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use your strengths

In the first of this series, you identified your unique strengths and part 2 enabled you to focus on developing and growing them. (Been away? Here’s the links so you can catch up: part 1 and part 2).

But knowing your strengths and growing them isn’t enough to sustain your motivation, build greater success and create the life or career you want.

So to borrow another company’s slogan…..

At work

Actually even before you land your ideal job or promotion, you can utilise you strengths to demonstrate both the way in which you work and what you excel at. By creating a consistent personal brand, you can reinvigorate your online profiles and your personal introductions. Using a strengths based summary statement on LinkedIn gives a clear, easy to understand short review of your talents and aspirations. At events, you can rapidly and compellingly introduce yourself to new people.

Whilst research roles, your strengths could be the search terms you use in job boards or in deciding whether your career switch is really for you.

If you’re considering a career or job switch, I’d really encourage you to look at doing an internship – Escape the City offers a job and internship board of some of the most lovely and usual roles going all in one place (plus great blog and school) and keep your eyes’ peeled for internships being offered as part of competitions (Red Magazine runs “grown-up” internships for a range of organisational positions).

Drafting your CV and applications can also draw from your strengths portfolio. They will run through each role or project and help illustrate how your achieved success or development in them. The “how” is a key indicator of future performance, not just the outcomes.

Many firms are now using strengths interviewing – rather than focus on past experiences, you’ll be asked to describe how you would approach future or hypothetic scenarios based on your talents.

At rest

In coaching, we often refer to “signature strengths” – the ones that shine throughout all aspects of life. Let me give you an example, if you’re great at organising chaos into a way ahead then you’ll be the one who at home, as well as work, who tackles arranging holidays, family get-togethers and so on. If you’re naturally talented at making people feel at ease, you’ll do this at home too.

The snag is you possibly don’t realise it.

Take a moment to reflect on where your strengths show up at home. In what circumstances do you draw on them? And how could you use them to better effect? Or is it possible you over use your strengths and diminish your chance to try something new or push outside your comfort zones?

At play

Taking your strengths into volunteering, hobbies, sports or socialising can be a real joy to the soul. These “play” activities typically have some sort of pay-off – they make a difference to you or to others, they lift your spirits, they enhance your wellbeing.

This application of your strengths can also require you to use them in a different way and in a different context to work or home. The pressures or boundaries may be removed or relaxed and you’re likely to be with a different group of people. How do your strengths show themselves in these times?

Stepping back

Looking across all 3 areas, when and how do you use your strengths? Are there any learning or observations that you can draw across into another area of your life to maximise their potential?

Research into happiness, health and success all point to one common factor – knowing, developing and using your strengths consistently. I hope this short 3 part b-mail series has helped you begin the journey to the life and career you desire.

Moving ahead, I’d love to know in the comments how you currently make the most of your strengths and how you’ll be using them in new or different ways in the future. Stuck for ideas? Drop that in the comments too and I’ll be happy to help.

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grow your strengths

In this 3 part b-mails on your strengths, we’re going to look at how strengths can be discover, leveraged and utilised to deliver happiness, success and flow in your life and work. I hope you found time to do some (or all!) of part 1: identify your strengths – catch up here.

So to part 2: grow your strengths.

It’s no secret that I believe continuously stretching yourself to explore who you are, what you are capable of and where that might take you is an essential part of achieving all that you desire. Moreover, there are literally thousands and thousands of way to grow your strengths – as a trainer, I know you’re likely to have a preferred style of learning. For example, you might be a bookworm or a get out there and just do it kinda person. You might like a lot of structure or complete flexibility to dive in and out as your needs take you.

My humble advice? Don’t go just for the style that makes you comfortable. Push the boat out. Mix it up. Taking this approach means you stretch your brain, your body and yourself beyond your limits or norms – enabling you to find more options, more self-awareness and more resourcefulness.

Hold the cash!

Awhile back I wrote a b-mail called “invest in yourself without breaking the bank“, which covered off a range of free or low price tag development opportunities. These are all still great options, I just can’t stop myself adding a few more:

Skillshare – one for creative skills

iTunes U – connect with educational institutes on your Apple devices for just about every topic!! You might also consider podcasts whilst you’re in iTunes.

