02/10/10

What Inspires You About Yourself?

“Who are you to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?”

~ Marianne Williamson ~

In my program “Staying Inspired Through Challenge and Change,” I’ve asked the question “What inspires you?” to thousands of people over the years. I have heard many amazing and wonderful answers, however, have yet to hear someone respond to the group genuinely, without joking, “Myself,” or “My ability to write,” or “I am an awesome volunteer (mother, photographer, networker…),” or whatever strengths and gifts they embody that clearly inspire others.

It’s easy enough to understand why: we’ve been trained not to talk about our strengths and gifts and sometimes even hide them so as not to appear conceited or arrogant or potentially diminish someone else who isn’t as talented. But here’s the good news. When we are inspiring to ourselves, we are naturally expressing our strengths and gifts because we’re being our most creative inspired selves, and that naturally inspires others with or without talking about ourselves. If you question this, watch the upcoming Olympics.

Taking the time to discover our strengths and gifts becomes self-inspiring, especially in difficult times. When life has its way with us in a way that isn’t our way, we have the resources to bounce back and reconnect to the world in a “brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous way.”

TIP: Answer this question several times over the next week: What inspires you about yourself? If you get stuck, other questions that can lead to the same answers are “What do you appreciate about yourself?” and “What do people tell you they value in you that makes you feel “brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous?” Make a list of your top five qualities, strengths, or talents. If you’d like some help with the answers, here are links to two excellent assessments:

1) Marcus Buckingham’s “Find Your Strongest Life.”

2) VIA Strengths Questionnaire. There are two assessments available; one is f*ree. Millions of people have taken this assessment, which measures results based on what strengths will bring you the most happiness when you use them. I’ve taken it and highly recommend either profile.

Once you’ve answered “What inspires me about myself?” then go and ask five people – three whom you know and love and two strangers or new people you meet at a networking event or in the grocery line. Notice the different conversations you have and listen for the inspiration that follows.

RESOURCE: My friend and colleague Lynn Robinson has a new book that I think will interest you. It’s called LISTEN: Trusting Your Inner Voice in Times of Crisis.

When you know how to listen to your inner voice in times of crisis, you’ll possess an unfailing source of wisdom that will guide you through good times and bad, moving you steadily through the inevitable crises of life and always towards your hopes and dreams. Put the principles of this remarkable book to work, and you will discover that bad times can actually be good times if you know how to listen to your inner voice.

I also want to be sure you know that there’s a great opportunity if you purchase a copy of LISTEN: Trusting Your Inner Voice in Times of Crisis. A group of well-known business authors and experts, including myself, have come together, to offer valuable bonus gifts like e-books, audio programs, and tip sheets, to anyone who purchases a copy of Lynn’s new book!

The promotion is one week only; it ends at midnight, February 14th. So don’t miss out! Purchase your copy of LISTEN: Trusting Your Inner Voice in Times of Crisis.

Once you’ve purchased your copy, then visit Lynn’s Listen Bonus Page to claim your gifts:

As always, I love hearing from you and I’m…

Inspired by your presence,

Mary

02/17/09

Discover Your Happiness Strengths

After a four year hiatus, today I repeated the VIA (Values in Action) Strengths survey on the newly updated happier.com. Once again, I was reminded of the power of self-discovery and self-awareness, and the immense value of identifying your personal strengths.

The site highlights research and assessments by the gifted Dr. Martin Seligman, founder of the Positive Psychology movement at the University of Pennsylvania and helps you apply that research to your life in very user-friendly ways.

According to the VIA Institute on Character, this survey is the most scientifically validated tool for measuring character strengths. Over 1.3 million people have taken it. There are 24 qualities that have been validated as strengths that lead to happiness when applied to your daily life. Alphabetically listed, here they are:

Appreciation of beauty and excellence
Bravery and valor
Capacity to love and be loved
Creativity, ingenuity, and originality
Curiosity and interest in the world
Forgiveness and mercy
Gratitude
Honesty, authenticity, and genuineness
Hope, optimism, and future-mindedness
Humor and playfulness
Judgment, critical thinking, and open-mindedness
Kindness and generosity
Leadership
Love of learning
Modesty and humility
Perseverance, industry and diligence
Perspective (wisdom)
Prudence, caution, and discretion
Religiousness, spirituality, sense of purpose, and faith
Self-regulation and self-control
Social intelligence
Teamwork, citizenship and loyalty
Zest, enthusiasm, and energy

When you take this free profile online, which I highly recommend, you’ll be asked 240 multiple choice questions. Set aside a half hour to answer – it’s worth the time because what you’ll learn can positively shape everything you do. You’ll be fascinated, I promise.

