Friday, January 25, 2013

Strengths Finder for Health and Fitness?

As part of a big team meeting at work this January, my co-workers and I took the StrengthsFinder assessment developed by Gallup and then shared our results. It was a very interesting assessment and activity so I wanted to share it here, and discuss how it might relate to health and fitness.

StrengthsFinder was developed to help people uncover their inherent talents and use them to better themselves and their work. Our society has often been one of exploiting weaknesses rather than strengths. We often devote more time to overcoming our shortcomings rather than developing and using the talents we already have. The whole mantra of "you can be anything you want to be" is fundamentally flawed because people are going to be more successful when they are using their inherent talents rather then trying to be something they are not.

At work we are often evaluated on our weaknesses. Quarterly and yearly reviews often include questions like "what could this employee improve on?" But employees are more likely to be successful when they work on things that they are good at rather than something that comes naturally to them. I definitely agree with the philosophy of the StrengthsFinder book and assessment in that we should figure out what our talents are and run with them. Developing our talents will be more successful in the end than trying to overcome weaknesses. Also, employees and managers are better able to work together when they know each other's strengths.

The StrengthsFinder assessment involves a series of rank-type questions that then produce a result of our top five strengths. The report produced from the website is quite detailed and I was surprised at how much true insight it gave me into my own personality. I was also impressed at my coworkers' evaluations and it was interesting to learn more about what makes all of our personalities unique. I really did learn quite a bit about myself so I highly recommend that you purchase the book and take the online assessment.

I was a little surprised by my top five strengths and wouldn't have picked them out on my own. They are 1. Futuristic, 2. Intellection, 3. Input, 4. Strategic, and 5. Self-Assurance. I won't share my whole report but some things that stood out to me were that:

  • I often imagine and share my ideas for the future
  • I gain insight that enables me to forge linkages between facts, statements, events, or data
  • I yearn to increase my knowledge by being kept in the information loop (twitter!)
  • I gravitate to people who converse about ideas at a deeper and more thoughtful level
  • Making small talk seems like a waste of time to me (so true! probably why people think I'm shy/quiet)
  • It is imperative that my work be both invigorating and challenging
  • I accomplish more and deliver better results when I use my natural abilities
This assessment gave me some great insight into my personality and confirmed what I already knew, that I like challenging and entrepreneurial work where I can use my strategic thinking. I think I'm going to post this on my website/resume!

What does StrengthsFinder have to do with health and fitness and being a goddess? I'm not sure yet but the philosophy of exploiting your natural talents rather than overcoming your weakness can perhaps be applied to being healthy. In the case of fitness, it could be true that you should do things you're good at physically in order to be in your best physical condition. For example, if you enjoy yoga and are good at it, then you should use yoga as much as possible to reach your fitness goals. Conversely, if you're a bad runner, then forcing yourself to run and not enjoy it will not help you reach your full physical potential. I think this is very true to a certain degree. We all have natural physical talents, some much more than others (e.g. professional athletes.) For example, I played basketball when I was younger and I really wanted to be really good at it but I just wasn't aggressive enough in the game. I am just not inherently aggressive and never became a basketball star. However, I was much better at running because it didn't involved the same reaction time and aggression as basketball. If I had perhaps spent more time developing my running skills rather than basketball skills, I could have become a much better runner.

However, utilizing only your natural talents for fitness is really not the philosophy of CrossFit. In CrossFit we are constantly working on our weaknesses (upper body moves for me), but should we instead be working even more on our strengths to reach optimal fitness? Should I be doing many more squats and sprints instead of constantly working on push-ups? In a workout, I'm always focusing on the moves that I'm bad at, should it be the opposite? I'm not sure how to apply this philosophy to CrossFit but I think the main point is that you will reach your own optimal level of fitness if you do activities that you and enjoy and are good at. (Also, is yoga a waste of time for me because I'm so bad at it?)

Finally, I think that the StrengthsFinder philosophy can definitely apply to eating healthy and reaching a healthy lifestyle. One single type of healthy diet will not work for everyone. While I think that there is a baseline optimal human diet (fruits and vegetables), what other healthy (or unhealthy) foods you add to the diet are different for everyone. Reaching your optimal health is really a journey in which you try different things until you feel your best. I'm still learning a lot about my own health and well being, which is the purpose of this blog!

My takeaway point for this very long post (sorry!) is that you should focus on what you are good at and what you enjoy for optimal well-being in your career, health, and personal life. Stop dwelling on your weaknesses and develop the talents that you already have. Your life will be much more satisfying!

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