Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Strengths (!!!) where do they come from?

I am blessed.

I have dear ones around me, who push me to do things which are good for me. And normally such “pushes” take place in the morning, after some of physical chores are done. 

And today the “furmaish” was to think about my strengths and their origin. (The paraphrasing is totally mine.)

I come from traditional school of thought, when it relates to development. And that means I believe one must work to overcome one’s weaknesses to achieve superior performance. The current line, of course is the opposite. And I do not have any quarrels with these psychologists as well.

The current school feels, “Success lies in your ability to discover your strengths and to organize your life so that these strengths can be applied. If we manage our weaknesses, instead of focusing on them (notice the verbs), we will be able to build our strengths.”

Strength is grounded in positive psychology perspective – focusing on what is positive and normal behavior, rather than focusing on deficiencies or what is abnormal behavior. 

Strengths are produced when talents are refined with knowledge and skill. To develop strength in any activity requires certain natural talents.

We can build strength by identifying our dominant talents and refining them with knowledge and skills. There are three ingredients of strengths:
  • Talent – innate, we are born with it, a naturally recurring patter of thoughts, feelings or behaviors (we see talent all the time – e.g. India Idol, India Has got Talent)
  • Knowledge – book learning and practice – we can understand it and talk about it
  • Skills – learning and practice – we can develop it

What do strengths feel like? 

When you do it, you feel effective. Before you do it, you actively look forward to it. While you are doing it, you feel inquisitive and focused. After you’ve done it, you feel fulfilled and authentic.

Gallup’s (I am sure all of us have heard the name and hence not being introduced) psychologists, researched the “best of the best” and identified more than 420 themes of talent in studying more than 2 million individuals. They then conducted focus group discussions with people who were the best at what they did and found 34 strengths which were the most prevalent in the “best of the best”. Their "StrengthsFinder 2.0" is a psychometric profiling tool which is used for identifying one’s strengths and arranging them in an order of mostly used themes.

And psychologists in our group after a long struggle, persuaded me to take this test some time back. I feel what any such test does is, it asks “you how do you feel?” and when you respond “good”, tells you “you are feeling good”. 

I am hundred percent in favor of these lines of assessment, since these tests make you think and provide you with lot to introspect and improve.

They not only provided me with a report but also coached me in using these areas of my talent and strengths. Now, whether I am using them or not, only these coaches can say. They described my strengths as under:
  1. Learner: has a great desire to learn and wants to continuously improve. In particular, the process of learning, rather than the outcome, excites.
  2. Achiever: has a great deal of stamina and works hard, takes great satisfaction from being busy and productive.
  3. Harmony: looks for consensus, doesn’t enjoy conflict; rather, seeks areas of agreement. (and my coach had a hard time convincing me that this is my area of strength for obvious reasons and you all would agree with me)
  4. Input: has a craving to know more. Often likes to collect and archive all kinds of information.
  5. Responsibility: takes psychological ownership of what he says and does, committed to stable values such as honesty and loyalty.

Now this is not my claim, I have just reproduced what Gallup’s report says. If any one disagrees, I have no issues with them.

Natural and logical extension of this analysis was to look for sources of these talents themes and strengths. The answer is in the definition of talent itself. I am borne with these and hence have got it from Papa and Ma and can not take credit for acquisition. I tried to relate.

I will identify the sources of my strengths in the next part, till then comments are welcome as usual.

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