This week I read the illuminating book by Marcus Buckingham titled Now, Discover Your Strengths. As the title very clearly suggests, the book gives an accurate and powerful outline of your unique and individual strengths and talents which are identified by the innovative internet based StrengthsFinder Profile.

Buckingham beautifully illustrates that through social and cultural upbringings we have been taught to focus on developing our weaknesses in order to become ordinary, well-rounded people instead of really developing and focusing on our innate strengths and thereby becoming extraordinary people. We have been taught that fitting in and being mediocre is more valuable and socially accepted than acknowledging that we all have weaknesses in certain areas, instead of recognising that when we do what we naturally excel at and develop those skills we can achieve mastery and beyond. What is suggested therefore is that we allow others to take on the tasks which are our weaknesses and their strengths and work on developing our natural talents to a fine art for the good of the greater community and society as in this way we can contribute the most.

In the book Now, Discover Your Strengths it is also assumed that:

  1. Each person’s talents are enduring and unique.
  2. Each person’s greatest room for growth is in the area of his or her greatest strengths.
  3. Developing you strengths is also more of a threat to most people.

The StrengthsFinder Profile was developed through interviewing over 20 million people throughout the past 30 years in an enormous range of diverse knowledge, skills and talent. Over time certain patterns were observed which were whittled down to 34 of the most prevalent themes of human talent. Buckingham goes on to clarify that individuals are too infinitely varied to be able to capture every single human idiosyncrasy however in all the different possible combinations of talents the 34 themes offer the most accurate measurement of your strengths and talents available to date.

  • As you study these 5 themes (the StrengthsFinder Profile spits out your 5 most prevalent talents) and consider ways to apply what you have learned, keep this thought in mind: The real tragedy of life is not that each of us doesn’t have enough strengths, it’s that we fail to use the ones we have.

I took the test and here are my 5 greatest strengths and talents in rank order:

  1. Strategic: The strategic theme enables you to sort through the clutter and find the best route. Is is not a skill that can be taught. It is a distinct way of thinking, a special perspective on the world at large. This perspective allows you to see patterns where others simply see complexity. Mindful of these patterns, you play out alternative scenarios, always asking, “What if this happened?” This recurring question helps you see around the next corner. There you can evaluate accurately the potential obstacles. guided by where you see each path leading, you start to make selections. You discard the paths that lead nowhere. You discard the paths that lead straight into resistance. You discard the paths that lead into a fog of confusion. You cull and make selections until you arrive at the chosen path – your strategy. Armed with strategy, you strike forward. This is your strategic theme at work: “What if?”. Select. Strike.
  2. Maximiser: Excellence, not average, is your measure. Taking something from below average to slightly above average takes a great deal of effort and time and in your opinion is not very rewarding. Transforming something strong into something superb takes just as much effort but is much more thrilling. Strengths, whether yours or someone else’s, fascinate you. Like a diver after pearls, you search them out, watching for telltale signs of a strength. A glimpse of untutored excellence, rapid learning, a skill mastered without recourse to steps – all these are clues that strengths may be in play. And having found a strength, you feel compelled to nurture it, refine it and stretch it towards excellence. You choose to spend time with people who appreciate your particular strengths. Likewise you are attracted to those who seem to have found and cultivated their own strengths. You don’t want to spend your life bemoaning what you lack. Rather, you want to capitalise on the gifts with which you are blessed. It’s more fun. It’s more productive. And counterintuitively, it is more demanding.
  3. Futristic: The future fascinates you. You are a dreamer who sees visions of what could be and who cherishes those visions. Very often people look to you to describe your visions of the future. They want a picture that can raise their sights and thereby their spirits. You can paint it for them. Choose your words carefully. Make the picture as vivid as possible. People want to latch on to the hope that you bring.
  4. Ideation: You are fascinated by ideas. An idea is a connection. Yours is the kind of mind that is always looking for connections and so you are intrigued when seemingly disparate phenomena can be linked by an obscure connection. You revel in taking the world we all know and turning it around so we can view it from a strange and strangely enlightening angle. Others may label you creative or original or conceptual. What is sure it that ideas are thrilling to you, and on most days this is enough.
  5. Input: You are inquisitive. the world is exciting precisely because of its infinite variety and complexity. You read, not necessarily to refine your theories but rather to add more information to your archives. You like to travel because each location offers novel experiences. Its interesting, it keeps your mind fresh. And perhaps one day some of it will prove valuable.

If I am being completely honest (and I always try to be), I believe that the StrengthsFinder Profile test is extremely accurate, however I must admit that my initial reaction was that the results took me by surprise.

I had imagined to have quite different strengths and talents to the ones that I do have as described above, but having taken some time to really think about it, I recognise these within myself. It is just that they are such a natural part of me I wouldn’t consider them talents but more of a innate and very normal way of being. Now my challenge is to find ways to develop and integrate these into my daily life and work!

I absolutely recommend this book to anyone who is looking to excel in life and what they do, as well as learn more about themselves! I believe that understanding oneself can be an essential precursor to accepting oneself.

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