February 11, 2010-MORE ABOUT STRENGTHS

Working from my Strengths

How do I know that I am in the “flow” of using my God-given strengths. What evidence do I have that tells me I am on-track, coming from my optimum self-development?  When I am working, how do I know I am in that flow?

First, I have a state of concentration, and I am focused on what I am doing.  I am fully present.

Second, I have a feeling of satisfaction or absorption in whatever I am doing.  Like a child at play, I am not distracted.  

Third, my feelings are positive. One of the best indicators that I am off track is that I have gathered up negative feelings. When there is a cloud of darkness, doubt, or irritation, I can be certain that I am not operating from strengths.

Fourth, I am in the mindset of possibilities—not feeling constrained or fearful. It is like using my brain to pursue some mystery or curiosity, with the same avid dedication as a dog sniffing some trail and chasing some quarry. These possibilities are exciting and challenging at the same time. It is like working a puzzle and not wanting to stop until I have solved it.

These are autotelic experiences—meaning that they come from within me. They are the true “me”, operating from my own autonomy. I find it to be amusing that I will doggedly pursue some task if I am the one deciding to do the task. I have less interest in pursuing a task assigned from the outside by someone else. If the outside task is interesting and I have mastery of how to do it, there is a better chance I will do it with enthusiasm. Getting to do what I do best is inextricably linked with my positive emotions.  And positive emotions tell me I am working and playing from my base of strengths.

Strengths seem to flourish when autonomy is guaranteed. I am able to perform tasks when I have mastery over that performance. And, if the task seems to have a valid purpose, I will enter it with great intention to perform well.

Motivation is linked to autonomy, mastery, and purpose. Daniel Pink has demonstrated this in his book, “Drive”.  I recommend his book for anyone who is managing other people.  Teachers, parents, business leaders need to know this new development and learn to apply it daily in their relationships to others.

I believe Strengths, as defined in the Clifton StrengthsFinder, are at the heart of motivation. It all goes together in the best possible development of us as human beings.  Knowing what your talents are, knowing what skills and knowledge you need to continue development of those talents, and knowing what motivates you to use those strengths is the secret to growth.  Growth takes place in an atmosphere of safety, belonging, and freedom.  When those are threatened, protection is evoked and the growth stops.

I recall an example from a recent telephone appointment.  I was in conversation with a very successful business man.  He is a manager of a team of great sales people.  His talk was typical of someone calling with a need to sort out current frustrations and challenges.  As we visited, I was so completely absorbed in his story, that the time raced by as if we had talked only a few minutes, even though we used a whole hour of clock time.  Something magical took place.  Time was distorted; his mood shifted from worry and doubt to relief and self confidence; space was contained as if this was the only world there was at the time; and there was a shift of mood, feelings, and creativity.  I cannot recount exactly what I did or what he said.  All I know is that I was in my best strengths mode.  The talent I have for individuation, connectedness, and maximizing seemed to be functioning at top speed and with great efficiency.  I wish I could package this and dole it out to all those out there who listen to others in a counseling or consoling conversation.  I think it has to do with being real.  Both of us were without masks.  Honesty and forthright revelation was happening without being demanded.  There was trust for sure.  I have some years of experience for sure.  Maybe there is an ingredient of “allowing” the best of human mind-brain functioning, coupled with optimism and hope.  I only know that it was magic and I am grateful for that hour of communion with another human being.

So, that is why I wanted to write another post–this time about strengths and putting strengths to work.  My work as a change agent really feels like play.  I do it because it is great fun and brings joy into the world.  And, that is my calling.

My “Life-Long Compass of Joy” comes to mind.  In that magical hour,  both my client and I showed up, listened up, opened up, grew up, lightened up, wised up, linked up, and offered up.

Once more, I have affirmed that I exist, I care, I create, I evolve, I play, I learn, I love, and I work!