School of Life – with a curriculum from outside the typical school’s reach, this programmes, videos and events can build a multitude of skills. Videos and blogs free and workshops start at about £40.

Lots of museums, theatres and galleries run free workshops or courses as do many shops (Apple stores and Liberty both run short courses and events). And don’t forget your local colleges have rafts of evening and weekend events or workshops, which are after free or discounted (e.g. unemployed, targeted age groups and last-minute places)

Get me out of here!

Staying in the same place, job or habits can help us develop, but after a time we all need something new to inspire, to motivate and to change us.

Find a working holiday, go on a retreat or backpacking, volunteer overseas. I’ve lived and worked outside of the UK and gained new skills as well as developing my strengths by being with different types of people in different environments. (In fact, my university year working in Germany was probably the most valuable and enduring learning I got!)

Join the club!

Tackling strengths development alone can be rather demotivating. Most career families and roles have a professional body, membership organisation or regular newsletter or journal. Sign up, subscribe and get engaged. Not only do they offer relevant, timely and current training, insights and networking events, you also get access to the leading names or figures.

Outside of the “work” sphere, many sports, hobbies and interests have communities and groups that can help you move forward with your strengths. For example, my Life and Career Changer boards on Pinterest can connect you with new information and inspiration as well as pointing you to other experts, peers and resource. Research your local suppliers, clubs, catch-ups and join, pop along, attend an event.

Extra tip: teaching others is a sure-fire way to grow your own understanding, practice and appreciation of your strengths – who can you help grow?

Put a badge on it!

Nothing advertises your strengths like a qualification or certificate to demonstrate your proficiency. Many universities and colleges offer full-time and part-time programmes, with bursaries and scholarships. Pick carefully, read reviews, contact student ambassadors or Student Unions and Associations to get the inside scoop before registering.

Extra tip: promote your achievements on your online profiles – think LinkedIn, your about.me page and celebrate them on your feeds – tweet, post and pin your celebrations!


In order to grow your strengths, you need to invest your energy, sweat and sometimes tears alongside determination and grit. You’re an amazing person and can totally do this – in time. Be patient with your progress. Be kind to yourself by building a support team. Be honest about when you need downtime to recoup.

Looking back at your strengths from part 1: identify your strengths – what are you doing to develop and how? I’d love to be inspired by your growth and development!

  • Daniela

    This was really encouraging to read. I think sometimes we get so overwhelmed with life that we forget to take care of growing ourselves. And sometimes I am good at recognising that I need help but I don’t know what resources I should use. Thank you for all this…really great!

    • Sarae

      You’re really welcome! I hope there’s something in there that excites, motivates and enables you to find your next way to grow!

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identify your strengths

In this 3 part b-mails on your strengths, I want to help you begin the journey to identify, grow and use your strengths and talents to help you clarify your direction, maximise your potential and fulfil your ambitions and dreams in all parts of your life. I want to balance what I recommend with a price tag with some free options to ensure you can all identify your strengths today. As well as, seeking a balance of things you can do alone plus how I might be able to help.

So to part 1: identify your strengths.

Let’s take stock a moment: what go you here craving a change? It could have been a “final straw” experience, a glimpse of another way or a gut feeling that there’s a mismatch between your life, work or play with your best self. By identifying your strengths, you take the pain and the guesswork out of what and how to change plus you reduce the likelihood of discomfort in making and living the change.

Game of two halves:

When you’re at your best, time flies by without you noticing. It goes dark outside. You forget to eat or drink. You could go on forever. You can sit holding a pee for the longest time. All because you’re in flow, engrossed by what you’re doing or who you are being.

Take a piece of paper, fold in half. Considering all aspects of your life (work, play, exercises, socialising and so on), jot or draw on the left side, those experiences where you are at your best. Tasks, activities, roles, functions, values and emotions you’re embodying. On the right, the opposite, times when you are at your worst – those experiences that you dread, bore you, exhaust you.

On both sides, try to include the knowledge, actions, behaviours and attitudes you draw on.

Now ask yourself:

  1. What consistently appears when I’m at my best?
  2. What consistently appears when I’m at my worst?
  3. Anything missing?
  4. List what your excel at on both sides. These are your strengths.

