This activity is appropriately called the “Three Blessings” exercise.  How wonderful to set aside time each day to count our blessings!  We have so many…

You can find all books mentioned in this blog online at the Coach Carolyn Store.

Coaching Challenge: Relax

It seems odd to put out a “challenge” to relax, but a challenge seemed more appropriate than simply asking readers to think about how they could relax.  As you’ve read here this week, relaxing is something that must be done, not simply thought about.  And so, this your challenge to relax.

Here we go….

You may be a person who relaxes often or someone who rarely does; either way, we all can relax more than we do.  These challenges go out to all.

  • Right now, what are your shoulders doing?  Are they somewhere up around your ears?  Breathe in deeply through your nose and let them drop as you exhale.  Push those guys down if you need to (I need to!).  Repeat until your shoulders are truly relaxed and where they should be.
  • Now that you’re more relaxed, check out your schedule next week and find 30 minutes when you can plan to relax.  What will you do?  Below are a few suggestions.
    • Go for a walk.  Alone.  No headphones.  Just you and your thoughts.
    • Light some candles, fill the bathtub, and soak.
    • Lie down and listen to calming music, ocean waves or loons.
    • Read.
    • If you can carve off 60 minutes, get a massage. Or a facial. Or meet a friend you haven’t seen in too long.
  • What if none of these things sounds appealing to you?  Use your 30 minutes to figure out what relaxes you.  Pay attention over the next few days and recognize when your stress level goes down.  Capture and remember those things so you can do more of them.
  • Do you have kids in your life? Find time to do something relaxing with them. Children often respond favorably to bike rides, walking the dog, or playing a card game.  You’ll be teaching them how to relax and they won’t even know it!
  • Extra credit: Make that 30-minute (or 60-minute) time slot a recurring event.

Relax. Refresh. Renew.

What Relaxes You?

Sure, we all know we need to relax.  The next thing to do is to figure out exactly what that means.

This was brought to light as I discussed yesterday’s post with the teen mentioned there.  He said he relaxes all the time when he plays video games – and then proceeded to tell me which ones relaxed him the most.

Sigh.

Then again, maybe he’s right.  After all, who am I to say what will lower his stress levels?  Perhaps gaming really does do that for him.  I know there are plenty of things that other people do to relax that I would never, ever do to relieve stress.  Gaming would definitely cause me more stress than relief!  Golf is another example.  Just holding a club makes me tense up.  Others find it to be a perfect release.

Like happiness, success and so many other things, relaxation is yet another thing that we need to define for ourselves.  Whatever those things are for you, the key is to make time to do them regularly.

Relax, My Child

It’s the last day of summer vacation for Fargo kids.  Since I work from home I’ve had the pleasure of spending quite a bit of time with my teen and his friends over the summer months.  They are at that age where they’re constantly moving with high energy.  Even so, it’s rare to see them not engaged with some sort of electronic device.  And I, like many parents, try to remember to suggest a break from all things plugged in or charged from time to time.  It happens, but not often enough.

How can they ever relax?  True, my son could pop in his ear buds, close his eyes, and listen to soothing music.  Yeah, right.  OK, so maybe it is an uphill journey to get a teen to relax.  However, it’s a journey that parents should encourage children to take.

Most of us who have teens grew up during a time when we had to figure out what to do when it came to play.  There were stretches of silence and boredom and solitude.  Whether we liked it or not, this was a kind of forced relaxation.  Not so with our kids.

Fast forward and as adults we are reminded of the importance of relaxation because of the health and emotional benefit this time of renewal brings.  Think of how much harder it will be for our young adult children to relax when they’ve rarely done so throughout their lives.

In her book Simplify Your Life, Elaine St. James encourages us to “Teach Your Kids the Joy of Solitude.”

…teach them how to spend a quiet afternoon at home.  Set up a regular time in their week where they can be away from the unremitting influence of their peers, as well as away from the pandemonium of the electronic age.  Fortify them with good books (but no TV) and thoughtful meditative exercises they can do, so they get in the habit of personal reflection, and of seeing answers within their own heart.

Once your children learn the joy of solitude, it’ll be a gift they can carry with them throughout their lives.

A gift.  No, my kiddo won’t feel like it’s a gift when I suggest he does nothing for a while.  My hope is that one day when he’s an adult and needs to break free from the stress of his days, perhaps then he’ll look back and thank his mom for allowing him to be alone with his thoughts and reflections.  Until then, I’ll continue to encourage him to relax on his journey.

