Pursue What Matters
Episode 164: Play to Your Strengths
Please excuse any typos, transcripts are generated by an automated service
Dr. Melissa Smith 0:00
Are you playing to your strengths? Or do you spend a lot of time and energy trying to make up deficits? Well, let me tell you, that is not a good use of your time. It’s time to play to your strengths.
Dr. Melissa Smith 0:12
Hi, I’m Dr. Melissa Smith. Welcome to the Pursue What Matters podcast where we focus on what it takes to thrive in love and work. So the past few episodes, I’ve been talking about weaknesses and strengths, we have made the case hopefully, that we don’t want you to be Sisyphus, we don’t want you to be focusing on overcoming your weaknesses, which, which really leaves you like Sisyphus, where you’re pushing a boulder uphill, only to have it dropped back down when you get to the top. So it’s not an effective or efficient use of your time or your energy. And then last week, we talked about when grit backfires, and the the importance of applying our grittiness in the right direction. And so today, we’re really going to talk about how to play to your strengths. So you can really leverage your gifts for good. And so every week with a podcast, my goal is to help you pursue what matters by strengthening your confidence to lead. So leading with clarity, which is purpose do you have worthy goals. So we talked about that last week, leading with curiosity, which is all about increasing self awareness and self leadership. And that’s a big part of what we’re talking about today is developing clarity and awareness about your strengths, and where you can best apply your gifts. And then of course, the third area is leading and building a community. And, you know, our conversation today has a lot of application, to your relationships, at work and at home. Because you know, if you’re in a leadership role over others, right, so think about a hierarchical leadership role, it’s really important for you to be able to clearly assess the skills and the abilities of those you work with. So that we can get them to the right positions, we can get them in the right roles where they really can contribute, I think it’s so sad when you see someone, you know, in an organization or on a team in a role for which they are not well suited, right? It’s it really undermines confidence and self worth, and oftentimes, right, not always, but oftentimes, if we can shift them into a different role, they can be very successful, and they can be a big contributor to the success of a team. And so you know, for you hierarchical leaders, it’s really important to recognize the skills and abilities of your team members, so that you can help get them in the right role and in the right position. And so for sure, we’re talking about all three of those today. And so what I want to focus on today are two primary points.
Dr. Melissa Smith 3:27
The first one is to identify your strengths. So we’ll talk about that. And then the second point is, let’s play to your strengths. And we’ll talk a bit more about that. And then I have a great recommendation for you, between now and the next podcast. So let’s start with the first point, which is identify your strengths. So a clear assessment of your strengths and weaknesses will help you better choose activities, where your grit, where your perseverance, where your passion will likely help you succeed. And so this is where I would love to invite you to consider some sort of assessment to help you identify strengths and weaknesses. So one that I really like, and I like it for a lot of reasons. It’s well researched. It’s user friendly, it’s very approachable. It’s something that like you don’t need to work with a psychologist or a leadership coach to get you can just order it on your own is StrengthsFinder. So it this is known as the Clifton Strengths Finder. And it’s a really good tool. I’ve used this with lots of folks, I’ve used it with myself. And it’s like I said, it’s user friendly. And you can just order this, you know, online so you can I’m sure they have a website. You can order it from Amazon. So it comes in the form of a book and with that book, the book really He kind of helps you to explore your strengths. But you also complete an assessment and then you use the book to understand your results. And so that would be my recommendation is take a take an assessment and identify your strengths. Of course, you don’t need to do the strengths finder, maybe there others that you’ve done as part of work or a retreat or something like that there are lots of them out there. But if you if you don’t have one that you’ve already done, or you don’t have one in mind, I definitely would recommend the StrengthsFinder for that endeavor. And next week, we’ll learn a little bit more about that tool, because I’m going to be reviewing that book and not assessment next week. And so when it comes to identifying your strengths, you need to have a clear and an objective assessment. Right, sometimes we assess our skills, but we’re not very objective. When it comes to ourselves, we’re pretty darn subjective. And so that’s why I think it’s important to get an objective assessment. Another way that you can identify your strengths is to seek feedback. Now, a lot of times when we seek feedback, we just really want the positive feedback. But it’s really important to seek out the good, the bad, and the ugly. And so to seek critical feedback. And actually asking for that, like inviting critical feedback can be really helpful. It might sting a little bit, but it will help you to better identify your strengths and your weaknesses. And so that’s the second thing we want to do when it comes to identifying your strengths is to seek feedback. And then the third thing we want to do is we we must heed the feedback that we’re given, okay.
