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The Challenge of Application

strengths books stack sara thomas coach

A couple weeks ago, I was participating in a webcast. When the official part of the webcast was over, the hosts went into a post-show. A discussion unfolded about coaching.

The discussion quickly turned to the weekly theme challenge. The hosts wondered if people were actually engaging in the challenge. They were reflecting on engagement, not chastizing participants.

I had to pause.

I quickly realized how easy it is to get stuck learning about something without ever applying it to our life and leadership.

I’m guessing you’ve experienced this too.

Information is everywhere. But, it’s not information that transforms lives. If we want to change lives, we need to apply our learning and pause for reflection.

Intentional Investment

input cliftonstrengths coach sara thomas challenge of applicationWhat is your mindset for engaging with strengths? Do you put your talent themes to work? Are you consciously investing in your talents?

With words like Learner, Strategic, Analytical, and Empathy as talent theme names, it’s easy to make assumptions about what the talent theme is really about. As a result, I spend a great deal of time helping people understand what their dominant talent themes really mean. Often we talk about this as naming our talents.

At a turning point in our conversation, one of the co-hosts said, “When we obsess about the theme, we call it Name It. Name it. Name it.” When we stop the strengths-based development journey at naming our talent themes, we miss the opportunity to claim how the talent themes operate in life and at work. We also miss the opportunity to grow by intentionally aiming our talent themes.

Strategic Pause

I had to stop and reflect on my own journey with strengths and how I coach others. Lately, I feel like I’m spending a lot of time educating about strengths. For many, it is necessary.

But, I know my own journey with strengths has evolved because I have intentionally applied my talents to my life and work. It doesn’t happen in isolation from others. And it certainly does not happen by accident.

Good, no, great, coaching helps people take action. It was a great moment of awareness for me as a coach. While I love to educate people about their talent themes, it doesn’t end there. I knew I needed to be more intentional about investing in my talent themes and inviting you to do so, too. Hint, hint 🙂

An Experiment with Input

So I began an experiment.

I actually did the lesser theme challenge that gets posted every week. No, I’m not looking for accolades. Simply acknowledging the facts.

The talent theme was Input.

I asked, “How do I absorb, process, and analyze information?” Then, I took the challenge, “schedule time for hands-on learning” to explore the question, “How do I absorb, process, and analyze information?” I can tell you from the start I process information by writing about it.

…So here I am writing about it. 😉

Bokeh: My Hands-on Learning Time

I have a mirrorless camera that I bought a couple years ago. To be honest, I have not really used it. It overwhelms me. When you’re cell phone takes the amazing point and shoot pics, I also find myself thinking, “Why am I messing with this?”

It’s sometimes more trouble than it’s worth. But the pictures are amazing.

I decided to spend some time exploring the bokeh effect with a new lens on my camera. What is bokeh? It’s the blur in pictures. Bokeh forces us to focus our attention on a particular area of the image. It is a Japanese word, which literally translates as “blur.”

In about 30 minutes of gathering my supplies and taking pictures, I quickly took almost 100 pictures.

As I scroll through the pics, I notice the details I miss looking through the camera lens: A little off center, a little edge of the window showing, a bit too bright, a bit not focused. It’s clear…I need more practice! The point of this challenge wasn’t to become a master photographer. The point was to accept the challenge for hands-on learning.

An Art, not Science

This is an art, not a science. So part of what I know I need to learn is the art of simply being still in the moment. Not overthinking what I am photographing, using the law of thirds to add interest and paying attention to natural light. I’ll be the first to admit my home is a nightmare for natural light. On an overcast day, I could call it a cave.

While I set out to play with aperture, I left the camera at the lowest aperture possible. I produced some great bokeh. This one is my favorite. Would be nice if I could say I did it intentionally.

cliftonstrengths books sara thomas coach

I think I found my dominant talents of Achiever and Learner kicking in more than paying attention to how I absorb, process, and analyze information. Achiever wanted me to get it done. Learner wanted to enjoy the process. As a result, I felt conflicted. I decided simply to set a timer and whatever I did in 30 minutes, I’d stop and write about.

I was having a little fun with my subject. Look at all those Strengths books! That’s a lot of INPUT, right?

The Results of the Experiment

How do I process information? By writing. I can’t tell you the number of things over the past few days I’ve written down as blog ideas because I don’t know what I think about it at the moment.

Writing helps me think. I analyze everything against my purpose and direction. It’s how I decide whether it is important or not. When I decide it is not important, I know what to do next. It gets discarded or filed.

When it is important, I invest in it.

There is the lesson in this experiment. Are you willing to invest in what you have learned so your talents can become strengths? Let me know in the comments below!