In my earlier post on reigniting and finding your passion, I shared an overview of the criteria for identifying personal strengths as outlined by career counselor Marcus Buckingham. To reiterate: Your strengths are those things that give you energy and thereby, strengthen you. By his definition, a strength must meet these conditions:
- When thinking about the task, you are excited; you anticipate the activity;
- When doing the task you tend to lose track of time;
- Once the task is completed, you have more energy than before.
Buckingham helps clients identify their strengths with the following activity. For a period of one week, they are instructed to label each task they do as an energy boost (strength) or an energy drain. They are to make a list that answers the question, “I feel strength when …”
*** Important caveat: the activity must be something they actually “do” and not something that is done to them. “I feel strength when my supervisor praises me,” would not count as a strength. It may give you energy, but it’s not something you “do”.
Once a strength is identified the next step is to get specific — “drill down” as Buckingham says — and specify the associated conditions as clearly as possible. For example, if I were to say, “I feel strength when I teach,” he would delve deeper. “Do you like teaching anything to anybody?” Hmm … well, no. I like teaching yoga to adults. And then go deeper still … what kind of yoga, what kind of adults, when, and where? I like teaching Anusara yoga to athletes, to middle-aged women, to … You get the drift. You must be specific.
As I digested the material from this particular lesson, I found myself moving much more consciously through my day – not just my workday, but at home – tuning into what things give me energy and what things are my drains:
- Sorting & washing laundry (energy)
- Folding laundry & putting it away (drain)
- Grocery shopping (drain)
- Writing on my blog (energy)
- Conversing with someone about “deep” stuff (energy)
- Being out in the sun (energy)
- Loading the dishwasher (energy)
- Unloading the dishwasher (drain, no pun intended)
- Listening to my music (energy)
- Listening to my teenage boys’ music (drain)
Try it! Simply, tune in and become a student of the energetic effects of your daily activities. Pull out your journal at the end of the day and make a list or a T-chart like the one below. It’s a great exercise that requires keen observation and awareness.
The workshop offers much more insight with Buckingham suggesting ways to redirect your focus to your strengths, along with strategies for handling your “energy drains.” He encourages teaming up with others for your mutual benefit as you play off each other’s strengths, from coworkers to family members (and of course, “kula mates”). So while I find loading the dishwasher to be an energy boost and the unloading to be a drain, perhaps my husband really likes the unloading part. Teaming up together to complete this task is a win-win! Everyone gets the energy, no one gets the drain!
Coming Up Next … Using the Strengths Concept to Enhance your Yoga Teaching! (Really! I swear.)