5 Resources to Discover Your Strengths and Life Purpose

5 Resources to Discover Your Strengths and Life Purpose December 31, 2012

As most regular readers know, I’ve been on a journey — call it a quest — to discover my life strengths for the last five years. I’ve made quite a bit of progress, I think. The journey has caused my to take some pretty dramatic steps of faith into the unknown.

But I haven’t stepped completely into the unknown, thanks to five key resources that helped me discover my life strengths. On a recent stay with friends, I shared some of these resources with their sons. It reminded me that I have been sharing this list often of late and others might be helped by my sharing it here.

“First, know thyself.” Aristotle’s words ring more true today than ever when the wide array of options before us in Western culture can be paralyzing. For many years, I stood transfixed by the plethora of dishes at life’s buffet. Sure, I occasionally nibbled at leftovers on others’ plates while promising myself that someday I too would step up. Someday.

To be nobody but yourself in a world that is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else — means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight. ~ e. e. cummings

Uncertain of my own strengths, I waited, afraid I’d mess it up if I tried to figure out the direction my life should take. Maybe you can relate. Eventually I realized that I’m going to die whether I ever figure it out or not — so I’d best get busy.

The 5 resources I share below helped me to discover this as my life calling:

To equip Christians to think, live, and lead with abundant faith.

I just wish I had discovered them earlier in life. If you know any teens or twenty-somethings, do them a favor. Pass on this list.

My top 5 resources to help you discover your life strengths:

  1. In, But Not Of Revised & Updated: A Guide to Christian Ambition and the Desire to Influence the World by Hugh Hewitt. No, I’m not just listing this one because I wrote the Forward, Study Guide, and Group Leader’s Guide. I did those things because it is that good. Loaded with proven practical advice, my friend Hugh’s book started me thinking in a very intentional manner about how to use my gifts to get and use influence for Christ.
  2. Now, Discover Your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton. Although not the most scientifically reliable tool out there, it is a great starting point to help you identify your strength themes. After reading the first 80 pages or so, take the on-line assessment to identify your areas of natural giftedness. Mine were ideation, intellection, input, responsibility, and belief. Out of that came my preliminary purpose of creatively questioning, connecting, and communicating in the context of my beliefs.
  3. The Truth About You: Your Secret to Success also by Marcus Buckingham. Especially targeting the twenty-something demographic, Buckingham included a DVD and exercises for drilling down into your strength themes. I found when I did the work of drilling down, I quickly identified both my strengths — those things I did well which energize me — and my weaknesses — those things that sucked the life out of me no matter how good I was at them.
  4. StandOut: The Groundbreaking New Strengths Assessment from the Leader of the Strengths Revolution I know. Again with the Marcus Buckingham! But his British accent is so cool! [insert girly giggle here] Sorry, can’t help it. He’s done some outstanding work. This latest one gets far more scientific in its results — and it is uncannily accurate in assessing what role you play when part of a team. The on-line assessment solidified much of what I had uncovered already, but gave me even clearer vocabulary with which I could talk about my contribution. By the way, I am what Stand Out describes as “The Hub at the Center.” Provider and Connector led the way on my results with Pioneer not far behind. In short, I am a catalyst who gets things moving and cares deeply about making everyone around me better.
  5. Just Do Something: A Liberating Approach to Finding God’s Will My most recent entry onto the list is from Kevin DeYoung. It is the straightforward antidote to that life direction paralysis that keeps so many of us standing still. His practical yet theologically sound advice speaks candidly to young and old alike but is especially targeted toward the young adult demographic.

I know I’ve left a lot of resources off the list, including a lot of books by John Maxwell that have dramatically influenced my life: Thinking for a Change: 11 Ways Highly Successful People Approach Life and Work, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You, and Put Your Dream to the Test: 10 Questions to Help You See It and Seize It.

Dreams come true when gift sets are set on fire with passion. ~ John C. Maxwell

Start with these five as a gift pack for any young person in your life — or for yourself. It’s never too late to discover who you were made to be and begin to walk in that direction by faith.

