The ‘home’ of my post title is me, myself and I, and I’m writing this in the hope you start to think about your home-in-self-health that way too.
I had coffee and conversation with a business coach recently, and as we meandered through a myriad of subjects, we landed on talking about different self-development approaches. Here’s my personal take on it.
Self-development can be a big topic, but it doesn’t have to be. Not once you personalize it, and ask yourself, what’s in it for me?
—“What’s in it for me?” is a self-leadership question.
My own approach with self-development has changed over the years, and thank goodness it has.
When I was younger and less work-savvy, I considered self-development to be courses of study—it was schooling. It was going to classes, trainings and workshops. It was attending all the interesting conferences I could afford, or could talk my employer into sponsoring for me—I was in fact, that school nerd who would ask, “do you have a tuition reimbursement benefit here?” when I interviewed for jobs.
Best practice: Get Strong.
A different light bulb switched on for me when I began to study strengths management, and how managers can best groom strength-building in their staff.
Similar to a lot of other things in management technique, you can’t groom strengths in others, without using yourself as a guinea pig first. The best way to learn strength-building theory, is to do it for yourself and learn to apply it by merit of your own experience.
The gist of strength-building, and why it’s universally a good idea for all human beings, is this: your strengths get you to feel stronger. Okay, duh…what does that mean?
Your strengths are the activities you do best, and are instinctively drawn to doing repeatedly. Your strengths are your best source of energy, and when you work within your strengths, you match your instinctively strong actions to your work. Thus, you work happier, and you work feeling more fulfilled; as a result, you’re more successful.
When you’re forced to work with/on your weaknesses—because we all have those too—you are working on activities you do not have a natural inclination for. Working within or on your weaknesses drains energy out of you, because they are activities which fail to make you happy or satisfied, and thus, they end up failing you most of all.
Strengths management guru Marcus Buckingham defines a strength this way: “Your strengths are defined by your actual activities. They are things you do, and more specifically, things you do consistently and near perfectly.” He describes the activities of a strength with the acronym SIGN:
S is for Success: Activities you are successful with; they make you feel powerful.
I is for Instinct: Activities you instinctively drawn toward doing; they have an “I just can’t help myself” quality to them.
G is for Growth: Activities which help you grow in happiness, and grow in focus as you are doing them.
N is for Needs: Whereas Instinct refers to how you feel before you do and activity, and Growth refers to how you feel during an activity, Needs refers to how you feel afterwards; you are fulfilled, because the activity just seems to fill an innate need of yours, and you feel restored.
So what does all this have to do with self-development?
My old approach was rife with should-ing: I took courses and such, that others felt would be good for me in some way. We might hit on a strength activity for me, but it was certainly hit or miss, for in focusing on things I knew next to nothing about, usually, the odds were we’d end up focusing on my weaknesses instead.
The right approach with weaknesses, is to steer clear of them. You design your own life, and your own work in the realm of your strengths instead.
This is not to say don’t explore—do. Learn more of what you don’t know. However be driven by your own instincts, curiosity and thirst for new inquiries, and not solely by what others say you should look into.
I will still sign up for courses, workshops and conferences. The difference is, that I know better now, about choosing to fortify my values, and choosing to develop my strengths instead of my weaknesses. I know myself better, and hence, I know what to look for in fulfilling my own needs. I only choose to work on my talents, and the skills and knowledge I’ll need to turn my talents into true strengths which continually improve.
—TALENT is innate for us; we were born with it.
—SKILLS are what we’ll learn about the activities we’re talented in, and want to keep doing.
—KNOWLEDGE opens more doors to us which are good for our talents (this is often a context question that helps with framing and relevance).
The majority of what I do however, isn’t in a class anymore. I tackle it on my own, because again, it’s about me, myself and I, whereas classes must be generalized for participants with a random sampling of strengths no matter how specific the subject matter may be.
Therefore, I read more (and re-read more), and I watch more TED Talks (and then read and annotate their transcripts), because I’ve now specifically chosen the exact subject matter as an activity I have some degree of strength in. I have the self-awareness of my own strengths telling me what I need, and what I should indeed be working on to optimize my competence with it.
I also choose my best how-I-work HABITS as those which give me the definite feeling that I am working within my strengths, and not my weaknesses. An example of a strength-building activity-now-habit I share here on the blog with you at times, is RFL: Rapid Fire Learning. I do it, and do it without fail at the end of every month, because I know it is an exercise which strengthens me, much in the same way my values serve me.
I also made absolutely sure, that Strengths Management was one of Managing with Aloha’s 9 Key Concepts, so that the Alaka‘i Managers who enroll in values-centered management, can become stronger, and facilitate strength-building in their staff.
If you’d like to go on this journey of self-development directed by your strengths, I highly recommend you pick up these books, and do the exercises they offer: Be your own curator. Get hardcovers or paperbacks, so you can write your personal strength-finding notes in them, and document your progress!
Now, Discover Your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton (read this one first; Amazon link)
Go Put Your Strengths to Work: 6 Powerful Steps to Achieve Outstanding Performance by Marcus Buckingham (read this second; Amazon link)
Postscript: Sunday Mālama has been when I will share my off-the-workplace-highway scenic route kind of posts. Not as a normal weekly feature, but whenever they seem to be writing themselves. Sunday Mālama can beg leisurely reading time, romping through a few of our older lessons-learned. These posts can also seem a bit unfinished, inviting you to finish them up for yourselves as you will.
You can access the Sunday Mālama archives via this category link, also residing with my site footnotes. In the vein of what I just wrote above on self-development, I would recommend these:
—Sunday Mālama: Nānā i ke kumu Layers
—Sunday Mālama: Debrief to Recharge your Aloha Spirit
—Sunday Mālama: Are your projects and your ideas in sync?