Episode 2: What Is My Greatest Strength? The Heck If I Know...

 

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Hi, I'm Victoria Hefty and welcome to episode two of Activate Purpose, where I talk about finding purpose through action while balancing motherhood and career. Today I want to tell you about how to answer the loaded question, what is your biggest strength? Stick around to learn how I overcame the shame of not even knowing how to answer this question as an educated working professional and the practical approach I took to help answer this question for me.

[00:00:30] As I mentioned in episode one, I have decided to focus these early episodes around a book that I absolutely love called The Success Principles by Jack Canfield. During the first episode, I talked about the struggles I had applying the principle titled, Taking 100% Responsibility for Your Life. Well, in today's episode, we're going to discuss another success principle I really struggled with and this one is titled, Be Clear Why You're Here.

So this chapter is all about [00:01:00] figuring out your life purpose and as part of that, identifying your unique strengths. And that is when I started to panic. I was okay with not knowing what my life purpose is, because, duh, I wouldn't have bought this book if I knew that, right. This would be a totally different show. However, when I had to answer the question, identify your unique strengths, as part of this activity in the book, I actually froze. I realized that I just absolutely hate that question. It's another version [00:01:30] of the dreaded, what is your greatest strength, question.

As I was talking about it with my husband, he very precisely said, "Honestly, it's the one question that people love to ask but also hate to answer themselves." But why is that? Why does the, what is your greatest strength or unique strength, make people nervous, like me? I can't answer for other people, but I know for me, the real answer is when I was reading the chapter, I knew that I couldn't confidently articulate what my greatest [00:02:00] strength was, because I didn't know what it was and that made me kind of feel ashamed and defeated.

I started thinking, "Oh great, Victoria, here you are worried about not knowing what your purpose is in life. You have this podcast, but you don't even know what your strengths are. What is wrong with you?" To be more precise, it wasn't that I couldn't think of any strengths, it's I couldn't think of any strengths that weren't directly tied to a job that I'd had in the past. Sure, I'm detail-oriented, I'm a good [00:02:30] communicator, at least I think so, and I can make a really good PowerPoint presentation, but these are not the types of things that I want to answer that question. They make me sound like I'm in a job interview and not talking about me, Victoria.

So I want to be able to confidently say what my biggest strength is and not feel like I'm in an interview, so how can I do that? As my style is, I try to break down the process a little bit and say, "All right, what are three things that I can do to help me discover [00:03:00] what my biggest strength is?" And I will, over the course of the show, share that with you.

The first thing I did, one. I remember recommending the very popular book StrengthsFinder in my own book, The Insider's Guide to Maternity Leave, but I never actually took the online test. That's a confession. I decided the first thing I need to do was actually take the test and not just assume I knew my strengths were based on reading the description. So you can find it online and I'll have a link to it in the show notes, but basically [00:03:30] the premise behind StrengthsFinders is that they will help you identify five strengths out of a database of 34 strengths, and through the process you'll discover, and I quote, "What you naturally do best, learn how to develop your greatest talents, and use your customized results to live your best life."

I took the test, it took about 30 minutes and basically, it's a test that says, it gives you options and you pick which one, not that you would like to have as a trait, but how you actually feel. [00:04:00] A quick example that I remember was one of the questions was, are you kind or do you like to achieve? And I remember thinking, "Well, I'm both, but I think I'd like to be kind," but honestly, anytime it's around a goal, I'm very goal oriented, that's a much stronger feeling for me, so I picked that one. And sure enough, when I took the test, my top five results were ... and some of these are words or not, but this is how they ... these are their terms.

The first one was achiever. [00:04:30] The second one was strategic. The third was positivity. Four was focus and five was activator. Now, again, the names don't mean as much as the individualized reports that really break down based on your responses why they chose these strengths for you and reading them was just a welcome thing for me. I remember, I printed them out, I sent it to my husband. I said, "You have to take this test right away." And I remember feeling like I finally, oddly enough, someone or a system or an algorithm [00:05:00] had to tell me what it is that I'm good at, because I've been so focused on career and detail and things that make me great on work, that I've never really stopped to say, "All right, what makes me strong as a person?"