Enjoy Today

With the past, I have nothing to do; nor with the future.  I live now.  ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Live for today.  Something we hear all the time, isn’t it?  That said, we also are told to dream, set big goals, and look to the future as we make glorious plans.  How to do both?

I mentioned last week that in order to support my long-term goals, I might have to give up some comfort and convenience in the short term.  Since writing that I’ve been wondering, “Do I?”

Maybe.  But maybe not.  I do think there is opportunity for all of us to get too focused on what we want versus what we have.  And what we have is usually pretty darn good.  As the saying goes… the things you take for granted someone else is praying for.

So it all comes back to balance, I suppose.  Make choices for the future and also be happy with today.  As long as more choices are made to move ahead than to stay with the status quo, progress is being made.  Every comfortable and convenient thing in the present need not be abandoned.

After all, these are the things prayed for in the past.  We must enjoy today.

What Will You Give Up?

Maybe it was a quote posted by a friend or in an email I received, but somewhere recently I was reminded that to move toward a goal oftentimes something must be given up to make it happen.

It’s been on my mind because I’ve been thinking about how, with my youngest headed back to school in a few days, I should reincorporate more structure into my day as I definitely lack discipline during the summer months.  Sure, I’ve managed to stay fairly active with exercising and I eat breakfast every day.  Other than that, my summer has lacked routine.

Also no secret is the fact that early risers and well-organized individuals get more out of their mornings and, therefore, their days.  I want to be one of those people, so I’m thinking that an early, consistent wake-up coupled with a morning routine will be just the thing to do.  The benefits will be multiple.

Unfortunately, that means I’ll have shut off the lights at an earlier hour than I’ve been.  The things I enjoy doing in the late night hours will have to go.

As I think about this, I realize that it will need to be a conscious decision to quit doing certain things in the evening so that I am able to go to bed earlier and, as a consequence, be able to get up without hitting the snooze button each AM.  If I fail to release those activities I’m sure to continue them; I’ll try to fit in too much and the result will be maintaining the status quo.

This give-and-take between priorities takes place all the time.  In order to be thin, calories must go.  To be debt-free, purchases have to be delayed or skipped.  If you want to take on a new job, the old one has to be left behind.

We can say we want to do or achieve something but until we make the commitment to let go of what’s holding us back, the likelihood of seeing that happen will be decreased.

So, what are you willing to give up to get what you want?

Coaching Challenge: Sharpen The Saw

According to Stephen Covey, sharpening the saw is what we do to renew ourselves – our resources, energy and health.  Many years ago when I had a Covey planner, there was a place to note what had been done each day to sharpen the saw.  Every day!  Do you do something to renew yourself each and every day?  No?  Me either.

Perhaps it will be enough to engage in personal renewal once a week at first, then expand as these new exercises become habit.  Today let’s focus on a few ideas to sharpen our proverbial saws.

Here we go….

  • Physical renewal: If exercise still seems like something that you simply can’t make time for, begin with taking 10,000 steps a day.  Pedometers are inexpensive and easy to conceal.  Instead of sitting while you take a call, pace.  While waiting for your kid to finish music lessons, walk.  Take an oath to move instead of sit.
  • Mental Renewal
    • For those readers of faith, prayer can be a time for mental and spiritual renewal.  Meditation and yoga can provide the same benefits.  In Creating a Charmed Life, Victoria Moran advocates “taking ten” each day, stating that “the surest way to access [your] energy… is through silence, through taking a specified amount of time each day for mediation, prayer, journal writing, or inspirational reading.” Later she continues, “Even if your busyness tells you that you can’t afford to take quiet time, know that you can’t afford not to.”
    • In addition to prayer and meditation, reading revives us mentally as well.  Finish up those books you started.  Go grab or download that book that’s been on your reading list for far too long.  Subscribe to a magazine that has to do with your industry or business.  Read them.
  • Spiritual Renewal: As you’ve seen here more than once before, the authors of Creating Your Best Life tell us that “researchers who studied adult men in Michigan found that those who volunteered their time, money, and energy felt happier than—and also outlived—their less altruistic peers.”  Give of your time and you receive benefits beyond what you would ever imagine.

Maybe you truly can’t find time to sharpen your saw every day.  But every day that you can will be a day that you will be more effective in all that you do.

What’s Your Hobby?

Turns out that the topic for this week ties into the ideas of Stephen Covey discussed here yesterday.  The last few days have been dedicated to sharpening the saw, so to speak.  How so?  Through a hobby I have.