Hang on….both sides? Yes. You will have strengths that you utilise even when times are bad or challenging – these may form part of what you take forward. For example, at my worst I take decisions rapidly without the full picture or consultation– this serves me well if the situation calls for this, e.g. when the unexpected drops in and someone needs to pragmatically move things forward. I don’t enjoy it and it doesn’t make me feel great, however I know others value this.

Ask me a question and I’ll tell you no lies:

Bringing in the people in your life can be really valuable in identifying your strengths. They know you well and will only have your interests at heart. (PS bonus – they feel good being involved and you help manage their resistance)

If you feel comfortable doing this in person, just ask what they value and admire about how you go about things and what you do. Take a note of the verbs, nouns and adjectives they use to describe you.

If you’d rather have a spot of confidentiality, for example with peers at work, you could do this using a simple Google doc or Survey Monkey type questionnaire.

Once you’ve gather a number of responses, rank the reoccurring strengths. Don’t overlook people and technical skills or knowledge.

Your starter for ten:

My 3 go-to resources to increase your awareness of your personality and character preferences and strengths:

VIA Character Strengths Questionnaire – using positive psychology theories by Martin Seligmann, this tool is available free + paid for versions.

Strengths Finder 2.0 by Tom Rath – buy the book and you’ll get an access code to do the online test OR bypass the book and pay for ~£6/$10 the basic test or ~£56/$90 for the full test here.

Myers-Briggs Type Indicator – This well-known, international tool is brilliant at exploring and uncovering your preferences in relation to work, problems, life and people. You can find lots of free versions of this or I can arrange an online OPP questionnaire and report with 30 minute debrief.

With all 3 of these, I would recommend you review or complete this with a qualified practitioner. Why? Exploring and understanding your results requires an external perspective to get the most out of them, to consider your mindset when completing it and help related them to your life holistically.

Wow! Aren’t you brilliant! And so unique! And such valuable strengths!

Any surprises? Think of these as being in your blind spot – you may not consider some things as strengths if they come to you naturally with little effort, but others do.

Final challenge in part 1: bring everything together – what are your top 5 “doing” strengths and your top 5 “being” strengths? I’d love to know what your strengths are and if you had any surprises – tell me your strengths and any surprises in the comments.

Next week’s b-mail: grow your strengths, followed by part 3: use your strengths

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what to do about others, who resist you changing

It’s no big secret that I love my curly hair – in fact, it’s what I’m known for by some. It shapes my mood and often gives away how energetic and passionate I’m feeling. I’ve tried straight. It’s just not me. I become stiff and I’m told I behave more formally.

I’ve been debating whether to grow my hair out again or go really short. Everyone has an opinion. “Keep it as it is”, “Grow it long, sooo much more versatile”, “Be brave, chop it off”, “Change the colour instead” and on they go. The only thing they agree on is keeping the curls.

Me going to the hairdressers isn’t that big a change – as my dad always said, “It’ll grow”. The type of changes you are seeking might be small, but significant or they could be huge and revolutionise the way  you live. I am sure you’ve also met some folks who have an opinion to share about it, keen to point out the risks, or eager to warn you off with horror stories. They will no doubt have the best intentions; have you ever wondered why they resist you changing and what you can do about it?

Let me lift the lid on that……

1. They consider themselves an expert on you or the change you want to make

And why wouldn’t you want to know all their great advice, insights, experience and so on? It might be first hand or second hand. It might be something they saw on TV – you just don’t know.

Your response?  Treat them as if they are an expert. You could learn something that improves your approach or refines your direction. Ask open questions that you are genuinely seeking solutions for – involving someone else in your thinking process can be powerful.

2. They change the topic

By seeking to change or by changing, you’ve poked an old wound. Perhaps they wish they could be bold and shift their lives and haven’t (yet!). Maybe they tried and failed. Or someone close to them did.

Your response? Recognise their discomfort when your change becomes the topic of conversation and tread softly to protect their wound from further soreness.

3. They chip away at your decision

This is like the return of the Spanish Inquisition – rapid fire, endless questions. What’s driven you to this? Why are you doing it? How do you think you’ll do it? What’s it going to cost you? Do you have time for it? What if your boss/partner/ANOther finds out? And on they go.

