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Listen to your Whispering Voice: Connect with Strengths for your Human Future

Dr Alex Linley, CEO

All around the world, people from all walks of life have been feeling their own reverberations, slowly building and revealing themselves, as they have stepped back from the hustle and bustle of what life was before. These reverberations are the whispering voice of our actualizing tendency, speaking gently to us about who we are at our best, our most authentic, our most naturally divining.

The Great Pause allows us to reset and listen most in situations where our basic needs are met and secure. Where that’s not the case, there is still hope: post-traumatic growth is about the value of struggle and coming out better on the other side. New opportunities either grasped or forced upon us. Discovering better ways to use our strengths is one of the ways that we can grow through challenge.

Why strengths? Strengths are our authentic core. This is why the whispering voice speaks to us, why it is always there, calling gently in the background, yet easily stifled by the pressures of day-to-day living, of extrinsic advancement, of doing things according to the whim, wit or will of others. But the Great Pause allows us to step back, to reflect, to listen to ourselves in the quiet of our solitude once again.

Strengths, as our authentic essence, are about connecting to who we really are. They are our own personal formula for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Just as we feel this in our intrinsically human selves, especially when we are listening to the whispering voice inside, so the science supports this as well. Many different peer-reviewed scientific studies have shown that when we use our strengths, we are happier and experience more vitality and positive emotions. We are better at achieving our goals, perform better and are more engaged at work. We experience less stress — this was shown over a 6-month timeframe, with people who used their strengths more experiencing significantly less stress 6 months later.

Strengths are not a panacea for all ills. Yet, using our strengths can certainly be preventative against the worst experiences of life. Why could this be? In simple terms, when we discover and use our strengths, we are connecting with our authentic human selves. We are being the person we were born to be. We are growing, evolving, developing, maturing and contributing in the direction and the manner that is authentic and natural to us. Guided by that soft whispering voice deep inside, that radiates through every cell of our bodies, that communicates through every neurotransmitter receptor and biochemical messenger.

It is this combination of doing something well, something we are good at and that also being something we enjoy, that is energizing, something that we love to do, that is the authentic essence of a strength. In simple terms, this is can-do love-to. The combination of performance and energy, of competence and intrinsic motivation, of capability and engagement. All combined with the opportunity to put this to use.

As the whispering voice is heard breaking through the consciousness of so many people, listening at last thanks to the Great Pause, then we can only think that the Great Reset that is coming is going to be something quite different — maybe subtly different, but still powerfully different.

The pandemic has brought the daily grind of working life into sharp focus, causing many to reflect on what changes they would make to build a more rewarding and satisfying future — both personally and professionally. The whispering voice is telling us that there is another way. For once, so many of us can hear it and are listening to it in our shared solitude, that there is a symphonic harmony building, of which we are all part but not yet consciously or publicly recognized.

This is how social change and great transformations begin, when a critical mass of people are somehow awoken to the fact of their shared experience, and the shared recognition of ‘This will just not do.’ Change is born, the movement spreads and suddenly we find ourselves in a new reality that even weeks before just did not feel possible.

To amplify the whispers of your own whispering voice, and to enhance your own ability to listen to your strengths, try the following:

· Think back to the things you loved to do as a child. What was it that you were always drawn to?

· Reflect on what you’re doing when you lose a sense of time, even losing a sense of yourself. What is it that leaves you so engrossed and in flow that ‘the world just stops’?

· What are the things that you always seem to get done, with no ‘to-do’ list ever needed?

· Identify when you feel the buzz of being fully alive, of just loving what you are doing in the moment.

· Pause and explore within yourself what you yearn to do, that feeling almost of inevitability, but also the sense of loss and ‘something missing’ when you can’t get to do it.

As you feel the answers coming back to you from these questions, you will experience the intuitively deep understanding of your own inner whispering voice. This experience is like the wisdom of the ages speaking directly to you, and to you alone. And it is. For the whispering voice represents the full embodiment of everything that, throughout your lifetime, has combined and synergized to make you, you. These are your strengths.

Strengths are a particular type of soft skill or essential skill. You don’t get trained in them at Harvard or miss out if you are at Hamilton. Strengths are found in every person, irrespective of gender, color or background. Strengths can be interpersonal, like Rapport Builder — people who instantly strike up that connection with somebody new (great for sales and customer service). They can be about how we think, like Creativity — people who produce work that is new and original, combining things in novel and imaginative ways.

Strengths can also be about how we are motivated, like Drive — people who intrinsically push themselves to achieve what they want from life, or like Bounceback — people who use any setback as a springboard and motivation to go on and do even better in the future.

And they can also be about who we are as people, what we stand for or what we believe — like Gratitude, for people who appreciate and are constantly thankful for the positive things in their lives, or Humility, for people who are happy to stay in the background and empower others to be recognized and take the credit.

As the Great Reset takes shape, people are going to be looking for more meaning and purpose, for work that connects more meaningfully to who they are and to what they stand for, for their own individual pursuit of life, liberty and happiness. This will apply not just at work, but in hobbies, in how we interact with family. Indeed, in how we choose to live, architect and design our lives overall.

Enlightened employers can get a jump on the competition and find the best-matched talent, harnessing the best strengths of these people to deliver engagement and performance. Connecting an organization’s needs and goals to the ways and means of a person contributing from their strengths empowers the organization, just as it empowers all its people. In the coming Age of Enlightenment — even if this is just a faint glimmer through the gloom at the moment — this will be the only human way to deliver authentic and sustained success.

These strengths cannot be replicated by machines, robots or AI. These strengths, and others like them, are our human future. Machines, robots or AI can be great replacements for the monotony of the routine, or the tyranny of the repetitive, for finding patterns in the plethora of confusion that is beyond the capacity of the human mind. But they are not, and never could be, intrinsically human.

In any society in which we would want to live, there is always going to be a need for, and a value upon, the human difference. The human touch, the human insight, the human connection, the human concern. This is why strengths will be, and always have been, our human future.

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This article has been adapted from the original on Medium.

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