Strengths And Positive Deviance


Our norm is the understanding that what is heliotropic is normative; it’s the norm.  We are meant to grow, to evolve, to create, to be, to express, to become.  From the moment of conception, every cell is aimed at growth and birth, and nothing changes after we are born. The very nature of “createdness” is heliotropic–toward the light, toward growth, toward becoming and being.  And we are surrounded by outstanding examples of positive deviance that goes even beyond this norm of growth and becoming.  It just takes a positive lens to see them.

The lens of negative deviance studies everything that deviates from the norm of growth and positive forward creation.  We’ve done that for years.

But now, with strengths, we pick a new extremely powerful positive lens.  Strengths are the parts of us that call us to greatness, to uniqueness, and to outstanding performance in their expression, if we will grow them.Strengths are first grown by the acknowledgement that they are there and the intent, above all else, to grow them, stretch them, and to allow them to create personal genius– which is their potential in every person.

The greatest enemy of strength has two sides– non-recognition of the strength and not recognizing its use.  We often take strengths for granted because they seem so much like us.  We are so used to them. The truth is that they often become “matter of fact.”  It’s like “it’s no big thing.” We have heard people say exactly that about their strengths.  Or strengths may be so sloppily used that they get us in trouble and we hate them.  The strength of “strategic,” for example, may get us in trouble because we get to the point and zero in so quickly that people resent our penetrating insight.

Strengths need first to be recognized and acknowledged by the user for what they are and for when they are used.  That begins a process of using the strength more and refining its use in relationship to one’s other strengths, which help bolster and refine each other.

Strengths work in unison and in tandem. 

Every negative event in your life is a gift that is a cue to go to a strength that you’re not using.  The solution to every situation lies in the combined used of your strengths to point in the direction of the solution.  Go to your strengths and every negative is resolved by their application and use over time.

Really, really play to your strengths and you create true genius in about 20 years.


1) Follow this link to a short article on the nature of positive deviance. Summarize the new learning which is most significant for you about this emerging field. How would you apply this new learning to your coaching and group practices? Give us a specific example.

2) Strengths training has been a major component of your professional coach training. Since your initial introduction to strengths research, how have you grown in your knowledge and application of strengths? What new information and practices have most deepened your experience of the science of strengths?


1) This blog outlines the essential nature of who we are-“heliotropic,” always leaning into the light, into growth and personal strength. How has this idea been true for you? Give us an example.

2) “Strengths are the parts of us that call us to greatness, to uniqueness, and  outstanding performance in their expression, if we will grow them.” How has this been true for you? Tell us your story.

About the author

Dr. William K. Larkin

Copyright © 2015 The Applied Neuroscience Institute