What Having Focus Really Means


What Is the FOCUS Them

Those with Focus are the high output people in our lives who can readily concentrate for long periods of time with tremendous accuracy and retention.  Being highly structured in their thinking and approach to things, they are able to aim their attention in one direction for hours and hours.  Think of a magnifying glass that channels sunlight into a single, burning point; that is the mind of Focus when set to a specific task.  They naturally stay on track, drill down, and take intentional action to complete every undertaking.  Their ability to dial down external noise and distractions and truly hone in on the task at hand makes them incredibly productive and resourceful.  They may even lose themselves completely in a task, looking dazed afterward.  Folks with Focus are like forces of nature once they get moving and there is an “all in” quality to their thinking.  They remind us about presence.  They remind us that, even as the world fills with distractions, there is still only this moment—the here and now—and that is only place and time where things are achieved.  They show us how to dive in.

Why Should We Care

The life-force of this strength is rooted in vision, trailblazing, and stick-to-itiveness.  People with Focus are efficient, goal centered, and can clearly define where they are heading and why.  They have amazing follow through and can be relied upon to assess the scene, set the course, and take effective action that addresses the situation, concern, or demand.  Most of all, those with this strength have stamina when it comes to getting things done.  That said, they do not do busy work nor do they engage in pursuits with a “we-will-figure-it-out-as-we-go” strategy—they need a plan or a strategy to get going.  Because they are able to work in epic stints, others are freed up to do what they do best, which is especially valuable when it comes to teams and group work.  In that way, people with Focus are amazing at prioritizing and are usually good at navigating their own mental architecture.  Perhaps one of the greatest aspects of this strength is grit, folks generally embody a level of perseverance and determination that others admire and, at times, are intimidated by.  They teach us how to make a plan, push forward through slumps, and to keep going to the end.

Ten Things to Know About People with FOCUS

1. Motivation. Folks with Focus need to have a clear objective or purpose, in the absence of one they can feel aimless, weary, depressed, and even hopeless.

2. Intensity. They can be really enthusiastic and fired up about projects, plans, and whatever is on their slate—especially when they’ve mapped out a game plan.  Don’t be surprised if they suddenly spring into action and become seemingly unstoppable.

3. Joys. Their powers of concentration extend into all areas of their lives.  They are generally fond of activities that they can get lost in or that require a certain level of precision and attention—like building scale models, solving puzzles, researching, playing music, or developing a specific skill.

4. Impatience. They may be very adamant about staying the course, this is because of their intuitive vision and strategic ability to know the next steps and how the pieces all connect.  They will likely be irritated with any setbacks, pushback, or added challenges.

5. Solo. Because they are able to tune out the world and focus for hours, they are able to spend long periods of time alone.  In fact, they might not even notice as people come and go.

6. Time. The way that they experience time might be different from the rest of us.  Open-ended events in their lives might be an overwhelming purgatory for them.  While tight deadlines might actually light them up.  They prefer to know the plan in advance as well as the time frame.

7. Self-Care. They may get so involved in their work or pursuits that they forget to do the basics, like sleep, eat, stretch, and drink water.  They may also be prone to taking short cuts in these areas too, like using caffeine in lieu of sleep or eating fast food on the go.

8. Blinders. They might get so firmly set on a path that they cannot see that the dynamic has changed or the elements have shifted.  Generally, it’s okay to check-in with them and bring new information to their awareness.

9. Relaxing. Learning how to slow down and enjoy an unstructured day might not come naturally.  Developing ways of relaxing can be an art for them and they may prefer to do so with some structure or with a goal in mind—like, a one-hour yoga class, or developing a specific set of skills.  They may also be completists, preferring to enjoy things in series or whole (i.e. reading all the books of a given author or owning all the music of a certain artist).

10. Love. People with Focus are likely drawn to high-achieving people who can operate at their level.  The idea of settling down does not frighten them, but they like to know that their vision will not be coopted or interrupted.  They like to know the plan and stick to it.  Autonomy is key to their sense of self and they will likely admire the independent qualities of others.Zach_Headshot_Edits (4 of 23)

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.