What other resources have you discovered have discovered to help you find your life direction? Share your suggestions with a comment here so we can start the New Year right.

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  • When it comes to reading new books, I like to re-read the Bible. It has the potential of become a new book every time I turn to it. How often it has presented me with a new idea I had never considered before.

    • Mike,

      You are, of course, correct. I assumed that at the outset. But as a living and powerful revelation, every time I read it, I uncover more about myself and my life purpose. Well put. Thanks!

  • Bill:

    Since you are ministering to a younger set, you should know there is an additional resource from Gallup specifically for ages 15 – 25 called StrengthsQuest. You can purchase it directly from Gallup or at many university bookstores. The book has a one-time use code for a slightly modified StrengthsFinder assessment and it gives them their top five talents out of the same field of 34. The biggest difference is that the book has information about careers to look at based on talents, how to grow the talents, how to study and even how to talk to professors based on talents. It is a fabulous resource – you can buy a used copy at the Amazon.com marketplace for a very reasonable price. I think with your talents you will soak it up – I highly recommend it!

    Also, based on the work I’ve done to help teach the more than 33 million potential combinations of the talents, you are a Life Line (because of the categories in which your talents fall). I’ll send you an email with some charts that will give you more information on the CoreClarity framework. I think your talents will appreciate the added information based on what I’ve seen on your blog so far… Keep up the great work!

    Candace Fitzpatrick

    • Thanks, Candace. Finding one’s strengths and calling is a topic dear to me. I was not aware of the tool you referenced, although I’ve used the one for younger children 10-14 for my own kids. Do you know if this other one is more scientific than the original StrengthsFinder? Still a helpful tool either way. I’ll look for your e-mail.

  • Bill after some time practicing my Googlemeister skills, I am so glad to have found your article. I’m a 51 year old minister and in 2005, my wife and I started a church from scratch. Over the years it has evolved into a tiny community of mostly millennials who have little to no church culture experience. This group of about 20 young adults (which includes our 25 year old daughter, and 23 year old son) are all between the ages of 19 & 30. We didn’t plan it this way but this is who God has given us. As I work with these young adults, I’m constantly faced with the reality of their struggles and concerns about their future. They are either unemployed or underemployed and very much feeling like their dreams are on hold. I do what I can to help them discover their strengths and be aware of weaknesses as they try to navigate choices in life and love. I don’t earn a wage from the church so I also work full-time which limits the time I have available to prepare materials like I did when I ministered full-time in long established churches. I have spent a lot of time trying to find a strengths-based small group DVD/Digital Download course that I can use to lead our young adults to discovering and deploying their talents and abilities in very tangible ways. Part of the challenge is most of the group are adultescents – teenage minds in adult bodies so I need a resource that won’t yield the dreaded “deer’s eyes in the headlights” response. I’ve looked into the Strengthsfinder material and I really like the stuff from Gallup and Tom Rath. However, I think my young adults would be overwhelmed with the content. I’m thinking they might be able to process Marcus Buckingham’s teaching but it would be really helpful to me if I could find material that I can facilitate learning than doing the talking head thing. My group does much better with a casual, conversational, interactive approach. I appreciate any guidance you can give.

    • Larry, Great question. First, keep up the good work. I’ll explore a little and get back to you. I’m not aware of any such tools for church use that are not specifically oriented around “spiritual gifts” as if “non-spiritual” strengths and gifts were somehow disconnected from God’s Kingdom purposes.

      • Thanks Bill and please no spiritual gifts surveys aaahhhhhh!!!!! We are all created in God’s image and I don’t buy into the thinking that natural talents and abilities are somehow less…spiritual than the comprehensive and yet not exhaustive list of talents and abilities that Paul outlines. I don’t subscribe to the common secular/sacred divide either. Based on your recommendation I think Buckingham’s “Truth About You” resource may be worth giving a try as well as Hewitt’s book. Our group of young adults do well with video driven discussion sessions as opposed to talking head routines. Does Hewitt’s material have video teaching available as well?

        • No video materials for Hugh’s book though feel free to use my Leader’s Guide. Perhaps that’s something we can think about for the future.