September 14, 2015
The strengths guide us toward actions and perspectives that add value to our experience and the world.
Everything has a value, right? Given the right circumstances everything has a purpose, a function, a part to play, and innate worth. In the right place at the right time, nothing becomes something. We’ve all heard that one man’s trash is another’s treasure. If we’ve ever been in an antique shed, we know this to be true.
And, while everything has a value, not everything has the same value all the time. A key, for example, has very little value when its lock is not around. And, vice versa—a lock has significantly more purpose and potential when its key is present. Some things are more valuable at times than at others.
Even something as widespread as money fits into this mode. A dollar all by itself is not worth much. In fact, money alone has no fixed value—its value is determined between the buyer and the seller. Which is to say, for example, that some of us would pay no more than a dollar for a thing that someone else would pay a thousand dollars for. No?
Think of water. On an average day, we might pay a buck or two for a bottle to quench our thirst. But, lost in the desert for 48 hours with nothing to drink? Suddenly the value of that exact same substance—water—has gone up, which makes it worth more of the exact same dollars.
Or, imagine being alone on a desert island with a suitcase full of cash. Its value as a fire starter may have increased, sure, but its monetary value remains pure potential and is worthless until the rescue boat arrives.
Now, let’s think about people. Someone who knows how to forage in the woods and how to tell time with the sun has a suddenly valuable skillset when the compass breaks. Not so much, however, in Times Square. Even something as seemingly common as knowing how to operate a manual transmission—a skill that not a lot of Americans need—which suddenly comes in handy at the Avis counter in Milan.
So, what about the big picture? What about the gears driving us all? How can their values be assessed?
The strengths are a good place to start. For one, they give us a common language to whittle down precisely what it is that brings out the best version of ourselves. That is, by living in our strengths and taking strengths-based actions we make high-value contributions to the world.
Sure, someone high in relator could find connections at a huge networking function. But, if the order of the day is quantity over quality, wouldn’t someone with woo add and receive more value from the situation? Or, switch that around and make the order of the day making deep, lasting, and intimate connections with a few key potential clients. Someone better call the relator.
Often the highest value of our strengths are drawn out of us based on the situations we put ourselves in. True, they are always on and active within us—but, to what extent? And at what range and volume? A maximizer and someone with connectedness will have very different value-experiences on a week long mindfulness meditation retreat by the river.
The strengths tell us that we have choices and that it’s important that we take action and move toward lives that position us in places where our value is most widely circulated.
We all know what it can be like to feel stuck, lost, wavering, and caught up in the grind. Tedium and lack of engagement can actually produce a hypnosis-like state where we no longer consider our unique value as humans and creative beings. Thinking about our strengths is not enough though, so, how can we take steps toward a new way? As so often is the case in these conversations, awareness is the first step toward action.
Sometimes we have to ask a thousand different questions before we get one answer. At other times, we have to ask a thousand different people the same question to get an answer. Or, we ask ourselves the same question a thousand times before we get the dawning of clarity.
In all cases, if action and change begin with awareness—new awareness likely begins with new questioning, inquiry, and curiosity. So…
Who is the lock to our key? Who is the key to our lock? How do we value ourselves? Does our value change according to whom we are with and/or where we are? What actions could we take to put ourselves in greater contact with others and situations that affirm our greatest value?
Be your greatness. Start. Do. Go.