Your response: reframe your reaction from defensive to gratitude. They’re not attacking your decision or resolve. They simply care about you and want to be reassured you’re happy and sure about the change.

4. They tell you what they’d feel if they were making your change

This could be encouragement or admiration of your journey – often you’ll hear “I couldn’t do that” at the end. It could be about their own fears, anxieties and personal circumstances around making changes.

Your response: well to the first, take the compliment! If it’s more like the second, a little self-disclosure may be in order, as it’s quite normal for changes to build a mixed set of emotions, motivations and fears in us too. Share them and you’ll have gained a new supporter!

5. They’re absent

You used to be inseparable. And now they’re just not there. They’ve got other plans. They don’t pick up the phone. Avoidance can be a sign of grieving for you – the old you. They might be concerned new you isn’t going to want to be around them, friends with them, have time for them or that you’ll go on changing.

Your response: Don’t give up on your relationship, but do give them space. Reassure them that you value them and want them in your life.

6. They put temptation in your path

Bringing your favourite cake in to work, as you embrace a new health eating plan or asking you outside for a cheeky smoke when you’re trying to give up cigarettes. Or a boss promising a promotion to keep you in a job that’s making you miserable.

What’s driving them? Forgetfulness? Mean streak? Testing your willpower? Looking for an answer that suits them?

Your response: This is a two part response. For them, thank them and hold fast in your resolve. Share why your change is important to you, its about you, not them. For you, if temptation gets the better of you, know that no one is perfect – a lapse is about being human. Accept it and get back on track.

I hope these “under the lid” perspectives help you address your family, friends and colleagues in embracing your plans and decisions. Be patient – I’m sure you’ve spent a long time considering, researching, day dreaming and so on about each element, milestone and of course, what the future looks and feels like. They haven’t.

Thinking about your personal change(s), where are you finding resistance from others? What is your response and is it working for you both? Jump into the comments and tell me how else you see or feel resistance to your change? I’ll join the conversation to help resolve it.


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Bring in the harvest | a time for gratitude

All over the UK, children are participating in their schools’ and churches’ harvest festivals. They will be bringing in some produce from their gardens or cans of food to add to the parcels to be shared out amongst their community’s needy after an assembly to consider and reflect upon the harvest. These simple acts may not quite reflect the older traditions of farming families but they do help us focus.

It’s a time for us all to focus on the seeds we’ve sown, the tender shoots we’ve nurtured to full bloom and the outcomes we’ve come to harvest.

I’d love you to book a little time this week or weekend, when you can be free of distractions, somewhere you feel comfortable and able to relax.

Cast your mind back – what were your goals and aspirations back in the spring? It might help to consider the different areas of your life – for example family, friends, career, health or finance.

How did you prepare yourself? (Did you create a plan or timeline? Invest in a course or seek out a mentor? Buy the right kit? Diarise key events and activities?)

Where did the help along the way come from? (New learnings, a little R&R (aka self care), mates or your other half? Or maybe you had a light bulb a-ha moment or two?)

How were the tough times handled? (Tears and tantrums to get it out of your system? Re-planning or prioritising? Amending your direction of travel or scope of your desired outcome? Or simply asking for help?)

So what are your harvesting? Large or small, everything should be included in your gratitude tally.

I reckon by know you should have a big ol’ grin on your face. You’ve done good. It’s a time for gratitude.

Enjoy doing this? I hope so and I’d love to invite you to make this a regular practice. Take photos, write a journal, list your gratitudes each night before bed, say a pray to your gods or the universe. Our brains are hard wired to focus on the negatives in life, to protect us from being eaten by dinosaurs or being without food, warmth and shelter. Adding a little bit of reflective practice around what you have to be grateful for, means you challenge that wiring and open up new sources of positivity, energy and motivation. Something that is key to successfully adding stretch to your life.

(oh what’s on my list? You guys are. I’m counting each and every one of you who reads my b-mails, shares their thoughts and ways to stretch their lives. I’m counting each and every one of you who emails me their questions and personal challenges in moving forward to a more purposeful, fulfilling life. I’m counting each and every one of you who contributes to our community on social media, shares my updates and pictures and likes the articles I post. Thank you so much for being part of b-elastic!)

So do tell me, what are you currently grateful for and how will you add a bit of gratitude counting each day or week?

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