As a Gallup-Certified Strengths Coach, I have the privilege of helping people use their strengths to positively influence their work and life every day. I have also successfully maximized my own strengths in just about every part of my life.
There was one challenge, though, that I just could not conquer: my annual New Year's Resolution to shed the 40 pounds I'd needed to lose my entire adult life. Instead, those 40 pounds turned into 50 pounds, then 60, and then finally, close to 100 pounds. I still gulp when I think about just how much weight I had gained in all those years of trying so hard to lose weight.
I blamed it on my lack of discipline -- I just needed to make better food choices and be more structured about exercise, right? Wrong. As it turns out, this coach needed to heal herself. I was failing because I was trying to tackle my problem in ways that were tailor-made for talents I just didn't have.
A crucial conversation with my doctor last March helped me apply my strengths toward this one big failure in a way I hadn't done before. Every time Dr. Mohring had seen me in the two years since becoming my doctor, he had urged me to lose weight. And at every checkup, I promised him that by next time, for sure, I would. But last March, my doctor asked some different questions.
As a coach, I know the power of asking short, open-ended questions to get clients to open their thinking, and those were the kinds of questions he asked that day. The coach in me knew exactly what he was doing as I employ similar techniques in my coaching practice. I specifically remember him asking, "What do you really want for your health and life this next year?" and, "What do you need to do differently to make that happen?"
This time, something finally clicked. As a strengths coach, it's always gratifying when a client really "gets it" and figures out how to aim their strengths at a goal or challenge. That is what happened to me -- I finally applied my strengths to tackle the biggest challenge in my life.
Relator was the most important theme I used. I am at my best when I can be completely, truly genuine with people who I know care about me and let them help me through that caring. So first, I did something I had never done before: Instead of keeping my weight-loss journey a secret, this time I was loud -- I was fully transparent and told everyone what I was doing. And it wasn't just family and friends; I also told my clients -- even clients I was meeting for the first time. By "letting people in" from all walks of my life, I was creating accountability partners for every step of my journey.
Embracing my Relator theme had a significant impact on my success. Although my husband had about half as much weight to lose as I did, he agreed to do the program with me and having his support made the biggest difference. My family and closest friends cheered me on every day. I already knew that I had the best clients in the world, but their support throughout this process was invaluable.
Traveling frequently to client sites and having dinner with clients is a normal part of my business. Once I told my clients about my diet, they were completely comfortable with me joining them at dinner but drinking sparkling water and not eating. I regularly received "check-in" notes from a number of clients, just asking how things were going and giving me encouragement, which fed my Positivity theme.
On a trip to Australia this past summer, one of my favorite clients insisted I use her special blender to make my protein shakes. As it turns out, if you let people in, they want to be there with you. When I figured out how much secrecy had protected my Significance theme from failure, it was an eye-opener. Putting my fear of failure out in the world actually made me want to succeed that much more.
Next, I had to recognize that my strong Activator theme means I am often very impatient. Losing 100 pounds just takes too much time and with such low discipline, I couldn't stick to anything very long. My doctor told me about a healthy, medically supervised meal replacement program with speedy results. Being able to start something and create quick momentum worked well as I saw immediate and very consistent results.
My Woo, Input and Maximizer themes also played significant roles. Woo allowed me to socialize what I was doing with people I wasn't as close to and my ability to quickly connect with others served me well. By talking about my goals with others, I found many people interested in knowing more about my journey, and their interest piqued my Input theme to share what I was learning.
With Input as a top strength, I had collected immense amounts of information about dieting and healthy eating over the last 20 years. I practically had an advanced degree in nutrition but with such low discipline, having information wasn't enough to help me consistently make good food choices.
I figured out that I needed to "outsource" my low discipline and select a meal program that made all the decisions for me. While this type of food plan isn't for everyone, it was exactly what I needed. I also redirected my Maximizer theme from demanding perfection to focusing on how much my Maximizer loves efficiency.
At Gallup, we often say that "everyone needs a coach." In my case, I needed dozens of coaches, and having these great coaches in my life -- from my doctor to my husband, to family, friends and clients -- and finally leaning into my strengths made the difference in my success in losing nearly 100 pounds in six months.
It took me a long time to figure this out, but what I know now is that anything worth accomplishing won't happen if we do not follow our own best pathways to success. Now that I've leaned into my strengths and actually lost the weight, I know my Signature Themes will serve me well as I apply them to maintaining my weight loss and finally living the healthy lifestyle I've been dreaming about for so long.
So as a final thought, know this: Whether it's a health challenge, a career goal or overcoming any hurdle, you simply won't get there if you leave your talents at the door.