The power of 'strength training' our minds
Albert Einstein brilliantly said, "Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will spend its whole life believing that it is stupid."
We could either focus on the limitations of a fish - they can’t breathe air, they can’t walk on land, they are unable to regulate their body temperature or even chew their food. Or we can look at fish a different way – they can breathe underwater, they thrive in aquatic environments where other animals would drown, they are able to swim up to 70 miles an hour, they use electrical signals to navigate and communicate and they can even regenerate body parts… they are phenomenal.
Judging a fish to climb a tree might feel ridiculous, but it’s no more ridiculous than focusing solely on what we feel we are lacking and disregarding our strengths.
When we lean into our strengths to solve problems, rather than engaging with our limitations, we hugely impact our capacity for success in our personal and professional lives.
As a coach, one of the ways I work with clients is to practise getting granular about their strengths; all the ones they’ve overlooked because, to them, these strengths feel so habitual.
It’s incredible how my practice of 'mental strength training' meets resistance. As humans, we have such a disposition to think about our negative qualities and disregard our strengths.
I like to make extensive lists of my clients' strengths beyond the point they feel bored, embarrassed, avoidant… if there’s no discomfort, it means we’ve not yet scratched the surface.
The methodology behind this approach is simple. Each unique brain thrives when it problem-solves based on its natural abilities. Some brains love speed, some brains like space, others love variety, some like meticulous detail, others thrive in abstraction – the list goes on and on.
For example, throughout my life, I've had several significant identity shifts. I worked as a creative in advertising, became a documentary director and am now a life and career coach. I believed this meant I was unreliable, flakey and inconsistent. And yet, I managed to completely ignore the more empowering qualities this demonstrates – curiosity, flexibility, resilience and openness.
If you want to start considering your strengths today, here are five ways to begin 'strength training'.
Five ways to begin 'strength training'
Spend time reflecting on your past experiences. What tasks did you excel in? What makes you feel energised?
Ask for input from friends, family, and colleagues. What do they see as your strengths?
Look for recurring themes in your life. What skills, qualities, or behaviours consistently show up?
4. Success stories
Think about your most significant accomplishments. What strengths did you use to achieve them?
5. Take a strengths assessment
You can take a strengths assessment to help pinpoint your top strengths - I recommend the Kolbe test.
Allowing ourselves to lean into our strengths opens up a wealth of possibilities for our future selves.