Use signature strengths to set and reach your goals

Suppose you set a goal for yourself to become the fastest, most accurate sketcher of military tanks. Now imagine you put in hours each day, practicing with your non-dominant hand and working towards your goal. You struggle, but make slow progress only to realize—months into your effort—how much easier, more enjoyable, and overall better your task would be if you used your dominant hand instead. In the same way, your battle buddies, loved ones, or you might be working towards goals with non-dominant strengths when you could easily be using other strengths that come more natural to you. Reaching your goals are simpler and more fun when you use your dominant—or signature—strengths.

Signature strengths are ones you’re motivated to use on your own, and you feel energized when you put them into action. They also make you feel like you’re at your best. Discover your dominant strengths with HPRC’s “Use Signature Strengths to be Your Best Self!” worksheet. You can boost your motivation, performance, and engagement by applying your signature strengths to your professional and personal goals too.

Are you leaving the best of yourself behind?

If so, make sure you’re using your signature strengths to meet your goals.

It might seem obvious that using your signature strengths would set you up for success to achieve your goals. However, your environment, personal views, or cultural beliefs often can get in the way. Ask yourself the following questions to decide if you might be missing the chance to use your signature strengths to reach your goals.

  • Are there certain beliefs you have about how a Warfighter should act, so you avoid using some of your signature strengths? Perhaps you hold back your kindness or forgiveness to look tough.
  • Do you have a role model who used a particular strength that would be a struggle for you to use? Often seeing others excel at a goal with a certain strength makes it seem like it’s the only way to get those results. For example, if your role model uses humor to motivate and connect with others, and using humor is a struggle for you, maybe you can have the same results with gratitude or social intelligence instead.
  • Do certain people or past experiences make you feel like you need to hold back your signature strengths? Perhaps you had a leader who overly criticized your creativity or curiosity, and it affects your ability to see how you can use those signature strengths to reach your current goals.

Are you leaving the best of yourself behind? If so, make sure you’re using your signature strengths to set and meet your goals.

  1. Write down your goal. For instance, you want to max the Army Combat Readiness Test.
  2. List what you need to do to achieve your goal. For example, you want to shave 30 seconds off your 2-mile run time.
  3. Which obstacles get in your way? For instance, you lack motivation to run.
  4. Brainstorm how you can apply your signature strengths to get things done. For example, try to find a scenic path or trail to apply your signature strength of appreciation of beauty and excellence while running. Or apply your signature strength of love of learning by listening to an interesting podcast during your run.
  5. Create a “When-Then” goal statement (“When [obstacle], then I’ll [effective plan]”) for your signature strength. You might think, “When I’m lacking motivation, then I’ll go for a run while listening to a podcast on something I want to learn about.”

Just like drawing with your dominant hand is simpler, it’s easier to achieve goals with your dominant strengths. Exploring your signature strengths and how you can apply them to accomplish your goals will increase your chances of being successful—and help you enjoy the process. You also can apply your signature strengths to create habits to help meet your goals. To learn more ways to use your signature strengths, read HPRC’s “Who are you at your best?

Resources

Butina, B. L. (2016). An investigation of the efficacy of the using your signature strengths in a new way exercise to enhance strengths use in work settings. Northcentral University, Scottsdale, AZ. Retrieved July 30, 2019 from https://www.academia.edu/35289869/An_Investigation_of_the_Efficacy_of_the_Using_Your_Signature_Strengths_in_a_New_Way_to_Enhance_Strengths_Use_in_Work_Settings 

Forest, J., Mageau, G. A., Crevier-Braud, L., Bergeron, É., Dubreuil, P., & Lavigne, G. L. (2012). Harmonious passion as an explanation of the relation between signature strengths’ use and well-being at work: Test of an intervention program. Human Relations, 65(9), 1233–1252. doi:10.1177/0018726711433134

Ghielen, S. T. S., van Woerkom, M., & Christina Meyers, M. (2017). Promoting positive outcomes through strengths interventions: A literature review. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 1–13. doi:10.1080/17439760.2017.1365164

Linley, P. A., Nielsen, K. M., Gillett, R., & Biswas-Diener, R. (2010). Using signature strengths in pursuit of goals: Effects on goal progress, need satisfaction, and well-being, and implications for coaching psychologists. International Coaching Psychology Review, 5(1), 6–15.

Madden, W., Green, S., & Grant, A. M. (2011). A pilot study evaluating strengths-based coaching for primary school students: Enhancing engagement and hope. International Coaching Psychology Review, 6(1), 71–83.