As Covey reminded us in his work, “sharpening the saw” is when we take the time to balance and renew our resources, energy, and health to “create a sustainable, long-term, effective lifestyle. It primarily emphasizes on exercise for physical renewal, prayer (meditation, yoga, etc.) and good reading for mental renewal. It also mentions service to the society for spiritual renewal.” (Wikipedia)

It’s amazing how a hobby can take away the worries of the day, bring on a challenge, and provide new learning.  Oftentimes hobbies are purposeful as we create a tangible outcome – like jars of pickles, a renewed chair, or a beautiful photo album – or meet a particular goal – like finish a marathon, complete a kayaking journey, or summit a new peak.  This sense of purpose brings meaning to our lives and enriches us.

Unfortunately, hobbies find their way to the bottom or our priority list too often.  These activities can seem frivolous, even selfish.  They are, however, important to our self-development, to our learning more about ourselves, and to ensure that our lives are multi-dimensional.  We are more than our work.  We are more than our family.  Our lives are a tapestry woven with many different threads, and our hobbies provide some of the brighter strands.

While I committed a crazy amount of time to my hobby this week, I will reap benefits from this commitment for months to come.  I learned a few new things and enjoy looking at – and consuming – the outcome of my efforts.

Been a while since you spent time on your favorite hobby?  I leave you with these words from Dale Carnegie:

Today is life – the only life you are sure of.  Make the most of today.  Get interested in something.  Shake yourself awake.  Develop a hobby.  Let the winds of enthusiasm sweep through you.  Live today with gusto.

Coaching Challenge: Play

Remember when it seemed like all you did was play?  Particularly in the summer months when schoolwork didn’t interfere with all the fun you had every day with your friends.  Or even on your own.  Of course there were times when you were bored, but mostly, you found something creative to do.

Today, let’s tap back into those memories and figure out how to bring more play into your adult life.

Here we go….

  • Recognize the play you already have in your life and be sure that it is made the priority it should be.  Don’t let this stuff fall off the schedule.
  • Identify a new activity you’d like to add to your calendar.  Learn a new instrument.  Join a group exercise class.  Find an instructor to teach you to knit or to carve wood or to fence.  Buy a kayak.  Whatever it is that you’ve been thinking you’d like to do and haven’t.  Yet.
  • Bonus points if the above item helps balance out how you spend your time at work.  Do you spend every moment with people all day long?  Play on your own.  Are your days filled with strategic planning and seeing the big picture?  You’ll find balance from an activity that focuses on detail.
  • Right now, go to your calendar and add an hour of play into next week.  For American readers, this should be EASY given that next week has one of our most playful holidays in it.

Now that I think of it, maybe that’s why I love Independence Day so much – because it really is a time to gather with friends and family to play and to celebrate the incredible freedom we have.  I hope you are able to do just that.

Enjoy!  And I will see you back here after the holiday….

Play Goals

We do not quit playing because we grow old; we grow old because we quit playing.  ~Oliver Wendell Holmes

Happier people make time for playing in their lives.  Children are natural players.  Unfortunately, as we age we forget how to play and most of us rarely prioritize it.

Why bother with what seems like a frivolous activity?

In the book Creating Your Best Life, Caroline Adams Miller and Dr. Michael B. Frisch describe the benefits like this:

Playing games and being spontaneous make us smile.  Play goals also often involve learning new habits, making friends, getting fit, laughing, and exploring the world.  Psychologists note that humor is one of the most powerful antidotes to discouragement and pessimism.  Play also often puts us in a state of “flow” – where time stands still and we are completely engaged in the challenges in front of us – and it helps us restore our equilibrium and simply unwind or recharge our batteries when we need it most.

Play goals?  When I first read this – and even now – those two words stood out for me.  Who sets goals to play?

As I think about how I could bring more play into my own life, a few ideas have come to mind.  I’ll share them in hopes of getting your own creative ideas flowing.

I miss playing a musical instrument.  When I was a kid, I bounced from lesson to lesson, learning to play everything from the piano to the bassoon to the bass guitar.  I could set a goal around relearning to play – or I could pick up a new instrument again.

My workouts have become routine and a bit like work.  What could I do that would make working out more fun?  I’m going to do some research.

My teenager plays all the time – but mostly on his XBox.  I’m sure there are ways that we could play together as a family if we put our minds to it.  He’s always asking to play Monopoly! Maybe it’s time to establish a family game night.

Setting play goals.  Sounds odd, but perhaps it’s something we should all do so we don’t lose the playful spirit of our youth.

