“Find your own ‘sweet spot’. Take your talents and enjoy them, share them, expand them.”
– Kofi Awoonor
I sometimes wonder how I survived the first 10 years of my career.
Caught in a circle of jobs that didn’t fulfill me, I was so drastically out of sync with who I was, where my desires lay and what my natural born strengths were that it’s hardly surprising I spent most of my early career feeling drained and unhappy.
I’d somehow found myself applying to jobs where I had to work with people constantly, organise busy events, give presentations to rowdy teenagers, and work in large, open plan offices where there was never a quiet moment.
For people-loving extroverts who thrive in buzzy environments these kind of jobs are perfect.
But for me?
Well, I’m more of a quiet, creative, introverted type. When given the choice I’ll pick writing over talking, solitude over open plan, and quiet reflection over debate. I couldn’t have been further from my natural ‘flow’ if I’d tried.
Just like you, and just like every other human on this planet, I have strengths. Strengths that I was born with, that run through my blood, and which, when used effectively, allow me to be the best and most successful person I can be.
These days I am much more in tune with who I am. I work from the quiet of my home, I teach people through online courses rather than face to face, and I market myself using blogging and social media which I love. I’ve shaped my career to fit beautifully with who I am and where I really shine. And, do you know what? I’ve never looked back.
I really believe that getting to the heart of your natural strengths and using them within your business is one of the best things you can do for your success and career happiness. Work will feel easier, you’ll get far more done with less effort, and ultimately your life will be filled with far more joy and fulfillment.
To help you on your way here are 3 key tips that will help you to go on a journey of self-discovery, shape your life to fit with who you are and ultimately allow you to work in a way that embraces your natural strengths in all their wonderful glory.
Develop the art of self-awareness
The more self-aware you are of how tasks and situations make you feel, the easier it will be to figure out what your strengths are. Take note of how easy or difficult you find activities and give yourself the time and space to reflect on how things went (using a journal can be great for this).
Be aware of moments when time just seems to fly by. If you feel motivated, happy and energized the likelihood is that you’ll be using your strengths in some way. Look out for common themes and tasks that you regularly find yourself drawn to and begin to build a picture of yourself that you can use to help guide your decisions.
Focus your attentions on the activities where you shine
Because your natural strengths are the things you are best at, it makes sense to focus on the tasks that allow you to use them to your advantage. When you are working in a way that fits with who you are, you’ll work more efficiently, will feel more motivated, and ultimately will have a far greater chance of success.
Like many people, when I first started up in business I tried everything to market myself including tasks where I felt completely out of flow with who I was. After a while though I realized that doing things like attending large networking events were a waste of my time – they simply didn’t yield me good results and I felt drained by them. And so, instead of forcing myself to attend an event that simply didn’t work for me, I started focusing my attention on the tasks where I WAS getting results – such as social media and guest blogging.
The result? My sign-up numbers increased and my happiness levels were raised too.
I know that when you are still finding career direction you won’t necessarily know what works for you – I believe everyone needs to have an ‘explore and experiment’ period. However once you do have a good grasp of your strengths, it’s worth looking at how you can build them into your life. You’ll be far happier focusing on the stuff where you shine, I promise.
Don’t be afraid of change
I’m a big believer in viewing your life as a living, breathing creation that you can shape over time depending on what you know about yourself.
Sometimes we think we know exactly how a certain task or activity will make us feel, however, as I’ve found out many times before, things don’t always turn out as expected.
Don’t be afraid to make changes in your life when things don’t feel quite right. I’m all for making plans but if in reality that plan is making you miserable, take a step back and consider what you could do instead to make it more ‘you’.
Give yourself the space to grow, change and evolve depending on what’s working and think of your life as something you can sculpt and redirect as you learn more about what drives and motivates you.
Pay attention to what’s working, ditch the stuff that’s not, use your strengths wherever you can, and don’t forget to enjoy the process!
Over to you…
Have you figured out what your natural born strengths are? If so, I’d love to know what they are, leave a comment below!
Photo by Marina del Castell
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9 thoughts on “How to Work With Your Strengths, Not Against Them”
I have been the same business for 40 years and just retired. Still finding my way. Finding strengths and utilizing them is a journey. Keeping my eyes and mind open. Liking myself alot more these days. Thanks for the article, loved it !
I’m a natural introvert too and I used to really beat myself up about it. I’d always think that it was bad that I didn’t say much at social events. Then I realized that it didn’t really matter. I’m a good listener and most people just want someone to listen. I’m happy to do that because I find people’s stories fascinating.
Thanks for a great post.
It’s time introverts accept who they are and use their strengths instead of trying to be extroverts.
You mentioned writing being the strength of an introvert. That’s so true! I discovered this for myself only lately.
One thing I must add: Although you should follow you strengths. You better strengthen your most important weak spots too.
an introvert should practice public speaking, to take his business further.
It doesn’t mean he should be able to small talk as an extrovert.
Susan Cain is one great example of an introvert using her powers but also giving a great talk:
Kathryn, thanks for writing about something that many of us can identify with. I particularly like the last section about change, and your comment about “viewing your life as a living, breathing creation that you can shape over time depending on what you know about yourself”. I was afraid of change for many years. When I relaxed and allowed change to happen, my life was happier and more rewarding. The sculpting and redirecting that you talk about is vital for a happy, successful career. At the end of a year is a great time to look at ourselves and to “ditch the stuff that’s not working”. Your article is food for thought. Thank you.
Such a great article! I loved it. I could relate myself with this article so well because I am one introvert too. I am into corporate world for almost 9 years and believe me I hated this from the day one but managed to drag it for 9 long years. I finally now have made up my mind to move out of this and take a break to think what I can do better. Teaching is the one of the career I always loved and if it happens I would be the luckiest person.
It feels awesome and really great when you realise you are not the only one with these feelings and definitely not the odd one out from the universe! I am glad I met my group :)
Your article motivated and reinforced my thoughts of re-considering my current career I am stuck with. You inspired me to move beyond and explore my best world. Thank you very much for the post. Love you!
I can definitely relate to this. Sometimes we must be still to listen to our own inner voice. “We have all a better guide in ourselves, if we would attend to it, than any other person can be.” ~Jane Austen
Hi Kathryn, Thanks for sharing this interesting piece of information. What you said is true that to focus the attentions on the activities where someone could shine.
I can see how the first point is crucial to finding your niche. In order to play to our strengths, it’s important to introspect and figure out exactly what our strengths are. The answer isn’t always obvious for many people.
I just visited your website too and I really like the design.
Being an introvert doesn’t mean you have less positive qualities. Work with what you have and move forward.