Contentment strengths work career coach

*Ignoring my mint joke in the title… Contentment in American society today is even more difficult to find than a person who has actually achieved work-life balance! But when you’re content with what you have, whether food, clothes, or your unique strengths, you can not only be grateful for them and enjoy them but you can find creative ways to use them. 

So what’s that got to do with being weird

We talked last week about the importance of owning your weirdness, those things that make you unique. It’s hard sometimes, to appreciate the thing that’s made you weird your whole life. Quite likely, it’s been labeled as bad by someone else and it takes some mental and emotional work on our part to reclaim that same weird thing as awesome! 

That’s exactly the work we need to do, though. You can never fully appreciate your strengths as long as you’re comparing them to someone else’s. You’ll always be able to find someone using similar strengths in a way that you think is better. The internet is great in a lot of ways, but it also puts comparison in our face ALL. THE. TIME! Look at this person being awesome over here! *Feel a little worse about yourself* Look at that person being awesome over there! *Feel even worse*

We don’t have time for me to launch into my diatribe on limits on technology and a full tech detox (Cliffs Notes version: they’re both extremely necessary for each of us!), but I want to highlight the challenge that looking elsewhere creates for us truly appreciating our unique strengths. Theodore Roosevelt said it best, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” 

Basically, when we’re focused on the thing we don’t have, we can’t be content. And until we’re content and fully appreciate our own strengths, we won’t be able to fully use them. 

#PositiveAction Spend 5 minutes being grateful for the strengths you have. Write them down and think about how helpful they’ve been throughout your life.*

*Note, I love this exercise because you only have to spend a few minutes doing it, but you can refer back to it as often as you want!

Image by Photo Mix from Pixabay 

You’re staring into your full fridge and declare, “There’s nothing to eat!” You dig through your full drawers and lament, “I have nothing to wear.” 

It’s not that there’s really nothing to eat or nothing to wear. It’s that nothing appeals to us in that moment. We were hoping for something different and therefore feel disappointed because expectations don’t match reality.

Interestingly, this happens with intangibles as much as with physical objects. The person who makes sure every I is dotted and T is crossed sees someone with strategic thinking capabilities and says, “They’re so visionary and paint such a vivid picture of the future. I wish I could be more like that.” Or the strategic leader who says, “I’ll bet my top performing, detail-oriented team member never forgets their spouse’s birthday! I wish I could be more like that.” *Note – if you’ve forgotten your spouse’s birthday, stop reading here and take immediate corrective action!

It’s so easy to get caught up in comparison or get lost wishing things were different. In the case of the full fridge, there’s a chance that there’s one or two rotten things in the very back, but for the most part, it’s food waiting to be turned into a nutritious meal. Same goes for the drawers. Maybe a few items don’t fit, but for the most part they do. The same is true of our strengths – we can find ways to use all of them in our careers and lives if we’re willing to try.

I spent the early years in my career overvaluing other people’s strengths while dismissing my own. Wishing I could be better at the things at which I will never be a superstar. It took more years than I’d like to admit before I finally recognized the value in my own unique strengths (thanks in part to a patient mentor!) and started to seek out opportunities that would leverage them.

And I know I’m not alone. These days, I spend time with each of my clients making sure that they can recognize their strengths and are comfortable talking about them with others so they can highlight the value they bring to an organization. It’s always rewarding to work with someone when they have that a-ha moment around their amazing, completely unique-to-them strengths.

Next time you’re staring at your fridge wondering what to eat, appreciate it for what it is. A storage unit filled with life-sustaining nutrients.  Don’t know what to wear? Be glad you have a choice of clothes that fit. Those strengths that sound boring to you? There’s someone out there looking for exactly what you have to offer!

I used to dread making dinner the night before we went grocery shopping. It always felt like there was nothing left in the fridge! Now, I enjoy the fact that there is a unique combination of ingredients waiting to be discovered and turned into dinner. Similarly, no one else approaches work exactly the same way as you, so find a way to leverage your authentic, inimitable strengths to deliver amazing results!