Sunday, March 25, 2012

Soar With Your Strengths

How's my mental health today?

I'm doing quite well, especially since I've finished off a couple of smaller projects. Finally; completing something makes the to-do list seem less onerous.

I've started reading another book. The book, Soar With Your Strengths, by Donald O.Clifton & Paula Nelson, was recommended at the Monk's Retreat I was at about a month ago. The recommendation arose in response to some of our discussion. While the book is not new, (it was first published in 1992), the message is still very relevant.

I had ordered the book several weeks ago, and while waiting for it to arrive, I found a well written summary of the book on the Internet.

The primary message of the book is that we need to stop focusing so much on our weaknesses, failures, or shortcomings and spend so much time, energy and resources trying to fix them. Instead, the authors maintain that we can have far better results if we shift our attention to our strengths, what we do well, and build on those things. The  book is written from a business perspective, but I believe its truths are applicable in most areas of life.

When I worked in mental health, there was a strong push to change the way business was done in the field. Traditionally, services were developed to manage people's illnesses, their deficits, and their deviancy. Now efforts were being made to examine people's strengths first, to identify them, develop them and harness them to help them rebuild their lives in a way that allowed them to find new meaning, purpose, and hope. As people utilized their strengths, their weaknesses (or deficits) became a secondary issue. People grew stronger, healthier, and more confident, and with this new strength, confidence and better health, they were able to develop strategies to gain control over those areas that used to consume them.

The belief that "I can recover and participate fully in community" was a much more successful treatment and service vision, than the old institutional mantra of "we need to manage your symptoms and control your behaviour".

My faith life focus is just as critical, if not more so. If the only vision I have for myself is to work at fixing my problems, boring in on repairing my failures, and strengthening my weaknesses, I will have a challenge when it comes to trying to have a positive impact on other people's lives.

I will never forget one very passionate, energetic and fervent man at a church I attended about 20 years ago. He had an incredible enthusiasm for studying scripture and teaching others. He was a nice guy, very encouraging and supportive in many ways, and if he was able to help someone out, there was no hesitation. Sadly, the thing that sticks most in my memory of this man is his preoccupation with what "wretched worms" we all were. Over and over again; every time he preached on Sunday mornings, every Bible study he led, he always spouted this business of our wretchedness, our worthlessness, and our worm-like state of being. His point; how incredible God's grace was that he deigned to send his Son to pay the penalty of sin for us tended to get overwhelmed by the images of all these "wretched worms".

God's amazing grace is worth remembering and being thankful for. What didn't come across was how God valued us; how he adopted us as his children; how he poured his grace and love into us so that we could pour that into others.

I want to build my strengths and in doing so begin to manage my weaknesses. I look forward to reading what Clifton & Nelson have to say to me.

When we focus on a weakness, it takes on a life of its own
 and begins to smother our strengths. We start to feel sorry
for someone's weakness and offer pity and philosophical advice... 
But focusing on failures will only make the person feel worse 
and neglect his or her strengths. The greatest chance for success
lies in reminding people or organizations of an existing strength,
and getting them back on track while instituting a management 
strategy for the weaknesses.
~~ Clifton & Nelson

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