By Marie-Josée Salvas, Positive Psychology News Daily
A good friend of mine could be the next Martha Stewart. In fact, let’s call her Martha.
Guests that she entertains for dinner wow at the presentation, rejoice throughout the meal, and are somewhat embarrassed when it’s their turn to invite her over.
Martha is equally talented at home design. Her own home is both harmonious and stylish, and she’s the go-to person for anyone in her group of friends who needs advice on décor.
Having studied fashion, she can also help just about any lady plan a make-over, including hair, make-up or clothing style.
As if her skill set wasn’t complete enough already, she’s also the funniest person I know (and I know a lot of people!).
It’s great to have a friend like Martha around. But it’s a real shame to see her go to the same federal office day after day so she can send emails, make photocopies, stamp paperwork, and align numbers in the right columns.
I recently read the book The Truth About You: Your Secret to Success by Marcus Buckingham. If you know anyone like my friend Martha – or maybe you’re like her yourself – consider reading this book.
After years of research, most notably with the Gallup Organization, Buckingham explains that only 2 out of 10 people get to play to their strengths at work most of the time. Yes, there are a lot of Marthas out there and to help them out of their misery, Buckingham presents what he calls “truths.” More precisely:
– As you grow older, you become more and more of who you already are;
– You grow most in your areas of greatest strengths;
– You will never turn a weakness into a strength;
– A great team player volunteers his strengths to the team most of the time and deliberately partners with people who have different strengths.
New Definition for Strengths and Weaknesses
“Your strengths are not what you are good at and your weaknesses are not what you are bad at,” he explains as he emphasizes that certain things that we are naturally endowed to do bore us to tears.
Agreed, I am quite good at cleaning, filing, and organizing, but it certainly doesn’t make me feel at my best when I do and I can’t wait to be finished when I start.
The Truth About You suggests that “a weakness is any activity that leaves you feeling weaker after you do it… a strength – your strengths – are any activity that make you feel strong” (pp. 41-42).
So pay attention to how you feel before, during, and after an activity, he recommends. If you feel drawn to the activity and are looking forward to it before you start; if you are interested, in the zone, and focused during the activity and if you are satisfied with the process after it’s over, chances are it’s a strength.
To help you discover your strengths, try finishing this sentence: “I feel strong when…”
Buckingham explains that people like Martha live a second-rate version of their own lives. And while they justify their career choices through argument like “it’s safer” or “I’ll have a great retirement plan,” they put their true personality on hold in the hope of bringing it back at some later point in the future.
The problem is, in the meantime, your motivation, interests, and confidence all suffer. And so when that future you were waiting for finally arrives – if it does – you are most likely no longer ready to tackle it.
Buckingham urges his readers to take on jobs that enable them to do what they enjoy. His tone feels personal; his advice is compelling.
Making It Real
But people like Martha still have to pay their bills. Leaving her secure position with the government to start a new career for which she may have a ton of aptitude and talent but little concrete experience could impede her ability to make her mortgage payments in the short-term. That’s what’s really holding her and other people in her situation back – nothing else.
Enhancing Buckingham’s advice with a sound financial strategy – like estimating how much income will be reduced in the first few months post-transition and setting money aside to face this new reality – would help his readers to make the move.
Society at large would benefit if more people got a chance to contribute their unique gifts on a daily basis. So now I’d like to turn to you. What advice or strategies would you share with my friend Martha and others in her situation?
Source: Buckingham, M. (2009). The Truth About You: Your Secret to Success.
This article is © 2009 PositivePsychologyNews.com.
Marie-Josee Salvas, MAPP, combines insights from positive psychology, fitness, nutrition and wellness to plan training sessions that help organizations implement healthy living as a business strategy.
Additions by Douglas Eby, author of the Talent Development Resources series of sites:
Author of this article is now Marie-Josée Shaar, and is co-author (with Kathryn Britton) of the book Smarts and Stamina: The Busy Person’s Guide to Optimal Health and Performance. “A highly practical workbook based on over 150 scholarly, scientific and empirical sources. It demonstrates how health, happiness and productivity are mutually reinforcing.” [From summary on her site: Smarts and Stamina.]
Photo at top from book: Martha Stewart’s Encyclopedia of Crafts.
Developing Multiple Talents book by Douglas Eby. One of many reviews:
“Packed full of insights and resources for the creative life, Developing Multiple Talents offers new ways to thrive as a creative person. Douglas Eby addresses many of the issues we face – fear, lack of confidence and focus – allowing the creative person to feel understood and ultimately empowered.
“Normalizing the challenges in the creative process provides a huge step toward coping with those challenges. Douglas’s book gives readers a resource for understanding and accepting our problems and our gifts. I highly recommend Developing Multiple Talents as a resource for anyone who wants to understand the psychology behind our creative drive.” – Cynthia Morris, Writing and creativity coach.
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Emilie Wapnick writes:
“Music, film, web design, law, business, personal development, writing, dance, sexuality, education– all of these are or have been interests of mine. They come and go (and sometimes come again).
“I remember being a little kid, not knowing what I would be when I grew up. I wondered the same thing in my teen years, and again in college. Sure, all of my interests would make for wonderful careers– just not on their own. Would I have to settle on a “practical job” and pursue my various passions on the side or choose among my interests and just commit to one thing?
“Both options made me my heart ache… I knew I could be doing more– that I had more to offer the world.
“Renaissance Business is the story of how I brought all of my interests together, and how you can do the same.”
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Career change coach Dr. Valerie Young leads her company Changing Course, providing resources to help people “discover their life mission and live it.”
In her article A Little Knowledge Can Go a Long Way: How to Generate a Steady Cash Flow Using What You Already Know, she writes about examples of entrepreneurs “tapping into the best capital there is – their own intellectual capital” by using subscription programs.
“Training others to do what you do is a great way to ‘monetize’ your knowledge and experience. But it’s not the only way.
“There are lots of different ways to ‘package’ and sell what you know – teaching on- or off-line classes, getting your own syndicated radio show, writing a book and so on.”
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“The difficulty for me is that I’m interested in so many different things. I could never really imagine myself doing one thing”
Sally M. Reis, PhD notes that high potential and multiple interests – multipotentiality – can benefit many women, but others “often cannot find their niche, make it on their own, or choose a vocational path.”
[That also applies to men, of course.]