1. Learn the language
Why even bother building a dialogue around strengths? Surely the words ‘strength’ or ‘strong’ is enough to get the feeling and the benefits across? Not so fast…
The L from L.E.A.R.N is to Learn the language of strengths and can be an important part of developing your own unique blend of strengths. This understanding will enable you to draw, well, strength from them, even when you may not be feeling your best.
Those mornings when you wake up ready to take on the world may not be the time when you need extra motivation the most. It is when you wake up and don’t want to get out of bed that considering the language of your narrative (your inner dialogue and self-talk) can make the difference between playing to your strengths and being your best or having a crappy day!
So what is the language of strengths? First, let’s differentiate ‘strengths’ from ‘skills’.
Strengths tend to be those enduring qualities that come naturally. They energise and excite us and feel completely authentic when we use them. They are not knowledge we have acquired or specific skills we have learned at school or work (such as Excel).
Below is a list of strengths words from some of the key strengths approaches such as VIA (www.viacharacter.org), Strengths Profile (www.strengthsprofile.com) and Clifton Strengths Finder (https://www.gallup.com/cliftonstrengths):
Appreciation of beauty and excellence
Which of these energise and inspire you? Which come naturally to you so that you could apply them to activities you have coming up today/this week? Let’s think about how you can Establish Habits around your key strengths.
2. Establish habits
Are your habits helping or hindering you? How do you leverage your strengths every day?
Our brains are clever things. They like efficiency and saving energy. So if they can do something on auto-pilot they will, even if it doesn’t serve us well or lead to success. So let’s establish some habits that support our strengths and life.
Using the top three strengths from the first activity, let’s think of ways to incorporate these into your daily routine. For example, if you have Listener as a strength, but don’t like exercising, perhaps you could have a walking meeting at work or meet up with a friend and walk while you talk! Perhaps you have Gratitude as a strength, but don’t like managing your money, so incorporating a gratitude exercise for the money you have coming in and for what the money can buy you could help.
Get Creative (especially if that is one of your strengths!) about how you can use your strengths each day. I would love to hear your ideas in the comments section below (I have Learning and Curiosity as two of my strengths, can you tell?!). Sharing is caring – and it helps us practice the strength of Kindness!
3. Acknowledge accomplishments
How often do you give yourself a pat on the back for a job well done? When did you last reward yourself for your accomplishments?
As you build the language of strengths, reflect back on the last week and think about when you used one of your strengths to help you accomplish something. It could have been Perseverance to get a long-overdue task completed, or doing something outside of your comfort zone and risking the untried using your Adventure strength.
Again, share your insights in the comments below – you could be an Enabler for others, give someone Hope, or create Optimism!
4. Recognise resilience
In addition to helping us Acknowledge accomplishments, strengths can also be a useful resilience tool. Consider how to get yourself out of a funk with strengths that really energise you and come more naturally.
Perhaps it could be by Appreciating Beauty and Excellence with a walk in nature, showing Compassion to a family member or colleague, or even some self-Compassion!
5. Notice strengths in others
Finally, the N in L.E.A.R.N is for noticing strengths in others. It could be in your children, and is a powerful tool as part of positive parenting – imagine life as a child, growing up knowing what your strengths are and how to use them! Perhaps you’ll see them share a toy because of their Fairness strength or go out of their comfort zone using their Bravery strength.
You could look out for times when your colleagues demonstrate strengths at work – it can be so rewarding to look for what people are doing well and bring out their best, rather than trying to fix what is wrong. This is what can enable us to flourish and thrive and can help us to build strengths for success both individually and as a community – and who wouldn’t want that?
To understand more about the research, theory and practice of strengths and how they can be applied for positive psychology coaching, check out our ICF-accredited Positive Psychology Coaching and the Strengths-Based Approach course.