The WFL Step 8: Focus on Your Strengths

The takeaway: Use your strengths to guide you through change, relieving obstacles and becoming your own best friend in your quest for better health and a more joyful life!

Actions: Make a list of all the things you are good at. It can have any focus – things you like about your body, a gratitude list of all the things you appreciate, skills you have that make you a rockstar at home or at work, etc. ANYTHING you do well – write it down! You can use those strengths to help you solve problems and overcome obstacles.

I used to intensely focus on my “faults” or “weaknesses” because I thought I needed to work on, overcome, or improve those. This caused a lot of negative self-talk, self-bullying, and self-hate. And there were no positive results! I didn’t feel like I improved or made any progress in becoming a better person. This went on for a good 8 years.

So trust me, focusing on your weaknesses only wears you down.

sweet bodies

Once I started looking at what I was GOOD at, what I liked and loved about myself; I was able to apply some awesome inner power to my goals for improvement: in work, in my personal life, and in my health. Change is big. Change is life. In order to live a big life, you need to find a way through your fear of change. And that, my friends, is where we apply our strengths.

I’m always looking for the bright side or silver lining. It isn’t so much a question of my natural “personality”, but how I choose to engage with the world. Call me an idealist, naive, “Just to the left of Karl Marx pinko-commie-leftist-liberal” + “tree hugger” (credit to Dad & Grandpa for the last two), but I am happier with my outlook on the world. And it is much less of a struggle to use your strengths to guide you, rather than cutting yourself down on your weaknesses.

This would be so much easier if I wasn’t so hard on myself.

The same goes for my food and exercise. I have an issue with “self-discipline” and I always thought about my lack of consistency and emotional eating as things that I was doomed to live with because of some deep personality flaw. Once I read Daring Greatly, I learned to recognize how shame was driving these constant worries and how to work towards more self-love and less shame. I reached out and asked for help, getting a coach at the gym and a bunch of accountability partners in my struggle for better health. But I also made it a point to focus on what I was good at. Here are a few ideas how:

  • Self-love meditation, especially guided meditations that direct you to speak to yourself and say what you love.
  • Strengths Finder 2.0 test, a paid online assessment, but well worth the $20 I spent in terms of professional gains and accomplishments in teaching and personal self-confidence. I have a list of my strengths hanging at my desk.
  • Talking to others about what I was good at when I didn’t know what to tell myself. Friends are amazingly good at seeing all the good things you are ignoring about yourself when you only have a negative story.
  • Reading books like Daring Greatly and blogs focusing on self-love, like Paleo for Women.
  • Keeping a daily gratitude journal, and including things that I was grateful for about myself.
  • Making mental lists of things I liked about my body.
  • Doing positive challenges to include things that I want in my life, like the 30 day dance challenge
  • CELEBRATING my accomplishments!

The last one was really big. I was always so busy looking for what to improve next, I forgot to acknowledge all the good things I had done or things I had achieved. It can be as small as a “go you!” in your brain after you work on something, or you can share with friends and family and create a little celebration. I sometimes treat myself to a Thai massage or one of my other little indulgences after I’ve worked hard at a goal and came out on top. A lot of the time, I just write down all the good things I did that day in a “done” list, rather than a “to do” list.

give

And if you sometimes stumble and don’t do exactly what you want to do? Brush it off. Let it go. Learn for next time. Hanging on to my old mishaps takes so much more energy than just saying ok, I’ll do better next time. Don’t worry, because I fail all the time. It’s actually how we grow. Don’t think of yourself as doomed to be stuck in an eternal cycle. The only true failure is giving up on yourself. The rest are just details that help you figure out your path, whatever your destination may be.

Opportunities to find deeper powers within ourselves, come when life seems most challenging.

~Joseph Campbell