A Shortcut "Life Hack" for Finding Your Purpose

Consider for a moment the possibility that your personal strengths are not just one of life's cruel jokes, but rather the very gifts that you have been put here on Earth to share.  You weren't given these gifts to be frustrated by them, but rather to use them to make things better for yourself and the people around you.

Just as a fish is supposed to swim and a rose is supposed to bloom, let's assume that your purpose is also ultimately about doing the things that you are naturally good at for the benefit of yourself and others. So for the time being, instead of wasting any more time anxiously wondering, questioning, or doubting what you should really be doing with your life, try this shortcut or "life hack" for living out your purpose today:

Effective immediately, your purpose is to use your strengths to make a positive difference in the lives of others.

So what does this really mean?  First it means getting to know your own strengths.  What natural talents do you have that are both energizing to you and beneficial to the people around you?  If you can't name your own strengths easily, using an assessment like the VIA Character Strengths Survey is a great place to start. Once you have the results from your assessment, spend some time figuring out exactly how you prefer to utilize your signature strengths in your daily life. Spy on yourself.  How do you already enjoy using your strengths? Do you naturally enjoy connecting people to each other or doing research on topics that interest you? Perhaps you enjoy making other people feel appreciated or you lose track of time while creating new ways of doing things?  Be specific in naming things that you like to do that involve your strengths.

Second, once you are clear on the types of things you love to do with your strengths, begin to act on the assumption that you should be offering your strengths for the benefit of yourself and others in all the places you spend your valuable time.  Your strengths are how you add value and make a contribution, so make a personal vow to look for ways to share them in every aspect of your life.  How can you use your strengths to make a positive contribution at work, at school, in your neighborhood, and with your family and friends?  How can you help wherever you are? Don't wait to be asked. Sharing your strengths is living out your purpose.  You will feel great when you see yourself making a difference for others by sharing your talents and doing the things that you love. Also, try making a list of all the main areas of your life and then figure out how your strengths and passions could be helpful to others in each of those areas.

Once you a) know your strengths, b) understand the ways you most enjoy using them, and c) have a sense of how they could help in all of the places where you are already spending your time, then the right time to start sharing your strengths is now...as in immediately...as in  "Why haven't you started already?"  Soon you won't be wondering what to do with your life because you will be so busy doing it.

The world is always, always, always in need of people who are willing to share their strengths, so here's to you and your new life of purpose!

Host a Family Strengths Night at Your School!

In one fun and special evening, you can help your school become "a place of strengths" where everyone's unique gifts are recognized and celebrated. But how, you might ask? By hosting a Family Strengths Night!

A Family Strengths Night is a fun evening full of conversation, games, and activities in which students and families learn more about strengths, why they matter, and how we can all identify and encourage the unique strengths in ourselves, our families, and in our schools.

But first, do you know what strengths are and why they matter? Our character strengths are the best parts of who we are.  They are the positive qualities we demonstrate such as creativity, perseverance, curiosity, gratitude, love, and leadership, to name just a few. Each of us has a unique combination of these strengths. When we use the character strengths that come most naturally to us, also known as our "signature strengths," we not only make a positive contribution to the people around us, we also feel happier, more engaged, more energized, and more motivated.  We achieve more and we learn faster. We are more creative and we bounce back from setbacks more quickly. Our strengths truly bring out the best in us! They are what we are good at, what makes us feel good, and how we “do good” for ourselves and others.

Decades of research have proven that using your character strengths is an essential component of personal well-being, academic achievement, student motivation, creating positive relationships, and creating a positive school climate. But even those of us who know that using our strengths is a key element of success and well-being still don't always know how to begin identifying and leveraging our own personal strengths…or how to start helping our children understand their unique strengths.

 So here comes All Our Strengths to the rescue!  Using the free downloadable Host a Family Strengths Night guide and other resources that are available at www.allourstrengths.com, you now have everything thing you need to host a fun Family Strengths Night at your school that:

  • Educates families about why strengths matter;
  • Helps children (and their grown-ups!) identify some of their signature strengths;
  • Shows families how to identify and talk about strengths;
  • Recognizes and celebrates the strengths within your school community;
  • Encourages students, staff, and families to act as Community Strengths Champions™ within your school.

 Although the activities in my Host a Family Strengths Night guide can be used with any list of strengths or strengths assessment tool, I especially recommend their use to help teach the character strengths that are identified in the phenomenal VIA (Values in Action) Character Strengths survey.  The VIA Survey is a free, scientifically-validated self-assessment tool that helps individuals determine their signature strengths out of a list of 24 strengths that are valued in almost every culture. There are youth and adult versions of the VIA Survey in multiple languages making it an excellent choice or working with people in schools and families, in addition to those in workplaces and organizations. www.allourstrengths.com/resources

 After participating in your Family Strengths Night, students and families will leave with fun ideas, practical tips, and easy strategies that they can use to see and share their strengths both at home and at school. And celebrating everyone's strengths will also help to foster and deepen positive relationships and build a welcoming, inclusive culture in your school! So download the free Host a Family Strengths Night guide at www.allourstrengths.com/resources start planning an event at your school today!

What Now? 10 Great Things to Do After Taking a Strengths Assessment

After the initial rush of excitement that comes from taking a strengths assessment and starting to recognize your own strengths, it's easy to get confused about what to do next. We all hear the advice about developing and using our strengths, but what does that really mean exactly?  Without some clear strategies in mind, it is easy for your strengths results to eventually end up unused in a stack of papers on your desk…or even worse, to land in your recycling bin!  So here is a list of 10 great things to do after you have completed your strengths assessment of choice (i.e., VIA Character Strengths Survey, Clifton StrengthsFinder). Try these any or all of these ideas for yourself or share them with others if you are a Community Strengths Champion™!

