February Focus: Celebrate Your Strengths!

This is a month wheRushmore.jpgn we celebrate, among other things, the birthdays of presidents, the Chinese Lunar New Year, Valentine’s Day, and the beginning of a forty day period in the Christian calendar we call Lent. In this month of only 28 days, we get to experience it all-the greatness of well-known historical figures, the hope for a better “new year,” and the glories of love, all wrapped in the shroud of one Wednesday this month which seeks to persistently remind us of our mortality.

And so in a month of conflicting energies, what is it that I want for myself? Where am I going to choose to place my focus? What am I going to choose to celebrate?

The immediate answer is easy, at least for me. I’m casting aside the “morbidity” of February. I’m in no state of denial about it; but I have a choice either to celebrate the physical end of my life by focusing on it or to exalt the power of who I am NOW, always expressed so perfectly in my unique combination of strengths. I’ve learned to choose the latter. It just feels better, it just raises my UpSpiral, it just makes me more and more clear about the power of the “real me.” Knowing consciously that I have a perfect set of strengths, built in and ready to go, always at hand for any and all situations, is my February Valentine’s gift to myself. Bringing those strengths “home to me”…applying them to me…knowing that they’re mine, always and forever…making them real in my own life…that’s the gift this month. It’s that simple.Necco_Hearts.jpg

One of my top 5 Signature Strengths is “the capacity to love and be loved.” So in this month when the culture around us focuses largely on love and relationships, I’m using this strength as a challenge for myself-in how many ways can I express love for myself? How can I love myself more? What does “loving me” look like? How does “loving me” feel? And then, how can I reflect this love I have for myself outwardly to others? To my family? To my friends? To the many communities in which I participate? Too often we think that strengths are to be used only “out there,” for the good of others. Now there’s certainly nothing wrong with “spreading the love.” But without a sense of how I express this “capacity to love and be loved” to myself, there’s really very little to give. It’s just that simple.Jack_All_Trades.JPG

Many of us were raised with the belief that one’s goal in life was to be “well-rounded,” to excel in a number of areas, to develop a broad repertoire of thought which would produce a kind of ideal personality. It has been described as being the “Renaissance” man or woman, a “jack-of-all-trades.” Much has been written in positive psychology lately about this belief, because what it really expresses is the opposite of using one’s strengths. The Gallup Organization has done some significant studies in this area. In the area of relationships, this “jack-of-all-trades” approach has come to be called “rounding.” It’s the belief, now confirmed by research, that the goal of “being all things to all people” is not only a myth but is also essentially destructive to the development and growth of healthy relationships. It promotes compromise and self-defeating behavior. And you can also “round” yourself- by closing yourself off from receiving the gifts that others bring to you, or by simply not engaging the strengths which you already have. Instead, let your unique set of strengths “shine” in every relationship, including your relationship with yourself. It’s “you being you,” engaging your strengths, that produces the most enduring and healthy relationships. “Rounding” means you shrink from the authentic expression of your strengths for some perceived gain in being “all things” to “all people” in “all situations.” What’s really happening is just the opposite. You’re simply being “less than yourself.” The real power in relationships is to see how your strengths complement those of others, to see the synergy in the combined power of your strengths with those of others, and to love and appreciate yourself all the more for knowing your own giftedness.  Valentine_Treats.jpg

How are you “rounding” yourself? How are you “rounding” others?

So go ahead this month and admit it. You can’t do it all by yourself. You really can’t be that “Renaissance” personality, going it alone. Your’re not the “Lone Ranger.” But with your strengths engaged, you can be true to yourself and to others, and in so doing, shine as who you really are!


About the author

Dr. Donald B. Johnson

Copyright © 2015 The Applied Neuroscience Institute