Draw On Your Strengths
Simply naming a strength in someone can amplify it.
Drawing on my strengths helped me endure the days when my mother was dying. In autumn 2015, Mum was in the hospice and as I watched her fade, I felt grateful for having the emotional and physical strength to show her tenderness, act as her advocate with medics and stay calm when I felt like my insides were collapsing. Writing gets me through most hard times but I couldn’t express a single word.
While I was waiting, I signed up to attend a retreat in Bali led by Andrea and Juna. These are two women I respect and, as I knew the end was close, I needed something to look forward to over the coming dark period. Fast forward through six months of grief and death admin, restarting my business and reclaiming my life and it seemed rather indulgent to breeze off to the other side of the world to reflect on my wants, strengths and vulnerabilities. A bit of an Eat Pray Love cliche (despite my great regard for its author). Yet after 18 months of supporting both my parents through cancer diagnoses and treatment, it was EXACTLY what I needed to do.
Strengths are like muscles. My time here in the company of generous souls has been precious. Drawing on my strengths – even just recognising them in the first place – is so valuable because it’s allowing me to live a happier and more authentic life. I have been thinking about how my love of learning has deepened and taken me from curious creature with a day job to freelance writer and business woman sharing her knowledge and curating the wisdom of others. The more I use them, the stronger they become.
Social scientists have identified that each of us has 24 character strengths to one extent or another. I took the quick and free test on the Values in Action Institute website and discovered my top ones – love of learning, perspective and social intelligence – along with qualities I wish to boost eg as humility, forgiveness and self-regulation. What are yours? How do the test results compare with what you thought were your strongest character traits? Simply naming a strength in someone can amplify it.
During my time here in Ubud, Bali I have been listening to many deeply personal stories, sharing my own and writing a lot – writing as therapy. My words have returned and my love of learning is driving my business forward; working on forgiveness of myself and others is opening up more space for good things. Tuning into my character strengths has been powerful – it’s important to have this knowledge about ourselves and explore how to use it to amplify our every day lives.
I am excited to return to London and share new workshops and retreats with you because it’s through writing and reflective exercises that I make sense of myself and the world. Who could you reach out to today and complement on one of their strengths?
This retreat has been special and restorative; I have made many beautiful connections. I am celebrating the strengths of the women sharing their stories with me. A perfect farewell gift would be to compliment them and gift them a pencil from the thoughtful and creative Department Store for the Mind‘s new collection of 24 Character Strengths Pencils. This ordinary tool can serves as a visceral reminder of our best qualities and how to hone them to have impact on the world.
Every day I write and am thankful that my strengths continue to support me as I endure these times of grief and sadness and transformation. May yours help you every day too.
I’ll be giving these pencils to participants at my forthcoming workshops Mouth & Mind and Writing the City. The perfect tool for capturing thoughts and creative inspiration in the hand-cut and bound notebooks I’m making for each person.
Buy the Character Strengths pencils here