Knowing your strengths is as important as knowing your weaknesses when it comes to optimizing performance. Strengths aren’t just those skills that make you perform well. They also make up the best of who you are. Most people are comfortable talking about their own flaws, but might not be as willing to explore their strengths and who they are at their best. Your strengths often reflect your values and how they show up in your daily behavior and attitude. You know you’re operating from strengths when they feel personally authentic, energize rather than exhaust you, and fuel your motivation from within.
If you want to discover your strengths, take the Character Strengths Test on the Values in Action (VIA) Institute on Character’s webpage. But discovering your strengths is just half the battle. The other half is learning how to bring them more fully to your role as a leader, parent, or friend. Here are a few ways to get started:
- Figure out how to creatively use your strengths every day. Doing so can make humdrum things more exciting, or it can help transform tasks that you might not enjoy doing. For example, maybe you really dislike morning PT. If you have the signature strength of “social intelligence,” perhaps you can shift your lens to view your morning workout as a time to connect with others and build friendships.
- Are your strengths getting in your way? The best of who you are can get you into trouble too. Part of using your strengths more effectively comes with thinking about the ways in which they aren’t working. For example, if you have the strength of “humor,” you might have noticed what happens when you crack a joke that’s inappropriate or ill-timed. Try to raise your awareness about how your strengths show up in those situations.
- Examine beliefs that might get in your way. People have beliefs about what they should or need to be in order to fulfill different roles in their lives. For example, you might believe that you can’t bring your character strength of “kindness” while in uniform because others might take advantage of you. You might want to think about whether those beliefs are indeed accurate, and ask yourself what benefits you might see if you try to be more of who you really are.
You probably spend a lot of time thinking about all the ways you need to improve yourself. That’s partly due to negativity bias, and because it’s healthy, functional, and contributes to your growth. To fully optimize your performance, don’t just focus on how to fix your weaknesses: Try to use your strengths to help cope with transitions, recover from illness, and handle other things too. Doing so enables you to be your best version of yourself—no matter where you go.