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Strengths-Based Personal Development

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Strengths-Based Personal Development

Chris Brogan: I’m on a kick. I just finished reading Marcus Buckingham’s, NOW, DISCOVER YOUR STRENGTHS, and found that I agreed with their premise that working on your strengths is much more productive than throwing time and effort at changing your weaknesses.

One example given was a school report card. If you have one A, two B’s, one C, and two D’s, parents tend to obsess over the negative grades. (Did you, just now when I mentioned it, think about the D’s differently?). Instead, what would happen if you worked on amping up the good grades?

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Develop Your Talents with Skills and Knowledge

If you accept that there are three building blocks to how you do things- talent, skills, and knowledge- then what this practice teaches you is that talents are what you’re born with while skills and knowledge can be learned and absorbed. It’s not that you can’t work tirelessly to improve your on-board talents, but instead, the book (and the research behind it) suggests that working from your talents and building skills and knowledge that support it is the best approach.

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Buckingham’s book leads you to a website where an online test is administered. (Note: the version 2 of this test comes courtesy of a book by Tom Rath, but it’s all in the family.) The test asks you questions based on years of research and millions of responses, and then maps your answers to a path of your top 5 talents. If you work on your top five talents, and build appropriate skills around these, you’ll find better results than if you work on your weaknesses.

Note: you can only take the test if you buy the book. They add a sealed packet with a special one-use code in it. (Buying this for teams can be done through the website, I discovered.)

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Don’t Ignore Your Weaknesses

Managing around your weakness, hiring to compensate for your weaknesses, and building systems that minimize your weaknesses are all recommendations Buckingham gives for dealing with that part of your life. Knowing thyself is still vital to your personal development. Learn how to put your negatives down the chain from your talents, and then work hard on your talents.

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Is It Right For You?

I’m a sucker for training and discovery and learning. (It said so in my talent results, too!) I believe that the more I learn about things, the more I can develop personal ways to be effective. What separates you, as a Lifehack reader and hacker of life yourself, from some of your more, shall we say, “lean back” colleagues, is that you’re interested in personal development and improvement. For that reason alone, I think it’s worth checking out Buckingham’s premise for yourself.

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If you take the test, I’d love to hear your results. It’s interesting stuff. And overall, do you agree with the idea of strengths-based development? Have you an experiences either from your own perspective or as a leader?

Chris Brogan keeps a blog at [chrisbrogan.com}, where he talks more about these books.

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Last Updated on October 21, 2021

How to Create Your Own Ritual to Conquer Time Wasters and Laziness

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How to Create Your Own Ritual to Conquer Time Wasters and Laziness

Life is wasted in the in-between times. The time between when your alarm first rings and when you finally decide to get out of bed. The time between when you sit at your desk and when productive work begins. The time between making a decision and doing something about it.

Slowly, your day is whittled away from all the unused in-between moments. Eventually, time wasters, laziness, and procrastination get the better of you.

The solution to reclaim these lost middle moments is by creating rituals. Every culture on earth uses rituals to transfer information and encode behaviors that are deemed important. Personal rituals can help you build a better pattern for handling everything from how you wake up to how you work.

Unfortunately, when most people see rituals, they see pointless superstitions. Indeed, many rituals are based on a primitive understanding of the world. But by building personal rituals, you get to encode the behaviors you feel are important and cut out the wasted middle moments.

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Program Your Own Algorithms

Another way of viewing rituals is by seeing them as computer algorithms. An algorithm is a set of instructions that is repeated to get a result.

Some algorithms are highly efficient, sorting or searching millions of pieces of data in a few seconds. Other algorithms are bulky and awkward, taking hours to do the same task.

By forming rituals, you are building algorithms for your behavior. Take the delayed and painful pattern of waking up, debating whether to sleep in for another two minutes, hitting the snooze button, repeat until almost late for work. This could be reprogrammed to get out of bed immediately, without debating your decision.

How to Form a Ritual

I’ve set up personal rituals for myself for handling e-mail, waking up each morning, writing articles, and reading books. Far from making me inflexible, these rituals give me a useful default pattern that works best 99% of the time. Whenever my current ritual won’t work, I’m always free to stop using it.

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Forming a ritual isn’t too difficult, and the same principles for changing habits apply:

  1. Write out your sequence of behavior. I suggest starting with a simple ritual of only 3-4 steps maximum. Wait until you’ve established a ritual before you try to add new steps.
  2. Commit to following your ritual for thirty days. This step will take the idea and condition it into your nervous system as a habit.
  3. Define a clear trigger. When does your ritual start? A ritual to wake up is easy—the sound of your alarm clock will work. As for what triggers you to go to the gym, read a book or answer e-mail—you’ll have to decide.
  4. Tweak the Pattern. Your algorithm probably won’t be perfectly efficient the first time. Making a few tweaks after the first 30-day trial can make your ritual more useful.

Ways to Use a Ritual

Based on the above ideas, here are some ways you could implement your own rituals:

1. Waking Up

Set up a morning ritual for when you wake up and the next few things you do immediately afterward. To combat the grogginess after immediately waking up, my solution is to do a few pushups right after getting out of bed. After that, I sneak in ninety minutes of reading before getting ready for morning classes.

2. Web Usage

How often do you answer e-mail, look at Google Reader, or check Facebook each day? I found by taking all my daily internet needs and compressing them into one, highly-efficient ritual, I was able to cut off 75% of my web time without losing any communication.

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3. Reading

How much time do you get to read books? If your library isn’t as large as you’d like, you might want to consider the rituals you use for reading. Programming a few steps to trigger yourself to read instead of watching television or during a break in your day can chew through dozens of books each year.

4. Friendliness

Rituals can also help with communication. Set up a ritual of starting a conversation when you have opportunities to meet people.

5. Working

One of the hardest barriers when overcoming procrastination is building up a concentrated flow. Building those steps into a ritual can allow you to quickly start working or continue working after an interruption.

6. Going to the gym

If exercising is a struggle, encoding a ritual can remove a lot of the difficulty. Set up a quick ritual for going to exercise right after work or when you wake up.

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7. Exercise

Even within your workouts, you can have rituals. Spacing the time between runs or reps with a certain number of breaths can remove the guesswork. Forming a ritual of doing certain exercises in a particular order can save time.

8. Sleeping

Form a calming ritual in the last 30-60 minutes of your day before you go to bed. This will help slow yourself down and make falling asleep much easier. Especially if you plan to get up full of energy in the morning, it will help if you remove insomnia.

8. Weekly Reviews

The weekly review is a big part of the GTD system. By making a simple ritual checklist for my weekly review, I can get the most out of this exercise in less time. Originally, I did holistic reviews where I wrote my thoughts on the week and progress as a whole. Now, I narrow my focus toward specific plans, ideas, and measurements.

Final Thoughts

We all want to be productive. But time wasters, procrastination, and laziness sometimes get the better of us. If you’re facing such difficulties, don’t be afraid to make use of these rituals to help you conquer them.

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More Tips to Conquer Time Wasters and Procrastination

 

Featured photo credit: RODOLFO BARRETO via unsplash.com

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