Dr. Melissa Smith 6:42
So when it comes to critical feedback, it is always going to hurt. And I think the reason for that is because it’s vulnerable. And, and that’s okay, that’s actually how the equation works. That we need to kind of straighten our backs strength, strengthen our spines, and let that feedback in receive it. And then you know, more than just seeking it or receiving it is we need to heat it, we need to act on it. So for instance, if there are clear patterns related to critical feedback that you’ve received, and you’re maybe receiving that from multiple sources, you really do need to pay attention to that, that’s a red flag, it might be a yellow flag. But any sort of pattern or theme when it comes to feedback is really important to pay attention to. And the truth is, as humans, we’re predictable animals. Most of us have patterns and themes, right? Like I’m working on the same things today that I was working on 15 years ago. My hope is I’m working with it a little differently. I’m working with it with more self awareness and more skills. But we all have our patterns and themes. And it’s really important to heed the feedback that we’re given, and do what we can to help ourselves. And so when it comes to identifying your strengths, I’ve got three recommendations. So we want you to have a clear assessment of your skill. So an objective assessment. We also want you to seek feedback, and specifically seeking critical feedback, because a lot of people are hesitant to give that feedback.
Dr. Melissa Smith 8:16
So when they get an open invitation to give critical feedback, you know, they’ll really be considerate of that, hopefully, most often that is the case. And then the third, the third thing is to heed feedback, you’re given pay attention to patterns and themes. And now let’s move to the second main point for our conversation today. And that is to play to your strengths. And so I have three solutions for you when it comes to playing to your strengths or three recommendations. So the first one is to cultivate emotional intelligence. So if you caught the podcast last week, you know that in some research from Yale University, when they were looking at the role of emotional intelligence, the ability to self regulate versus grit, they found that emotional intelligence is a greater predictor of success than is grit. Now, no one is saying that grit is an important it is that there’s a lot of value to grit. But if you’re gonna focus on something in addition to grit, you gotta focus on cultivating your emotional intelligence. So check out last week’s podcast, if you missed that one. Emotional intelligence was first brought into the popular culture by Daniel Goleman. So he has a great book. With that same title, I will link to that book and to Daniel’s website.
Dr. Melissa Smith 9:48
So when we think about a definition for emotional intelligence, so it’s often also references EQ or EI. So you might hear some of those terms as well. But it is the ability to to first recognize, understand, and manage our own emotions, okay? And second, recognize, understand and influence the emotions of others. Right? So how do we connect with others. And, you know, in practical terms, this means being aware that emotions can drive our behavior and impact people both positively and negatively, and learning how to manage those emotions, both our own, and others. So it’s the ability to recognize, understand and manage our own emotions and the knowledge and the emotions of others. Right, and a recognition that managing emotions is especially important in situations when we are under pressure. So for example, let’s think of some situations where this might apply. When we’re giving and receiving feedback. A lot of times when we’re giving and receiving feedback, our brain gets hijacked by the reptilian brain, right, like we move into fight or flight mode, our walls go up, the shame kicks up, and we lose all emotional intelligence. And so cultivating emotional intelligence really helps us to remain grounded in these high pressure situations or these vulnerable situations. So such as giving and receiving feedback, meeting tight deadlines, dealing with challenging relationships, not having enough resources, right? Like these are realities of a lot of organizations, navigating change, and working through setbacks, and failure. So if we think about this list of some pressure situations, they’re kind of a task list and, and a checklist of things many of us have experienced with the pandemic, right, lots of stress, lots of challenging relationships, lots of issues around resources. And so we think about how emotional intelligence really can help us to stay grounded, so we don’t lose our mind. So we don’t get hijacked by that reptilian brain.
Dr. Melissa Smith 12:12
So the first recommendation, the first solution to help you play to your strengths is to cultivate emotional intelligence. And second, is to focus on emotional regulation. So this comes to us from Erica writer was writing for The Washington Post, and I will link to this article. So at its most basic emotion regulation is what happens in the space between recognizing feelings and choosing how to respond. So emotional regulation allows us to respond instead of react. So this is from writer she writes, instead of yelling, we pause and take a deep breath. Instead of blaming, we invite problem solving, instead of worrying, we refocus our thoughts on positive outcomes. Instead of withdrawing, we seek support from others. So these are all examples of emotional regulation in action. So I really like that it’s in the space between recognizing feelings, and choosing how to respond. And when we don’t have much in the way of emotional intelligence, or emotional regulation. This, that space of recognizing feelings and choosing how to respond feels very quick, like lightning. And many people describe it as just reacting, right? Like, there was no thought I just reacted, and it often feels that way. But the truth is, there is a space, there is a space where we choose. And so we want to lengthen out that space, so that you can remain grounded, you can get curious, you can use all your other great communication skills to have an effective communication, effective conversation to engage effective problem solving skills. And so when it comes to emotional regulation, this absolutely includes distress tolerance, skills, coping skills, and learning to move through the stress cycle, rather than experiencing a stress pile up. And I’ve done a lot of podcasts on distress tolerance, coping skills, and you know, moving through the stress cycle. And so I’ve got lots of resources for you on that topic. People don’t like to talk about coping skills, they kind of tend to see those as a nuisance. And you know, that that the solutions really have got to be bigger than coping skills. They’ve got to be bigger than box breathing. They’ve got to be bigger than then pausing before you respond. And it’s the truth is, these skills are the heart of change. because they allow us to slow ourselves down so that we don’t lose our head right so that we’re not reacting out of fight or flight or fear. And so I cannot emphasize enough the importance of distress tolerance skills and coping skills, they are the foundation for wellbeing, they are the foundation for, you know, effective functioning in life.
