Part 1 | Six Reasons Why Having Goals Works

IMG_0224August 24, 2016

Reason #1: Goals Provide Purpose and Direction

If we don’t know where we are going, how will we know when we arrive?

It’s easy to float.  So, sometimes, to get to where we want to be, we first need to decide where we want to go.  And, that is the essence of any goal.  It’s a decision.

In its simplest form, creating a goal produces a purpose that we can name, track, and modify as we make progress.  And, it’s not a be-all/end-all scenario.  A goal is not a train on fixed, immovable rails.

Instead, it’s a starting point, one which gives us a horizon to move toward, a concrete aim to work for, and, in a word: a focal-point.

Add to that, goals give us a still point to return to should we ever feel lost—a good goal reminds us of the purpose as well as the meaning behind our labor and sacrifices.

When we have a goal, we have a destination—that is, a direction in which we can move, for a reason that we’ve identified.  It’s like driving from Miami to Portland.  There are countless different routes to take—each with various virtues and setbacks—but the path that we take does not (in any way) change the destination.

So, we don’t need to plan or control every step along the way when we set a goal—not only is that thought overwhelming, it’s also impossible.  We just need to point ourselves in the direction we’ve identified, for the reasons that we’ve elected, and set out.

Action:  Make a list of 10 things that you want to do before the end of the year.  Ask yourself, “What actions am I taking right now to ensure that these things are accomplished?”  If your answer is, “Nothing.”  That’s okay, try asking yourself, “What is one action that I could take today to move in that direction?” 

Be your greatness. Start. Do. Go.

Zach Bio copy

Zach Carlsen is the grateful lead blogger at StrengthsLife.com

His strengths of Ideation, Connectedness, Input, Strategic, and Empathy have taken him all over the world.  He is an inventor, athlete, joyous wanderer/wonderer, translator, poet, and Gallup Certified Strengths Coach.

Part 5 | Five Reasons Why You Should Care About Developing Your Strengths

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August 12, 2016

Reason #5: It provides a way to let go of self-limiting beliefs (Part Two)

Whether you believe you can, or believe you can’t, you are right.  Henry Ford said that.

He also said, “Produce it anyway,” when his team told him that it would be impossible to cast an eight-cylinder engine-block in one piece.  They returned to him over and over again telling him that it could not be done.  And, each time he told them, basically, to just make it happen.  And guess what?  Eventually, they did.  It happened.  In a nutshell, Ford challenged his team’s beliefs until they changed and became realities.

Now, consider the four-minute mile.  The world thought that it was an impossible feat—to run one mile in fewer than four minutes—before it was done by Roger Bannister in 1964.  Literally, people did not think that it could be done.  Nevertheless, mile-by-mile, runners have shaved seconds off of this time to give us the current record of the 3:43.13 minute mile (run by Hicham El Guerrouj in 1999).

So, what does this have to do with strengths and beliefs?

The answer is: Everything.

When we believe something can be done, we are likely to keep after it until it is achieved.  Whereas, if we lack belief, the merest setback could send us packing, saying, “It was impossible anyway.”

Knowing our strengths gives us a line of defense against giving up, because our strengths are our greatest assets and hold our greatest potential for growth.  It doesn’t mean that it will be easy but it does mean that it will be meaningful and, ultimately, worth our while.

When we focus on strengths we see continuous (and, usually, measurable) growth—and evolution.  When we focus on our deficiencies, we see, at best, minor improvement.

What feels impossible today?

Action:  Close your eyes and imagine yourself as a child.  Put yourself in your mind and shoes as an 8 year-old and try to remember what did and did not seem “possible” back then.  Chances are, some things that are normal and natural today, were unimaginable back then.  Now, imagine your life today—think of everything you have achieved, overcome, survived, and accomplished.  Ask yourself, “What are the things that I want to do with my life that feel unachievable?”  Last step, put yourself in your shoes as a 100 year-old person looking back.  What advice would you have for you?

Be your greatness. Start. Do. Go.

Zach Bio copy

Zach Carlsen is the grateful lead blogger at StrengthsLife.com

His strengths of Ideation, Connectedness, Input, Strategic, and Empathy have taken him all over the world.  He is an inventor, athlete, joyous wanderer/wonderer, translator, poet, and Gallup Certified Strengths Coach.

Part 5 | Five Reasons Why You Should Care About Developing Your Strengths

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August 10, 2016

Reason #5: It provides a way to let go of self-limiting beliefs (Part One)

Where do our beliefs come from?

In a neurological sense, researchers are finding that our beliefs are formed in two ways.  The first relates to our survival, anything that triggers our amygdala has the potential to form a belief instantly—these beliefs are generally all or nothing.

The second way that beliefs are formed is through repeated exposure to the same ideas over a long term; in this process the brain is literally being wired synapse by synapse to accept one message over another.  This is largely an unconscious part of our socialization as kids.  These beliefs—large or small—are extremely difficult to change because they are formed incrementally over time.

It’s like when we are talking quietly with a friend at the café and, as the tables fill up little by little, the noise of the room rises too, until suddenly everyone is shouting…but no one really notices.

That’s how most beliefs form: gradually.  And, like in the café, these beliefs become the loudest voices in the room of our head.

It can be easy to live our whole lives never questioning our core understanding of ourselves, our abilities, and our potential.

Most of us, over time, have been instructed to focus on our deficiencies instead of our strengths—this forms a specific belief about who we are.  When we do this, we focus primarily on the negative, and, of course, find the negative.  And, when we spend more time finding and focusing on defects—as opposed to assets—we, understandably, form beliefs about ourselves that feel true, but are, in fact, only a fraction of the whole story.

If this is the only mode that we know to operate in, we will continue to do so forever.  A strengths focus can interrupt this and remind us that we have choices and opportunities to grow and evolve and change.

