Life at Allens

Leveraging your strengths to be at your best

By Shannon Lyndon-Lugg, Head of Resourcing and Workforce Planning

Close your eyes and think of a time when you were nailing it - performing at your best, when you felt really confident, and challenged (in a good way) with what you were doing. Go on, close your eyes, take a few deep breaths, bring forward the memory and really savour it.

These times stay with us as particularly vivid memories of us at our best. They help to form a picture of who we are and what we see as our strengths. If you’re like me and you really relax in to that exercise, it will give you a big uncontrollable smile, helping to induce the brain's happiness chemicals of dopamine, oxytocin and serotonin. It's a great (and quick) exercise to do if you're ever feeling nervous, unsure of yourself or out of your comfort zone.

Each of us has enablers – attitudes, beliefs and behaviours - that help us be at our best. For me, the strengths I own are courage, resilience, gratitude and a deep and passionate love of learning. These strengths guide me - they both ground me and raise me up.

Reflecting and recognising our strengths is incredibly important. In fact, using more of our strengths, more often, builds confidence, self-esteem, resilience, leads to higher job engagement, improved health, better business outcomes and increased quality of life. How cool is that?!

By reminding ourselves of the qualities we employ when we are at our best, and what matters most to us, we are able to ground ourselves, we feel less needing of the approval of others and more comfortable with their disapproval should it come.

What if I told you that you could call on your strengths at will to help you with the most difficult challenges you face? Even when those strengths don't seem even remotely related to the challenge?

A large and ever-growing body of scientific evidence shows that when people have reflected on their strengths before a challenging meeting or public speaking event, they perform better and have much less cortisol (the stress hormone) in their system compared to those who have not undertaken some strength-based reflection.

Self-affirming strength exercises have been shown to decrease stress, improve relationships, increase communication and negotiation skills, and improve performance in almost any situation where the pressure is on and the stakes are high. Studies have also shown that the people who are most worried about what others think benefited the most from these types of exercises.

The good news is, it’s super easy for you to undertake a strength exercise to remind yourself of the best moments. Here is a quick one to consider:

  1. Write a short list of the things you are good at and the personal qualities that are important to you (eg humour, good natured, hardworking, patient, thoughtful, driven) .
  2. When you’ve identified three to four strengths that feel authentic, write down a few dot points, or a paragraph, about how you have leveraged these strengths in the past. 
  3. Re-read and reflect on these points leading up to an important meeting or event. Deeply connect with, and believe, the words you have written, and let the feeling of remembering when you have been at your best power you through your next challenge.

By doing an exercise like this, we relax more, we are less defensive, are more open to feedback and are able to access better problem-solving skills. Our brain functions better because we are calmer and not overloading it with stress and anxiety. We can literally think more clearly.

The coolest thing is that your reflection can be on ANY strength, and not just those that are relevant to the task at hand. You don’t need to confirm that you are an awesome public speaker or a great negotiator, you just need to reflect on the best parts of yourself and you will be better – even if the task is public speaking or negotiating!

Accessing your authentic best self is not about psyching yourself up by saying things like 'I am the best' or 'I am worthy'. It is about being able to draw on your power from the things you have done well before, helping you to trust in yourself, building your confidence and unleashing your potential!

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