January 2014

Promoting Awareness and Wellness (PAWs)

Ashford University is proud to show you our PAWs! That is, our Promoting Awareness and Wellness initiative! Every month, we'll highlight different causes and opportunities that reflect the values of the University. You'll also learn ways that you can participate or be more involved.

JANUARY 2014 - FINDING YOUR STRENGTHS IN THE NEW YEAR

Kyle Robinson works directly with schools and organizations to help
answer the question: "What do I do well?"


A Time For Change

Have you thought about what you are going to do in the next year? The beginning of a new year can mean many different things depending on who you are. While new year’s resolutions usually manifest themselves as diets, budgets, or promises to ourselves, they often don’t include changes in the way we approach our goals. What if, instead of vowing to stick to a new exercise regimen, we chose to learn more about how we most effectively work and live? Wouldn’t it be easier to improve our lives if we first thought about what we’re doing right? To rephrase the question: if someone asked you what you’re really good at, what would you say?

Kyle Robinson, Director of Programming and Career Development for the Education Division of the performance–management consulting company Gallup, works directly with schools and organizations to help answer the question, “What do I do well?”. According to Kyle, the reason to learn more about your strengths is simple. “You can’t build excellence without a foundation of knowing what it is you’re really good at.”

StrengthsFinder

The StrengthsFinder tool is an assessment created by Gallup that provides users with a list of their top five talents, or “strengths.” Gallup, widely recognized for its public opinion polls, developed an assessment and language rooted in over 40 years of research to educate people about their unique strengths. These 34 different strengths serve as an indicator of how an individual can best succeed. Donald Clifton, the educational psychologist whose work led to the development of StrengthsFinder, described these strengths as “naturally recurring patterns of thought, feeling, or behavior that can be productively applied” (Asplund, Lopez, Hodges & Harter, 2007).

How it Works

Strengths themes range from Arranger to Communication to Belief to Positivity. To find out what your strengths are, you have to take the entire test. While you might not think this sounds like the best way to spend your free time, it‘s not the kind of test you study for. You are presented with a series of statements and asked to provide a rating between “a lot like me” and “not at all like me.” Each item is associated with one of the 34 strengths themes and, together, your responses will result in your unique strengths combination. To give you a sense of how your responses are unique to you, the odds of receiving the same top five talent themes in the exact order as someone else is one in 33.39 million. The chances of having the same top five talent themes as someone else, regardless of order, is about one in 340,000 (Strengths-Based Campus, 2013).

Accentuate the Positive

When asked why positive psychology is such a powerful framework for better understanding ourselves, Kyle explains, “The field of positive psychology applies to all of us, because there’s something right with all of us.” When your foundation is built on what’s right with people, you can use this outlook to find ways to connect or understand why people may act and react in a particular way in a given situation. “Instead of putting people on their heels, it kind of brings them on their toes.”

Echoing positive psychology, knowing your strengths can have a more positive impact on your life than you might imagine. According to Kyle, “One thing that we see is a heightened level of engagement.” By learning more about who you are when you are doing your best, you can become mindful of how you can use your strengths in various settings and see the strengths of someone you work with as an opportunity for partnership to reach a shared goal.

Be a Strong Student

Kyle is all too familiar with the challenges of higher education. “There are so many students who work in full time jobs – who have kids, who have families, who have lives – who feel stuck at times. It’s a challenge to go through school…[but StrengthsFinder] lets students know how they’re going to be successful.” When you learn your strengths, through tips and action items you may also learn specific ways to apply your strengths to whatever your goals may be, including keeping your GPA up!

Never Stop Growing

StrengthsFinder is just one way that you can improve your life this year. By learning about yourself, no matter how you choose to do so, you can help ensure that this year, and each one to come, looks exactly like you want it to.

With that, we leave you with this quote:

“Believe in yourself! Have faith in your abilities! Without a humble but reasonable confidence in your own powers you cannot be successful or happy.”
-Norman Vincent Peale

References

Asplund, J., Lopez, S., Hodges, T., & Harter, J. (2007). The Clifton StrengthsFinder 2.0 technical report: Development and validation. Retrieved December 20, 2013 fromhttp://strengths.gallup.com/private/Resources/CSFTechnicalReport031005.pdf

Building a strengths-based campus, (2013). Retrieved December 20, 2013 from
http://strengths.umn.edu/content/how-likely-it-have-same-top-5-somebody-else