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The secret of playing to your strengths

Yvette Martin – Playing To Your Strengths


There has been a lot of talk these last years about women getting practical, owning their femininity, and simply being leaders. As Marianne Williamson has said:

“Our greatest fear is not that we’re inadequate, our greatest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that frightens us most. We ask ourselves “Who am I to be gorgeous, talented, fabulous, brilliant?” Well, who are you not to be? You are all children of God, you playing small does not serve the world, there is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that those around you do not feel insecure. We are all meant to shine like children do, and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give those around us permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fears, our very presence liberates others.”

Each person has their own interpretation of this quote, and some people, like Yvette Martin, believe that it means that we are here to build our lives around our strengths, to discover which activities make us great and let our light shine. We have to get to know ourselves and build allies around those activities.


The question then becomes: how do we do that? Research shows that those people that build their lives around strengths are more productive, fulfilled, and likely to achieve excellence. Dr. Robert Sternberg from Cornell University has spent decades researching highly successful individuals. What he found is that the one common trait amongst them all has nothing to do with their IQ and everything to do with knowing what you’re good at, and then applying those strengths.

How do we do that? Well, it all begins with the mindset: shifting from thinking you are lost to believing you have talents and strengths you can use. One of the ways to do this mindset shift is by using the Clifton Strengths Finder This will give you the opportunity to put a language around your talents. When you think about your talents, it’s not just that, it’s also skills, knowledge, and your experience in life. Nobody in the world has the same talent profile as yourself, and in the very wise, and immortal words of Dr. Seuss:

“Today you are you, that is truer than true.

There is no one alive who is Youer than You.”


Just knowing your strengths is not enough, and this is why coach Yvette Martin suggests an easy practical exercise, which will help you find out what activities make you feel strong.

Take a sheet of paper, and divide it into five squares (four equal parts and a big fifth one in the end). The first upper box is used to answer the question:

What activities are you doing that makes time fly?

Then, go to the second upper box, and answer this questions:

Why these activities? What is it about them that makes you forget time?


This will begin a process for you to understand how you can make your own light shine, to understand which activities make you feel strong. What you have to understand is that strength doesn’t equal talent. Sure, it begins with talent, but you also need a whole lot of skills and knowledge to turn that talent into  strength. Talent is the key building block of a strength, but it is overrated, unless you consciously use it, bring awareness, and get action.

How to do that? It, of course, begins with the mindset. Get motivated, be productive, build your life around your talents, and most importantly, practice and persevere. Sure, you will be bad at it first, but be okay with that, until you reach your goal.


Another thing you have to remember is to be you, to own what makes you great. So, think about one time in your life when you’ve had success, when were you great at something? In that glimpse of excellence in your life, you will discover what you are instinctively drawn to.

Back to our practical exercise, the third box is:

What do you want to achieve as a woman? As a mother, as a daughter, as a friend, and as a business owner? What are your goals?

These goals have to be SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely.

The fourth box will answer the question:

What are your top five talents? What makes you feel strong? What makes you shine?

Finally look at these four boxes as a whole, and you will start to gain insight and realise what your strengths are.

Now, it’s time for action, find your strengths, put them to good use, and you will be one step closer to achieving excellence!


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