Leading Change Series: Dont Forget About Our Strengths

Don’t Forget About Strengths.

It is important not to forget our strengths. Have you had the experience of participating in a performance review to be told in endless detail about all the things you need to fix and do differently, and then, as a passing afterthought, hear a few words about what you do well and what you are entitled to be proud of? We are overqualified at describing both our own and others’ deficits. Therefore, it is important that you identify your strengths and foster them, as well as identifying your limitations. This is apparent in positive psychology and is essential in stress management. Marsha Linehan in her work on Dialectic Behaviour Therapy, talks about the concepts of getting action under control: helping people feel better, resolving problems and finding joy and a sense of transcendence. She emphasises, in therapy, the value of increasing the behavioural skills of mindfulness, interpersonal effectiveness, emotional regulation, distress tolerance and self-management, stressing acceptance, not judgement. She uses the expression “… applying treatment strategies is a dance between acceptance and change.” There is nothing wrong at all in acknowledging, and relishing, the things about ourselves that are unique, that enable us to function effectively, that we are experienced or expert in and are to role model for others. This celebration is important to maintaining a positive self-image and a feeling of confidence about our capability (including, therefore, our ability to change those things that are not working as well). It is probably easy for us to take the good stuff for granted and assume that we can ‘leave well enough alone’ and get straight onto focussing on our ‘gaps’ or ‘deficiencies’. However, focussing on this alone can be somewhat depressing and reduce our motivation to change. Rather we would be better to articulate and develop what we value and want to preserve in ourselves, while also acknowledging our shortcomings and, intriguingly, how these ‘link.’ It may be that the gaps may get our attention because they get in the way of progress, but our strengths also need nurturing, encouragement, praise and support. Critically, both comparative and evaluative judgements come into play. (I want to behave like this in the future, and I am like this now.) This is not simple; it is not about ‘killing off’ the old behaviour, but rather the ‘evolution’ of new behaviour.