The Truth About Self-Assurance


What Is the SELF-ASSURANCE Theme

Those with Self-Assurance are the people in our lives who have an innate and enduring awareness of who they are and what they are capable of achieving.  It does not mean that know everything or that their lives are cake-walks; instead it means that they are comfortable piloting their own lives, making decisions, taking action, and owning the responsibilities as well as the outcome.  In a phrase: They are confident in their own skin.  They are not trying to be or please anyone else.  They see themselves clearly and, importantly, they can deliver results that accurately and objectively reflect their self-perception.  That is to say that they are who they think they are—they can walk their talk.  This makes them natural and inspiring leaders, guides, and trailblazers.  They are at home making important decisions, which they base on their own observations, experience, and deep knowing.  In fact, they have seemingly limitless faith in themselves and their own abilities to navigate the world.  Autonomy is key to them, a source of life.  By constantly bringing out the best in themselves, people with Self-Assurance bring out the best in us and in the world.

Why Should We Care

They are resilient people who have an intuitive way of bouncing back after an upset or moving forward despite the odds—and they teach the rest of us how to do the same.  They are instructive and inspiring to others, simply by how they live and interact.  They provide a concrete and consistent model of how developing an inner-awareness is essential to thrive.  People with Self-Assurance actually seek out challenges that put themselves to the test—always fine-tuning along the way in an effort to ensure their success, progress, and personal evolution.  They can often do what most people cannot or will not.  When it comes to working with others, they are generally motivating and respectful, and they often have a highly developed sense of tact, which can be very charismatic.  So, while they are high-achieving, they do not generally steamroll others, preferring to avoid conflict, confrontation, and power-struggles, if possible.  That said, they also don’t look for buy-in or consensus before moving forward, either.  If they know what they want to do and feel that it’s right, they move ahead and take action confidently—they don’t need the approval of other people to get moving and they are comfortable going it alone.  An awareness of the fact that each person perceives and experiences the world differently is central to their world view, which is why they are not concerned with getting complete cooperation before taking action.  They remind us of our sovereign agency and personal power to create change in our lives.  They inspire us to truly go for it.

Ten Things to Know About People with SELF-ASSURANCE

1. Awareness. Self-Assurance is about more than simple confidence.  It’s about self-awareness—folks with this strength know what they are capable of, to be sure; but they are also aware of what they are incapable of—what they cannot do, too.  And, they are comfortable with it.  They are not into peacocking or appearances, they like what is real—a Strengths-mindset naturally makes sense to them—so, they are at ease letting someone else do what they cannot do.

2. Impact. They may become agitated or even depressed if they are feeling bored, confined, or limited, or if they are not living in the fullness of their potential.  They are here to contribute.  It may be personal or global, loud or quiet—either way, they are here to have an impact and will fight in order to leave their mark on the world.

3. Trust. When it comes to making decisions and taking action, sometimes they may need to say, “I just know.”  In these cases, they rely on others to trust them and their ability to deliver on what they know.  It can be difficult at times for them to truly articulate their vision or action-plan, as they can intuitively connect may dots in their minds.

4. Complexity. Their strength is more than simple sureness, and it is certainly not arrogance.  Instead, it is a type of multi-dimensional confidence based one part on gut and intuition, one part on experience, learning, and observation, and one part on natural instinct.

5. Early Adopters. People with Self-Assurance are often early adopters of new ideas, trends, and technology.  They seem to have a radar screen that picks up elements and decodes patterns to make order out of chaos, which can put them ahead of the curve.

6. First-hand. They are likely to be people who “learn by doing” as well as people who want to try things out for themselves before establishing an opinion or making an endorsement.  Cool and calm as they may be, they are, by nature, action oriented and want to experience the world with their own senses and see things with their own eyes.

7. Representation. Hollywood, television, and popular culture are prone to cookie-cutter archetypes of what Self-Assurance looks and feels like—at times glamorizing it as a type of macho coldness or robotic bull-headedness, when really, it’s purest form is rooted in deep intuitive awareness, which can be absolutely silent and warm-hearted.

8. Authenticity. Being genuine and sincere is very important to them.  And, this included being so with themselves.  They are not ones to be in denial or look away from a problem in their lives.  They also expect a level of openness and vulnerability from others—something that they can connect to on a deeper-than-surface level.

9. Personal Development. They have a natural inclination toward conscious personal development.  They like to be at the reins of their own lives and refuse to float for very long.  Don’t be surprised if they are constantly investing in some sort of self-improvement activity.

