Playing To Your Strengths
It was such a beautiful day that I decided to finish planting vegies on my patio.
As many of you know, I have some physical challenges due to past injuries and suffer chronic pain almost every day. But what I find interesting is how the heavy labour of gardening: shopping for pots, soil and plants, getting them home, bending, lifting, planting – energises me. Yes, I always pay for it with much higher degrees of pain than normal, but the act of building an edible patio garden is so enjoyable for me that it’s worth the pain. Once it’s done, I find myself drawn to these plants each morning and evening, touching, smelling, tasting, looking for new shoots or signs of new fruit about to bloom, completely in that moment, absorbed in the experience of living with plants.
On the other hand, spending an afternoon at home tidying up cupboards is torturous and de-energising. I put it off, procrastinate, find reasons to do other jobs, and when I finally get stuck into it I can’t wait to be done with the chore.
I know people who enjoy rearranging and organising their cupboards but despise gardening. So why is a task that is joyous to one person torturous to another?
One reason is that different strengths energise us in different ways. According to Martin Seligman & Chris Peterson all human beings have 24 core characteristics that we may view as strengths. These include things like honesty, humility, perspective, bravery, prudence, creativity, perseverance, love, curiosity and others.
When I garden, I tap into my strengths of zest (energy), creativity (design), bravery (putting up with physical pain), gratitude (for having the space to plant), spirituality (nature), hope (that what I plant will flourish), love (cooking whatever grows for my family) and appreciation of beauty. These are some of my top strengths, also known as signature strengths, strengths that come easily for me, energise me and feel authentic to who I am.
On the other hand, to tidy cupboards I have to muster my strengths of self-regulation (self-discipline) and prudence (avoiding being overrun with junk). These are amongst my lowest strengths and de-energise me. So I engage them by tapping into some other strengths, such as humour, fairness and perspective.
When you find yourself procrastinating over a task it’s interesting to think about what character strengths you need to get the job done. You’ll probably discover that those strengths don’t come naturally to you, which is why you procrastinate. Next think about which strengths do come naturally and engage with those. If you’re creative and don’t like ironing think of new creative ways to get through the task. If you’re kind-hearted but don’t like to exercise, see it as kindness to yourself to do so. If you’ve been given an assignment at work that you really don’t want to do, think about which authentic strengths you can draw on to get through it.
Understanding more about your strengths can be helpful in many ways, including career choices, health & wellness, team interactions. Please contact me to learn more.
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