How to Survive, Part 1: Feeling Frightened or Vulnerable? Survey Your Strengths


That makes this the perfect time to take a very hard look at yourself -- but focusing on your good side and assessing your strong points, rather than ruminating about the ways in which you feel defective or inadequate. 

With so much negative information being circulated in the news, at the watercooler and on the bench by the jungle gym, positive reinforcement about yourself will not only land upon your spirit like a warm, spring rain, it will remind you of gifts, talents and abilities you can call on to find employment, start a side job and/or navigate your way out of tight situations.

I suggest that you follow this 3-step approach: 


1) Conduct a inventory of your strengths, where you write out your answers to the following questions in a personal journal: 

  •  What activities and items do I enjoy and am I good at, whether work-related or not? Example: I’m a strong writer, but I also take nice photographs, though I don’t have any formal training.
  • What activities have I ever been good at, whether they’re work-related or not and including things I enjoyed as a child? Example: I sketch really well, even though I never do it. 
  • What stuff did I used to be good at but have forgotten how to do or have become less proficient in, whether they’re work-related or not? Example: I used to speak fluent Spanish; now I’m proficient but could get back up to speed with a week of intense review.
  • What things do my friends and family tell me I’m good at even though I don’t understand what they see in me or believe it? Example: I recently ‘fessed up to something my sister has been telling me for 20 years: that I’m a gadget girl -- even though when she first started calling me this, I only had one gadget, an electronic organizer (now, I have several; she only has one -- a cell phone). 
  • What are the strong points about my personality? Example: I’m very resilient -- I can experience a major disappointment, process it and be back to my normal upbeat self within an hour or two maximum.  
  • What are my character strengths? Example: I have very strong values -- there are just some things I’m going to do because they’re right and other things I’ll never do (willingly) under any conditions.
  • What strengths do I have related to my spirit? Example: I am clear about my spiritual Purpose.
  • What strengths do I have related to my relationships? Example: I can be very outgoing, so I know lots of people.
  • What are other strengths -- say those, related to my physical appearance, energy level, etc. -- I may overlooked? Example: I never think about the fact that I’m tall (I’m 5’10”), but other people notice it -- and me -- as a result.
  • What are the areas in which I’ve received training, whether work-related or not? Example: I’ve taken many non-credit spiritual- and personal- development courses and have read countless books.
  • What areas do I have formal education in? Example: I have a bachelor’s degree with honors in political science. 
  • What unspoken advantages do I have? Example: I feel comfortable and can communicate easily with people of all races and backgrounds. 

2) Ask several friends for their responses to the same questions.  Invite input from people who know you well and represent different areas of your life -- your nuclear family, extended family, work colleagues, church friends, classmates, teammates, etc. Most will be happy to help. For this exercise to be most productive, be sure to select people whose attitude toward you is positive and optimistic. And set groundrules. For example, be clear that you want to hear your plusses only; that you’ll seek feedback on areas where you need improvement on another occasion. Don’t forget to ask someone to take notes so that you can review them later -- you’ll need them to create your strategic plan. (More on personal strategic planning in a future post.)

3) Convene a group of friends at your home, a local coffee shop, the playground or a restaurant and ask them for their perspective on the same list of questions. When people are in a group, one person's observation can spur another's, amplifying the number of insightful thoughts -- not to mention, the positive feedback. And if you want a great way to solidify your friendships, consider going around the circle and complimenting each other on the things you appreciate and think are strengths about them.  

This information will become an integral part of a personal strategic plan -- a plan that helps you identify how to leverage your assets, defend against your weaknesses and allocate your assets to achieve your goals and desires. I'll write more on strategic planning in a future post. 

In good faith,