Wednesday, December 15, 2010

What's Your "Ace"?

Your talents, your strongest synaptic connections, are the most important raw material for strength building,  Identify your most powerful talents, hone them with skills and knowledge, and you will be well on your way to living the strong life.”
-Marcus Buckingham & Donald O. Clifton, authors of Now, Discover Your Strengths

I had coffee with a friend recently and had a great a-ha moment to go with my latte. 
We were discussing a conflict I was experiencing with another friend and how I was dealing with the situation.  Somehow the flow of conversation got us to talking about empathy; while I felt that my response to the conflict was weak, he defined my approach as empathic.  We were on two different sides of the coin in terms of our perspective; he saw empathy as a personal strength to be admired, and I saw empathy as a weakness to be overcome. 

I should probably put some context here otherwise you might be asking yourself “What kind of life coach sees empathy as a weakness as opposed to a strength?” There have been times, in my work in the non-profit sector, when I just didn’t want to care anymore.  Not because I didn’t care about what I was doing, or the population we were serving, but because I was beginning to feel that the experience was becoming too draining, and also because I wondered if the intensity of the emotion was affecting my ability to make the right decisions.  I have discussed this experience with other friends in the non-profit sector and they have echoed these sentiments (emotional burnout).

In making the transition into the corporate sector a few years ago, one of my main objectives was to work more from the energy of my mind, rather than my emotional energy.   That was definitely easier said than done.

Coming back to my discussion with my friend, he listened to me describe why I was seeing empathy as a weakness (in my situation)and how I wished there were a dial on the ability that I could turn up or turn down as needed.  He surprised me when his response was “But that’s your ace!” My first instinct was to dismiss his comment. He went on to explain “we’re all dealt a hand of abilities in life, (by the cosmic dealer I guess?) and it’s up to us how we work this hand.”   I honestly couldn't argue with his logic.  It made sense.  His comments reminded me of the essence of Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton’s book Now, Discover Your Strengths; we need to focus on strengths and find ways to manage our weaknesses. Below is an online summary of the book:

Most of us have little sense of our talents and strengths. Instead, guided by our parents, our teachers, our managers and psychology's fascination with pathology, we become experts in our weaknesses and spend our lives trying to repair these flaws, while our strengths lie dormant and neglected.

At the heart of Now, Discover Your Strengths, is the Internet-based StrengthsFinder® Profile, the product of a 25-year, multimillion dollar effort to identify the most prevalent human strengths. The program introduces 34 dominant "themes" with thousands of possible combinations, and reveals how they can best be translated into personal and career success.

I remember finding the message of this book refreshing when I read it a few years back; in a world where the education system, our upbringing, and most obviously employee professional development programs usually work to develop one’s weaknesses, the rationale espoused in this book actually made sense to me.  While I did identify with the message of this book at the time, somewhere along the way I lost it.   What I ultimately learned from my time away from the non-profit sector is that the very thing that I was trying to avoid was the one thing that I missed the most; the feeling that I was truly making a difference in my community. 

My friend’s comment reminded me that rather than to waste time suppressing or resisting my abilities, whatever they may be, it would be a better use of my energy to embrace my strengths, and to do work that leverages these strengths. 

The work of changing my inner script is not easy but I am working to “Embrace my Ace.”  I know that the message is sinking in because the opportunities I now focus my attention on engage my passions and my talents.

What’s your Ace? 
Are you leveraging it or letting it atrophy?

1 comment:

  1. Hmm this is a tough one..How did you find out/learn what your strengths are Leena? I think this is something that I'm still in the process of discovering. Will that book help? :)