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Personal Growth & Development


Personal Growth and Development:
How To Maximize Your Strengths
by A. J. Schuler, Psy. D.

The bottom line in promoting your personal growth is this: identify what you do best, and do more of it.  Identify what you do worst, and stop doing it.

A lot of people have trouble identifying their strengths, and it does take time for people to get to know themselves.  I can’t tell you how often friends ask me for tips on how they can sort out what they really want to do, no matter where they are in their careers. Everyone has their own path to personal development, but here are some questions to ask yourself that will help you identify your strengths:

Personal Growth Question #1: What do I like to talk about without stopping?
Chances are, the things that interest you most get you talking on and on.  If what you talk about without stopping are the complaints you have or the things about other people that bother you, then nothing you will read here will help you. A negative attitude will sabotage any success you may seek, and the responsibility for that is yours.  But if you have a positive passion, find out what it is and sort out what you like most about it.  When something was “just perfect” in your experience, what made it feel that way? Your answers will help you see what your biggest motivators are and guide you to your best path for personal development.

Personal Growth Question #2: Do you get excited most by people, ideas or things?
If you’re a real people person, anything you do for your personal development will have to put you in contact with people - a lot! Sales people fit this description, but people who love service fit here as well. If you have a passion for people and a real interest in some area of expertise - whether it’s food or photography or some technical specialty - find a way to combine the two.  Idea people may want to find more time to write, or do research, and may be happier and more effective building work lives that maximize the time they can be alone with their thoughts.  People who are great with things are the most mechanically inclined, often the hardware people in our computer world, for example. They love to do things with their hands as the key to their personal development and growth.

Personal Growth Question #3: What do you enjoy most about the things you do today?
The only thing you can do consistently and with excellence is something you really love to do.  If you don’t love doing something, you’ll never be anything but good at it, at best.  But to enjoy life and reap the greatest rewards life has to offer, you have to follow your passions, and if possible, find a way to get paid for doing it! For your personal growth, think about what kinds of things you would be doing in your life anyway even if you were not getting paid for it - these are your talents, the things you “can’t not do” - and then talk to other people who have been successful doing similar things as a profession.  Some people are happy to work for a paycheck and have their real creative passions realized outside of work - but very often it’s possible to bring the two worlds together, if you work to find a way.

Personal Growth Question #4: Who can you find who does things that might interest you?
This is a great personal growth step so few people take - just call someone who does something that might interest you. For example, if you are thinking about becoming a real estate broker, identify someone who does the kind of real estate work you might like to do, and call him/her. Ask for no more than fifteen minutes of their time and make a phone appointment or face-to-face one. Ask specific question about how they got into the field, what they do on a daily basis, what they love about it, what they don't like as much, etc. You’ll be surprised how many people are willing to give a little of their time this way if you ask nicely and don’t waste their time.  Be prepared to ask specific questions and don’t run over time unless they make it clear that they don’t mind. You can learn a lot - maybe you don’t want to be a broker after all. Finding out what you really don’t want to do is really a positive step in personal development. But no matter what, always send a thank you note afterward, a personal one. If you do want to go into real estate someday, you may have found a future mentor.

Personal Growth Question #5: Who will be your future mentors?
Perhaps the single most important thing you can do to ensure your personal growth is to find a good mentor.  A good mentor has experience traveling the path you want to travel, likes you, can laugh with you and will allow you to experiment while drawing on their wisdom.  Mentors open up new ideas, new contacts and new possibilities. And it’s a basic fact of personal growth that we all develop - and only really grow - in the context of positive relationships. Just as children need good caretakers to grow and thrive, so do adults need good mentors and sounding boards to develop in life and in a career.  There’s only so much you can get from books - or from articles like this!

    In the end, if you keep your focus on developing your areas of real passion - and if you surround yourself with positive people who will help you develop that passion - good things will follow.

So, stop believing all the trainers - and psychologists! - who try to get you to improve on some area that others might consider to be your “weakness.”  We all have weaknesses!  Our natural areas of weakness will never carry us to excellence and we’ll never be happy doing the things we don’t do very well. Neither will the marketplace reward us for doing those things.

    At most, devote twenty percent of your energy to minimize the impact of your weaknesses, but use the other eighty percent to build your strengths so much that your limitations become irrelevant.

There’s some quick tips to help you focus on your strengths, and realize your own personal path to greatness. To keep learning more about how you can achieve your best - and how to become a great leader - be sure to subscribe to my FREE e-Newsletter, “What’s Up, Doc?,” for high impact, entertaining and original monthly content that can make a real difference in your life!

Copyright (c) 2002 A. J. Schuler, Psy. D.
Permission is granted to copy this article as long as the following
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A. J. Schuler, Psy. D.
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(703) 370-6545