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  • Writer's pictureDr Dermot Casey

We are all strong. But do you know why and how strong you actually are?

Do you know your own strengths? Or let me give you an easier question – name ten things that you would like to be better/stronger at.

It seems that we are very good at knowing a lot about our deficits or what we would like to be better at and much less about what we are good at and what are our key strengths actually are.

If we do not fully know or understand our unique strengths, we cannot use them to the maximum each day or especially when we need them most, when life is most challenging for us.

Multiple studies have shown that we give a lot more attention to negative information than we do to positive. There are many reasons for this from a social, cognitive and evolutionary perspective. The negativity bias (where we have a greater sensitivity to unpleasant news) is thought to serve the evolutionarily adaptive purpose of helping us safely explore the environment while appropriately avoiding harmful situations. When people are asked to recall emotional events, they will remember four negative events for every positive one.

Even now as adults, I wonder what is the ratio between what we are made aware of each day regarding the split between our strengths and our weaknesses?

When we start to work, we might have employee evaluations, both formally and informally. The general feedback should be on both what we did well and not so well. However, again, how much more time is spent on the areas that we need to improve on, or what we do not have? It is interesting that when we get informal feedback from colleagues in work a large proportion of this might be more positive than when we receive formal evaluation. In these situations, there is generally more focus on areas of improvement, and these are labelled as constructive feedback!

Know your own strengths

In fact, you might go through life not ever knowing what your key strengths really are, even though many people might be highlighting them to you each day in many different ways. Self-awareness is key here. And like any skill or activity that we can become better at, it needs practice.

So, maybe you can start this awareness today, by listing on one page what your key strengths are. (You might be able to add further pages as you become more proficient at this exercise as you have thousands of strengths.) Keep on practicing this. After you become good at this, take time out to become aware, next, of how you are using these skills/strengths and where you can use them more, especially when it comes to the care of others and yourself. Any skill that we have we can use in many different ways if we can be creative (which we all can be).

As I am writing these words a thought comes to my mind. You can only wonder how many strengths people have which are not being fully used or not used at all. If they were used fully, what a difference this could make in their life and the life of others, especially when it comes to caring.

Successful people play to their strengths – as a result they focus on areas where they can make a positive difference.

We can’t be good at most things, but we can be very good at certain things. We spend so much time on our weaknesses for marginal gains while sometimes our strengths lie dormant and neglected or even unknown to us. As a result, our strengths are maybe under-utilized and in certain instances are somewhat declining. As the saying goes “if you don’t use it, you lose it”.

Strengthen your strengths

If you are playing a sport that you really like, you normally play with passion and enthusiasm and it takes a lot less energy than it would if you didn’t like it. This generally means that you do not find it too difficult to play this sport. In the same way, if you are working in a certain profession, for example, as a medical physician, which is a difficult profession, but you have the passion, ability and skill to do so, you will probably be well capable of working in this area as you are playing to your strengths.

When you start to work on your strengths it feels like you are going with the flow and not paddling upstream. Your work becomes easier and seems more natural to you. People in general always remember criticism; however, this criticism does not necessarily translate into improved outcomes and can set you back even further.

In fact, if you are very aware of your strengths it can be an encouragement to work on some of your weaknesses, as it can give you confidence and an increased level of self-esteem to work on these areas.

One of the reasons I am writing this article is that I feel we all need to be much more aware of why we are so strong. Because we all are STRONG; otherwise you would not be reading this article today. We need to use these strengths more in our personal life and our work. If you work more to your strengths you will be much better at your job and will enjoy it more than you currently do.

Be strong and happy.

This is an abbreviated excerpt from my upcoming book: Time to Change the Way that we Care.

If you have any comments on the above please contact me as shown below.

Thanks for reading

Dr Dermot Casey

Counselling Psychologist, Cork, Ireland.


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