Now discover your strengths (and what to do with them)

Have you ever experienced looking for an answer and having just the right book or person cross your path? I’ve had this happen so many times in my life that I no longer believe in coincidences

Lately, I was reflecting on what motivates me. Every expert and coach (myself included) will tell you that, in order to achieve any goal, you need to be clear on what fuels you.

There are many different ways to find your fuel. You can journal and envision what you desire for your life and career. You can take inventory of your values. You can think about your hobbies and how you would spend your days if money were no object.

I did it all, but somehow these techniques were falling flat with me. And then I realized that when we are in the flow, we feel incredibly focused and motivated to achieve a certain result.

What does being in the flow mean?

According to positive psychologist  Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, flow describes the mental state of  “being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost.”

So the question becomes, how can you achieve this flow?

I believe that we get this sense of being in the zone when we are tackling a challenge and feel competent enough to succeed.

Flow is found at the intersection between our core strengths and our will to overcome some obstacle or reach an inspiring goal.

Enters in the equation a book by Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton called Now, Discover Your Strengths.

I first heard about this book through one of my mentors, Marie Forleo. Then, I saw a friend of mine – who’s an HR person at Shell – carry it around as part of some work that he was doing.

I took this double cue and got a copy of my own. I just finished reading it and was not disappointed.

Buckingham and Clifton contend that we should all discover and build on our strengths. That is the secret to unleashing our brilliance.

Most people and organizations spend a ton of time and effort trying to overcome their weaknesses. That is a waste of energy and money, the authors say.

We can certainly learn different skills and increase our competences in areas in which we’re not naturally endowed. But becoming outstanding at something takes more: it requires talent. And talent is innate.

Each of us has a unique set of thought patterns. It has to do with the way our brains are wired. If you want to get spiritual about it: it’s related to your higher purpose.

Your true talents don’t change much over a lifetime. The best you can do for yourself, your loved ones you and the world is figure-out where your genius lies and leverage it! This will inform your career choices, and help you create a more prosperous and fulfilling life.

Here is a 3-step plan to get you started.

Step 1: Discover Your Strengths

Pick-up your own copy of Now, Discover Your Strengths. Each book comes with a unique code on the back cover. You can use that code to access the StrengthsFinder® test online.

The test takes only about 20 minutes to complete and, by the end of it, you will know what your five top signature themes (a.k.a. strengths) are. This will give you great insight on what motivates you and what types of roles are a good fit for you.

For example, my top themes are: Competition, Achiever, Futuristic, Strategic and Activator. This means that I thrive in competitive environments, am strong on big picture view, and always have a vision for the future. Arguably, I could make an equally good investment banker, strategist, consultant, or coach.

What the StrengthsFinder® test won’t tell you is what your exact vocation is and which industry you should be working in. That’s why I recommend taking step 2.

Step 2: Identify Your Interests

Notice what you’re interested in and passionate about. What do you always read about? What are your hobbies? What fields excite you most?

Beauty, Fitness, Luxury, Love and Personal Development are things that make me tick. What are five industries or topics that make you sparkle?

Compare them to your strengths, and you’ll start drawing the portrait of the exact roles that you would most enjoy and be awesome at.

Step 3: Evaluate Your Values

Know what’s most important to you. This will define your desired lifestyle.

If you’re not yet clear on your life prioritiesread this article that I wrote about the real reason why successful women quit great jobs.

Once you know your priorities, cross-check them with the career options you identified in steps 1 and 2.

In my case, Love, Family, Health and Career are among my top values. This means, that while I could make a great management consultant, the hectic schedule with weekly travels is not a good fit for me. Coaching, on the other hand, is a better match for my interests and strengths, especially if I can infuse the fun elements of beauty, fitness, luxury and romance in my brand.