Focusing on Our Strengths

A young boy, full of energy and rhythm, unconsciously thumps on his desk at school with his hands. Sometimes he taps his feet on the floor in counterpoint. His teachers complain to his mother about this noise describing it as a distraction, although her son is doing very well in school. Rather than discouraging this behavior, the mother encourages it by getting her son a drum set. The boy grows up to be a musician and his favored instrument is the drum. What occurred easily and unconsciously for the young boy became his livelihood as a man.

In this culture we tend to notice our failures. Bad grades, negative criticism, our less attractive features both physically and emotionally, “character flaws”. Each time we pay more attention to those “weaknesses” we give them more power to affect us in the future. What if we did the opposite: focused on our assets. We succeed far more than we fail every day. Why not notice our strengths and build on them?


This positive messaging is behind StrengthsFinder 2.0 (Rath, 2007), which includes a test that one can take online. The test analyzes our skills and comes up with 5 main personal attributes that emphasize what we do best. Instead of trying to build up weaker skills, the authors advocate utilizing our current best skills to move forward. Sometimes what comes easily is what is best for us to do. A 5’6” male, weighing 130 lbs., with a bent towards telling jokes would be more content with life as a stand-up comic rather than as a piano mover. Similarly, a tall, thin, blond female with a brain that finds bioengineering not only intriguing but also a breeze would be happier in a lab than on a catwalk.


When I took the StrengthsFinder 2.0 test, I was surprised at how accurately my strengths were portrayed: Activator, Achiever, Strategic, Connectedness and Ideation. Focusing on these five assets, I understood how I had used them throughout my life to create positive events and relationships.


In particular, being an Activator has been a consistent theme. I find I am most happy when I am moving and helping to motivate others. It’s not surprising that I made my career in dance: constant motion in a disciplined fashion is how dance technique is honed. There is no need for debate and discussion when you are communicating non-verbally through movement. Although I do enjoy discussion, analysis, and deliberation, there comes a time when I am done with all of that and am impatient to start acting.


In fact, I’ve earned the nickname “Action Girl” from one of my loved ones. He knows when I am chomping at the bit after a long conversation and am ready to “go”! Rather than view this need to act as a fault, I’ve turned this personal characteristic into a positive force in my life.


Let’s appreciate and lead with our strengths rather than focusing on our weaknesses.


Enough already! Let’s dance!


Copyright © 2011, Sheila Peters. All rights reserved.