Dr. Melissa Smith 15:27
So, from writer, this comes from Yale study on emotional intelligence, so specifically talking about kids, because kids who know how to manage and influence their emotions have higher stress tolerance, better social skills, greater attentiveness, less anxiety, and depression and a host of other advantages. So when you engage emotional intelligence and emotional regulation skills, you really that’s the greatest advantage you could ever have. Because it you because you keep your you keep your frontal lobe engaged, rather than moving to that reptilian brain. And so it’s powerful, we don’t want you to lose your skills in pressure situations. Okay.
Dr. Melissa Smith 16:18
So that’s the second solution, focus on emotional regulation. And now let’s talk about the third solution, which is to choose worthy goals. Now, I had some to say about this. In our last podcast, sometimes, we’re not pursuing worthy goals. So the US Department of Education report on grit, found that persevering in the face of challenges or setbacks, to accomplish goals that are extrinsically, motivated, unimportant to the student, they’re talking about students at this point, or in some way inappropriate for the student may potentially induce stress, anxiety and distraction, and have detrimental impacts on students psychological well being. So again, that comes from Erica Reiser, writing for The Washington Post, reporting on the US Department of Education report. So this is really important to pay attention to. So the point of this, of this message from the Department of Education is that our goals matter, choosing worthy goals makes a difference when we choose goals for ourselves or for our kids that are extrinsically motivated that that that we don’t care about, or that we’re doing just because we think it’ll please someone else, that pursuing those goals will actually, they’re more likely to induce stress, anxiety, distraction, and undermine well being and success. Okay, we don’t want that that is when we’re climbing the wrong mountain. And so of course, we want to choose goals that you care about goals that are intrinsically motivated. This is where purpose, this is where values really come into play. So if you have a worthy goal, but you recognize that you’re not very skilled at that pursuit, consider another entry point where you can connect with that value. But your success is not dependent on developing skills that you really, you know, don’t have much aptitude to for right. So think about a support role instead of a starring role, where you can still contribute, and you have a sense of purpose and intrinsic motivation. But you’re also respecting the reality of skills that we don’t all have aptitude for everything. So I like thinking about a support role instead of a starring role. I also think about volunteer opportunities where you can connect to meaningful activities and still contribute. So grit can be expected to be most important for goals where individuals have substantial choice. So if your goal is one that you did not set grid is going to be less effective, it can still be a worthy goal. And that’s where it’s important for you to find some commitment to the vision or the purpose. But, you know, for, for gret, to be most effective, it’s on goals where we have substantial choice, we can choose what we’re going to do. And so you know, when it comes to choosing worthy goals, it’s also really important to prioritize your goals. So when it comes to passion, think about passion. It is focused, it’s not diffuse, right, there’s nothing about passion that is diffused. And so you really do need to prioritize your goals.
Dr. Melissa Smith 19:45
So you can’t have 10 worthy goals at a time because you will, you’ll be unsuccessful probably on most of those. And so prioritize your goal. Recognizing that big goals require a lot of passion and or choir, a lot of perseverance. And so that can help you to be successful with that. So of course, today we’ve been talking about how to play to your strengths. And I first led the conversation with helping you identify your strengths. Please consider the Clifton Strengths Finder. If you would like to take an objective measure, I’m going to talk more about that next week. Second, we want you to play to your strengths. And how do you do that. So first, we need to cultivate emotional intelligence. I will also link to the book review that I did of emotional intelligence. It’s a great book. The second we want to focus on emotional regulation. So distress tolerance skills, coping skills, slowing ourselves down in the moment is really, really important. And then third, we want to choose worthy goals, right? worthy goals where we have intrinsic motivation, and we have a path to success, it doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy. In fact, it will probably be very challenging, but can you see a path to success and that’s really important to pay attention to. And then of course, we need to prioritize those goals.
Dr. Melissa Smith 21:08
So head on over to my website to check out the show notes for the resources for this episode at www.drmelissasmith.com/164-playtostrengths. So one more time, that’s www.drmelissasmith.com/164-playtostrengths So check me out on Instagram @dr.melissasmith. I’d love to connect with you there. I have a lot more to say about these topics on Instagram. And then of course, I will include the link for emotional intelligence book by Daniel Goleman. And also the book review that I did of that book. And then of course, I would encourage you to explore my podcast page because I have a lot of great podcasts on coping skills. So in the meantime, I’m Dr. Melissa Smith. Remember love and work, work and love. That’s all there is. Until next time, take good care.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai