I enjoy learning about people – their backgrounds, strengths, and why they do the things they do. I recently learned something very interesting about one of my personal heroines, Margaret Thatcher. The “Iron Lady”, as she was known, was a strong world leader – one of those with the rare quality of being both loved and respected.
I knew all that.
What I didn’t know was that she had a successful career prior to her political career – as a research chemist!
At first consideration, her careers appear to be on opposite ends of the spectrum. But the fact is, the things a person does are directly related to who they are at the core. In Lady Thatcher’s case, her core strengths were that of being a persistent problem solver. What appeared to be a career shift was simply a shift of focus – from solving science problems to solving world problems.
Whether in chemical science or political science, her strengths made her the success she was. Knowing her strengths and making that shift made her a very influential world leader. In fact, her strengths carried her beyond anything even she could imagine, as she once stated, “It will be years before a woman becomes prime minister. I don’t see it happening in my time.” Nine years later, a woman did become prime minister…and she was that woman.
Are you in need of a focus shift? Here are three questions that may help you make that determination.
- Do you know your strengths?
It is an easy question, yet one of the hardest you will ever have to answer. People come to me in their 30’s, 40’s, 50’s and even 60’s who do not yet know their strengths. We walk back through the crumb trail of their lives to discover what was always there, just not visible to them. I find great joy in helping them find that “Aha!” moment when they realize who they really are – for the first time in their lives. Have you stopped to consider your strength indicators? Do you truly know your strengths?
- Are you working in your strengths?
Chances are you already are working in some area of your strengths. Pay close attention to those parts of what you do that feel “right”. You may not love your job as a whole, but is there some part of what you do that gives you energy and a sense of true accomplishment? Are there patterns in the assignments you’re given? Are you recognized as the “go to” person for a certain type of work? As you find those areas of strengths, ask yourself how you can do more of those things within your current work.
- Is it time to shift focus to a higher level?
You may be able to answer “yes” to the first two questions, yet still feel as if something is missing. This is where I found myself several years ago. I knew my strengths and had been working successfully in them for decades in the corporate world. It was an extremely rewarding career, yet over time, there was a growing sense that I should be doing more and using my strengths to help more people. And so I prepared for and made a monumental shift – not into a different strengths zone, but deeper into my my own. It was giant leap out of my comfort zone, but making it brought me into a much larger circle of influence where I can help more people than I would have imagined just a short time ago.
Are you living in the full potential of your strengths or is it time to shift focus?