10. Love. They know it when they see it and they will likely be attracted to others who are ambitious, free-thinking, and self-made.  They are willing to be alone in lieu of having a superficial, artificial, or shallow connection with another person.  Love, for them, is likely about doing things together as opposed to planning or talking about doing things together.

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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.

How People With Context See It


What Is the CONTEXT Theme 

Those with Context are the people in our lives who instinctively look to the past to understand the present.  For them, the here and now is simply and concretely the product of what has come before it.  In that way, the more information they have about what has been, the more deeply they can appreciate, know, and recognize the present.  Looking back is also how they plan for the future.  They believe that what we do in each moment is important because it will soon be the past we are looking back on.  So, “What happened last time?” can be a sacred question for them.  An awareness of the past allows them to honor it, learn from it, and avoid pitfalls.  The clearer their understanding of what the “before” was like, the more stable their present moment is.  And, consequently, the more confident they will feel about moving ahead.  The past, it seems, is perpetually creating the future—and, the now is simply how we get there.  People with Context remind us of this big idea: History repeats itself, generally.  So, if we want to create positive change—or if we, at least, want to avoid repeating mistakes—we must do so intentionally by being conscious of the past.  They remind us that everything we do causes a ripple in time and that every moment matters.

Why Should We Care

In times of chaos, discord, and dysfunction, and when things go off-course, people with Context provide stability and calm.  Their minds naturally return to the preliminary plan, the original vision, and focus on the initial intent.  This can be liberating and inspiring because, in times of confusion, they remind us why we started in the first place.  It is natural for them to see the underlying structure of the world and to remember how things were.  When verbalized, this looks a lot like teaching and can help others see and make sense of the world.  Their strength is one of history rather than theory.  This means that they generally know, with certainty, what has and has not worked; and if they don’t know, they are willing to do the work to find out.  In this way, they are people who build firm foundations.  More often than not, they have reputations for being reliable, straight-forward, and competent.  They also have good memories—for them, there is rarely a need to reinvent the wheel or to try a new approach “just because”—if something worked the last time, they are prone to stick with it.  Overall, people with Context are particularly good at keeping situations level and grounded.  They shed light on present progress by illuminating the ground we’ve already covered.  They unite us by bringing us back to our core, our roots. 

Ten Things to Know About People with CONTEX

1.  History.  They love the past.  Instead of feeling help captive, they feel liberated by it.  For them, history is a giant gift—it makes everything easier—because it makes the world a more manageable size.  We need not try and fail ourselves if someone else has already proven that there is a better way.

2.  Preambles.  Folks with Context often give the backstory before saying what they want to say.  It is important for them to feel like others know where they are coming from and why.

3.  Strategy.  They are people with clear intentions who prefer to know the plan in advance.  Even if it changes along the way, they really like to know what the original blueprint, design, or gameplan was

4.  Cherry Picking.  While they can seem overly cautious at times, their perspectives are largely positive.  They want to make the present more fully alive and relevant by evoking the past.  In a way, their plans are built around only the best of the past and their actions are founded in a knowledge of and appreciation for what works. 

5.  Accepting.  People with Context have a knack for understanding where people are coming from.  They can quickly connect the dots to determine why a person might be acting or interacting in a certain way.  For this reason, they can remain authentically objective, even during intense exchanges, and they don’t generally take things personally.

6.  Patterns.  They are incredibly good at identifying patterns accurately.  It isn’t likely that they will spend time trying to find what isn’t there.

7.  Proof.  They are particularly fond of empirical evidence and concrete proof.  It is easier for them to form the basis of their worldview around things that are solid, tangible, and repeatable.  The “scientific method” is of particular relevance to them.  

8.  Unease.  Being self-aware, they will make every effort to lead with intention and to act with purpose.  For them, it is important to always know what they are doing and why they are doing it.  Without that clarity they can feel very uncomfortable, even anxious.  Lack of direction can easily fill them with existential dread.

9.  Change.  Even though they admire the past, they are not stuck in it.  In fact, they can be enthusiastic early adopters of innovation because their radars are sharp and can identify upcoming trends and anticipate needs based on similar cycles of change in the past.

10.  Love.  Because they naturally look back, they feel strongly connected to others with whom they can reminisce.  Conversations in which they relive joyful, passionate, or exciting moments can feel deeply nourishing to them.  They enjoy the process of creating meaningful memories.

