Saturday, December 03, 2005

Curious about Strengths - Are You Soaring with Yours?

“Why do we continue to focus all our energies on fixing weaknesses while ignoring strengths? Why do we continue to work at some activities without getting much better at them? Why do 80 percent of our New Year’s resolutions stay n our lists year after year?” These questions come from Donald O. Clifton’s and Paula Nelson’s book, Soar with Your Strengths.

Last February, I wrote a blog about the book, Now, Discover Your Strengths, by Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton. So, I was delighted to find the Soar with Your Strengths book mentioned on and immediately ordered it. I haven’t finished reading it completely, yet, have been pleased to be reminded of the philosophy, “Find out what you do well and do more of it. Find out what you don’t do well and stop doing it.” I feel that revisiting this philosophy - especially at this time of year - is important.

Interesting to note that the Discover book - which I found usable and right on target - was published in 2001; while the Soar book - which I am finding to have some ideas I don’t completely agree with - was published in 1992.

I agree with the original premise that organizations, schools, parents, and even all of us tend to focus on fixing our weaknesses rather than embracing and working on achieving excellence in our strengths. One glaring example is that when I looked for quotes, there were quite a few more listed for the word “weaknesses” than the word “strengths.”

A couple of quotes that combined both:
  • Ray Lee Hunt went so far as to suggest, “It's more important to know your weaknesses than your strengths.”
  • And Lois Wyse observed, “Men are taught to apologize for their weaknesses, women for their strengths.”

You may be wondering what ideas in the original book I don’t agree with, since I do advocate knowing and working on our strengths. If you know my background and beliefs at all, you realize that I have several careers at the same time - thus my “Portfolio Career.” I thrive in this environment and feel that I use my strengths in all of them.

That is the difference. In the more recent book, Buckingham and Clifton - using their StrengthsFinder assessment - acknowledge five signature strengths. In the earlier book, Clifton and Nelson agree that we all have several strengths, but suggest strongly that we focus our energies and time on one - and only one - to become successful. Since February I have used and improved upon my five signature strengths. My business, with all of its parts and what some would call digressions, has grown and I have soared.

How about a few quotations to support the theory:

  • I agree with Barbara Bush when she said, “If human beings are perceived as potentials rather than problems, as possessing strengths instead of weaknesses, as unlimited rather that dull and unresponsive, then they thrive and grow to their capabilities.”
  • Lee R. Raymond got it when he proposed, “We should seek a system that provides outlets for those skills and talents so that everyone can find a way to work and serve in a manner that best suits the strengths of each individual.”
  • And William Pollard summed it all up with, “In examining the potential of individuals, we must focus on their strengths and not just their mistakes. We cannot be limited by what they may have spilled in the kitchen.”

So, as we work on our resolutions and/or goals for 2006, I suggest we consider and plan to enhance our strengths. We will achieve a place to which we will soar!

Note: if you would like to revisit the February 2005 blog about strengths, click HERE.