Too Much of a Good Thing Can Be a Bad Thing

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More is Not Always the Best Answer

If you are not getting what you want out of how you are choosing to live your life, then is continuing to do more of what you are not happy with, the most effective strategy to be happy? Too often we do more of what worked for us once, even when we are confronted with undisputable evidence that we are failing to be successful in achieving our desired goals or outcomes.  It’s tempting to say, “I guess I’m just not good at that anymore.”  When in reality, you may be suffering from too much of a good thing. Overuse or misuse of a personal strength can often appear to others as a personal weakness or limitation.

Know Your Strengths

In my book, “Life Matches: Fire Up Your Life!” I suggest that a great way to uncover and understand your natural, personal strengths is to purchase Tom Rath’s best-selling book, “StrengthsFinder 2.0” and complete the accompanying online personality assessment.

My StrengthsFinder 2.0 ® results revealed that I had the following internal primary motivations:

Achiever-Feels most satisfied with daily, tangible accomplishments.

Activator-A person of action–a doer.

Belief-Hardwired internal values and ethics determine choices and behaviors.

Learner-There is always something new to know in life’s laboratory.

Maximizer-Make the most of the personal gifts you have been given.

Responsibility-Personal commitment to dependability.

In my professional roles as a motivational speaker, human performance improvement specialist, trainer and executive coach, I regularly blend my strengths to perform in ways that successfully meet the demands and expectations of these roles and provide a great sense of personal satisfaction. That’s how it works for me on a good day, when I’m at my best.  On a not so good day, when I’m not able to come up with a winning strengths blend, I tend to choose my strongest strengths by default and things don’t always work out as well. For example, when my achiever-self teams up with my activator-self and desperately want to “just get things started so we can get something done!”  I can appear to others as someone who is lacking in patience, prudence and might be someone who is prone to rushing to judgment.  But, hey man, I am just trying to use my strengths to fire up my life!  What could be wrong with doing that?

A “Life Match” represents the flame of one of your personal strengths and when used properly, they can fire up your life.  When used inappropriately, they can become an overly large open flame in an explosive environment which can cause a disaster.

Too Strong for Your Own Good

Many of my executive coaching clients are often frustrated when their most natural behaviors do not get them their desired results.  For example, an exceptional former salesperson whose strength of persuasive influence provided him/her years of sales awards, might be shocked to have his/her peers and staff described this same behavior as appearing overly pushy, manipulative and inflexible during a 360 degree feedback report of his/her performance as a sales manager.  One’s strength in one role can be perceived as a weakness in another role or situation.

It’s not that one’s strength has suddenly become a weakness. The strength has just been inappropriately used. It was the wrong tool for the wrong job.  Sometimes using 50% of a limited capacity may yield more effectiveness than using 100% of an inappropriate strength.

How do you know if you are abusing your strengths?  Ask people who care enough about you to be candid and brutally honest, which of your behaviors irritate, bother and bug them the most.  As you begin to get a picture of how others view your behaviors, you can then evaluate your motives, desired outcomes and most importantly, your tactics or behaviors that you used to try to achieve your desired outcome.  If you are lucky, your workplace may provide you with an opportunity to participate in a program that offers anonymous 360 degree feedback of our performance.  Your report will typically give you an idea of how others perceive your behaviors.  You can then explore what behaviors and strengths you are using and decide if they are the appropriate ones or if there is an area of limited capacity that you might need to better manage around.

For example, if one of your strengths is the ability to focus your attention for extended periods of time while working on a project it might allow you to produce an exceptional volume of work in a relatively short period of time.  The challenge might be that this focused work might cause other areas of your work to suffer, such as responding to co-workers’ e-mail messages or allowing telephone calls to divert to voice mail.  Your hyper-focus might be perceived by others as negligently ignoring them or as being unresponsive to their requests.  You may not have an actual weakness in communication, but your hyper-focus strength might be so strong that it overpowers your desire to be available to collaborate.

Coaches See What You Can’t

A professional coach is an excellent resource to help someone sort out which of one’s behaviors are counter-productive.   A coach can often see behavioral blind spots and bring them to one’s attention.  Once someone is aware of one’s blind spots, s/he can choose the most effective behaviors in a given situation that are most likely to achieve the most desired results.

It is possible to behave in ways that leave others feeling like someone is too much of a good thing.  That’s a bad thing and can become a limiting factor in one’s career advancement.  Knowing your strengths is a great start to living a fired up life, but knowing the proper strength to use in a given situation and the appropriate intensity of that strength is usually wisdom gained from candid feedback and thoughtful reflection.

If you are feeling ineffective, perhaps using too much of one or more of your strengths is to blame.

How to Fire Up Your Life! Video Tip #1

Free Magic Success Seeds?

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Did you get your gift?

I mailed you a very special birthday gift last year. Remember the card contained a package of magic success seeds? I haven’t heard from you and was wondering,  are you enjoying the fruits of success yet?

No?  How’s that possible?  Those magic success seeds are priceless!  They are guaranteed to grow into a successful life that was just for you.  What happened?

What happened was that you didn’t know me last year.  You thought my magic success seeds were just some other SPAM junk mail and you threw them away with a bunch of other trash that you thought your life didn’t need.  What a waste. If only you’d known right? 

Do you feel like you’ve missed out on a wonderful free gift and that life is so unfair? Since it was an honest mistake, don’t you deserve a second chance?  Can’t I just please send you another package of magic success seeds? Pretty please?

Sorry, no magic.  It’s just a parable.

Ok, don’t panic and go running to your local landfill with a shovel.  There are no magic success seeds. It’s just a little parable about how we sometimes treat our undiscovered personal gifts, talents and strengths. 

We don’t recognize who sent them to us.  (Hint: He made you.) We don’t take the time to discover them, nurture them, care and feed them. We definitely are not patient enough to wait and watch them grow into the full-grown successful life that we’ve always dreamed of living. We don’t want to do the hard labor of weeding and watering them. (Hint: Practice using your strengths.) So they just get thrown away, die of neglect or never achieve their full potential. 

When we realize it might be too late, and that we may have missed out on a significantly successful life, we demand a second chance.  The good news is that if you are still here, it’s not too late to start finding and growing your own magic success seeds.  Your magic success seeds are really called your gifts, talents and strengths.  You were born with them. But it’s up to you to recognize, practice and use them.

Spring into action!

Which of your gifts, strengths and talents are still success seeds that are left in your unopened package?  Spring is a great time to plant a whole new life!  Get out and do a little life gardening.  With any luck and a little hard work, you will most likely be harvesting a whole new life by Fall. Maybe you have some strengths that are just needing a little sunshine and attention.  You have kind of kept them in the dark for a while.  The days are getting longer, so you have more daylight to work with to use to discover and develop your strengths.

Maybe you have some strengths that are hidden from you.  You’ve carried them around with you for years and have never found the right situation to try them. Take an assessment like the “StrengthsFinder 2.0” by Tom Rath and The Gallup Company.  Download the free exercises from my website, Or at least ask your friends and family to tell you what they think you are really good at doing and seem to light up every time you do it.  This is a good clue that you have found something that you are good at doing and love doing.  We call them strengths.

Finding and living by using your strengths to help other people is a great way to fire up your life!  I hope this plants a few ideas that sprout soon for you.

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