At the end of the profile, you’re presented with a personalized list and description of your 24 strengths in order of importance to you. While the list wasn’t new information to me since I’d taken it before, it did show that four of my strengths remained in the top five in a new order and reflected more of how I experience my happiness now, which is a real gift because it reconfirms what has helped me survive some very challenging personal changes in the past four years and is what I can count on and follow when the world around me is in flux (like now!).

Another powerful reminder of this assessment, similar to Marcus Buckingham’s work and the Gallup StrengthsFinder, is that for a person to feel happy on a regular basis, your day (work and personal time) needs to include activities where you can apply and experience your top five strengths.

Here’s my Happier.com list of top 5 strengths:

1. Appreciation of beauty and excellence
2. Gratitude
3. Curiosity and interest in the world
4. Kindness and generosity
5. Love of learning

Fortunately for me, my work as a speaker and writer committed to helping people stay inspired through challenge and change allows me to use these strengths every day. But…that doesn’t mean I’m always aware that I am doing so, or actually using those strengths, and therein lies a major key to feeling happier – a written daily strengths checklist and journal you can review and act from, especially when you’re going through a difficult time.

A few other interesting insights:

The profile lists your strengths in order of preference and while it’s not stated, you can presume that your 24th strength is also your greatest challenge.

Not surprisingly, I share #24 with most other people who take the profile. (When I went through Seligman’s six-month “Authentic Happiness Coaching Program,” they mentioned this research fact.)

Drum roll, please: my #24 is Self-Regulation and Self-Control. While there many areas of my life where this is not true, where it does fit is with time management. I have a hard time sticking to my own self-defined schedules for getting projects done (which is another reason why I love accountability partners and client timelines).

But here’s the good news in identifying and applying your strengths: On the occasions that I do get stuck, if I apply even one of my strengths to getting something done that I’m avoiding that is important and not urgent (Covey’s Key Success Quadrant), magic can and often will occur.

For example: First thing in the morning, I love to walk at Torrey Pines Reserve and Beach, take photos of moments that inspire me (here’s one from today), and then journal, all of which I do almost every early morning before I start my work day. These activities energize and nurture me and as I was reminded again today, tap into my strengths.

Once I get to my desk, if it becomes challenging for me to stick to my daily work plan (what plan!?), and I find myself clicking on the Mahjong Titans computer game or stepping away from my desk for a sugar-fat snack attack, it’s a sign I’m off track. While fun, those actions don’t move me forward in my day or life. The key to my success in that moment (and long term) is to catch myself in that .5 second that researchers say a decision occurs, and do the following: smile, take a deep breath, review my strengths list, and ask myself, “How can I apply at least one of these strengths to this task?” In the case of a marketing call, I simply have to remember how grateful I am to get to do the work I do, how much I appreciate my audiences, and how curious I am to learn more about a new client, and voella!, the calls get made and I’m using my strengths in service to my higher purpose and vision.

And, sometimes, honestly, playing Mahjong Titans and hiking to the store for a king-size Reese’s Crispy Crunchy Bar still do the trick.

You can take the VIA Happiness Strengths for free at Happier.com. Go take it now. You’ll be glad you did. And if you’d like this type of information presented at your business or organization, or would like a complimentary coaching session on how to apply this in your life, email me at mary (at) marymarcdante.com.

11/19/08

The Strengths Revolution – Part 2

I first heard about the strengths theory in 1993 and was mesmerized when I found Donald’s Clifton’s book that he wrote with Paula Nelson in 1992 titled Soar with Your Strengths. I’d spent so much of my life focused on what was wrong with me and trying to fix it as well as downplaying what I was good at because that was considered vain and bragging. And there, in one paragraph, suddenly I’m being given permission to not only acknowledge but celebrate my strengths AND use them to the maximum because not only will it make me happier, more confident and productive, it will make me a better performer and help everyone I come in contact with be encouraged to do the same!