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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.

Why Intellection Matters


What Is the INTELLECTION Theme

People with the Strength of Intellection are the truly deep thinkers in our lives who love to muse, reflect, and explore the landscapes of the mind.  They are able to think and process in multiple dimensions simultaneously and seem to love the effort of applying mental energy to life—at times, to the point of befuddlement or exhaustion.  In a phrase: They love to think and dive deep.  And, small talk is really not their thing.  Regardless of the situation or time of day, whether actively or passively, they are always contemplating, brainstorming, or mulling over something.  There is a mental hunger present at all times.  They are generally reflective and intelligent people who like to be fascinated, to wonder, and to be quietly awed.  They may attempt to “think” their feelings, which, at times, makes them feel inaccessible.  While typically prone to introversion, they can be very passionate and engaging when it comes to their ideas.  While they can be characterized as cerebral, pensive, and heady, their primary motivation is actually curiosity, which fuels their endless hunt for mental activity.  For them, the world seems to be an extension of their brain—a type of holding place for more thoughts.  In that way, they draw out the best of our own thinking by encouraging us to go deeper into our own mental world.  Their presence cheers a greater awareness, allowing the light of mind to reflect through.  People with Intellection can make the abstract tangible and give us greater access to the invisible world all around us.

Why Should We Care

When it comes to taking an idea to the next level by exploring it from every angle, those with Intellection are among the best.  It is their instinct to go deep with thoughts—the surface is boring to them.  Experts in mentally peeling back the layers of a given challenge or concept, they reveal options, choices, and opportunities that may have been previously unseen or unseeable.  Folks with Intellection are good foundation builders and are particularly skilled at scaling up ideas and filling pipelines.  They curate a depth of understanding—be it macro or micro, focused or broad.  In many cases, they effortlessly nourish an appreciation for the worlds complexities—as opposed to a disdain for them.  This shift in focus allows for clarity and then concrete actions to occur.  They ask us to look into challenges as opposed to look away from them.  They open our field of awareness, help us create solutions, and remind us that wonder can be generative.

Ten Things to Know About People with INTELLECTION

1. Productivity. For them, being productive does not necessarily mean “doing” something.  Sitting down to think, reflect, and process is likely to be viewed as a highly valuable use of their time.  Then, once they’ve mapped something out in their mind, they can generally make quick work of it.

2. Philosophical. Discussing philosophies, theories, systems, concepts, and literature can be extremely fulfilling to people with Intellection.  Questions that cannot be answered have a particular appeal and they like to entertain many angles of a thought without accepting or rejecting a specific one.

3. On/On. It seems that they are always—ALWAYS—thinking.  Even if it is, at times, happening quietly in the background of their minds—there is always an inner-awareness of the mental activity lighting up their brains, which are perpetually growing.

4. Boredom. Being mentally stimulated is a key source of life for them.  From crossword puzzles to intense conversations about the meaning of life, they create ways to stay connected, focused, and inspired.  Boredom is not an option, and they may feel it more intensely than others.

5. Introversion. As introspection is at the core of this theme, folks with Intellection often prefer some time alone each day.  They are generally comfortable spending extended periods of quality time in solitude.

6. Mental Empathy. The way that an empath tunes in and feels the emotions of others, people with Intellection channel the mental activity of others.  They are excellent trackers of ideas and flows of ideas.  They can deeply understand the ways that others think, process, and respond to life.

7. Digesting. At times, they might share an idea that seems either “far out” or non-sequitur.  Generally, this is because they’ve already spent time working it out in their mind and have seen it mentally from all angles.  Don’t be surprised if they hold the rest of us to a high standard, asking us to truly understand and appreciate their ideas.

8. Learning. For them, it isn’t so much about learning things as it is about challenging their mind and exploring things.  Existential ideation, deep thoughts, new ideas, brain games, imagining, and wondering out loud can serve as solid nourishment for them.

9. Depth. They seem to be able to find a greater depth to almost anything.  This stimulates and feeds their sense of wonder and astonishment.  They generally dislike being asked to scale it back.  Being told that “everything doesn’t have to be so complicated” or “deep” will likely annoy them.

10. Love. Thinking big, making big plans, thinking outside the box, and having deep conversations will go a long way in creating a genuine connection with them.  Their love and expressions of it will, too, have a depth and multidimensional qualities.

