Other than in a job-literal way, it is surprisingly difficult to define what our strengths are.  We might be able to say that we are really good at spotting flaws in high spec’ engineering designs, or we might understand the different tax regimes across South America, but dig beneath this, and what are we actually good at?

Part of the reason this is difficult is that we don’t really have a useful dictionary of terms to refer to.  Many companies will have a competency framework, which starts the ball rolling, but by definition, this has to be kept simple (limited to 6 or 8 competencies) and is unlikely to capture a decent representation of what you really excel at.


Gallup’s solution

Marcus Buckingham has done this better than most.  In his book, “Now, Discover your Strengths”, he used the vast amount of research at his fingertips from Gallup to drill down in to 34 essentially separate and discrete Strengths.  Some are self-explanatory: Empathy, Focus, Learner etc..  Others are a bit clunkier: Intellection, Significance, Woo etc..

This highlights just how difficult the process is.    Taking the test in his book (or the online equivalent) may well move you quickly in the right direction, closer to what you really excel at, but you will still have to do some hard yards thinking about what you have done when you have really performed well.

Strength and passion don’t always go hand in hand, but they are closely correlated and it might be easier to think about the things you do (or have done) that you really love doing.  Think not just about a broad topic, but about a specific moment in time.  Why did you particularly enjoy that moment?


Human Givens

It might be helpful in this regard to consider the “Human Givens” model*.  What might be your key drivers?

  • Safe territory and an environment which allows us to develop fully
  • (To give and receive it) this a form of emotional nutrition
  • Sense of autonomy and control. Having volition to make responsible choices
  • Feeling part of a wider community
  • Emotional intimacy. To know that at least one other person accepts us totally for who we are, “warts ‘n’ all”
  • The opportunity to reflect and consolidate experience
  • Sense of “place” within social groupings
  • Sense of competence and achievement
  • Meaning and purpose. Which come from being stretched in what we do and think.


Alternatively, click on this link to consider your purpose, primary motivator

Or, click on this link to consider how to figure out what you love doing


* Human Givens.    Joe Griffin & Ivan Tyrrell