Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Strengths-based Self-Growth

You can accelerate and enhance your personal development and self-growth by actively using a Strengths-based approach.

Many of us have an intimate awareness of our weaknesses but we are barely even familiar with our strengths. We can provide a highly detailed map of our failings and failures, shortcomings and shortfalls, inadequacies and insufficiencies. But we are a lot less articulate when it comes to recognising our skills and successes, talents and virtues, competencies and capabilities.

What underlies this is an assumption that we might make our greatest strides at self-development by knowing and mitigating our weaknesses. There’s a growing realisation that this is not true. A deficit-based approach to development and improvement actually results in little progress at the expense of a lot of time and effort. What we focus on is what manifests and grows in our lives. So, not surprisingly, when we operate out of a paradigm focused on “What’s wrong/What’s missing”, we end up with something different or less than what we actually want.

A Strengths-based approach has a lot more depth than adjusting your viewpoint from negative to positive. It is an empowerment strategy that involves recognising and putting to good use your genuine strengths. It builds on existing competencies and develops new capacities for problem-solving, addressing concerns, for learning and coping with challenges. It is an increasingly widely-used approach in many fields – education, corporate human resource management, coaching. Research has shown that people engaged in even ‘light’ Strengths-based interventions report that focusing on their strengths resulted in:
- making better choices in their lives
- increased productivity
- and, improved self-confidence

But you don’t need to sign up for an intervention or employ an expert – this is something you can do for yourself.

There are 3 main phases of individual Strengths-based development:
Self-Awareness: An inventory of strengths
Self-Definition: Integrating knowledge of strengths into one’s view of self
Self-Empowerment: Doing things differently

An Inventory of Strengths
Make this a ‘living’ document that you can add to on your journey of self-discovery. Taking on an ‘observer” role - look at every aspect of your being and identify your strengths and particularly focus on your natural talents.
Some prompts are:
What are your best qualities and offerings in your life roles – as friend/ partner/ parent/ relative/ colleague/ employee/ employer/ supplier/ customer/ community member/ volunteer/ mentor/ student?
What are the best qualities about the way you see and think about the world?
What talents or strengths are suggested by your dreams, longings, passions and urges?
Think of an event or events in your life that you really enjoyed – what strengths or talents underpinned your delight?
Make a list of things that you have learnt rapidly and easily in your life – what strengths or talents underpinned that learning?
Can you identify any themes in your list of talents?

Integrating Your Strengths
Now, imagine you have been employed to write a truthful, positive biography of a person – yourself. You have been given an inventory of their strengths and some suggested themes of talent. Write this biography and focus on providing this person with a new language of success. Read this biography often and tell others about it.

Doing Things Differently
Review your personal development and self-growth goals and intentions. If you haven’t articulated this well, take some time to think and write about where you want to be in three years time. Consider your loves, friendships, family, work, prosperity, leisure, learning, environment, physical health, your contribution to the greater good…
Where do you want to be?
Review your biography and your list of strengths and talents. Identify the personal resources you most need to bridge the gap between now and where you want to be. Draw on the strengths and talents you already have. Commit to being in service to yourself. Act, apply your own strengths.

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