Strengths are like a ball of clay, sturdy and foundational, but with no given purpose. However, when the ball of clay is molded and formed, it provides structure and a backbone to help anything stay secure. Like so, our strengths need to be developed and molded, in order for them to be effective in helping us reach individual goals and overcome challenging obstacles. By using a strength based approach, instead of one geared towards getting rid of weaknesses, one will experience more personal development and acquire greater leadership skills. This ideal is echoed by Marilyn Vos Savant, an American woman known for having the highest recorded IQ, when she said, “success is achieved by developing our strengths, not by eliminating our weaknesses.” Using the Reflected Best Self technique, created at the University of Michigan – Center for Positive Organizations, this paper is focused on using strengths to help accomplish future goals.
By reflecting on the many stories I received from my peers, family members, and close friends, the purpose of this paper is to create a summary of my strengths and find patterns in how I behave when I am accomplishing the most. By highlighting and analyzing my strengths, I will be able to identify a set of themes that are prevalent in my life. These themes are those that are seen in my character and actions. I will generate a list of personal, situational, and relational factors that I see enabling or blocking my ability to perform and accomplish goals in my life. Finally, I will then provide a best self-portrait encompassing my strengths, which can be used and altered throughout my life to identify and reflect an authentic summary of my skills. The end goal is to find a way to apply my reflected best self-portrait to assist in accomplishing my short and long-term goals. This paper follows the Reflected Best Self exercise that can be used to plan for and attain future goals as they arise.
My original perception of my strengths was based on the many sports, activities, and clubs I have been involved with academically and outside of school. The knowledge and skills I gained from these numerous experiences allowed me to create an image of myself; a charismatic and extraverted individual who is dedicated towards accomplishing any task he sets his eyes on. Possessing these skills allowed me to naturally develop into an effective leader, which is what I consider to be one of my greatest strengths. My strength as a leader is exemplified by my other strengths of versatility and ability to interact with others.
Throughout my life, I have always been involved with teams, whether it be in sports or school group projects. In these teams, I strived to be the best individual and teammate I could be and this caused me to develop strong work ethic and focus. My knack for wanting to be the best at anything I did translated to me teaching my ways to others on the team and leading them. My leadership strength brought out my qualities of being vocal and communicating well with others. For example, as the captain of my co-ed soccer team freshman year of college, I had to deal with differing skillsets on the team and make sure there wasn't any perceived power distance between the male and female players. My ability to be a vocal leader is helped by my strength of interacting with others. By having a likeable personality and charismatic nature, I have the ability to influence people for the better and make lasting relations with them. By making connections with people in different walks of life, I have gained a diversified amount of knowledge and skills. This variety gives me the strength of versatility, as I am able to accomplish a wide-array of objectives that require different types of skills. In no ways does being versatile make me knowledgeable at everything, but it gives me the ability to work on any task and have a positive effect.
To go along with the above-mentioned strengths I identify with, five core strengths from the StrengthsFinder test clearly describe my personality and character. My five StrengthsFinder strengths are Significance, Competition, Winning Others Over, Activator, and Strategic. I believe the main reason I possess most of these strengths is because of the way my parents raised me. I grew up in a very traditional family where values and life goals were instilled in me. I was taught the rewards of working hard and striving for success, while gaining knowledge and skills in order to accomplish anything. At first, I held these strengths at high importance, as I believed they were traits that were innate in me. However, after further thought, I realized that my StrengthsFinder results were just strengths that scratched the surface of who I truly was. I needed to analyze them and then develop them into the strengths I genuinely wanted.
Data and Reflection
To start off the Reflected Best Self process, I asked the people in life that know me the best to highlight my key strengths and provide specific instances in which I have exemplified these strengths. From all the stories I was able to obtain, similar themes regarding my strengths became evident. The stories that I attained held a lot of validity in my eyes, as they were responses from people that knew me the best and had a significant impact on me. Of the several strengths that were mentioned in the stories, the ones that stood out the most were determination, vocal leadership, versatility, and the ability to make strong connections.