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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.

The Truth About Harmony


What Is the HARMONY Theme

Those with the Strength of Harmony are the people in our lives who naturally seek peace in situations and consistently find common ground with others.  It is their instinct to look for and focus on areas of agreement and overlap, with the aim of creating win/win situations.  They work toward stability, transparency, and order because they know that more can be accomplished if all parties move ahead cooperatively.   People with Harmony have a heightened sensitivity to tension, friction, and dissonance, and they will go out of their way to create conversations and solutions that end conflict.  For them, disagreement, power-struggles, and confrontation are tremendous wastes of time and energy—they see the cycles of anger and retribution as wholly futile.  In that way, their need for consensus is more about productivity, efficiency, and moving forward than it is about simple peace-making.  In fact, Harmony is a value for them, it is something seated at their core and they are always operating from that place.  They bring us together by focusing on our similarities not our differences, and their very presence can lift the vibe of a room or shift the tone of a conversation from stagnant to striding forward.  In them we feel supported, heard, and calm—we feel quietly more alive.

Why Should We Care

People with Harmony are simultaneously intuitive and practical.  When it comes to conflict resolution, they can navigate masterfully between opposing viewpoints without getting sucked into any one side.  In that way, they are great at walking a tightrope in tense situations—they can keep their cool and, generally, do not take things personally while peace is being made.  More than that, they are able to get to the root of what is being left unsaid and drive to the core of the issue at hand, which is often times buried under layers.  What makes them unique is their deep desire to appreciate where others are coming from—for them, the act of understanding is an essential inroad to peace.  They may even temporarily suspend their own views and personal comfort in order to get a better understanding of the person or situation.  By cultivating a mindset that focuses on connection, agreement, and common ground, people with Harmony change the ways that we see ourselves, others, and the world.  They teach us how to open our minds, quiet our egos, and use our voices for action.

Ten Things to Know About People with HARMONY

1. Creative. They are often quietly imaginative, brilliant, and visionary people, especially when finding the ways and means to resolve a conflict.  Their ability to hold multiple points-of-view and simultaneously map one perspective over the other requires a substantial amount of creative energy—even though they do this seemingly effortlessly.

2. Binary. For them, there may not just be two sides to every story, there may be millions.  So, resolution means going forward, not right vs. wrong.  They will ask themselves, “How can we reach an agreement so that things get moving along?”  Conflicts are not black and white to them.

3. Elephants. If there is an elephant in the room, folks with Harmony might not be shy to point it out and address it.  For them, the tension of the unspoken can outweigh the tension of the spoken, even if it leads momentarily to a confrontation.  A problem cannot be solved when it is being hidden or avoided.

4. Devil’s Advocate. They are likely repulsed by people who are argumentative for the sake of being argumentative.  In their mind: There are enough actual conflicts in the world, why create more artificially.

5. Awareness. Those with Harmony have extremely fine-tuned radars and can sense the mood of a room as it shifts.  While they are good a brokering peace in times of disharmony, part of their art, too, is preventing conflicts before they even start.  For that reason, they are apt to be very alert in social situations and to track they various on-goings of the room.

6. Sacred Anger. For them, getting angry and confronting another person might be terrifying, but they are willing to do it when absolutely necessary.  As they are rare, such moments may have a particular significance for them.  If someone with Harmony is sounding off, they are more than likely justified in doing so.

7. Sleeping Dogs. Where some people like to poke the beehive just to see what happens, folks with Harmony have zero interest in that.  Their curiosity is not disruptive in that way; it is, instead, constructive asking, “Where do the two circles intersect?”

8. Openness. Folks with Harmony can hear and hold several conflicting perspectives in mind at once without agreeing or disagreeing with any one party.  They are capable of listening carefully and simply seeing where others are coming from—even if they don’t necessarily agree with them fundamentally.

9. Impatience. They have little to no patience for people who are prescriptively old school, stuck-in-their-ways, or opinionated.  Arrogance has a particularly insufferable presence for them as does closed-mindedness, tyranny, and those who force their views upon others.

10. Love. Because their greatest tool is language and presence, they will likely be responsive to those who are self-aware and who use words consciously and conscientiously.  Phrases of affirmation and spending quiet time together are often great acts of love for those with Harmony.

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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.