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How NOT to find your strengths

It's not always that obvious.

I once read this book. It was about how there was this parallel world where all the things that were 'lost' went.

Lost socks. Pens. The tops of pens. Favourite T-shirts. Old watches that hadn't been looked at for years. And on occasion people got lost there too.

(Yes, on top of the quality Self Development books I write about in my Book Reviews I also read some dubious quality chick-lit. Busted!)

I sometimes think of that book when I instruct my son on how to look for things. ('Look with your hands, not just your eyes!').

I sometimes think of it when I am searching for something. Or when (what I've come to think of as) the natural cycle of life means that - all of a sudden - pens and socks start re-appearing.

You see, when I write something I try to avoid the word 'find'.


Because to me it always sounds so passive. As if everything you need is 'out there'. And all you need to do is 'find' it.

It's why I've never been keen on people trawling through hundreds and hundreds of job descriptions to 'find' the ideal one.

Apart from job descriptions being written appallingly badly, (even if the hiring manager DOES know what he or she wants), how do you actually KNOW what the job entails? How do you KNOW that the job will suit you? When was the last time your dream presented itself through a job description?

No, I'm much more of a fan of the 'let's CREATE a fulfilling career' school of thought.

The one that takes you and your skills and strengths as the basis and starts to create the ideal job from there.

Which brings me neatly to the actual proper topic of this blog. That of 'finding' your strengths.

You see, I've noticed two ways that you tend to go about doing that:

1. You are umming and ahhing about it. You don't think you HAVE any particular strengths. You think that what you do is something anyone can do (and if you wanted to read a blog about that go here: Doesn't everyone do that?). Instead, if given half the chance, you start listing the things that you are NO GOOD at. Much easier. But also one of the things that is keeping you stuck.

2. You start listing the things you DO very well. Your list of skills. Even if you don't particularly like doing any of those things. Even if you have HAD to become good at them. (That's, for instance, how I became very good at planning. Do I really LIKE it though?).

In my coaching programme Career Freedom strengths is one of the key things we shine a light on. But not in first instance in the traditional 'I am really good at doing X, Y and Z' way (although we will do that too). But instead at what character strengths you already have.

You see, it takes you to a whole new discussion:

  • Who you ARE, as opposed to what you DO.

  • How you currently express who you are, in work and life

  • How you can bring more of who you are into your work and life.

  • How your (work) environment may not be the best for you to express those strengths in

You see, happiness is not found out there. Your happiness in work and life is based on knowing who you are and adjusting your environment to it. Being intentional in enhancing who you already are in your life and work.

You are who you already are.

You' are great at those things you already love doing.

We will shine a light on your strengths.

But don't just search with your eyes. Because what you're looking for is right there. Right inside you. Right in front of your eyes. It's all already there.


Tineke Tammes is an ICF accredited Career Coach, who supports creative, multi-passionate, professional women in making successful career transitions! Besides that she is also a lifelong feminist, part-time portrait artist, never-only-read-one-book-at-any-time reader, and obsessive doodler. Oh, and she knows a bit about change management too.

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