When faced with an obstacle or when encountering a challenge in life, many of my respondents noted that I had the ability to persevere in adversity. I have a sense of determination that allows me to always keep going even when knocked down. One of my best friends, Torben, explained “[Arnav] understands that success' aren't final and failures aren't fatal. He knows it's the courage to move on that counts.” The event most mentioned by my respondents to exemplify my strength of dedication was my participation in DECA, an organization for emerging business leaders, during my junior and senior years in high school. During junior year, my first year of competing, I achieved the great honor of making it to the State Competition after winning my categories at the District level. However, there was no time to relish in the accomplishment of reaching State, as my main goal was to compete at the National competition. Not attaining my goal junior year, I came back my senior year thinking I would be able meet my goals. But towards the start of the season, I wasn't performing at the same level as the previous year. To get back to my same level of performance, I had to sacrifice a lot of things socially and academically and persevere when few thought I could. At the end of the season, I was able to make it to Nationals. About my dedication, my friend Sam later noted, “[Arnav} doesn't take no for an answer. [He] is dedicated towards accomplishing anything he sets his eyes on.”
The second theme that emerged from the stories was my vocal leadership. From extra-curricular activities to schoolwork, my eagerness to be a leader is always on display. My high school basketball coach, Ramesh Ajitaprasad, noted “he has the ability to motivate his teammates by inspiring them to continue to play hard even when the flow of the game is against them.” When I am doing something I love, such as basketball, I put my complete effort into trying to succeed. By being vocal and encouraging my teammates, it fills them up with a sense of purpose and makes them work hard even when tired. The most important aspect of being a good leader is being understanding of your team members opinions and leading by example. My high school business teacher, Mark Anderson, noted a time when I led by example. “As a captain of the Economics Team, Arnav was tasked with making sure his teammates understood the material in order for competition. He would stay up late doing practice questions, and by seeing his dedication, his teammates would do the same for the betterment of the team.” By first setting an example, I am able to effectively convey my message and be respected leader.
Another theme that was evident from the stories my respondents provided was my ability to make strong connections. Growing up as a twin, it was rarely a difficulty to make new friends, as people were fascinated with meeting two people that looked the same. Being a twin led me to becoming a social person and the constant interaction with people caused me to obtain a charismatic personality. According to my twin brother Saurav, “[Arnav] seems to get along with anyone. His character and personality make it hard to dislike him and it seems like he is always making new friends.” A story of a time my strength of making connections was on display occurred at the start of school. As a leader in CONNECT 9, a club dedicated towards welcoming freshman and new students to the high school, I used my experience and seniority for the better by making sure kids felt as if they were a part of the school. By setting up different events and making connections with the new students, I made sure they integrated nicely into the student body. This strength was furthered identified by my father, Sanjay, who said “Arnav has a knack for making a good impression on others. He understands the importance of having a network of trustworthy friends and acquaintances.”
A lot of times, we are faced with situations where we have to use multiple skills in order to accomplish the task at hand. In my opinion, and according to my respondents, I am able to excel at these scenarios because of my versatility. A certain situation in which I showcased my versatility was noted by my entrepreneurship teacher, Scott Sayles. “[Arnav] was the Chief Financial Officer of the small business he and his friends started. However, along with the financial workings, [he] had to deal with all sides of the business from marketing to the supply chain.” This entrepreneurial experience of running a small business really taught me a lot of myself and the necessity to know multiple skills. Even though I was the CFO, I ended up having to do a lot of work with the company's social medial campaign, as well as deal with customer retention and brand marketing in order to make the business successful. My mother, Bharati, furthered complimented this strength by saying “[Arnav] is never content with sitting idle, as he is always reading and trying to learn new skills that will help him in any which way in his future pursuits.”
Analysis and Observation
The strengths of leadership and ability to make connections were strengths most similar to my previous personal evaluation. I have always felt my leadership is an innate ability and it was encouraging to see others saw the strength in me as well. However, I was surprised to see people thought of me as a fantastic vocal leader and communicator, as that is something I did not specifically strive towards being. Furthermore, I appreciated the recognition I was given for my ability to win others over. It felt great learning people thought I possessed a character and personality that others were attracted to. Especially being a student in Carlson, I understand the importance of having a network and know that sometimes in life, “it's the people you know, not what you know” that will take you far. Finally, I take pride in being recognized as showing versatility. I may not be the best at everything I do, but I believe being skilled in a variety of areas allows me to accomplish several different goals.
