Updated: Feb 27
Halloween is tomorrow. Many of you enjoy the scariness of the holiday. I’ve never been a huge fan of horror movies, but plenty of you enjoy the adrenaline rush without the actual threat of whatever is happening on-screen. When you visit haunted houses or scream parks you know there’s a set beginning and end, so even if you’re screaming in terror along the way you know that when you leave you’re going to be perfectly fine.
Not as frightening is all the candy…so much candy. Sure, candy may not be very healthy but heck – it’s Halloween! The nice thing is it’s right at the end of October, so realistically you have until Thanksgiving to splurge because you don’t want to waste it and there’s so much left over from the trick-or-treaters. Win-win, right? Eh, that can still be scary when we think of what those delicious treats might be doing to our health. Some candy is fine, but too much and you get a tummy ache…or worse.
Well so far, I’m two paragraphs in and haven’t mentioned strengths or talents at all. That’s starting to freak me out, so I’d better get to it. Now technically we’re using our talents every day, because that’s how we’re wired. If we were all dropped on a deserted island, we’d all instinctually default to looking at things through our talents. We have to set up a shelter first. No, we have to find a water source. No, you’re both wrong, we need to talk thing out as a group to make sure everyone’s on the same page. But even though we’re using our talents, we aren’t always using them productively. This can cause a lot of problems and frustration to ourselves and the people around us. Here’s three scary things that can happen when you don’t take the time to understand and invest in talents:
1. Talents Turn into Weaknesses. Let’s go back to the candy for a minute. Take chocolate…eating chocolate can be beneficial. It can boost your mood and your energy level. It can increase antioxidants. It can boost serotonin levels which increases your sense of well-being. There’s even been studies that show people who eat a moderate amount of candy live longer than those who don’t eat any. Woohoo! But what can happen when you eat too much chocolate? Gastrointestinal issues. Anxiety and irregular heartbeats from the caffeine. Weight gain. Diabetes. Ugh.
Surprisingly enough, you can over use your talents too. When you don’t know how your talents play out for you, they can get out of control and cause you problems. You may think of weaknesses are things you’re not talented in at all, but Gallup defines weakness as “a shortage or misapplication of talent, skill, or knowledge that causes problems for you or others.” Yes, a non-talent might be a weakness, but more often than not it’s when you’re overusing one of your talents, using it at the wrong time, or you haven’t taken the time to learn the skills and knowledge that would make your talents really effective.
For example, my #4 is Input. I collect information that is of interest to me or that I think will be useful in planning or making decisions. If I need to research or plan something, that’s a fantastic talent to have! I usually have some info already on the back burner and love hunting down more. BUT this all goes awry in the paper towel aisle at Target. How absorbent are they? What’s on sale? How many sheets does it have? Are they big sheets or the half-sized sheets? What about Bounty? I LOVE Bounty best BUT it’s more expensive…PLEASE LET IT BE ON SALE! AGHHHH!!! My Input is in high gear and loving it, but my strategic is getting pissed and my adaptable has no idea what’s going on. It was to the point that if I asked my friends to go to the store with me they’d want to know if I knew EXACTLY what I was going to get. If I didn’t, they said no.
That is a classic misapplication/over use of Input. I usually tell this story during trainings and coaching. I’ve had several people tell me that they have to put price per square foot on the pricing information. I had no idea! That’s an example of a shortage of knowledge that would have helped me use my Input appropriately. Before I knew and understood my talents, I just thought I was nuts. Now I know that when I’m in that situation, I need less Input and more Adaptability or use Input to get the price per square footage and hand off the decision to Strategic. When you don’t know how you’re using your talents, it’s easy to get stuck like I did. Too much of a good thing – even a talent – can get in your way.
2. Problems with Your Relationships. Again, we use our talents every day whether we know it or not. They color the way we see the world, including other people. We don’t usually think about this when we’re working or interacting with others (at work, home, with friends, anyone). We think the way we see things is the “right” way to do them, so when these other people come at a problem or task from a different perspective our instinct is to go “what’s wrong with them? Why are they being so dumb/cold hearted/irrational/etc.?” This is especially true when we don’t really understand how we use our talents because we don’t notice how our decisions or behaviors might appear to other people.
Say you have Analytical. There’s a project and you’ve reviewed the data and options and have selected the best way to proceed based on your rational interpretation of the facts. You sit down at the group meeting and let everyone know what you’ve found and become immediately annoyed when a coworker with Empathy starts talking some nonsense about how people aren’t going to react well if you do this this way. Rather than try to understand their perspective, your instinct is to again explain your position because it’s the one that makes the most sense TO YOU. When you don’t understand how your talents impact others, you become defensive instead of asking questions to help you better understand how this new data – one that you’re not used to interpreting – might impact your plans. As a result, you now have a worse relationship with that coworker. We often forget that when we get annoyed at someone, there’s a decent chance they’re equally as annoyed with us. To you, that person was ignoring the facts and being irrational and they think you’re cold and uncaring about customers/employees/coworkers.
When you start to understand your talents and how you use them, you can better appreciate other people’s talents as well. Understanding your talents includes how you use them well AND how they might sometimes get in your way. When you know how your talents can benefit the team, you also become aware of potential blind spots or weaknesses. Ultimately our differences make us stronger. But if we haven’t taken the time to see how our talents color our behaviors and perspectives, we can’t see how they might be negatively impacting our relationship with other people. When you’re in your Strengths Zone and using your talents in an appropriate way with the right knowledge and skills, you’re able to appreciate what others bring to the table.
3. Your Self-Esteem Suffers. I think the scariest thing about not knowing or understanding your talents is how it can negatively affect your self-esteem. Everyone has talents – that’s right multiple talents. Unfortunately, far too many people don’t know what theirs are. Some people have never been told they’re good at anything so they don’t think they have any at all. But every day everyone is using the talents they have to be successful. Maybe you haven’t figured out how to use them consistently or don’t have the right skills or knowledge to support your talents, but they’re there and have incredible potential.
When you don’t know what your talents are or how you use them, you run into problems of varying degrees like I had with the paper towels. You’re left feeling stuck, overwhelmed, and wondering what’s wrong with you. That’s when the negative self-talk kicks in: “I’m stupid. I’m a failure. What’s wrong with me? I’ll never figure this out. What if everyone figures out I don’t know what I’m doing?” We assume everyone else has things figured out but not you. We talk to ourselves in a way we would NEVER talk to other people.
Understanding and investing in our talents to turn them into strengths boosts self-esteem. The younger you are when you do it, the more your self-esteem increased exponentially! The time to do this is NOW! Think of it like saving for your retirement. The sooner you start the quicker your investment can start compounding. You already have the tools you need to be successful, you just need to figure out what they are, how you use them, and how you can maximize them. If you’re feeling stuck in any part of your life, don’t let that impact the way you see yourself. You just need to figure out what’s going on with your talents so you can properly support them and get unstuck. Your self-esteem depends on it!