Discover your strengths!

Discover Your Strengths: How to put your God-given talents to work.

Do you know your strengths, and are you putting your God-given talents to work?

I recently did a deep dive into these two questions when I reconnected with my longtime friend, Travis Archer Hall, over coffee. After catching up on life, our conversation turned to discovering and using our strengths. It’s been several years since Travis and I last connected, and Travis is now a Gallup Certified Strengths Coach. Our journey began over a decade ago when Travis and I attended a workshop on the book Now Discover Your Strengths. Today, strengths are Travis’s expertise—which is great for me because I am passionate about this topic!

Here are a few things Travis reminded me about strengths during our coffee shop conversation!

Do you know your strengths? If so, how are you using them to fulfill your God-given dreams? Click To Tweet

What are Strengths?

Strengths are the areas where we naturally excel. In these areas, we have the potential to outshine others. Contrary to popular belief, everyone cannot be good at everything. Knowing our strengths is important because all of us have certain areas where we can excel. There are also other areas where we’ll always be mediocre at best. This is why knowing our strengths is so important. Discovering your strengths will allow you to focus on the areas where you can shine bright!

Let me explain with a story.

Growing up, teachers told me that I could be anything I wanted. The American dream says, “Discover your passion, work hard, and the world is at your fingertips.” The only problem is this type of thinking is not entirely true. As my friend Travis so eloquently states, “We all have way more weakness than strengths.” The idea that children can grow up to be anything they want is simply unrealistic. For example, if you happen to be just over five feet tall, then a dream of becoming a professional basketball player is out of reach–Yes, pun intended.

How to Discover Your Strengths: My Story

In my book Coffee Shop Conversations Psychology and the Bible, I tell my story of giving up the pursuit of music. Although I love music, I was born with less than perfect hearing. Thus, I have a hard time staying on key and just do not possess the tools needed to excel in this area. I discovered this through a process of trial and error. Early in college, I began playing the guitar. After months of practice, I led a first-grade Sunday school class in a time of worship. Before we began, I taught the class the hand-motions to the song. Then we started to sing. A smile washed over my face as the entire class actively engaged. Then, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed one boy singing loudly while simultaneously covering his ears with both hands.

I share this experience because it brought my strengths and weaknesses to light. I discovered that I am great at leading others. Helping others get excited and engaged comes naturally and is something I enjoy doing. On the other hand, music is an area that requires a lot of work on my part for minimal progress. According to the strengths research, when people pursue growth in their weakness, they become mediocre at best. I watched in frustration as people naturally gifted in these areas put in half the effort I did and achieved twice the results. I learned that hard work alone is not enough—strengths matter!

When we hone in on our God-given talents, we truly shine.

Each of us has areas where we naturally excel. Travis states, “All of us have things we can do that 10,000 other people can’t.” Understanding my strengths and weaknesses allowed me to shift my focus off music and onto leadership. When you discover your strengths, you’ll be able to work smarter, and not harder.

When we hone in on our God-given talents, we truly shine. Click To Tweet

Why are strengths important?

During our conversation, Travis stated, “Uniqueness is value.” God designed you for a reason. Psalm 139:14 describes us as “fearfully and wonderfully made.” God handcrafted us for a purpose, and the world benefits when we put our unique gifts to good use. Howard Thurman said, “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” Travis believes that God made us to be strong in our niche and that we are designed to use our strengths to serve others.

Discovering your strengths is about learning to be good at being the person God designed you to be. Although we can’t excel at everything, we can stand out in some areas. The trick is to discover your strengths and then hone in on them. According to Travis, “It’s ok to have both strengths and weaknesses.” One of the things that we learn from this is that “Ultimate wholeness comes from being part of a community.” People are interdependent. You and I will always need others, and other people will always need us. Tom Rath summed it up when he stated, “You cannot be anything you want to be–but you can be a lot more of who you already are.” So who are you?

What exactly is a strengths coach?

Years ago, the Gallup organization conducted a study of over two million people. Gallup identified the 34 most common talents–or areas of strength unlikely to change over time. They then created a simple, on-line test to support ordinary people like you and me in discovering these strengths. If you have never taken the test, I would encourage you to try it. The test is fun, and the results are fascinating. Gallup has put out several strengths related books that all come with a free on-line testing code (In other words, there is no cost for taking this test apart from purchasing the book. However, you will want to purchase the book new, as used books may come with an invalid code).

After completing the test, participants are awarded a certificate outlining their top five strengths. One of Travis’ strengths is individualization. People with this skill excel in drawing out the unique qualities of others. As a strengths coach, Travis puts his own strengths to work by supporting others honing in on their, God-given talents. Travis is also a Maximizer–a strength that both he and I share. Maximizers love to take things to the next level. We think mediocre is boring and are energized by refining and re-refining our work. Travis is a man on a mission who not only knows about the strengths, he is actively putting his own to good use.

