Play To Your Strengths: Life Design 101 Series

Posted by Olena Mytruk

This is the most underrated topic in the personal growth and discovery space: personal strengths.

Way too often, we hear that the best way for us to get better is to address our weaknesses.

I strongly disagree with this.

Before we get into why, I want to share a story.

In the previous few blog posts, we covered Life Domains and Core Values. You can also read about the foundational principles of Life Design here and here.

PLAY TO YOUR STRENGTHS: A QUICK STORY

As a family, we go to the rock climbing gym.

The three of us started doing this about a year ago. My daughter Dasha went rock climbing with her summer campmates, and when she got home, she told us how excited she was.

I had never rock climbed in my life. I was looking forward to it, but I am terrified of heights.

It’s one of my biggest phobias in life.

I was curious to see what it would look like for me and how I would deal with it.

So, we get to the gym, and there are all these ropes. You know it’s secure and see people of all physical shape variations having fun.

I attach my rope and start climbing.

I’m doing great until…

I look down.

I’m a few meters off the ground, and that insane fear starts to creep in. I’m terrified and can’t think how to get back down.

Dasha sees me struggling and says, “Mom, just let it go! Just jump! It’s so fun.”

And she jumps off the wall and lets go.

I can’t do that.

I keep telling myself to release my fingers. That I won’t fall. But it’s not working. I can’t do it.

I climbed down because I couldn’t jump. That fear in my head was blocking any sense of logic.

And then I try again. I check the connection. I check my rope. I start breathing slowly and deeply as I climb up. I also try to remember moments in my life when I was scared of something, but I was brave enough to do it anyway, and that feeling of pride that comes after.

I want to experience that pride and feeling of accomplishment, so I let go.

It took me a minute to release my fingers, and it was one of the most terrifying moments in my recent life. But it was also the most satisfying.

I’m alive! My daughter and husband are cheering me on, and I feel amazing.

The reason I’m telling this story?

I’m telling you this story because it’s directly related to today’s topic — Personal Strengths.

And it’s not just about having strengths because we all have them.

It’s about recognizing and bringing in your Personal Strengths when you need them.

COLLECT YOUR PERSONAL STRENGTHS

Imagine a cookie jar. You put some cookies in there, and when you want something sweet, you grab a cookie.

The same is true for Personal Strengths.

The four core components of Life Design are:

Right now, of course, we’re talking about Personal Strengths.

You collect your Personal Strengths when you do something that makes you feel proud of yourself.

Then, when you need that energy to overcome a challenge, open that jar and find the right cookie. You eat it, and then you can do it.

This is what Personal Strengths is all about and why it’s such a key part of Life Design.

In last week’s blog post, we talked about Core Values — understanding what’s important in your life. 

Once you know what’s important, you can set your priorities

Playing To Your Strengths Isn’t Always Easy

Once you pick the most important things and start living with your values, you may run into some challenges.

Some things are easy to say no to, but others might be extremely difficult.

Things might not go as planned, or you start seeing some failures that require you to fall and stand back up.

It requires strength.

And without us understanding all the strengths we already have and knowing how to bring those strengths forward when we need them, we won’t go far.

We won’t achieve those big goals aligned with our values because it requires strength. 

Strength is your driving force.

If you’re in a car, you set a destination on the map. You know what goal you want to accomplish. You can see your values as a compass or navigation system.

But if you run out of gas, you won’t be going anywhere.

Strengths are the fuel that will help you create and keep that momentum, especially when things get hard.

WHAT ARE PERSONAL STRENGTHS

The definition of Personal Strength is a positive quality or ability of yours that allows you to feel and perform at your best.

Strength is a feeling and an action. We feel the power within us to go ahead and do something.

And once we accomplish the activity, we feel accomplished, satisfied, and proud.

But how do you first step back and bring your mental capacity to a state where you can actually self-reflect and think rationally?

Because when you’re in that moment of fear, you’re not thinking clearly.

It’s very hard to come up with any solution or decision when you’re in a state of fear or stress.