I'll actually post my report, my own personal report, on the website at activatepurpose.com/episode2, but I do know that when I started really reading the descriptions, two of the traits really spoke to me. One was [00:05:30] positivity and one was activator. So positivity was beyond just being a positive person, it was always, I think, trying to find the good even when things are bad and that ... and also encouraging other people, and I think that's something that I tend to downplay, but it's something that I actually really enjoy and sometimes my job allows for that, but sometimes it doesn't, because I often work alone and do research online and there's no people aspect to it.

It was really kind of a good reminder that that is something [00:06:00] that I'm good at and I also remember that the activator resonated with me, but I didn't just want to rely on my sort of own thoughts around this, so the second thing I did was I decided to ask a good friend for her opinion, so I took ... I uploaded the results and I sent her an email and I didn't want to give her too much background, so I just copied and pasted the five results and I said, "Before you read the detailed report, let me know if anything [00:06:30] stands out for you."

And luckily we had ... we were gonna have a Google hangout, so I was able to hear her response and actually see it, so I recommend that for you, but basically, when she read it she was like, immediately said that activator stood out to her. She said, "You know, when I met you, I could clearly tell that you're not a person that just settles. When you want something, you go after it and you create the life that you want." And I remember thinking, "That's a pretty powerful thing that I haven't really [00:07:00] thought about myself before." And again, if anyone knows me that's listening to this podcast, it may be obvious to you, but that's the whole point of this journey is that things that are obvious to other people may not be obvious to you.

So what I did third is I wrote down every experience that fit this activator mode. So things like leaving my job in banking, because I hated the culture, or creating my first magazine without any know-how or starting a blog without any know-how or writing a book with zero [00:07:30] experience, or even this podcast. Starting it without having any idea how to do it and I started to see a common thread as you can probably tell. I realized that I always act first and then I figure it out along the way. Through the course of my journey, I've realized that acting first and then reiterating later has allowed me to feel more comfortable and to actually get better at it, and I've also realized that I'm actually taking for granted something that is very hard for people to do.

[00:08:00] So when I've told people that I've written a book or started a podcast they say, "Oh, I would love to do one, too." I say, "Well, you can. It's actually not that hard. There's enough information out there that you can do it." But a lot of people don't and it's not about judgment, but it's about saying that, I actually have a strength that is unique and that I should realize that and use that propel me instead of discounting it and not even recognizing it as a strength.

So one of the things that I [00:08:30] think is important for moms especially is I think our identity when we become mothers starts to get very muddled if we've had very demanding careers. I would encourage any mom listening to this to really, one, try and ... if you don't want to take the StrengthsFinders, really take the time to think about what is your strength outside of being a mom and outside of being your career?

So that brings me to the [00:09:00] end of this episode where I always like to give a challenge, so this can be a challenge for the moms, who I think particularly need this, or for anyone who's listening. I would, one, encourage you to go to StrengthsFinders, and now I think it's called Clifton Finders, but just Google StrengthsFinders and you'll find it or again, it'll be available in the show notes and either take the test online or buy the book. I know that the combination is $19, so not expensive at all.

Find 30 to 40 minutes of quiet to [00:09:30] take the test and then see what your results are. Actually take the time to read them a couple of times and then, this is the important part, forward the results and again, you can either send the entire PDF or just the top five and ask either a colleague, a coworker, a spouse, your best friend, someone who just met you, and ask which one trait resonated the most with them and why.

I think this is actually a fun exercise, because it's not like you're asking people what your biggest [00:10:00] weakness is, no one wants to talk about that. People genuinely like to help you and I'm sure they'd love to tell you what they think you're good at, so I would say, ask them, see what the response is and see if there are any common themes and then, the last step, which I think in many ways is the most important, is see if you can go back in your experience, way back, even in elementary school, high school, all those years that we've sort of forgotten about, and see what experiences you have that align with that.

And I think you may [00:10:30] be surprised at what your biggest strength is and hopefully, have that answer ready to go just for yourself, but also in settings when you're introducing yourself, so it doesn't feel like your biggest strength is, again, something that has to be answered in an interview, but rather, something that is for you and allows you to filter and figure out the things that you want to pursue in your life.

As I always say, if you're up for sharing, I would love to hear about your experience and in particular, [00:11:00] what your strengths are and how you found the process of asking people or any epiphanies that you had. So, if you feel comfortable, send a note to Victoria@activatepurpose.com and if you want to find show notes and links to all of the resources I've talked about, including StrengthsFinders and see what my results were, my customer port if you're curious, that I talked about in this episode, visit activatepurpose.com/episode2. Until next time.

 

 

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Activate Purpose