Buckingham suggests, rather, that we should focus our time and energy on refining and sharpening our strengths. He defines a strength as consistent near perfect performance in an activity. He also points to our natural, or God-given, talents as the foundation of our strengths. He defines talent as any recurring pattern of thought, feeling or behavior that can be productively applied.
One of the cool things about this book is it comes with an access code to something called the StrengthsFinder Profile. It's an online test to determine your natural talents which can then be developed into strengths.
Here are my top five results, or signature themes as Buckingham calls them. I'll also give you a brief description of each. These are not in any particular order:
You live in the moment. You don't see the future as a fixed destination. Instead, you see it as a place that you create out of choices that you make right now. And so you discover your future one choice at a time. This doesn't mean that you don't have plans. You probably do. But this theme of Adaptability does enable you to respond willingly to the demands of the moment even if they pull you away from your plans.
If you possess a strong Belief theme, you have certain core values that are enduring. These values vary from one person to another, but ordinarily your Belief theme causes you to be family-oriented, altruistic, even spiritual and to value responsibility and high ethics - both in yourself and others.
You see the potential in others. Very often, in fact, potential is all you see. In your view no individual is fully formed. On the contrary, each individual is a work in progress, alive with possibilities. And you are drawn toward people for this very reason.
You can sense the emotions of those around you. You can feel what they are feeling as though their feelings are your own. Intuitively, you are able to see the world through their eyes and share their perspective. You do not necessarily agree with each person's perspective. You do not necessarily feel pity for each person's predicament - this would be sympathy, not empathy. You do not necessarily condone the choices each person makes, but you do understand.
You look for areas of agreement. In your view there is little to be gained from conflict and friction, so you seek to hold them to a minimum. When you know that the people around you hold differing views, youtry to find the common ground. You try to steer them away from confrontation and toward harmony. In fact, harmony is one of your guiding values.
I was actually shocked at how well these themes matched up with what I would have guessed about myself before I took the test. For those of you who know me well, do you think these are accurate?
Now, what do I do with these God-given abilities? Any suggestions?