Exercise 2 – Recognizing your values and strengths

“I have learned that as long as I hold fast to my beliefs and values – and follow my own moral compass – then the only expectations I need to live up to are my own.”

Michelle Obama

Recently, talking with some friends, we were wondering at what moment the human being loses the notion of the invaluable wealth that he carries inside him. The internal bounty which guides him to act in one way or another. Looking through my memories, I remembered a stage of my life when I forgot to practice self-recognition. I had experienced a difficult period with a boss, whose actions I couldn’t tolerate, and decided to resign. Even though I was the one deciding to leave, it wasn’t less difficult. Despite having years of work experience in the industry, I thought there was no value in what I could contribute to my profession. Everything was clear in my mind, I was the one lacking something. The resignation spoke of me, not of my ex-boss behavior. I explained the resignation to myself as not having the required skills, character, and attitude. The “I didn’t do this,” and “I wasn’t enough” expressions were my way to self-flagellation. During that time, as in many other moments, books were my refuge. I wanted to learn to “be better.” I wanted to know what people “with power” had that I didn’t have. I read self-improvement books with the idea of ​​changing myself, to overcome what had happened. But, while I kept reading the typical “help-yourself” questions << what are you good at? What do you do very well? When someone congratulates you, what was the reason behind it? >> I felt I was sinking even more. I understood the purpose of each of those questions. However, when you are in a mental state of sadness, and distrust in oneself there is a sense of powerlessness where no answer is visible.  The light of those internal assets is hidden as if you were in search of a bright day, and there were only clouds covering the sun.

As people say, time encloses wisdom. I left behind what once had anguished me and made me feel weak. I moved on, and one day the doors to search the light inside me opened again. I had to write a motivation letter, a professional curriculum, and attend a job interview. And so, the questions came back to my life. What would you say are your strengths and weaknesses? What values ​​govern your life? What qualities do you have to contribute to the team’s value? Once again, life was allowing me to search within the answers ignored a while ago.

In case you are going through a similar situation or you simply want to know a quick way to identify your strengths, I invite you to read this article. The purpose of it is to share three simple tools to recognize our inner worth and move into our awareness framework the values, ​​and strengths that govern our life.

Self-leadership, as I define it: is to recognize all the potential in you and manage it so that you build a life with value and add to the valuable life of others around you.

The internal resources we have (thoughts, emotions, beliefs, attitudes, talents, abilities, principles, priorities, and values) impact our actions daily. They require self-leadership. The way we manage all will constitute our strength or limitation when facing any challenge that life presents to us (goals, mistakes, disagreements, struggles, unexpected situations, etc.)

The clearer, more visible, and positive we have the photo of our recognition of the internal resources that guide us, the more solid will be our:

Self-confidence: self-assured while making decisions, overcoming challenges, determining new goals.

Self-esteem: knowing our worth, and healthy emotional intelligence.

Self-awareness: Knowing who we are, how we perceive the world, and what drives us.

Self-efficacy: Appreciate the achievements accomplished by recognizing our abilities and skills. Learning from mistakes and limitations. Evaluating, accepting, and adjusting based on an internal growth approach.

You may think it is easy to say, and wonder how do we practice self-leadership when we get caught up in low energy frequencies such as fear, attachment, remorse, guilt, sadness, anguish, and impotence. How can we change a mental or emotional habit (attitude) towards situations that lead us to those low energy frequencies, and we do not see beyond them? How to remember our internal resources, our inner wealth in difficult times at work, or in our private lives?

It is precisely in the struggles when self-leadership comes into action. If there is a real desire to value ourselves, we will have to remember what we have reflected in peaceful times. Self-sabotage thinking can be faced with determination based on knowledge acquired through past experiences. Precisely, denoting the work already done. Bringing awareness to values, skills, and strengths we set in motion in any given situation, allow the result of it to become meaningful. It goes beyond a mere interpretation of a positive or negative outcome. By recognizing and releasing the internal resources we put into work, we transform them into our fuel, our power. We can appreciate them, express them, and share them in moments of triumph and in those times, we feel defeated. We can admire our ability to transform any painful experience into a new consciousness. Allowing that observation to become so powerful that will guides us to modify patterns in the future.

How to do it?

Here, I am going to share three ways used in coaching to bring awareness to our inner wealth. These three tools serve as support to recognize values, strengths, beliefs, principles, etc. They guide us to have an understanding of why we act as we do. My personal experience by doing this practice is, I’m able to be more compassionate with my past actions and to change my perception of failure. I found a formula through them to accept my values, principles, and priorities that I have been acquiring along the way.

