Friday, June 25, 2010

Which Personal Strengths Matter Most?

Who you are is determined by what you do. You’re a compassionate person not because you believe in compassion or because you think it’s important. You're a compassionate person only if you show compassion in your behavior. And not just occasional acts of compassion—a consistent pattern of compassionate behavior. The same is true of dozens of other personal strengths.

Also, no matter how old you are, you can grow stronger. Like developing a physical strength, it takes effort to establish a behavior pattern. Repeating the desired behavior consistently over time causes the brain cells that enable the behavior to interconnect, establishing a “neural pathway.” Only then will the strength be ingrained as a behavior pattern.

If you were fortunate as a child, you were encouraged by people who cared about you and wanted to help prepare you for adult life. As an adult, you know that growing up is only the beginning of this journey. The work of becoming stronger for the challenges of life never ends. That’s because there’s nothing static about who you are. What you do each day reinforces your behavior patterns. 

I've learned that certain personal strengths are more important for certain endeavors. For example, my familiarity with athletes tells me that of 40 well-known personal strengths, these ten are most important for athletic performance:
  • Awareness
  • Cooperation
  • Effort
  • Excellence
  • Flexibility
  • Intuition
  • Perseverance
  • Self-Development
  • Self-Confidence
  • Self-Discipline

It's an interesting list. What makes it even more interesting is that my discussions with lawyers have revealed a very different top 10:
  • Acceptance
  • Decisiveness
  • Focus
  • Logic
  • Honesty
  • Integrity
  • Open-mindedness
  • Perseverance
  • Self-Confidence
  • Thoroughness
A more thorough poll might change the lists somewhat. But the differences between athletes and lawyers are significant, and they don't surprise me. Different endeavors require different strengths. It motivates me to ask many more people about which strengths are most important to their current life endeavors: artists, parents, students, soldiers, and so on.

So what is your life endeavor? Which of the personal strengths matter most to you?

Post by Dennis E. Coates, Ph.D., Copyright 2010. Building Personal Strength .

1 comment:

Gregory B. Sadler said...

Very interesting question.

I'm a philosopher who teaches, researches, writes, gives public talks, and consults -- a sort of combination of academician and entrepreneur ("selling" products I firmly believe in, like the need for Critical Thinking). What personal strengths have I found to be vital for success in my field/work?

Love -- for my topics, without this, I could not do any of my tasks well.

Perseverance -- in research, teaching, writing, reaching out consistently

Humility -- being willing to acknowledge when I don't know, need to research more, or have been mistaken about an issue or topic

Affability -- friendliness towards, genuine interest in other people, necessary for leading them into material they don't already know or have great interest in themselves

Trust -- that the material I am teaching, writing about, etc. will reach someone and be of some use to them

Curiosity -- a desire to know more about, and to connect the dots in the matters I study and communicate to others.

Awareness -- of the emotional and intellectual needs of other people, which have to be acknowledged and met if I'm to reach them

Facility -- in generating easy to grasp examples and analogies to help people grasp the sometimes tricky matters I discuss with them

Realism -- while hoping and working for the best, never allowing the best to become the enemy of the limited good that is actually achieved

Reliability -- if I tell another person I'll do something, they can depend on me to actually do it