Balance Work And Play

Hey! Forget about what you think I’m going to say here. You’re thinking that I’m going to tell you to schedule more play time, do less work time. Well, that might be a good idea, but that’s not what I’m going to talk about. Turns out that the type of play you choose can help you out at work. Intrigued?

If you’ve gone to college, been away at a retreat, or spent much of any time in the business world, you’ve likely taken some sort of self-assessment that has labeled you as “ENFP” or “Yellow” or told you that you have a “Driver” personality. And while that is interesting, particularly in relation to how those around you differ from you, what else did you learn to do with the information? Unfortunately, in the context of these learning events there is rarely time to delve much deeper. Here’s one way to take it a step further to apply it in your life.

In the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator assessment I am the above mentioned ENFP. The E = Extroversion which means that my energy increases from being around people. My job, however, rarely requires me to be physically around people. This is actually OK because it gives me opportunity to exercise part of my self/personality/brain/spirit in a way that I wouldn’t naturally be drawn to – and it causes me to grow. It also means that my job can drain my energy more quickly than if I was around people in a more consistent way.

Enter PLAY! What I choose for my leisure activities can impact the energy that work takes from me. In assessing this pattern, I know that I should schedule “play time” that includes people. And so I do! When I get my energy adequately from my time outside of work, I’m loaded up and ready to do my job even when there aren’t that many people around me. Now, if the reverse was true, adding leisure activities like reading, taking nature walks or playing solitaire would challenge me to grow outside of my comfort zone.

Are you someone who loves detail and spends all day looking at the big picture? Add needlework to your relaxation time or volunteer to do the books for your favorite charity. Do you enjoy spontaneity yet spend your days doing the same tasks over and over? Don’t schedule your free time – just pick a location and go there when you have time to explore.

And so yes, I think you should include plenty of play time in your life. Adding play that gives you something different from what you do at work might bring more satisfaction to both work and play.

To dive deeper into this topic, check out Work, Play and Type by Judith A. Provost, Ed.D.

Playful Summer

Preparation for winter begins this week as I select the first of summer’s harvest to stash away for winter.  Summer just began a few days ago and as I blanch spinach to freeze, I am reminded again how fleeting these few precious months of warmth and sunshine are.  Almost in a panic, I realize that I need to get out and play.

Yes, play.

As adults we enjoy recreation.  We socialize.  We relax.  We exercise.  But how often do you get out and really play?  Do you remember the last time you let your playful nature take over?  Maybe you were tubing on the lake with your kids.  Or you created some silly game, spontaneously.  Or perhaps it was when you got the giggles with your close friends.

You know the difference when you begin to play.  Lightheartedness takes over.  Appearing a little ridiculous matters less.  Cares drop away.

It’s been a while since I was playful.  This week, I’m looking for the opportunity.

A Bit Too Bold

While many people must strive for boldness, to others it comes quite naturally.  For you, as with so many things, there is the opportunity to over-do boldness.  To be too assertive.  Brash, even.

Harnessing this strength and figuring out how to use it most effectively can be a challenge.  On the other hand, doing so can also bring tremendous benefit.  Unfortunately, the work that needs to be done often presents itself as something to avoid.  Thoughts like “I need to watch what I say,” or “I should have been less pushy…” are what can come to mind.

More effectively, think about what can be done instead to balance out aggressive behavior.  Choose to listen morePractice patience.  Breathe.

Finding this balance will help to provide direction regarding when to engage boldly.  That said, remember that your boldness is a gift, a strength to be used and enjoyed.  Don’t shift so far in your attempt to balance that you lose who you really are.  You must, after all, boldly be you.

Time For Self-Discovery

When was the last time you discovered something new about yourself?  Dramatic events like leaving or losing a job, changing geographical location, or having a child leave home often create an environment where we may become introspective.  But we don’t have to wait for a dramatic event; we can take a look inward at any time.

What the above-described events do is create space, a noticeable pause.  You see we must be quiet in order to learn about ourselves.  And we must take time.  Time to read.  Time to write things down.  Time to think.

Unfortunately, the most precious, fleeting, consumed thing we have is time, which we often reserve to give to others.  Spending time alone simply to renew seems, somewhat understandably, selfish.

To paraphrase a tweet made by Simon Sinek, we wrestle with the paradox of being selfish and selfless.  True selflessness requires energy and a solid understanding of who we are.  Without that, our acts of generosity can become needy, robotic or inappropriately placed.  To be selfless we must from time to time be selfish.  We must fill the tank.  Put on our own mask before assisting others.