If you’re new to the idea of strengths, I encourage you to begin the process of discovering yours. The books Now, Discover Your Strengths and StrengthsFinder 2.0 are great places to start. Once you discover your strengths, you will begin viewing the world differently. You will not only recognize your strengths, but you will also begin to see them in others. Strengths discovery is highly recommended for:

  • Entrepreneurs
  • Parents
  • Writers
  • Teachers
  • Mentors
  • Leaders
  • Pastors
  • Anyone desiring to make a positive impact on the world.

If you would like to go deeper, I would recommend finding a coach. A good coach can help you discover your strengths. This doesn’t have to be with us. However, you can check our Christian Coaching packages and schedule a free call here.

Continue the Conversation

I would love to hear from you.

  • What are your strengths? Do you know them?
  • How are you putting your strengths to work at home and work?
  • What is God calling you to do, and how has he uniquely equipped you to fulfill this vision?

While you and I cannot excel at everything, we can be the person God is calling us to be. Let’s continue the strengths-based conversation in the comments below.

Jed Jurchenko

Jed Jurchenko is the husband to an incredible wife, daddy to four amazing girls, and a foster dad to one more. He's served as a children's pastor, marriage and family therapist, psychology professor, award-winning writing coach, and life coach. Jed is the author of 23 books on relationships, parenting, writing, and doing life well. In his free time, you'll find Jed reading, preparing for an upcoming marathon, barbecuing, paddle boarding, and enjoying life with his incredible family. Find out more about Jed's books, coaching, and courses at www.ithrive320.com.

5 thoughts on “Discover Your Strengths: How to put your God-given talents to work.”

  1. Oh, gee — lots to say on this one. I trust you (Jed) and other readers will see it as a “Yes, and …” continuation of the discussion from a different perspective, rather than a “No, but …” kind of response.

    First, I hope I can have a small part in counseling you past the trauma of that first-grader blocking his ears those years ago, Jed. Having worked many years of my life in developmental and special education, I can assure you that first-graders block their ears for lots of reasons. Here are some possibilities OTHER than that he found your voice unbearable:

    1. He had integration issues and was overwhelmed by the sound or volume of the other kids’ voices around him.

    2. He did not like the child sitting next to him (perhaps a girl he thought was snooty but who sang loudly), and he was letting that child know that he wasn’t listening to her.

    3. He had discovered the change in the sound of his own voice when covering his ears earlier that week and was experimenting.

    4. He had the early stages of an ear infection and the overall volume, or the vibration/twang of the guitar strings was exacerbating the pain in his ears.

    So free yourself up to sing, man. 😀 Even if he were a straight-up critic, that has nothing to do with whether you should or shouldn’t do a thing (and here I get more serious on the topic). I myself have had critics of my singing my whole life. “You sang that too boy-bandy.” “You move your voice around too much.” “That doesn’t sound like your real voice.” If I quit singing every time someone complained or it didn’t suit them — well, I’d have quit very early on.

    On the topic of “strengths,” this gets tricky for me. I have many strengths. An unusual number of them, I would go so far as to say. I won’t list them, but when I was growing up, I was forced or guilted into doing all things at all times, with the spiritual sounding reason that “To whom much is given, much shall be required.” This meant that if you were ABLE to do a thing, you MUST do it. We were even taught that if you were able and didn’t, God was going to punish you by taking away the ability to do it at all.

    Let’s play this out. I was a 4.0 student throughout all of my schooling: elementary, high school, undergraduate and post-grad. This would seem to say that my “strengths” were in all subjects. For instance, this means I have a strength in statistics. Does this mean that I should pursue statistical work as a career? Play this out across 50+ other courses, all of which are “strengths,” and we quickly see a problem. Being able to do a thing doesn’t mean one SHOULD.

    Well, this brings us to the question of passion. I am not passionate about statistics or physics or European history or sociology. Yet, I don’t believe that I am expected (or made) to be, nor that God will somehow take away my understanding or ability in these areas if I don’t pursue them.

    Where writing is concerned, I am a wiz at writing air-tight legal contracts. Many have suggested that I should have pursued being a lawyer, because of this and my ability to both memorize and to run deep schema of logic, as well as to use words to persuade people (even against their better judgment or against hard reality itself). So should I have become a lawyer, because these things are strengths? I am 100% ABLE to be a lawyer, and I could make a lot of money doing it; but I would hate my life.

    Meanwhile, I blog and I write books — neither of which will likely ever pay a lawyer’s salary. Why? Because they are strengths AND passions.

    However, I do believe that someone can take something they are passionate about — even if it is not a strength — and do it successfully, resulting in a fulfilling life and career. Usually, this requires surrounding the passionate “un-strength” with other core strengths (and that is the key).

    In the arena of faith, Jonathan Edwards would be a good example. He was not a “good speaker,” but he was passionate about his message and people, and God filled in the gaps.