  1. You need to zoom out and calm down.
  2. You need to use your strengths to find that energy or courage to help push you forward.

So, having and recognizing which strengths you have and can use day-to-day is very important.

Another important aspect of Personal Strengths is that they boost self-confidence!

Confidence, by definition, is a feeling of self-assurance arising from someone’s appreciation of their own qualities and abilities.

BUILD CONFIDENCE BY PLAYING TO YOUR STRENGTHS

So many of us are looking for ways to build self-confidence and self-esteem, but really, the only way to do this is to use our strengths every day.

And at the end of the day, ask yourself what went well. What made you proud of yourself?

Then, dive deep into what the strengths were that you used to make that experience happen.

Keep a journal of this.

On the one hand, you start collecting those cookies for your cookie jar, and as the jar gets fuller and fuller, you are building up confidence.

It’s a step-by-step process that will only require five minutes a day.

At the end of the day, when you’re lying in bed, just ask yourself those questions and reflect on them.

You’ll be amazed by how much more powerful you feel in just a few weeks.

Many People Confuse Personal Strengths With Skills

When we’re skilled at something, we perform at our best. The same goes for strengths. 

So what’s the difference?

The difference is how it makes us feel.

When we’re engaging our strengths, we don’t just do something good. We feel good and more energized.

When we do something using our skills, we’re potentially on autopilot. It doesn’t necessarily light us up from within or affect our mental state one way or another.

Have you ever noticed a moment where you were in the zone?

You lose track of time, you’re loving what you’re doing, and you’re good at it.

This is a good sign that you’re engaging your core Personal Strengths.

The more you notice these moments, the more you can create them intentionally.

This is what it means to live your life by design.

It’s not by accident. It’s about creating intentional moments in various Life Domains

Using your strengths creates energy, and we need energy to live and push forward and achieve our goals.

HOW TO FIND YOUR CORE PERSONAL STRENGTHS

Each of us has a unique strengths profile consisting of maybe five top strengths that we use daily.

Now, it’s time to start noticing what they are.

That’s not always easy in a world where we’re trained to notice our weaknesses, but there’s an exercise you can do to spot your own strengths.

Start by asking yourself this question at the end of the day.

What went well today? What did I do well today?

You might struggle to come up with even one example, but try to come up with at least one.

You can also look at your entire life up to this point.

What are some key moments when one chapter of your life ended and another began?

What was so pivotal about those moments? How were you feeling and behaving?

Try to dive deep.

You can even ask people you’re close with. They provide a unique perspective that’s usually a little kinder on us than we are on ourselves.

Weaknesses vs. Strengths

Many of us are taught that the best way to get better is to work on our weaknesses.

Nobody teaches us to maximize our strengths.

It’s a very hard mindset shift, but I have an exercise that may help you.

  1. Think about some activity or task that you’re not very good at. You struggle to do it well.
  1. In your mind, try to formulate a 12-month goal to improve this skill to a decent level.
  1. Think about how you’re feeling in the process of coming up with that plan.
  1. Now, think about some activity or skill or aspect of your life where you’re particularly good at it.
  1. Now, come up with a 12-month plan to improve this skill and take it to the next level.

How did you feel during these two different processes?

Making a plan to improve something you struggle with might bring up feelings of anxiety or exhaustion, while planning to improve skills you already excel at may bring on feelings of excitement and confidence.

So my question to you is…

Why do we have to fight ourselves?

Instead of fighting against our weaknesses and trying to fix them, why don’t we maximize our strings and build up that momentum, which will naturally address our weaknesses?

Let’s focus on what we’re already good at and what we love.

Once you master that mindset shift, everything changes in your life.

You now have the energy, the power, and the confidence to push back, to stand by your priorities, and to make what’s important in your life actually happen.

In the next blog post, we’ll talk about the last key component of Life Design — goals

With that component, we’ll bring together all the knowledge we’ve gained to design your life.

Until next time.

Olena xx

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