Tapping Into and Cultivating Our Strengths

I have to admit that I was reluctant to spend the time necessary to complete the Strengths Quest Inventory… I purchased the StrengthsFinder 2.0 book written by Tom Rath a handful of years ago.  I had been doing some reading about the power of focusing on cultivating our strengths rather than continually focusing on improving our weaknesses, or areas where we needed development.  I found it particularly interesting because the concept was so counter to the way that our culture thinks and operates.  So, I bought the book.

I think I did the survey soon after, but realistically, I’m thinking that some time had passed.  I took the survey and printed out the results.  I was daunted by the 30+pages that contained my strengths, descriptions, activities that I could engage in to further develop and after a quick glance, I set the report aside until I had “more time.”  Unfortunately, “more time” never really seems to show up on it’s own.  So, I was a bit excited when the inventory was a part of our coursework.  I felt like the “assignment” validated the time that I would spend completing it.

My top five strengths showed up as Empathy, Activator, Input, Connectedness, and Relator.

I gave my report to my fiancé and listened to him laugh wildly as he read and said (over and over) “This is SO YOU!”  Yup.  It is me.

My strengths identified have served me well in past endeavors and, I think, will continue to serve me as a nurse.  Empathy has been noted in the social work research as the “antidote to shame and vulnerability” which is certainly important to clients who have chronic illness, who are unable to care for themselves, and who have general, or specific issue related to their bodies surrounding violence, abuse, and other painful experiences.  My experiences as a patient have fueled my empathy for the needs of a client.  Dignity, choice/control, compassion, respect, attentiveness, and kindness are all imperative and can be challenging to the busy and distracted nurse.  But I see this strength as a gift from the other side of the stethoscope.

My other four strengths seem to have a powerful interplay.  Activating is certainly fueled, in me, by giving input, sharing stories, connecting and relating with others.  Recognizing what other people are, or may be experiencing provides an insight into creating a dialog to support and move them to action with consideration for their fears and concerns.  Using the strengths of connectedness and relator, clients, friends, family, and community members are afforded the opportunity to see my imperfections and know that I recognized the struggles that we all encounter as human beings.  There is no perfect.  There is only moving forward and moving forward and moving forward.  It may be difficult, but understanding that sometimes we all live breath by breath  and creating/holding a space for that can empower the people around me and allow them the space to honor where they are and to creating a space and vision for where they are going.

I look forward to going back and taking stock of just how these strengths interplay and work together.  I have made (or strongly encouraged…) my fiancé and my teenage children to take the Strengths Quest Inventory.  I strongly believe that it has already begun to help us to understand each other by allowing us to acknowledge each other’s strengths and area where we have not understood each other’s actions, or behaviors in the past.  The Strengths Quest Inventory has been a real gift to me as well as my family and I applaud TC3 nursing faculty for including it as part of our curriculum.


“We gain strength, and courage, and confidence by each experience in which we really stop to look fear in the face… we must do that which we think we cannot.”

Eleanor Roosevelt

“Strength does not come from winning. Your struggles develop your strengths. When you go through hardships and decide not to surrender, that is strength.”

Arnold Schwarzenegger

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About Heather Swift

Heather “Swifty” Swift has been Kicking mAss since 1998. At 28 she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer as a recently single mom with two small babies on her hip. After completing treatment with the thought that cancer was in her rear view mirror she worked, locally, as a volunteer for Ithaca Breast Cancer Alliance doing community outreach to be certain that no one faced cancer alone. In 2005, she had a secondary diagnosis of breast cancer and tested positive for the BRCA2 mutation, which only amped up her commitment to creating positive change and to becoming a strong and effective advocate for the young adult cancer community. Now, at age 42, Swifty, her partner, Brian, and her two teenage children work together locally, nationally and internationally to advocate for change. Swifty regularly meets with legislators to work towards tangible change in health care, legislation that addresses the needs of cancer patients, care-partners, and families. She works directly with clinicians, medical/nursing students, youth & college students, cancer support organizations and others to educate them about the special needs of young adults living with a cancer diagnosis. Swifty is passionate about providing support by connecting people living with cancer to resources, to other cancer survivors, and to mobilizing and training individuals and groups to find their inner advocate. Swifty currently works with a number of amazing, hand-selected organizations, which provide her with opportunities to educate, to advocate, and to change the conversation about cancer and to work to bring an end to the disease. A few include: LiveSTRONG, mAss Kickers, Imerman Angels, National Breast Cancer Coalition, Cancer Resource Center of the Finger Lakes, Dusty Showers & The Second Basemen, and Stupid Cancer. Swifty is an oncology nursing student in upstate New York, loves time with her family, paddling sports, and peanut butter. She is a Virgo, but not the really anal-retentive type. Her strange fascination with superheroes makes her popular in geek circles, but it can be endearing. Swifty will be riding a llama across Oregon in July of 2012 and really does believe we can achieve and end to cancer and in world peace. Motto: Never Give Up! Favorite quote: “Our own life has to be our message.” ― Thich Nhat Hanh

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