    In the music industry, I could cite many examples. Madonna would be a good one. She is not by any means a great singer. She’s a “passable” alto. But she is creative, charismatic — and a very smart business woman. Whether anyone agrees with her music or choices in life, relative to her industry, she is a good example of someone who pursued a relative weakness by couching it in her strengths, and has been hugely successful — even iconic — for a very long time.

    All of this is to say, I don’t personally believe that having a strength in a certain area dictates that one must pursue it in order to be successful or fulfilled. Again, I have many strengths — things I’m able to do better than most — but which would make for awful careers. I believe that strength AND passion must align, with passion foremost (because that is what will keep you going, improving and loving life). However, if we are going to pursue a passion that is not a particular strength, we will need to support it with OTHER personal strengths or the strengths of a team around us.

    Again, just some food for thought from the perspective of someone who’s had to do a lot of thinking about this across a lifetime thus far. In fact, several chapters in my book, “The Best Advice So Far,” deal with this topic.

    1. Hi Erik,

      I really like your perspective. It’s interesting because I would use different words to describe the same points which could look like a different perspective without further investigation. Kind of like when people say “The firm built this school. (building)” vs “The school won the award last year (people)”.

      Following Gallup’s research into strengths-based development they would use the word “talent” in place of where you use often use “strengths” in your post. And your intuition is good about having many “strengths” or we in strengths-based development would say “talents” because everyone has all of them, every last one.

      Many people also have many “strengths” as well to which Gallup describes as (a consistent near perfect performance at a given activity).

      For instance if you can jump 8 inches vertically you have the “strength” to jump 8 inches. I’m sure there is an enormous list of all the things your average human being has the mental and physical strength to do.

      The thing with understanding your talents and continually investing in developing strengths is you can end up having the level of strength to compose the music for the next blockbuster movie or to play a Beethoven piano concerto, or write your own concerto and be the next great modern composer.

      The question and mission of the strengths-based development movement is “What is our potential” or some more specific questions would be “What is our greatest potential?” “What makes genus?” “What makes Einstein?” “What makes Mozart?” If these are questions you find fascinating then learning about your strengths and the strengths-based development movement will be fascinating as well.

      I believe based on the facts Gallup has uncovered through decades of research that the answers to those questions lie in the following equation:

      Talent X Investment = Strength

      Gallup extensively interviewed and studied 6 million highly skilled people over 40 years and found over 400 different “talents” which they describe as (a reoccurring pattern of thought, feeling, or behavior that can be productively applied). They then grouped these talents into 34 talent themes which they define as (a conceptual and statistical grouping of related talents).

      Everyone has all 34 of these talent themes. But as you stated, they have a different level of passion or talent for each of them. In fact the Clifton StrengthsFinder measures the level of “talent” in each of these 34 talent theme groups by measuring the level of passion or “engagement” for them. The assessment is all personal preference. Some people have said “Well that’s not accurate because you could pick anything you want” and actually it is accurate because that’s what the assessment measures, your passion/engagement.

      Sure, you could give the assessment incorrect information and you’ll get incorrect results but if you answer honestly you’ll get very accurate results. You could say there is a hole in the assessment that if you think you’re horrible at something then it won’t tell you you’re talented at it, but odds are if you think your horrible at it you’re probably not going to be great at it. I have personal experience with that, but it’s rare to think you’re horrible at something you have great talent for because you’ll usually figure that out in life. I do encourage trying things and if you are not passionate about them they’re probably not talents and if you are they probably are or at least some component of it is a talent.

      So to summarize “StrengthsFinder” is really “TalentFinder” and it’s up to you to discover and invest in your talents to discover your strengths.

      That’s where the “investment” piece comes in, which Gallup defines as (time spent practicing, developing your skills, and building your knowledge base)

      Lastly there is something to be said for your greatest talents, or your “TOP 5” talent themes of the 34. This is what taking the Clifton StrengthsFinder gives you, your “TOP 5”. These are areas where you essentially have strength of passion, an ability for very rapid learning, or a feeling of naturally knowing the steps to be taken, or when you are so engaged in the activity you seem to lose track of time. In these areas you essentially have a superpower for strengthening them, and in turn an opportunity to develop something beyond strength, greatness.

      For a short blurb on the Gallup StrengthsFinder, how it’s doing on Amazon, and a link to StrengthsFinder 2.0 on Amazon check out the link on my website:
      https://www.travisarcherhall.com/strengthsfinder/

      1. Great points Erik. I like your “yes.. and” response. It’s so true, strengths are important, and so is passion. Great insights on my music career too. However, if you ever have the fortune, or miss-fortune of hearing me sing, you might just end up covering your ears too 🙂 I will still however, rock-out in the car with my daughters–who sing just as loud and off-key as their dad.

        I absolutely love the insights about strengths aligning with passion. This is powerful, and very well said!

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