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.

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.

Why People With Discipline Are So Awesome


What Is the DISCIPLINE Them

People with Discipline are the ones in our lives who bring precision, structure, and diligence to all that they do.  It is their instinct to create familiarity and predictability in their personal lives and in the world around them.  Through routines, schedules, and plans they create an orbit where they can execute effectively, reliably, and accurately over and over again.  If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it is likely a motto that resonates with them.  Folks with Discipline like to know exactly why they are giving their energy to something and whether or not it is sustainable—the idea of one-offs is uncomfortable to them, maybe even hideous.  Quality is crucial to their view of the world and understanding what the expectations are in any situation is key.  Floating, for them, is simply not an option.  They are intuitive people who naturally create structure and, when faced with a task, they tend to consider it in stages or phases.  From there, they are able to get just about anything done.  People with Discipline remind us that We are what we do everyday and they inspire us to create lives that have a lasting impact.

Why Should We Care

Because they are great at creating and implementing order and rhythm in their own lives, they are usually quite skilled at envisioning and implementing structure in teams, organizations, and the lives of others.  They are extremely careful and will systematically check and re-check that any project or work that they are overseeing is developing correctly and according to the plan.  The instinct of people with Discipline is to create things that are lasting—and when we are in their presence we can feel it.  They are diligent, level-headed, and detail-oriented people who effortlessly curate order, establish timelines, and help teams meet deadlines.  Simply put, we feel confident with them.  In a sometimes-chaotic reality, they offer us peace: a vision of precision, progress, and order and then a plan that brings it into fruition.

Ten Things to Know About People with DISCIPLINE

1. Freedom. Those with the Strength of Discipline experience a level of freedom that others might not understand or appreciate.  Their routines and structures can actually free them up to think big and go big in life.  They lock-down life’s details as a way of limiting surprises and setbacks, which makes room for bigger and better things.

2. Anxiety. They may come to rely on a specific structure such that in its absence they feel floaty, disconnected, or slightly panicked.  They may also wish for some predictability in all areas of their life and, because this is not always possible, they may experience some anxiety in normal everyday life.

3. Elephants. The teaching “How do you eat an elephant?” (One bite at a time) is really central to their view of getting things done.  Rome wasn’t built in a day—but it was built.  They deeply understand that big projects can be turned into smaller sequential projects—each with their own mini-win built in along the way to the big win.

4. Superhuman. There can be an element of superhuman excellence in what they do.  Others are sometimes in awe of them, wondering how they are able to consistently get so much done.  People with Discipline tend to receive a quiet satisfaction when this happens.

5. Confidence. They are generally confident people who can back up their methods, worldview, and intentions with an impressive track record of past excellence.

6. Perfectionism. What others may call “perfectionism” is simply the way to do things for Discipline people.  They may feel the absence of structure or direction in their bodies.  It may make them physically uncomfortable to move forward without a plan.

7. Chill. Most people with Discipline have been misunderstood, shamed, or mocked about their way of doing things—to them, it can feel like they are simultaneously doing too much and not enough.  In that way, they can grow to feel sensitive and even resentful of others commenting on the structure that they’ve created in their lives.  They more than likely hate any mention of being “uptight” or being told to “relax”.

8. Scaling. They generally appreciate that which can be scaled, reproduced, or refined, fine-tuned, and streamlined.  They may ask, “Would this system work on a larger scale?”, “Can we do this over and over again with the same results?”, or “How can we apply this structure to other projects?”

9. Processes. It can be easy for them to get caught up in how things are done.  Even if the proper results are achieved, it may bug them if the methods were sloppy or haphazard.  They are often practicing the art of patience and allowing others to have their own ways of doing things (even if it isn’t how they would do it).

10. Folks with Discipline may be their own harshest critic and they can often feel taken for granted and invisible—so, love can often be felt in the form of gentle validation, words of affirmation, and compassionate nudges that acknowledge their innate wholeness (aka That they are enough).

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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.