Here’s the updated version of that paragraph in Marcus Buckingham’s book The Truth About You that changed my life:

(Pages 41-43) “A weakness is any activity that leaves you feeling weaker after you do it. It doesn’t matter how good you are it or how much money you make doing it. If doing it drains you of energy, you’d be crazy to build your career around it.

Of course, a strength is the opposite. A strength – your strengths – are any activities that make you feel strong. To discover your strengths, you must look beyond “what you’re good at” and pay really close attention to what you’re feeling before, during and after the activity. Your feelings will tell you what your strengths are.

“Here’s a simple way to remember what to look for when trying to spot your strengths:

S = Success. If you have some success at the activity, it may be a strength.

I = Instinct. If, before you do it, you find yourself instinctively looking forward to doing it, it may be a strength.

G = Growth. If, while you’re doing it, you find yourself easily able to concentrate (your synapses firing, your brain literally growing), it may be a strength.

N = Needs. If, after you’ve done it, it feels like it fulfills a need of yours, it may be a strength”

My work as a professional speaker and writer changed that year and every program and published writing I’ve done since then has included the message of appreciating and acting on and from your strengths. In fact, that theme runs through both of my books.

In My Mother, My Friend, it’s all about focusing on your mother’s strengths and using that to help you identify and use your own strengths and hers to strengthen, heal and celebrate that relationship.

In Living with Enthusiasm, you learn how to apply your strengths to turn your funk into fun and stress into success every day.

These books are a great beginning and they’re just a beginning. Add regular reinforcement and practice through interactive in-person meetings, and you can increase morale and team performance dramatically. In a challenging economy, identifying and building on personal strengths is a great way to keep your organization moving forward.

If you’d like to bring the Strengths Revolution to your organization, along with other leading edge positive psychology ideas and resources that are life-changing in a dynamic, interactive format, email or call me at (858) 792-6786. My services include strengths coaching and presenting a keynote speech, training seminar, onsite workshop, inservice, leadership retreat or sales meeting. This is such exciting information and I’d love to share more of it with you!

11/19/08

The Strengths Revolution – Part 1

One of the key elements of feeling inspired about your work and enthusiastic at work is the ability to know and use your personal strengths on a daily basis. Sadly, most people either don’t know or don’t use their strengths at work. According to research done by the Gallup Organization, only 17% of people are able to put their strengths to work on a daily basis. What about you? How often do you use your strengths at work?

If you’d like to explore more about the “Strengths Revolution” (coined by Donald Clifton and Marcus Buckingham), and learn what your strengths are, my favorite books are Now Discover Your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham and StrengthsFinder2.0 by Tom Rath. Both books include a coupon to take a “Strengths Profile” that over 2 million people have taken on the Gallup website (be sure to check the book to make sure the coupon is there. My coupon was ripped out, which I didn’t discover until I got to my computer to enter it). What you’ll learn about yourself is more than worth

If you want a simple Strengths Theory explanation and easy reading to discover your strengths or help a teen discover theirs, definitely pick up The Truth About You: Your Secret to Success by Buckingham. Not only is it an engaging read, you’ll find yourself excited to answer his questions. Plus, it’s the kind of book you’ll go back to again and again for quick reminders on how to make the most of your day by being your best.

According to Buckingham, whom I had the great pleasure of meeting last year, here is the best advice you’ll ever get:

  1. Performance is always the point…so don’t expect your organization to know you like you do.
  2. Your strengths aren’t what you’re good at and your weaknesses aren’t what you’re bad at…so you’d better find out what your real strengths are.
  3. When it comes to your job the “What” always trumps the “Why” and the “Who”…so always ask, “What will I be paid to do?”
  4. You’ll never find the perfect job…so every week, for the rest of your life, write your Strong Week Plan.
  5. You’ll never turn your weaknesses into strengths…so fess up to your weaknesses and then neutralize them.

Take the time to identify your strengths and you’ll find yourself taking more inspired action and creating remarkable results at work and in the every area of your life.