Although dedication was a recurrent strength in many of the stories from my respondents, it is not a strength I personally see in myself at all times. Dedication is a quality I think is crucial to possess in order to accomplish any task and is something I strive towards showcasing. However, it is a strength I believe is difficult to display at all times, as certain situations test or commitment and make us want to take a different path. The lack of perceiving my dedication could be due to availability heuristics, as often times I recall the times my dedication wasn't apparent and forget situations in which it was. Personally, I think my dedication comes into question when I am faced with medial tasks that I see no value in completing. My dedication is best exemplified when I am partaking in tasks that I am passionate about and care for. With a clear goal in mind, I am willing to work hard for accomplishing the objective at hand.
The opportunity to reflect on my inner-self and learn about my strengths as perceived by others has been very beneficial and will not only impact me now, but help my development in the future.
Final Best-Self Integrated Portrait
My best self comes into action in the moments when I have the ability to make an impact for a greater good. I strive to achieve the highest ideals in everything that I am doing, and show an unwavering amount of dedication towards accomplishing my goals. When I am passionate about something, it is hard to distract me from it and I commit my full time and effort towards it. The idea of sitting idle angers me, as there is always someone in the world working and getting better every minute and I strive to be that person. I believe that no one but God is perfect. Perfection can't be reached, but if we strive for it we can reach excellence. I strive to be determined and dedicated towards everything I do in order to reach excellence.
I feel as if I am a natural born leader, due to my ability to be understanding and communicate with others. I am devoted towards finding the genuineness and authenticity in others and understand what makes them passionate about life. I believe that the only way to get people to respect you and follow you is to first know them on a deeper level and connect with them. I like to listen to what others have to say with the sincerest of interest, as you never know what kind of knowledge or experience someone will be able to bestow upon you. Another aspect of leadership I portray is being honest and vulnerable by being willing to share my own fears and misfortunes. This allows me to never humiliate anyone for their own personal quirks, but be accepting of the differences everyone has. I am intrigued by meeting new people and I am always the first one to draw them into a group so they feel accepted and that their voice matters. This allows there to be unity within a group and for me to be an effective leader.
I am passionate about any opportunity there is too learn something new and enhance my abilities. I believe we live in deeds, not years and in thought, not breath. Our experiences and knowledge are what define as people and make us different than everyone else. By trying things that are outside of my comfort zone, I feel energized and as if I have accomplished something big. I truly believe that experience is the only way to learn something and that failure is the first step towards accomplishing many things. Our success' aren't final, our failures aren't fatal. It's our courage to move on that truly counts. If I remember these words there is nothing that I won't be able to accomplish.
Application: Enablers and Blockers
After discovering and analyzing my strengths, it is important to identify and understand the personal, situational, and relational enablers and blockers that effect my strengths. Focusing on these factors will allow me to identify how they help, hinder, or facilitate the development of my strengths and how I can use them to increase the presence and implementation of my best self. Looking the enablers and blockers correlate with my top strengths will unveil how my surroundings impact my strength profile.
By staying introspective and attentive of my strengths and weaknesses, I will be able to stay on the path towards reaching my true best self.
Strength Implementation Plan
The Reflected Best Self Exercise has allowed me to gain a better understanding of how I perceive my strengths and how others see them highlighted in my actions. Through the different parts of the exercise, I learned about different enablers specific to me that I should encourage and blockers that I should avoid ensuring my strengths are being optimized to their fullest ability in any situation. I should not forget about my strengths and rely on them to appear when I am in need, but continue to develop them in order to be best prepared for any situation. Learning about my strengths is only half the exercise; developing the strengths and integrating the teachings of this assignment into my life is where I will find the most value.
As I continue my journey at the Curtis L. Carlson School of Management, I must figure out a way to not only capitalize on my strengths, but look at how avoiding my blockers can help me truly understand myself.
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