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What's on your Not-to-Do List? A Metaphor & Exercise

How can you tell when you’re not working out of your strengths? What’s the difference between working out of a strength and working out of a weakness?

When you take the CliftonStrengths assessment its algorithm ranks all 34 talents in the order they come naturally for you. Your higher ranked talents have the greatest NATURAL capacity to be most productive and energizing. But how might those talents in the teens, twenties, and thirties show up? While everyone is different in how their talents may cluster in groupings of effectiveness and efficiency, a helpful metaphor to understand your "tiers of talents" is using your cell phone in the car.

Operating in your Top 5 talents may be compared to using the Bluetooth feature to talk on the phone in your car while you are in cruise control. You almost don't have to think about those talents; they automatically engage like tapping the receive button for an incoming call while driving down the interstate. Little to no distraction and you continue coasting on your merry way.

If you’re in a car without Bluetooth you might experience the cupholder snatch. Your phone rings and you have to take your focus off the road briefly to reach down and flip the phone to your ear (which is why it's against the law in half our states -- so please don't try this if it’s illegal where you live). Those next 5-7 talents are in your cupholder zone. They’re available but require a bit more time and intentionality to engage.

You may occasionally toss your phone onto the passenger seat. If it rings, you must carefully time your attention and reach to retrieve it. You may need to slow down and make sure you’re not in traffic, then make a stretch, after which you decide if you want to take the call or not. Once we get into the "teens" tier of talents we have to put more effort into utilizing those in the passenger seat zone.

As we move down the tiers into the late teens or twenties, we hit the back seat zone. You hear the ring and cringe, realizing your phone is in the back seat. If you’re lucky it’s in the middle or slightly behind the passenger side of the back seat and at the next stop, you shift to park and lunge for the phone to retrieve it. This effort, energy, and even frustration may be compared to using a lower tier talent. 

Last, but not least, we get to those talents in our bottom 5-10. To engage these we often pause to muster resolve or reinforcements because we are definitely working out of weakness. It’s as if you left the phone in a bag that is now in the trunk. You hear a faint ringtone and have to pull over to a gas station, stop the car and your progress, walk to the back and dig through the trunk to get to the phone. Engaging our lower talents can involve a similar grind down in the trunk zone

So where are you working from today? Bluetooth or the cupholder zone? Shifting between the passenger or the back seat zones?  Or digging through the junk in the trunk? If you’re finding yourself spending too much time managing your mediocrity or working from weakness, we have a new tool to help you get back in the driver's seat of your talents. Click here to download our Frustration Elimination Exercise and create your "Not To Do List."

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