Why God Wants You To Discover Your Strengths

My Strength Inspired Journey

While I was in college, I served as the HR Director at my business school’s student society. One of my key agendas was to ensure we had the right recruitment and selection process in place so that the student executive team could, as Jim Collins put it, place the right people on the bus, wrong people off the bus, and the right people in the key seats before they figure out where to drive the bus. In this quest of designing the process, I came across an interview question that hit me like a brick:  

“If you were to write your epitaph, what would you write?” 

 I clearly remember myself dumbfounded as I struggled to articulate a sound answer. The heart of the question is a question that asks what your mission in life. Why are you here on earth?

After several years of intentional, considerable thought, I formed the following mission statement. (Click here to discover how to develop a personal mission statement)

My mission is to glorify God through equipping, connecting, and transforming people and organizations into Kingdom-minded catalysts of this world.  (Revised Jan, 2014)

I remember a story of a professor who while working on his paper met a particular young lady. She has been in one of the classes the professor teaches at UCLA. They had talked many times about her life, future, and relationship with God. As the professor was thinking about this young woman, he sensed an inner prompting from God’s spirit to call her, so he did. She had moved out of state to take a job in the Midwest. The professor was interested to know what she was doing, about her relationships and how her career was going. As she reflected on her life, she made one statement that captured what the professor wanted to bring about as he worked with college students.

Here is her statement: “You know, I’m doing what I was created to do! And, I love it!”

Can you imagine anything more magnificent than to be able to say, “I’m doing what I was created to do! And, I love it!”

How can people declare that what they are doing is in fact what they were created to do unless they first discover what capacity they were endowed by God? Too many people live their life without an iota of awareness of these God-given strengths, gifts, and talents. It’s not too late embark on this life-fulfilling journey.

Theology of Strengths

ralph waldo emersonLet’s explore now what the Scripture teaches about the strengths-based approach. God clearly mandates us to discover, harness, and unleash our strengths which is living in accordance to the purpose which God created us to be.

We must start with the question by asking the existence of God. If we believe God exists, is He is the Creator? Did God create us? Did He created us with an intention, a purpose in mind? If so, He would most certainly have created us with the abilities and the capabilities to do His will.

The issue then becomes: Will we seek to discover and develop our God-given talents and abilities into powerful, effective strengths? Ultimately, will we elicit the strengths and our will under Christ Jesus to be empowered by the Holy Spirit for worship of God and to live in accordance with the example of Jesus Christ so that we accomplish the purpose for which He created us?

Several passages in the Scripture points to essence of strengths-based development:

So God created humankind in his image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them…

God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good. 
– Genesis 1:27, 31a

In the book of Jeremiah in the Old Testament, we find this:

Now the word of the Lord came to me saying,
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
and before you wer eborn I consecreated you;
I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”
– Jeremiah 1:4-5

I really like how Dr. Anderson’s propositions, assumptions, beliefs and reasoning that forms the theology of strengths

1. There is a God

2. He is a creator God

3. God creates with intentionality. He has a purpose, reason, and plan for what He creates.

4. God created people with various talents and abilities.

5. The talents and abilities God crated in us are inextricably linked to God’s will, God’s purpose, God’s plan for our lives.

6. The talents and abilities has given us are part of what will enable us to fulfill His plan of our lives: to fulfill His will for us.

7. Strengths develop from the talents and abilities God has given us. God-given talents and abilities come first. Strengths stem from the way God created and endowed us.

8. God is a creator God who continuously works in our lives to form us into the persons He wants us to be.

9. Talents and abilities develop into strengths through a combination of relationships, interactions, life experiences, and opportunities to grow and through instruction which God sometimes orchestrates and which He can always use to fulfill His purposes in our lives.

Strengths vs. Talents

Gallup Organization, renowned for it’s strength-based development, defines “strength [as] the ability to consistently provide near-perfect performance in a specific activity. Talents are naturally recurring patterns of thought, feeling, or behavior that can be productively applied. Thus, the equation for a strength can be reduced to as:

Talent x (Knowledge + Skills + Time spent) = Strength

Here’s a simple illustration of how to understand the differences. You may be drawn toward strangers and enjoy the challenge of developing a relationship with others. This is talent. On the other hand, having the ability to consistently build a network of supporters who know you and prepared to help you is a strength.

Here’s an informative video by Carolyn Foster who talks about how to lead from your strength at a Google Talk.

[youtube=www.youtube.com/watch?v=a-mVv9tvSIA]

The Myth of Weakness Prevention

In my early age, I’ve always heard that it’s a virtue to be “well-rounded.” Raised in the Korean cultural heritage, along with multifaceted societal pressures have reinforced the guiding vision of being a well-rounded person. Hence the oft-quoted proverb, “the nail that sticks up get hammered.” In hindsight, it became obvious that I’ve been living with this “weakness prevention” model which still exists in me after years of efforts overcome.  Numerous studies in positive psychology shed light that contradicts weakness prevention model. Gallup Organization, renowned for it’s pioneering research into human potential over the past 30 years – including interviews with more than 2 million people have made the following statement:

“The evidence is quite overwhelming. You will be most successful in whatever you do by building your life around your greatest natural abilities rather than your weaknesses.

In the following video Jack Zenger leading consultant in strength-based development talks about building strengths or fixing weaknesses.

[youtube=www.youtube.com/watch?v=yScEAL1yxks]

Managing Your Weakness

Buckingham and Clifton define a weakness as “anything that gets in the way of excellent performance.”  They suggest five strategies to manage weaknesses as you strive to build your life around your strengths:

  1. Hunker down and get a little better at it (whatever the weakness is).
  2. Design a support system that will stop you from worrying about a weakness so you can spend more time thinking about how to refine a strength.  For example, if you are not naturally organized, your support system could be as simple as a weekly appointment with yourself to clear your desk and file papers away every Friday before you leave the office.
  3. Use one of your strongest themes to overwhelm your weakness.
  4. Find a partner to handle the areas that are not strengths for you.
  5. Acknowledge that this is not an area of strength for you and simply stop doing it.