Collective Strength

I wasn’t very surprised when I learned of my CliftonStrengths. In my experience, it is rare that anyone is really that surprised.

However, the specific insight gained and problem discovered: my strength patterns had been blocked. And possibly malfunctioning. Encountering burnout a bit young, I blamed my discontentment on diving headfirst into the rat race of life. I thought a break to gain some perspective would be the cure. I had some friends that were running a non-profit organization in Cape Town, so I decided to join them with the support of my closest friends and family.

It was there that a friend and colleague, John Arndt, explained the essence of my strength patterns. It became obvious that I had not been operating in a way that I could ever sustain. I had been running myself into the ground (yet excelling) -- which I’ve learned can be a good signal of mismanaging a strength pattern. And the culprit, when spinning out of control, a CliftonStrength called “Achiever” looks a lot like having no work/life boundaries, taking on way too much, and being committed to accomplishing goals at all cost. The rat race. Anxiety. Overwhelm. Yet, “success.”

Awareness around this specific drive was the starting point to what I will call strengths recovery: reframing my relationship with the goal. Being mindful of a very natural drive to work hard to get things done, I was able to have better boundaries around work and make sure rest, recharge, and relationships (all things that could easily get pushed down the “task” list) were equally prioritized as essential for sustaining my strength.

Another big lesson was learning not to project that drive onto others and expect them to keep up with my pace. This recalibrated my expectation that anyone should match my die-hard commitment and allowed me to embrace my strength, free of judgment, and give others the opportunity to do the same. This awareness was powerful in my personal and professional life. Personally, in the way that I feel more at ease during downtime. Professionally, in the way that I am able to bring my best energy to projects and goals because I have adequately rested and destressed my brain, which allows creativity and collaboration to flourish.

When a new roadblock to accomplishing a goal appears (as they do), I nod my head to the frustration, appreciate the unique energy I bring, take a deep breath (always), and look for a way around or through that barrier -- checking in with myself to make sure the goal is adding value to the big picture and to my life.

Achiever is the most statistically prominent strength in the U.S. Over 12.5 million people have discovered their strengths in our country alone.

What might that collective strength look like when spinning out of control?

I think it looks like burnout. I think it looks like the U.S. having a measly 33-38% of its workforce engaged, which costs companies between $483-605 billion dollars each year. I think it looks like “achieving” short-term success at the expense of multiple stakeholders, including the health of our planet and subsequently our children and grandchildren.

To see a world in which all human beings have access to systems and structures that sustain life, we need to recenter and restore harmony to our collective strength. I believe this starts with a revolution of the individual. It starts with clarifying your values and committing to personal growth -- being mindful of the dangers of overdrive. It looks like connecting to your innate strength and creating movement that powers the flow of life within you.

Whether you are a solo individual wondering what is next in your career, or a leader looking to bring out the best in your organization by empowering your people -- reach out to learn more about how Canon Collaborative can power your potential by illuminating and aligning your strength with purpose.