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Strengths – A Survival Kit


The list below sites common methods medical professions endorse for staying healthy. It’s a short list that amounts to something of a survival kit.

  1. Maintain a healthy weight.
  2. Exercise regularly.
  3. Don’t smoke.
  4. Eat a healthy diet.
  5. Drink alcohol only in moderation, if at all.
  6. Protect yourself from the sun.
  7. Protect yourself from sexually transmitted infections.
  8. Get screening tests.

I think we should add one more:

  1. Use your strengths.

In fact, we should use our strengths in sickness and in health. It is a rare occasion for me to discuss how strengths can be used in sickness. I think most of us try to avoid discussing the possibility of being or getting sick. However, it is always good to file away helpful hints that might allow us to recover with more speed, and start feeling like ourselves again when faced with an unexpected illness. And this is where a client taught me a thing or two about applying strengths to real-life difficulties.

David, a long-term corporate coaching client, is something of a “coach’s pet” when it comes to strengths. David not only thinks about his own strengths, his team’s strengths, and his boss’s strengths, but he also talks about the importance of focusing on strengths frequently. What more could a coach want in a client? Then, just when I thought there was nothing more he could do to impress me by his depth of understanding and integrated use of strengths, David delighted me by explaining how he had used his strengths during his recovery from a recent accident.

We were sitting in his office, across the desk from each other when David told me he “got into a foot-fight with a lawn mower and the lawn mower won.” I really didn’t need to hear much more than that. The thought of how painful such an accident would be made me squirm in my chair. The thought of how long a recovery from such an accident might take made my Achiever feel impatient. But I looked beneath David’s desk and saw that he was in normal shoes. There was no crutch or foot brace to be found in his office. So, how had he apparently healed himself with such speed? By using his strengths, of course.

David’s top 5 are Maximizer, Strategic, Learner, Focus, and Discipline. As a Maximizer, David cannot settle for average. David would not – could not – be an average patient. He used his Maximizer talents and committed to being an excellent patient: compliant and over-achieving. As I’ve seen with a number of individuals with Strategic and Learner, David frequently uses these strengths in combination. He certainly put them jointly to use on Day One of the accident. Instead of bemoaning his fate and his swollen and painful foot, he immediately adopted a new motivation: to recovery as fully and as quickly as possible. His Strategic strength pushed him to consider, “What’s the best recovery plan for me?”,  while his Learner talent urged him to research the most effective at-home exercises to speed his healing. At this stage, David reported that his Focus and Discipline took over. He was driven to complete these painful but helpful exercises EVERY NIGHT despite his wife’s questioning and concerned looks.

This story has a very happy ending. Despite the fact that David’s accident was neither pleasant nor planned, he emerged a stronger person, a person who used the best of himself, his strengths, when the going got tough. May we all learn to use our strengths as a survival kit in sickness and in health.


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