Build Your Strengths by Vanessa King

Annamarie Dillon | December 09, 2015

It gives us great pleasure to share the ninth blog post in the series for rare disease caregivers entitled, "Building Resilience" by Vanessa King.

Being a patient group leader or carer means we draw on a wide range of skills and have to be good at many things. Yet how often do we take a moment to notice these capabilities, let alone think about how we can amplify them?

Research shows that when we identify our strengths and use them more and in new ways, we are happier. We have more energy We are more productive and more likely to achieve our goals - which enables us to be and feel more resilient.

What are strengths?
We are all good at many things but not all of them are strengths. Our strengths are things that we naturally do well, learn easily, enjoy doing and, important, find energizing rather than depleting. They might be things that others see in us that we don’t always notice in ourselves. This is because often these things are so natural for us we don’t realize that they are something special, that not everyone can do.

There are many different strengths, for example: creative thinking, persistence, being organized, planning, thinking objectively, social skills, writing, story-telling, clear communication, kindness, attention to detail, making connections (between people, things or ideas), making things look nice, adaptability or seeing the bigger picture.

How do we identify our strengths?
There are different ways we can identify our strengths:
1. Reflect on your skills and capabilities:

  • What come most naturally for you? What can’t you help but use?
  • What do you feel energized when doing? What would you say to complete the sentence: “I love doing…..”?
  • What gets done quickly?
  • What do people know you and come to you for?

2. Ask those around you (family members, colleagues, friends):

  • Ask them to describe what they see as your top 3 – 5 strengths and when they see you using them. (Note: other people may see things that we are good at but we may not find these things energizing or enjoyable, so they may not be true strengths.)

3. Take a strengths survey:
  • Psychologists have developed several surveys we can take that help us identify our strengths. A good one to try is: called the “Values In Action” survey (VIA for short). It’s free to use. Click here to take it.

Aim to come up with your top 5, as it’s easier to focus on a few rather than a lot of strengths. Make sure these are things that are genuinely “you” – things you most love to do and find energizing, not what you think you should be good at!

Using our strengths more
Like a muscle, we only get stronger if we intentionally practice using our strengths. So pick one of yours and take some time to think about how can you use this more and in new ways day-to-day. This doesn’t necessarily mean doing whole new activities but thinking about how you do what you do. The more you focus on your strengths, over time, the more you will find new opportunities to use them. You can also try asking family members, colleagues and friends for their ideas on how you could apply your strengths in new ways.

The attached guide has some more tips and space to note down your thoughts on your strengths.

Strengths in others
In an earlier blog (Keep Connected) we looked at focusing on the strengths of others to help nurture our close relationships, so don’t forget to practice spotting strengths in others too – the more you do it the easier it gets!

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