As a child, you might have heard “you can be anything you want to be if you just try hard enough.” Study harder. Practice more. Work on your weaknesses that stand between you and becoming who you want to be.
As a parent, you likely give your children the same message. By age four or five, our kids have already answered the question “what do you want to be when you grow up?” many times. We continue to ask the question into their early adult years.
Let’s talk about why “you can be anything you want to be” is a myth and what you and your children can be instead.
The Early Years in School
The U.S. education system guides the development and learning of our children. State curriculums determine what all children will learn, regardless of their strengths, weaknesses, and interests. In elementary school, a lot of effort is put into making sure each child is on grade level according to assessments such as state testing.
Some students naturally succeed within this paradigm because it’s easy for them to gain the needed knowledge and skills. However, for many students, there is a mismatch between what is expected of them and what they can achieve because so much time is spent trying to alleviate their weaknesses. This is the path of most resistance. Who can blame a child for not engaging in school if all they’re focused on are their weaknesses?
Instead, we need to flip the script for children (and adults) so that parents, teachers, and bosses reward excellence and invest more time in the areas where the individual has the most potential for greatness.
“Every human being has talents that are just waiting to be uncovered.” Tom Rath
Gallup and What They Know about People
Gallup, a global analytics and advice firm, has spent 80+ years collecting data to learn more about the will of employees, customers, students, and citizens of the world. Their website says, “We know what matters the most to them at work and in life and how those priorities change over time.”
One finding from their research is that “each person has greater potential for success in specific areas, and the key to human development is building on who you already are,” writes Tom Rath in StrengthsFinder 2.0 From Gallup (2007).
THIS revision to the “you-can-be-anything-you-want-to-be” maxim might be more accurate: You can be a lot more of who you already are.
Get Off the Path of Most Resistance
Subscribing to this saying “you can be anything you want as long as your try hard enough” puts you on the path of most resistance because you’re working from your weaknesses and not leveraging your talents and strengths.
“In this increasingly talent-driven society, we need to know and develop our strengths to figure out where we fit in,” comments Rath.
Gallup has surveyed more than 35 million people globally on the topic of employee engagement (or how positive and productive people are at work). Only one-third “strongly agree” with the statement: At work, I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day.
Their studies indicate that employees who can focus on their strengths every day are six times as likely to be engaged in their jobs and more than three times as likely to report having an excellent quality of life in general.
When you don’t operate from your strengths zone at work, chances are you:
- Dread going to work
- Have more negative interactions with your colleagues
- Treat your customers poorly
- Tell your friends what a miserable company you work for
- Achieve less daily
- Have few positive and creative moments
Beyond the world of work, there are even more serious complications for your health and relationships if you’re not in your strengths zone. For example, Rath writes that Gallup’s research has shown how a “strengths-based approach improves your confidence, direction, hope, and kindness toward others.”
Get On the Path of Least Resistance
Donald O. Clifton, the father of Strengths Psychology, and his team identified 34 themes of talent that were most common in their human strengths database. They developed the first version of the Clifton StrengthsFinder Assessment to measure the 34 distinct talents from the data.
Not surprisingly, building your talents into real strengths also requires practice and hard work. Knowledge and skills — along with regular practice — amplify your natural talents. “We’ve discovered that the most successful people start with dominant talent — and then add skills and knowledge, and practice to the mix. When they do this, the raw talent actually serves as a multiplier,” assures Rath.
Take StrengthsFinder 2.0
Here’s why I encourage you to take the StrengthsFinder assessment: infusing your day with more opportunities to operate from your strengths is a form of rebalancing work + life. And it helps you know and understand yourself better.
Your mind, body, and spirit benefit from spending more time doing what you’re naturally good at instead of slogging through life focused on your weaknesses. You’ll get on the path of least resistance which decreases stress and overwhelm.
The easiest way to take the assessment is to purchase the StrengthsFinder 2.0 book, which includes a unique access code. The book includes descriptions of the 34 talents, ideas for taking action, and tips on how to work with others who have strong talents in the theme. After completing the assessment, you will receive a comprehensive action planning guide based on your StrengthsFinder 2.0 results.
Gallup also offers StrengthsFinder assessments for students and youth 10-14 years of age. In addition, Reckmeyer and Robinson authored Strengths Based Parenting: Developing Your Children’s Innate Talents in 2016.
Wrapping It Up
I took StrengthsFinder 2.0 about 10 years ago. My results helped me understand myself better than any other personality test I completed. The information was so useful that I purchased the assessment for my three children. Knowing each other’s talents helped us celebrate natural talents and assign tasks so we all contributed to the family using our strengths.
Without a doubt, my top five strengths — Relator, Learner, Communicator, Significance, and Responsibility — influence my work with clients and the growth of my business.
As a high achiever, you put a lot of effort into whatever you do. Why not use your raw talent as a multiplier of the investment of time practicing, developing your skills, and building your knowledge base that you will expend anyway? Focusing on your talents will help you make progress more quickly and effectively with ease.
If you’d like to get off the path of most resistance and onto the path of least resistance, reach out!