© 2018 Strengths University

  • Anne

Talents = Behaviors = Habits

Updated: Feb 27


I realize my blogs have been a bit light on Strengths talk lately, so I wanted to circle back to some Strengths – aka talent – aka talent theme – basics. In my opinion, this is the most basic thing you need to understand to really be able to use the Strengths framework effectively.


Almost everything you do is driven by your talents. What’s the first thing you do when you get up? Pop right up because otherwise you’ll be off schedule? You may have Discipline or Achiever. Do you check the news? You might have Input or Learner. Think about what a great day you’re about to have? You might have Positivity. Think about what problems you might face? You might have Restorative or Deliberative. Plan out your day so you’re being as efficient as possible? You may have Strategic.


“But Anne, I have kids. I don’t have time to use my talents in the morning. I’m too busy getting them ready/not losing my mind!” The good news is even if you have kids you get to use your talents, because we are always using them regardless of the circumstances. (If you don’t have kids, substitute a significant other, pet, coworker, or student.) Think about what getting the kids ready looks like for you. Did you pack their lunches the night before or maybe get their clothes ready? You might have Strategic or Achiever. When your toddler struggling to tie their shoes, do you take the time to show them again instead of doing it for them and pushing them out the door? You might have Developer. Have you set out everything in a way that makes it easy to get ready in the morning? You may have Arranger.


Now think about how your children (significant other, pet, coworker, student) piss you off? Did they ruin your plans for the day? If you have Adaptability, you’re going to care way less than someone with Discipline or Achiever. Are they upset about something while you’re trying to get them out the door? If you have Empathy, you’ll be more likely to sit and talk through it than someone who has Strategic or Responsibility who’s focused on how they’ll be late for the bus. None of these examples mean you love your child more or less; it’s just how you show that love and how you prioritize things.


There are so many other examples, but really the most important thing to understand is that in this scenario, you haven’t even left the house for the day and your talents are impacting how your decisions about how you get ready. Think about the things you do in the morning. How do they connect to your talent themes? Some will be more obvious than others, but you should be able to see some distinct patterns. The rest of your day is just as impacted by your talents.


“But Anne, that’s not fair. I would use my Strategic more, but my kids woke me up three times last night and I’m exhausted.” Do kids do that? Lol. Stress definitely impacts how our talents show up…usually not in a good way. If you’re Strategic, it means you might obsess about making certain things “strategic” that don’t really matter. It might also mean that when things don’t seem strategic to you, you’re going to lose your mind about it. That’s definitely happened to me. If you have Discipline, stress can make your discipline show up more intensely in a way that can make you less productive; and/or irritate the people around you; and/or make you more upset when other people don’t seem to be disciplined themselves. When you’re not being productive with your talents, we call that being in the basement of your talents. Stress definitely pushes us into the basement of our talent themes.


Hopefully you’re seeing how much your talents impact you everyday in pretty much every situation. Now, I want to tie that back into your habits. All of our habits started out as a decision about when and how to do something.


1. Step one after getting out of bed is _____, because of talent _____.

2. Rinse.

3. Repeat.

4. Now you’ve got a habit!


“Our habits make us, and we make our habits.”

Frederick Langbridge 1


Just like our talents, a good or bad habit it determined by whether it’s helping you achieve the things you want in your life – aka if you’re being productive. If you have Adaptability, that can be productive when unforeseen things happen = good habit. It’s not so productive if it means your children don’t have the structure they need to get ready on time = bad habit. Your Input needs a shot of the news or your Facebook feed before waking the children? That’s fine if it helps you get amped up for the day = good habit. If it’s throwing your schedule off because you have a hard time stopping, it’s a problem = bad habit. Likewise, if your Empathy has created a habit discussing every worry or concern your child has no matter how trivial – “Why are you upset about the green socks you told me to get for you?” – you’re probably going to be late for things and spend a lot of energy resolving issues they might forget about in five minutes.


The problem is that once your habit is established, it’s your autopilot setting. If you’re not paying attention, you’re going to keep defaulting to that behavior – especially when you’re stressed. If the habit is helping you be productive, woohoo! If it’s keeping you in the basement of your talents, sad face emoji.


“Well crap, Anne. Am I doomed to live a life in the basement from unproductive habits driven by my talents?” No. Not at all. I don’t want to make this blog much longer, but I don’t want to leave you hanging either. The first thing you need to do is figure out which habits are getting in your way and how they’re attached to your talents. I’ll talk about this in more details in the next blog post, but look at your day – or just part of your day – and identify where you’re being productive and where you’re not. Hint – think about when you feel satisfaction because things are going well and when you’re frustrated or pissed off about something. Take some time everyday – even just two minutes to think about how your habits/Strengths are showing up for you.

1 Some of you may have heard this quote attributed to other authors. When I first heard it the person said it was from Buddha. Who doesn’t like a good Buddha quote?!? Unfortunately for me, my Context wanted to make sure that was correct so we did some research and the best guess is this Frederick Langbridge dude said it first…at least in this way. Sorry Buddha. I’ll use some of your quotes later. https://quoteinvestigator.com/2016/12/19/habits-make/