Tool 1: The lifeline Discovery

The lifeline Discovery exercise is a scheme where the most important moments of one’s life are exposed chronologically. We add events which we consider relevant, and have a significant influence in our personal life. For example, births and deaths of loved ones, professional and personal achievements, travels, residence changes, moments of crisis, traumatic experiences, etc.

One way to do “The lifeline Discovery tool” is to draw a horizontal line where the starting point is the date of birth, and the endpoint is the present day. Along this line, we mark briefly, the meaningful personal moments in our life. The moments considered positive <<of success, of happiness, and achievement>> are described above the horizontal line. The moments we consider as negative <<difficult, or painful >> are described under the horizontal line.

Once we have situated all the meaningful events along the line, the idea is to find similarities between them. For example, in my case, I realized the events I enclosed with a positive connotation were related to my educational achievements, professional advances, travel, and family union. And those I described as negatives were related to letting go, absences, separation, and illness.

Observer Change:

Once the relevant moments are described in the lifeline, take time to reflect and define in a few words (objectively without interpretation) their impact on you. Observe, and bring to the present time the feelings, and thoughts by remembering those episodes of triumph and happiness. As well, by allowing yourself to live again those of frustration and hopelessness.

Describe the values, principles, capabilities, strengths that you actioned during those memorable events. To give you an example, suppose a triumph of yours was learning a new language. Analyze which values ​​were practiced. For example, perseverance and discipline. Remember the skills performed. For example, assertiveness when facing the fear of mockery for making mistakes, and multicultural adaptation.

Other examples that could be analyzed are stressful situations. For example, the betrayal of a loved one. Values ​​that may stand out are honesty, forgiveness, respect, loyalty, and resilience. A principle could be “family is first” and skills performed might be stress management and attentive listening.

Once you have your complete list, divide them by concepts. Like, values, abilities, and principles. Check which ones frequently repeat, and define on a scale of values five to seven main values, principles, and capabilities you have. This exercise will give you a picture of what is most important to you and how that inner bounty of resources govern your life through your actions.

Tool 2: My Internal Circle, My External Circle

Draw two circles, one inside the other. At the center, denote a point that has your name. In the circle, closest to you write down the names of the people you love and admire. People with whom you interact daily or have in the past. In the outer circle, write down the names of people with whom you have decided to part, and would like to stay away from.Now, write a few strengths you admire in each of those people within your circles. Besides, find weaknesses that in your opinion belong to them. In case you find it difficult to recognize any weakness or strength, try to recognize at least one and write it down.

Once you have described values, abilities, or any weaknesses within your inner group, reflect if any of them speaks about your outer circle.

– Do you observe any values, abilities, strengths or weaknesses in yourself too? 

– Are those internal resources denoted in your closest circle and outer circle within your hierarchy of values? 

– Can you identify in yourself the opposite value, principle or capacity regarding those defined as weaknesses in another person? 

– Can you identify an attitude or behaviour in others that you reject and wish they change but you are aware exists in you?

– Reflect on any additional talent, value, principle, ability that you have recognized and was not part of your list.

In a new box write down the attitudes, beliefs, omissions that you may feel challenge your strengths, and wish to work them out to minimize their impact on your decisions and actions.

Tool 3: VIA Strengths Questionnaire from the University of Pennsylvania

With this third tool, it is possible to consolidate the strengths and values ​​that govern our life through a questionnaire with multiple questions. The VIA Personal Strengths Questionnaire comes to confirm or reinforce the knowledge that we have already achieved by a previous introspection on the values ​​and strengths we put into practice today.

You can get the questionnaire for free on the University of Pennsylvania website here. VIA Personal Strengths Questionnaire.

As you see, we all have strengths, competencies, values, principles which govern our thoughts, decisions, and actions. Getting to name them is a good exercise to consolidate our self-leadership. The advanced notion of our strengths prepares us not only for an interview but to recognize ourselves with an internal wealth in times of pain, hopelessness, and confusion. We all have the opportunity to identify our qualities and take advantage of them. It will allow us to live in a fuller way our creativity and self-confidence. It offers us to be free of anxiety because we have an exclusive insight into the unlimited treasure that exists within us. These internal resources have the power to transform our lives. If we pay attention they can be our first evaluating method in any situation that comes our way. They can inspire us, give us the courage to get out of stagnation, allow us to stop acting as reactive victims, and become new proactive beings through guided and thoughtful actions.

One formula could be: perceive the challenge – recognize inner resources – awaken your values ​​- awaken your strengths – decide on how to act – experiment-process – evaluate based on your resources list ​​- and grow!

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