I’m a big fan of the Gallup Organizations strengths test. I’ve seen different iterations over the years from the standard test to one for leadership and one for children. Different authors have written books about the subject, that have vouchers to take the online exam.
Four of the most popular are…
- Strengths Finder 2.0 by Tom Rath
- Strengths Based Leadership by Tom Rath and Barry Conchie
- Now, Discover Your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton
- StandOut: Find Your Edge at Work by Marcus Buckingham
- The premise of these books is that it is better to work on your strengths than work on your weaknesses. As an example, on an effectiveness scale of one to ten, with ten being best, it would be better to take a strength that may rate a 6 and work really hard on it for years and raise it to an 8, rather than to work on a weakness which may rate a two and spend lots of time on it and raise it to a four. Researchers have also found that it is easier to work on something you are good at consistently over the long haul rather than something you struggle with.
Malcolm Gladwell, in his book Outliers, talks about the power of 10,000 hours. This is the length of time, on average, that it takes someone to become completely proficient at a task. So it might take someone practicing 10 hours a week, 50 weeks a year, over 20 years to become proficient at golf or the piano. And this presupposes some natural talent in the area.
In my life, I’ve worked for years developing my public speaking skills and also my writing skills. In both areas, it has been a slow progression, taking years to see effective results. Membership in Toastmasters for over 15 years has helped with the speaking and being a blogger and part of a writers group has helped with my writing skills. Even though I’ve made major progress, I still have a ways to go.
Thankfully, I love both endeavors. When I have taken the strengths test my highest categories are…
- Ideation: I’m an idea guy
- Futuristic: I like planning for the future
- Positivity: I generally have a positive outlook on life
These work very well in conjunction with a speaking or writing career. The problem with strengths based talent is the long period of focused practice and repetition that they require for mastery. While some areas may be faster than others, you just don’t sit down and become a best selling author, or keynote speaker. You certainly don’t become an NBA star or professional golfer overnight.
However, I discovered the other day there is a strength that you can learn that can take you from a zero to a ten instantly. This particular strength can radically change your life, and make all of your other strengths more doable.
This strength is simply making a choice.
I learned this the other day from a video clip featuring Michael Hyatt and John Maxwell. Maxwell talks about strengths that involve making a choice such as goal setting and time management can bring instant change.
For example, if I make the choice to sit down and write for 48 minutes instead of mindlessly surf the web, I have increased the output on my new book by 100%. If I make the choice to go out and run for a half hour instead of watching TV my choice will improve my health and help me lose weight.
So if making a choice is so powerful, why are they so hard to make. Why is it so difficult to put aside the brownie and have a salad? Why is it so hard to get off the couch and go running? Why is it so hard to set the timer for 48 minutes and write?
The answer lies in one simple word… Willpower.
If we can learn the strength of willpower in our lives, all our other strengths will improve. Yet for most of us willpower is not a strength at all.
For most people, myself included, willpower is one of our greatest weaknesses.
Yet there is an answer, and it comes in the form of a book.
The Willpower Instinct by Kelly McGonigal can help us make that all important choice. We will delve into her book in our next post.
In the meantime, put that brownie down, and run around the block…
Be sure to check out our next post in this series… The Halo Effect
Question: What area do you need more willpower in?