  1. Read your assessment results thoroughly and make note of or underline some of the phrases that really speak to you. This might sound like common sense, but you'd be surprised how many people just glance at the summary of their strengths results without really reading them thoroughly and thinking about them.
  2. Have a debriefing conversation about your results with someone who understands the subject of strengths. (Don't know anyone you can speak with about your strengths results? Send me an email at sonya@allourstrengths.com and I will help you get started…)
  3. Find a buddy (or several buddies!) who will work on your strengths with you for 3 months of concentrated effort. For example, encourage a friend to take the same assessment and then meet once a week to encourage and coach each other. You and your friend can work through the rest of the items on this list together. And if your assessment results include some suggested activities for developing your particular strengths, you and your friend can do some of those activities together as well.
  4. Share your results with some of the primary peoplein your life and get their feedback. Ask them:  How have you seen this strength show up in me?
  5. Pick one strength at a time to really study and understand how it shows up in you.  Observe yourself and look for signs of this strength that are already present in your life.  Think about opportunities in your life that could be improved by using this strength proactively. Look for examples of this strength being used successfully in the world around you, or even in books, thenews or the movies. Do this activity for each of your Top 5 strengths.
  6. Rewrite the definition of each of your strengths in your own words.  It will be hard to really know and use your strengths until you can articulate what they mean to you. What does each of your Top 5 strengths look like in you?
  7. Think of 3 to 5 things you have done that you are really proud of and then list how your strengths contributed to those accomplishments.
  8. Look for signs of your strengths in your childhood memories.  What are your earliest memories of having your strengths?
  9. Think of a job, role or activity where you really excelled and then write down how your strengths helped you to be successful with it.
  10. Give yourself a one-week challenge and intentionally try to use one of your strengths in a new or different way for 7 days in a row.  To make it even more fun, do this challenge with a friend and talk about what you have each discovered about yourselves at the end of the week.
  11. Wait a minute?  Number 11? You caught me.  Yes, this is supposed to be a list of 10 suggested activities, but the beauty and power of strengths is that when we are using our strengths, we are naturally energized and motivated to do more.  So here's a bonus suggestion for you: Make a list of the things that you are particularly good at or love to do because of your strengths. Be sure to include at least 1 activity or behavior for each of your Top 5 strengths. Use this list to help you evaluate opportunities that come your way. The more chances you have to use the behaviors on your list, the more you will enjoy a given activity!

Whenever you need to motivate yourself or bring new energy to your life, try one of the suggestion on this list.  Most of them can easily be repeated as a way to reconnect with your strengths from time to time.

I hope this list is helpful to you and helps you get started on a lifetime of knowing, growing, and showing strengths!

If you have never taken a strengths assessment before, two great ones to try are the Values in Actions (VIA) Survey (http://www.viacharacter.org/www/) and the Clifton StrengthsFinder (http://www.gallupstrengthscenter.com/Purchase ).

Be a Transformer

Transformers are not just for the movies! Sure, Transformers are animated action-hero robots who can change into vehicles and other useful objects as needed to battle evil doers. But whenever we use our personal strengths to transform a mundane task into a more meaningful experience, we are showing that we too have the power to be transformers. We can also do this for others when we help them recognize and use their unique strengths.

Figuring out how to use our strengths to transform tasks that we personally find boring or drainingcan even become its own fun and challenging game.  So is anyone up for a round of “Strengths Transformer?” The best part of this game is that everyone wins when we are able find a way to transform previously unappealing jobs into more engaging projects. So how do we start? Simply by asking what I call my “Magic Strengths-Activating Question”:

Based on what I know about my strengths, what can I do to make this project more interesting to me?

 Feel free to substitute the word “interesting” with “energizing,” “meaningful,” “engaging” or how about just plain “fun”?  Any of these words will do the trick and help unleash the strengths-activating magic. The next thing you know, another mind-numbing chore has been transformed into an opportunity to play to your strengths.

For example, one of my many roles sometimes requires me to be the final approver on a seemingly unending pile of applications. When the repetitive nature of the work starts to feel draining and overwhelming, I have learned to shift my focus to helping the individual people who have filled out the applications, rather than on the actual stack of forms. Even though I don't really love the administrative process of reviewing the applications, I love being the person who can help someone get closer to accomplishing an important personal or career goal. Behind each of those applications is a person with a story who I would naturally like to help since one of my own passions is helping people reach their dreams. When I focus on helping the individual applicants cut through the red tape and fulfill the program requirements, I am much more creative and resourceful because I have the opportunity to draw on some of my natural areas of talent such as Positivity, Strategic, and Includer (as defined by the Clifton StrengthsFinder assessment) or Love, Perspective, and Fairness (as defined by the VIA Character Strengths Survey). I leave my calls with these applicants feeling energized and ready to take on the next challenge instead of feeling sorry for myself that I have so many applications still to review. And the applicants on the other end of the phone are also more energized and strengthened as a result of interacting with me at my helpful best.

So think about your own dreaded tasks and challenge yourself to a game of Strengths Transformer sometime soon.  Or be a Community Strengths Champion™ and support the people around you in transforming their challenges using the power of their strengths. The next time you or someone you want to help is procrastinating about something that you would really rather pass along to someone else, ask the “Magic Strengths-Activating Question”: Based on what I know about my strengths, what can I do to make this project more interesting to me? See what changes when you act on your answer. Your new approach will start you well on the way to playing to your strengths, no matter how far away you think you are from your dream life.

Yes, we can all be transformers...using the "magic" of our strengths.

If you have never taken a strengths assessment before, here are two great ones to try: 

Values in Actions (VIA) Survey: https://www.viacharacter.org/survey/account/register 

Clifton StrengthsFinder: http://www.gallupstrengthscenter.com/Purchase