- Be Yourself: Use Your Strengths to Positively Influence
For the Whole of Their Life.
Be Yourself: Use Your Strengths to Positively Influence
“Be yourself.” Such easy words to say to each other, but how often do you find yourself trying to be something or someone different? There is a human need in all of us to want to be accepted, to have close relationships and to belong to a group of people. A dear friend and colleague of mine would call this group ‘your tribe’. Sometimes we are in situations where we feel as if no tribe fits. This can sometimes happen to students at school because the group from which they can make a selection is not diverse enough. As a Year 10 Team Leader, I often speak to students who are having a hard time ‘being themselves’ because, as they grow and change, their friends may not. This often results in a change of tribe and this is not an easy process for a child, teenager or adult. However, it is a natural and necessary part of life to align yourself with people who share the same interests, values and forward vision. So how do you ‘be yourself’ around others? What does that currently look like for you?
Are you careless with words?
Sometimes when we express ourselves, it is not always the best version of who we can be. Depending on the situation to which we are responding, our reaction could either be positive or negative. If it was an aggressive or careless way of using words, this then influences the way other people see you. Your first thought might be, “That’s ok, that’s me. I’m just being myself and if you have a problem with me – so what!” This kind of self-talk is dangerous, not only for children and teenagers, but for adults too. As adults, it is important to be role-modelling kind words and attitudes to others in order to be the number one positive influence in our child’s life. Negative self-talk leads us to believe a lie about ourselves that perpetuates into our daily interactions with others and are of negative influence. In time, it is a downward spiral that leads to more lies of little self-worth, anxiety in social situations, isolation and little aspiration in life.
When we speak of ‘being yourself’ at St Philip’s Christian College Cessnock, we encourage each other to be who we are made to be by a loving Creator. God created each of us in the image of Himself. God created each one of us uniquely. In 1 Peter 4:10-11 it says,
God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another. 11 Do you have the gift of speaking? Then speak as though God himself were speaking through you. Do you have the gift of helping others? Do it with all the strength and energy that God supplies. Then everything you do will bring glory to God through Jesus Christ. All glory and power to him forever and ever! Amen.
In the Bible, God speaks of gifts or talents that He provides each and every human in order to live out a purposeful life. In the business world, Gallup Strengths, refers to the talents that each of us naturally possess. In the psychology world, these gifts or talents would be referred to as personality traits that we are born with and then possibly evolve as our environment influences them. Regardless of which worldview you see yourself, it is important to focus on strengths to be a positive influence around us.
Strengths or weakness?
Is it easier to write with your dominant hand or non-dominant hand? If you were asked to write a 2000 word essay, you wouldn’t choose your non-dominant hand unless your other hand was injured and you absolutely had no alternative. Can you imagine the frustration level increasing as the essay progressed? Not only do you feel like you have little control, but the time wasted in trying is simply irrational. It is important that, as students, educators and parents, time is not wasted on constantly focussing on what is weak. Instead, focus on what is strong. Often, through developing our strengths, we naturally begin to improve the weak, but the focus is far more positive and encouraging.
Have you ever considered how unique you are? Using the 34 Gallup Strengths developed by Donald Clifton, it is said that the possibility of someone having the same five top strengths as you, is approximately one in 275,000 and a whopping one in 33.4 million to have them in the same order – that is crazy unique! Even if you found that one in 33.4 millionth person, the way you use your strengths will still be different because your environment, your values and your life experiences will shape them in various ways. This is the reason why St Philip's Christian College Cessnock is trying to develop a stronger strengths-based approach this year. It is important to recognise each individual as unique.
Domains of Strengths
Although there are 34 recognised Gallup strengths, these individual strengths are grouped into four main domains. The domain of relationship recognises people who are strong in community building and are great at keeping team interactions running smoothly. Those who are considered strong in influencing often have the gift of the gab and can sell snow to Eskimos. Activators are people who can self-start or ensure a project maintains momentum, whilst those strong in strategy are terrific at absorbing and analysing information in order to make more informed decisions.
It is great to recognise your strengths, but then what? Being able to name your strengths is only the first step of understanding yourself and those around you a little better. To become a positive influence using your strengths, it is important to learn how to aim and tame your strengths. Aiming, simply put, is to apply the strength in various situations. Consciously thinking about how a strength could be used in different scenarios. Taming the strength is understanding that each strength has a balcony and basement level. When using a strength in the basement level, it may be affecting your life, but because it is part of you, you just can’t seem to put your finger on what is wrong. Let me give you an example from my own life. As a Year 10 Team Leader I use my adaptability (being able to go with the flow) daily. Often, I will be in the middle of a planned activity when I will need to deal with a situation that will throw my whole day out. I can cope with this type of pressure easily because of my adaptability (using my strength at balcony level). Change is something I can do really easily. However, because I can chop and change relatively easily, I have to ensure that I do not come across to others as being unorganised. I have an awesome team of PC Teachers who rely on a level of consistency and forewarning. Some of them don’t appreciate it when I change something at the last minute. Something that feels perfectly comfortable to me, may throw a colleague into a spin (using my strength at basement level). To be a positive influence with your strengths, daily development of your strengths to focus on the balcony level is required. If we practise it regularly, the strength muscle develops, and it becomes easier next time you need to call on it.
How do we obtain optimal performance to positively influence others?
It is important to develop strengths alongside someone who can coach you. As a teenager, I could throw a softball at a target on a brick wall over and over again. But, until someone with more experience had taught me how to do it properly, then I would have been practising poor technique and mastering poor technique. It is the same with developing your strengths. To truly become a positive influence, it is important to check in with someone who knows how to coach you to use these well. For example, a coach might ask you:
- What values do you have that bring passion to this strength?
- What people are you around when that strength is at its best? How can you be around them more? (and might I dare ask…) Whom might it be best to not be around as much for this strength to flourish?
- How can you “polish” this strength to move it up to the next level?
These questions have been taken directly from the Clifton Strengths website (Gallup, 2021) which is packed full of resources to help you find and develop your strengths. When you can understand yourself a little better, appreciate that those around you are all uniquely made by God, then this is when you can start to ‘be yourself’ and grow into the person who positively influences the world with salt and light.
14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”
Gallup, I. (2021). Moving Beyond Naming, Claiming, Aiming to Real Development. Retrieved 21 February 2021, from https://www.gallup.com/clifton...
Year 10 Team Leader and Strengths Coach
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