I work at Evangel University in Springfield, Missouri, where we use a strengths-based education model for our students, staff, and faculty. We desire to help students understand more about themselves and their God-given strengths by introducing them to the StrengthsFinder assessment developed by the Gallup Organization. This self-assessment helps students identify their top five strengths, then we work with them throughout their college career to understand their motivational strengths and contributions in personal, interpersonal, and professional environments. The insights and revelations that the students experience through naming their strengths are powerful affirmations of the talents created within.
Adopting a strengths-based perspective allows us to recognize and appreciate who we really are. In essence, it offers a practical way for us to look at ourselves through the eyes of Jesus and see the beauty He created within us.
While you do not need to use an assessment in order to think about and develop your personal strengths, it does provide an excellent avenue for common language from which to build. The books, Strengths Based Leadership (by Rath and Barry Conchie), Living Your Strengths (by Albert Winseman, Clifton, and Liesveld), or Now Discover Your Strengths (by Buckingham and Clifton) offer introductions into strengths-based living and leading. Each book also contains a unique access code for you to take the online StrengthsFinder assessment if you wish.
The list of 34 Strength Themes from Gallup are:
Another source for understanding personal strengths—without doing an assessment—comes from Buckingham who has authored numerous books about personal strengths, including Find Your Strongest Life: What Women Do Differently, as well as a wonderful short film series on discovering your strengths and putting them to work (Trombone Player Wanted). These informative sources can assist you in understanding your own personal strengths and leading others in discovering their unique strengths.
A strengths-based development model created by the Gallup Organization researchers provides us with insight into how we can nurture our talents to intentionally develop individual strengths. In other words, our focus changes from obsessing about what is wrong with us to recognizing what is right with us!
We begin with identifying our talents, those “naturally, recurring patterns of thought, feeling or behavior that can be productively applied.”2 Our talents are specific and typically work in combination with other talents. These diamonds in the rough are the keys to unlocking our personal strengths. They are like the threads that weave through every meaningful thing we do—our motivations, drives, and passions. We may not even recognize our talents because we think that everyone has this gift or that it is not that special. Then, even when we begin to recognize our talents, we may negate them, seeing only the weaknesses that may accompany them (the things that make us ineffective in living out our strengths). Before we know it, we revert to our old patterns of obsessing about what is wrong with us!
Our raw talents from God can be fragile and need nurturing. For example, perhaps you have a natural talent of caring for people. They seem to seek you out, and you find great fulfillment when they confide in you. Left unnurtured, this gift of empathic caring can become overwhelming. You may smother yourself in the problems of others and find yourself worn out and burned by the experiences. As another example, maybe you have a natural talent of talking. You are energized by meeting people and learning about them! However, maybe you had a teacher who told your parents you talked too much! From that day forward, you have tried not to speak unless spoken to, but you find it difficult and frustrating. The words just need to come out!
We start with our talents, but that doesn’t mean we will always effectively use them. By applying knowledge and skill, we can learn to appropriately use our strengths (as well as understand inappropriate uses of our raw talents). Through prayer and study, we can develop knowledge and skill.
A strength is defined as: “a specific quality that enables a person to do certain things very well.”3 We use our strengths when we are at our best, when we are most productive, or when we feel most fulfilled. For instance, from the example above, we can learn how to care for people, where to set boundaries, and when to refer to others for help. In the second example, we may learn about effective communication skills, study when we are at our best, and recognize the influence we have. Once learning takes place, we should the find situations that use our strengths—places of service. In this way, the raw talents become refined strengths!
Prayerfully ask God to reveal your talents to you. Think about your life. What are the areas in which you find yourself particularly productive?
What do you love to do?
What motivates you to act?
1Copyright © GALLUP. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission from http://gmj.gallup.com/content/102310/clifton-strengthfinder-book-center.aspx.
2Buckingham, Marcus, and Clifton, Donald O., Now, Discover Your Strengths. (NY: The Free Press, 2001), p 48.
3Ibid, p 48.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society®.
"Developing Your Strengths” is published by the National Women’s Department at women.ag.org, 2020. Permission granted for personal use or within a teaching setting. Do not reproduce.