Work your strengths!

Why using our strengths matters so much

Our brains are plastic meaning that we can continue to grow new neurons and make new synaptic connections all our lives.  This is neuroplasticity.

We grow neurons and connections most easily in the areas where neurons and their connections are most dense.  As one neuroscientist put it, it is more like growing new buds on a branch than growing new branches.

The real-world implication of this is that we grow fastest when we utilise our strengths.

A strength is an ability that, when used, gives us joy.  We might have many abilities but not all will be genuine strengths.

We will perform better in all sorts of ways if we can find more opportunities to use our strengths to have greater impact.

Edgar Degas - Deux Danseuses

Edgar Degas - Deux Danseuses

This is the opposite of a deficit model.  It suggests being clear about your strengths and then finding ways to do even more with them.  It also implies that performing at our best and learning at an optimal rate are intimately linked – we perform best when we use our strengths and we grow fastest at the same time.

If we are doing work that gives us no joy, then we are on a hiding to nothing – mediocre performance (compared to what we could do if we were using our strengths) and lacklustre development.  This is why they are called dead end jobs, I suppose.

One of the best indicators of employee engagement is ‘having the opportunity to use my strengths every day at work’.

It worth thinking about this both in the context of our own work as well as the work that students do.


John Corrigan is an expert in helping individuals to bring their whole of mind to their daily life and increase their effectiveness and the effectiveness of those around them. This expertise scales from the individual to the team to the organisation. At the core of this work is the practice of encounter.  Earlier blogs can be found here.

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John Corrigan