Recently, a board I am a part of spent the day in a workshop exploring our individual strengths.  Before the meeting we each received a copy of Tom Rath’s Strength Finder 2.0.  We all read the short book and took an online assessment.  The results identified each individual’s top 5 strengths/talents.

The idea behind this book and workshop was to figure out your strengths and talents and then find ways to maximize those talents in your personal and professional life.  This author encourages people to focus on their strengths instead of focusing on improving any possible shortcomings.   I think that most people would agree that finding a career or job that allows you to utilize and even maximize your strengths would likely lead to greater job satisfaction.

Participating in this workshop has lead me to a lot of thinking about the importance of finding everyone’s strengths and talents.  When we think about or interact with individuals who have disabilities, do we remember to focus on their strengths?  More importantly, if we DID focus on maximizing strengths, how much happier could the person be in their daily life?

I thought about this recently when I attended a quarterly meeting with a family.  Quarterly meetings are a lot like case conferences for adults who have disabilities.  A group of people get together to discuss the services and programs in place for an individual who has a disability.    We spent almost the entire time talking about incidents that had happened in the last 3 months.  Then we talked about goals for “John.”  As you might expect, the goals had a lot to do with working to overcome perceived shortcomings.  I can’t help but wonder how much happier John might be if we only focused on the things he is good at and helped him maximize those talents.

This week I am going to leave you with a challenge, whether you are a parent, a professional, a teacher or a sibling:  Figure out the talents of your loved one who happens to have a disability, and then spend more time focusing on that talent(s) than on the individual’s shortcomings.  Find a way to help that person tap into their talent.  I’m pretty sure you will both have a better week.

Jill Ginn is Manager of The Arc of Indiana’s The Arc Network

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