Posts Tagged ‘Life’s Passion’

Part III: Sharing Strengths

In my recent posts, I have been reviewing the teachings of Marcus Buckingham as it relates to finding your true strengths – those activities in life that give you energy. Buckingham instructs that once you’ve identified your strengths you must begin to focus more and more of your daily actions and efforts on doing those activities. Through these endeavors, we are infused with energy and enthusiasm, which will ultimately increase both our productivity and success. This is the way to reignite the passion and joy in life.

But what do we do about those things that don’t give us energy, those tasks that are a necessary requirement in our lives or our jobs? Buckingham offers several effective ways to handle those “energy drains” including that sometimes you just have to pick up the shovel and shovel it! (My words, not his!) Shovels notwithstanding, one strategy is to team up with others whose strengths complement your own. By playing off our collective strengths we can create a mutually beneficial relationship where everyone’s energy is boosted, and all tasks get completed successfully.

This is something effective managers have known for a long time. Like a good coach, managers want to maximize the talents and gifts of their employees. Of course this makes sense in the sports arena, the corporate world, and even in family life, but how can we make use of this strategy in the seemingly solo task of planning and teaching an effective yoga class? Using Buckingham’s strength-based approach and this concept of sharing strengths, I’ve outlined five steps to guide you in this process, a.k.a. “How to use the Greatness of Others to be Great Yourself!” 😉

5 Steps towards Developing a Better Yoga Class

1. Determine your strengths as a yoga teacher. As you look at the components of planning a yoga class, what are your strengths? (Remember the criteria: anticipation, lose track of time, more energy at completion.) In an Anusara yoga class plan, we need a heart-oriented theme and a logical asana sequence with connection to the Universal Principles of Alignment. Maybe your strength is creating a theme, but sequencing drains you. Be astute in your evaluation. Discern without judgment.

2. Develop your strengths fully. Use the energy you acquire to study, develop, and enhance your strengths. If you are “in” to yoga philosophy and it energizes you, then deepen your understanding even further. Read more of the sacred texts. Study with a philosophy teacher. If the biomechanics of physical alignment excite you, take an anatomy class and learn more about the body. Too often we waste energy trying to strengthen a weakness. Instead, we could experience an exponential increase in our energy if we applied that same effort towards an area of interest. Read earlier remarks in comment 3.

Aside: I am reminded of what Christina advises aspiring teachers in the Anusara yoga immersion; teach what resonates for you! Represent the method accurately, but teach to your direct experience.

As you develop your strengths, compile your ideas and make notes. If your strength is theme development and personal connections, journal stories and anecdotes that could support a number of heart based themes. If your strength is in scope and sequencing, keep a record of those class plans. If the language of teaching comes easily to you, write down effective phrases. Record, journal, track! It will fuel the fire within.

3. Find people (or resources) with complimentary strengths. Team with fellow teachers, utilize your kula-mates. Tap into books. Build a reference library. If you struggle with sequencing, then look towards an informed source. Turn to the sequences in the Anusara Yoga Teacher Training Manual by John Friend. Write down a series when you’re in class with a teacher who does it masterfully (like Christina Sell). If you appreciate the way someone else centers their class or brings their students out of savasana, use that approach. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel.

4. Give credit to the Source, universally AND individually! Make sure you acknowledge where your material comes from, along with your teachers, and those who have helped you along the way, including — and especially — the Absolute. It is essential to credit your inspiration and sources.

5. Share your Strengths. Whether it’s working directly with fellow teachers, writing, or sharing resources that have helped you, offer your strengths and ideas to others. Don’t buy into the fear that you need to “keep it a secret” or someone might “steal it”. There is abundance. The more you put out, the more you’ll bring back in. Be seen as someone who is willing to share. Allow your energy to spark others.

“Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value.” ~Albert Einstein

Whether using this technique to plan a yoga class, or to create a holiday dinner, build a home or coach a team, maximizing your strengths in combination with the strengths of others will generate success and ENERGY for everyone.

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Reminder: The Marcus Buckingham workshop as seen on Oprah is available for FREE on iTunes. Thanks to Kelly Sell for sharing that Marcus Buckingham also has a book on this topic available titled Now, Discover Your Strengths.

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Earlier this year, Oprah featured a workshop conducted by career counselor and motivational speaker Marcus Buckingham. Working with 30 women over a period of several weeks, Buckingham led the group through a series of simple exercises to reignite passion in their careers and their lives. He outlined several key components to the process, but it was his segment on personal strengths that I found most intriguing. A quick overview and then, how we can employ this in our teaching of yoga.

The process of reigniting passion in life begins with determining your individual strengths. Who hasn’t heard that advice, right? It is an essential part of the philosophy in career path manuals like “What Color is Your Parachute” or “Do What You Love the Money will Follow”. Take note, my friends, Buckingham’s definition of strengths may be a little different than first pass.

Many of us would define a strength as “something you are good at doing.” But a strength, by Buckingham’s definition, must energize you and make you stronger. Simply being “good” at something doesn’t necessarily make it strength. In this workshop, strengths meet a different set of criteria that must include the following three benchmarks:

  1. When thinking about the task, you are excited; you anticipate the activity;
  2. When doing the task you tend to lose track of time;
  3. Once the task is completed, you have more energy than before.

Certainly some of the things which you’d classically define as “something you’re good at” would also meet the three criteria listed above, but that’s not always the case. As an example, meet Sharon. As part of her job, Sharon retypes manuscripts. Sharon is a great typist. Her fingers fly like the wind across the keyboard and she makes few (if any) errors. This would make typing a strength by our first basic definition.

Now let’s explore this deeper. We learn that Sharon looks forward to large typing assignments (meeting criteria #1). When she types, she zones out, moving effortlessly through the pages of her project (criteria #2). Finally, as she types that final punctuation completing the project; she feels exhilarated. A sense of satisfaction and pride fill her as she notes the quick turn-around time she achieved (#3). Typing is certainly one of Sharon’s strengths.

But suppose, instead we had discovered the following about our girl. Sharon doesn’t really like typing, but it’s part of her job and after all, she’s “good” at it, so her boss frequently asks her to take on these large projects. (She got to be a fast typist in school because she saw it as a necessary job skill to acquire.) Sharon would much rather answer the phones or work on filing. The manuscript arrives on her desk, and she looks at it with dread. How long will it take to get through THAT? She pushes it aside. She procrastinates. When she eventually gets going she’s watching the clock, impatiently waiting for her upcoming coffee break. Finally finishing the project, Sharon looks up and thinks, “I’m ready for a drink. It must be 5 o’clock somewhere.” Typing — in this case — is definitely not one of Sharon’s strengths. She may be good at it, but it is not a strength.

Notice the difference in the two scenarios? Take a moment to make the distinction, and then see if you can identify examples from your own life. First, can you think of something that you’re “good” at — people may have even told you it’s one of your strengths — but on examination it fails to meet the listed criteria? Then take note of one your strengths, something which meets the outlined standards. Buckingham says, “Your strengths strengthen you!”

There is much to write on this topic, but this has been in draft mode for almost two weeks. So, I will post this introduction to the topic now and write more in a follow-up.

INSIGHTS: If you are willing, I invite you to post your two responses to the question at hand:

  1. What is something that you are “good at” which does not strengthen you, and
  2. What is something that does?

Until next time, may we all help to strengthen one another,



The workshop materials are available on Oprah.com, and the audio (8 segments, about 3 hours long) can be downloaded in its entirety from iTunes, all free of charge!


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