“What are your strengths and weaknesses?” Anyone who’s been interviewed for a job has likely been asked this question. In psychology (and in many other areas really) the focus is often on what’s wrong with us – where we are lacking, where we need improvement, where our weaknesses lie. In the 1950’s a graduate student named Don Clifton wondered what would happen if research focused on what was right with people rather than what was wrong. He then spent the rest of his career in this endeavor and is considered the “father” of strengths-based psychology.
Clifton and those who have joined him in his philosophy and work over the years do not suggest that weaknesses be ignored or that we be given a pass in areas of weakness. (Even those of us who struggle with math need to balance our checkbooks or at least find a way to be sure we are not overdrawing our accounts!) However, Clifton offered a new strategy for addressing problems – that of identifying and building up our natural talents and using these resulting strengths to address problems rather than trying to identify and build up weaknesses. He suggests (and his research over time supports) that those who are able to focus on and use their strengths will be happier in their jobs and relationships and life than those who focus primarily on weaknesses and working on them.
In counseling we often talk about having different “tools in our toolboxes.” Identifying and using strengths to address problems isn’t the whole toolbox but it can be a valuable tool. So, what are your strengths and weaknesses? How can you use your strengths at work? In your relationships? In life? Would you like help using this tool or another one from the toolbox? The Refuge Center for Counseling is here for you. Please call 615-591-5262 or visit therefugecenter.org for more information about our services.
Sources: Strengths Finder 2.0 by Tom Rath and www.strengths.org