In the 1990s some very exciting research was taking place and being presented to the American audience. It was the Strengths Finder research by Marcus Buckingham, Donald Clifton, and the Gallup organization.
The core idea is that there are many different strengths. You cannot be good at all the strengths. You need to find out what your strengths are. You will make much more progress in developing your strengths than in trying to upgrade your weaknesses.
This was NOT the prevailing conventional wisdom of the time.
The conventional wisdom said to identify your weaknesses and go to work on them. You must focus on your weaknesses or they will hold you back.
But here is what happens when you focus on your weaknesses:
- First, it takes a LOT of time and energy to attend to a weakness.
- Second, even a lot of focus only yields partial results (that’s discouraging).
- And third, when you stop focusing on your now rather small improvements to a weakness, you quickly revert back to previous levels! And that is even more discouraging. Still we kept telling people to work on their weaknesses.
The Strengths Finder research launched a new and much-needed movement. “No,” they said, “Work on your strengths.” Turn your strengths into super-strengths. Get monster-level good at your strengths.
When you work on your strengths, they found three things. First, it doesn’t feel like work. It is not as hard as attending to weaknesses. Second, you actually make really good improvement. You can see the progress. Finally, it sticks. You don’t revert back. You now have a new normal of an enhanced strength. And all this is very encouraging.
What the Strengths Finder movement then did for us was to identify 34 unique strengths and design a very reliable test for you to discover them. If you have never taken this test, it is worth the investment. Click here to learn more and to take the test.
Now . . .
The Virtue in Action positive psychology researchers did the SAME THING with character strengths. The Strengths Finder work was on talents, mindsets, and competencies. The character strengths work is on virtue.
And they found what was true for your talents is true for your character. We are not all the same when it comes to character. Each person has a different set of character strengths. We are wired and inclined toward various virtues. Through a combination of genetics/DNA, personality, family of origin, life experiences, and so on, the archipelago of your character will be uniquely you.
The character strengths movement designed a test for you to self-assess and find out your character strengths. You can take that test by clicking on this link.
Here are the six categories (listed in the first column) with the main sub-virtues of each across the row to the right.
Focus on your virtue strengths and get even stronger (more virtuous) in those areas. Maximize your character wiring.
Then, have some grace and perspective about your non-strengths. You cannot and will not be equally strong in every virtue. I certainly am not, and I have been attending to character formation for many years.
I have to add one more thought here.
I believe character development is different than talent-strength development in three ways:
- Character matters more than talent. And character weakness can be debilitating. My life doesn’t suffer (unduly) because I am weak in math and strong in reading. But my life will suffer if I am weak in humility but strong in responsibility. I can’t be weak in kindness while strong in discipline.
- It also turns out that as you attend, with the Spirit’s formative power, to one area of character growth, that growth seems to spill over into other areas of character. Character seems to have even more interconnectedness than talent does with other talent.
- And finally, while God does not will you to be equally strong in all talents, it does seem that God wills you to be strong in all the fruit of the Spirit, in all the aspects of love, in all the beatitudes, etc.
Still, the core lesson is to find out your character strengths. Start there. Grow even further and keep in step with the formative leadings of God’s Holy Spirit.