So, when was the last time you discovered something new about yourself?  If it’s been a while, perhaps it’s time to slow down long enough to hear your own thoughts, challenge your ideas, and push yourself a little further than you’ve gone before.

Take A Vacation!

It’s June!  It’s summer!  Where are you going on your summer vacation?  What?  No plans yet?  Yes… you can take a vacation.

You know that vacations improve your health, create stronger connections with your travel partners, and expand your view of the world.  There are those of you who know this and travel; there are those of you who know this and think you can’t.

As I’ve said here before, there’s little else that makes me crazier than hearing “I can’t.”  Here’s a few ways to help you consider how you can.

  • Vacation where you are.  Sure, the “stay-cation” is the latest trend… but there is something to it.  Almost everyone neglects some interesting things in their own city or town that tourists check out when they visit.  Within 100 miles of your home there are bound to be museums, historical sites, hiking or biking trails,  or unique eateries that you haven’t yet explored.  Take a day or a long weekend and check them out.
  • Plan.  When my sister-in-law decided to put away $50 from each paycheck, she had enough money to go to an all-inclusive resort in the tropics within 12-24 months.  Each of her family members did this and they were all able to go together.  Even small amounts add up over time.  Give up your daily coffee or eating out once a week and put it in a travel account.
  • Be prepared.  My husband traveled to Europe for the first time FREE because he had his passport ready to go.  Another friend traveled to China at a reduced cost because a friend asked her to join her on business travel.  If you don’t have a passport, you’ll never get out of the country.  If you do, you might.
  • Make vacationing a priority.  I mentioned this week that my parents were fans of extensive road trips (from Fargo, ND we DROVE to South Padre Island, TX and to Banff in Alberta, Canada – and we’ve done this with our kids as well).  Growing up on a farm, the only way my parents could escape work was to physically leave.  So we did, whether we had money or not.  Years without money included very rustic camping and some hotels we’d rather forget.  But we also created memories that last a lifetime.

Regardless of how you choose to travel, I encourage you to figure out a way to take a real break from the day-to-day.  Because yes, you can take a vacation.

Coaching Challenge: Strengths

You have strengths and you need to be using them.  Every day.  In all that you do.  This week I’m challenging you to do so.

Here we go….

  • Still haven’t taken the time to figure out exactly what your strengths are? Use one or all of these methods to find out a little more about yourself.  Keep in mind, this is NOT something you can ask of someone else – only you know what makes you feel strong so only you can do this work.  Also, each of these looks at strengths from differing angles, so it’s not overkill to do them all.
  • Find ways that you can use your strengths each day.  I described how I do it in yesterday’s post.  Of course, you can’t very effectively do this if you haven’t done the work in the first bullet.  So go, get to it!
  • As Danielle LaPorte suggests, find ways to do more of what you love each day.  I will expand that and add: find ways to do more things that strengthen you each day.  In time you’ll be doing more of what you love and what strengthens you and less of what you loathe and depletes you.

People who use their strengths are happier and more successful, more balanced and less stressed.  All fantastic reasons to focus on that which makes you feel strong.

Find Your Strengths

Most of you think that focusing on your weaknesses and improving them is the path to improved performance.  The data show that about 60% of Americans believe this and it’s even higher in a few other countries.  To be fair, there are areas of weakness I’ve worked to improve – and still work to improve – which has helped me become a better coach, leader and friend.  You can probably think of a few areas where you’ve done this, too.

If we’re lucky, when we improve our weaknesses we’ll neutralize them.  Turn the former area of weakness into “good enough.”

Do you want to be good enough or do you want to be amazing?

I think most of us would rather have amazing than good enough.  Not simply because we’d look better to others but because we FEEL better when we are amazing.  We are happier.

When we use our strengths to meet our biggest challenges, we enter into what psychologists refer to as “flow.”  You’ve been there before: those times when you’re so engrossed in what you are doing that time slips away.  You feel strong in those moments and are using your strengths.

Beyond allowing us to feel amazing, positive psychology studies show that using our signature strengths is a key component to being happy.  The work of Gallup and Marcus Buckingham shows that using our strengths is how to be successful at work and how we find balance in our lives.  If you’d like to more than take my word for it, I encourage you to check out any or all of the works below.

Finally, if you’d like to take a quick survey to find your signature strengths, navigate to www.authentichappiness.org and register for a free account. Once registered, check out the questionnaires and find the VIA Survey of Character Strengths (there’s a lot of other great stuff there, too).  You also can begin on your own by completing this sentence that Marcus Buckingham uses in his workshops: “I feel strong when I…”

However you do it, discover your strengths.