Awareness is, as always, the beginning of this process and when we challenge our long held views and investigate where they came from, we open ourselves up to deeper layers of self and who we can become.

Action:  This can be difficult, but enlightening, and it’s not meant to sway anyone from their views, but rather to provide a model for interrogating a part of the innerworld that we each keep.  So, try this a few times: Jot down a quick list of your beliefs on social and political issues.  Find the item that you feel most strongly about (capital punishment, fluoride in the water, tax loopholes, prayer in school, etc.) and spend 15 mins researching the other side’s arguments, trying to hold their position in your mind objectively.  If this process triggers emotion, that’s natural.  As you investigate, ask yourself, “How did this become a social issue in the first place and how did I arrive at my current stance?”  Trace it back.  What connections do you make during this process?  How can this exercise actually strengthen positions?

Be your greatness. Start. Do. Go.

Zach Bio copy

Zach Carlsen is the grateful lead blogger at StrengthsLife.com

His strengths of Ideation, Connectedness, Input, Strategic, and Empathy have taken him all over the world.  He is an inventor, athlete, joyous wanderer/wonderer, translator, poet, and Gallup Certified Strengths Coach.

 

Part 4 | Five Reasons Why You Should Care About Developing Your Strengths

IMG_0103August 5, 2016

Reason #4: It builds relationships and teams

Imagine walking into a giant meadow and finding only one kind of plant—nothing else, only one variety of life.  It’s difficult to picture, right?

That’s because it’s unnatural for there to only be one type of something and nothing else—that is not how big things grow, develop, and flourish.

The world around us evolves only when many pieces are allowed to do and be what they were designed to do and be.  The world thrives because different elements are interacting.  This is true on the atomic level as well as in the visible, tangible world.

Think of a forest.  It’s not just big trees.  It’s not just small trees.  In fact, it’s not just trees soaking up the sun!  There are small plants that need shade, groundcover that requires lots of water, huge swarms of insects, birds and reptiles, and vast networks of mycelium hidden from sight.

Each of the parts play a vital role, and none of them are trying to “become” like the others—it only works when each piece is living its purpose.  Some elements are more noticeable and more dramatic than others, but, in the grand scheme of things, no one part is more important than another because no two parts do the same things.

And, so it is with us.  We are each wired in a special way to thrive in certain elements—socially, interpersonally, privately, at work, at home, spiritually, emotionally, macro and micro.

Focusing on strengths instead of weaknesses and having a shared language to address the greatness of others allows space for all of us to shine, creates inroads to acceptance, and build solidarity.

This is because a strengths-focus guides us in how to be who we are while allowing others to be who they are, without trying to force changes, apply pressure, and reinvent the wheel.

Naming our strengths allows us to pinpoint the specific value that we can add to a given situation, true.  It also reminds us that we don’t have to try to “do it all”, instead we can step aside and let others rise, take the wheel, and add their unique value.

Action: Pick up the phone and call someone.  Tell them that you value them for who they are.  Find someone who needs to hear it.

Be your greatness. Start. Do. Go.

Zach Bio copy

Zach Carlsen is the grateful lead blogger at StrengthsLife.com

His strengths of Ideation, Connectedness, Input, Strategic, and Empathy have taken him all over the world.  He is an inventor, athlete, joyous wanderer/wonderer, translator, poet, and Gallup Certified Strengths Coach.

Part 3 | Five Reasons Why You Should Care About Developing Your Strengths

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August 2, 2016

Reason #3: It produces artifacts of our truest expression

How do others see who we truly are?

Responding to his question is at once simple and complex. That is, unless someone can see telepathically into our mind, others see us and know us by way of our words and actions.  Seems pretty straightforward.  Sure.  But it’s also challenging, right?

In a word, we are known by the world at large via one thing: results.

Results are the artifacts of our thoughts and actions.

Left unchecked, we tend only to judge ourselves by our good intentions and judge others by their impact on us.

This is why consistency is key to long term success, fulfillment, and a sense of truly being seen and known.  Our strengths create the foundation of who we are—they give us something concrete to strive for…at all times.  Our strengths form the backbone of what is most natural to us, which creates ease, momentum, and dynamism when consistently applied.  After all, it can be a lot of work trying to be someone who we are not.

So, by identifying our areas of strength, we are giving ourselves a starting point for who we can work to become more of—as opposed to the guessing game of focusing on weaknesses and trying to become less of who we are not.

When we are living from a place of strength, it’s likely that we will be performing at peak levels, interacting with others in authentic ways, and feeling (really truly feeling) our life’s purpose.

Living in our strengths means that we are doing what we are wired to do.  It is where form meets function.

Sure, we could spend time becoming okay at what we are bad at; or, we could spend time becoming great at what we are already good at.

What are your strengths?  Who are you trying to become more of?

Action: If you find that you are taking yourself a little too seriously, try this.  It’s called The Eyes-closed Self-portrait.  Grab a pen and a sheet of paper and sit with your eyes closed for a few moments, then—without opening your eyes—pick up the pen and draw your own self portrait on the paper.  The result is likely to lighten the mood.  Maybe you forgot to add ears.  Perhaps your lips are above your nose in your portrait.  Maybe your entire face appears to be floating inside of a giant and cavernous head.  Whatever the result, this exercise can create a good visual representation of “not taking life so seriously”.  You can also try it with a friend—draw their portrait with your eyes closed.

Be your greatness. Start. Do. Go.Zach Bio copy

Zach Carlsen is the grateful lead blogger at StrengthsLife.com

His strengths of Ideation, Connectedness, Input, Strategic, and Empathy have taken him all over the world.  He is an inventor, athlete, joyous wanderer/wonderer, translator, poet, and Gallup Certified Strengths Coach.